Three Year Review

It’s now been over three years since I first embarked on my shoemaking journey. In summary, it’s been a deeply meaningful adventure thus far. It’s also been difficult, irritating, wildly expensive and sometimes downright agonizing – but mostly it’s been amazing.

A year ago, the count was then tallied at a grand total of 14 adult shoes and 3 baby shoes. (Plus a bundle of smaller side-projects like belts, handbags and the like.) In the past year, I haven’t made any new baby shoes, but I have churned out a whopping 10 new adult shoes, bringing the grand total, three-year count up to 24.

Goals

A year ago, my primary goal was set to at least “keep up with a similar production pace” as I had then. This has been fulfilled and increased, which I am very happy about. For this coming, fourth year of shoemaking, I keep the same primary goal: I will strive to keep up with a similar production pace. (This is to say, if I can make 10 more adult shoes in the coming year, I’ll be well happy.)

Furthermore, my second goal was to “make a pair of hand welted shoes with brand bespoke calf leather for uppers”. This too has been fulfilled – six times. (Ambassador, Clegane, Wasa, Pink Panther, Rosenlund and Arkham were all made with premium bespoke calf leather.) I revise this goal going forward: the majority of the shoes I make shall henceforth be made in brand bespoke calf leather. Hence I will only use lesser materials occasionally “for funsies”, as experimental jaunts and test shoes. (Not counting exotic leather.)

My third goal for the past year was to “make a pair of shoes in some unusual or exotic leather”. I regret to admit that this has not been fulfilled. I take this goal onward into the coming year: I’d still like to make at least one pair of shoes in some exotic leather. (At the moment I am leaning towards shark, but anything goes.)

Another goal I have is to re-write and publish my current process from start to finish. When I started out, I made articles on how I went about doing each step, but I have since taken them all down because they were full of mistakes that could lead beginners down the wrong paths. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do this in the coming year or not, but at some point, it will be done.

Finally, my “ultimate goal” is still to sell the production of a pair of shoes for fair wage. For the coming year, my goal will be to sell a pair of shoes for less than fair wage, just to bring some form of bacon into this business, and reduce the loss. (Thus far, I’ve only made shoes for myself and as free gifts to family and friends.) This is still not a goal I feel like chasing too hard, but my work shall strive in this direction.

Now, without further ado, I’ll go through the shoes made during the past year in a quick recap. I’ll start from the oldest and go forward chronologically from there. Turning the clock back a whole year takes us all the way to…

London

Completed in december 2019, this is a black cap toe oxford, made to formally be able to stride the streets of London. The uppers were sewn on a 110 year old Singer 29k patcher, which was a nuisance to operate for the task of closing… The seams were crooked, and deep presser foot marks were left in the leather.

The flaws aside, London had two major improvements in them from previous pairs. They include pre-made heel stiffeners as shown below, as well as filling the footbed with tar felt instead of cork paste.

Ambassador

Ambassador was the first pair of shoes that I made completely in premium leather, namely Weinheimer boxcalf. It was difficult, and didn’t turn out all that well. I sewed the seam around the opening of the shoes by hand in a thicker thread, which wasn’t well executed and didn’t do the beautiful raw material justice. Regardless of my shortcomings, the actual leather is out of this world in quality.

I’m sorry to say didn’t really improve anything majorly with this pair (rather took some steps backwards), so here’s just an image from the construction process that I think looks nice.

Björn

This is a shoe I still like to wear on a regular basis. (Otherwise, older shoes tend to slowly transform from initial pride into embarrassment as time passes.) A low wholecut in textured dark brown Italian leather, I quite enjoy this pair.

This was the first pair sewn with my Pfaff 193 post bed, wheel feed sewing machine. Compared to the Singer, this was a major upgrade. It was also my fourth or so pair where I saved the cutaway leather strip when carving the insoles, and inserting it back in after welting. This makes for a more even surface, making it far easier to fill the footbed with tar felt.

Clegane

Made entirely in epsom printed calf from Tanneries du Puy, Clegane was made with the same pattern as Upsala, making it my 4th version of said pattern.

On this pair, I worked on my outsole finishing. Here’s an outsole of Clegane’s, glassed and sanded, before dying it in a patina style. I’m pretty happy with how the final outsole patina later turned out.

Tarantula

It’s long been a dream design of me, to simply mix rough and smooth calf in dark brown like this. Smooth at the toe, face and heel – textured at the vamp and quarters.) Alas, I didn’t used premium leather for the smooth parts on this shoe, so I’m eager to re-do it. (Or rather, I want to make a new design altogether, but drawing from the same idea).

Tarantula was – believe it or not – the first pattern I made that was actually symmetrical. (It doesn’t show in the image above what with the crooked lines, but it’s true!) That is to say, I cut out half the pattern from the taped up last, made half a pattern on cardboard, and then transferred the half pattern into a mirrored and complete pattern. I hadn’t done this before. Prior to this shoe, I had meticulously drawn the complete 3D pattern on the last, because I am (or at least in this specific regard, used to be) an idiot.

Wasa

I really do think this was a super cool design, although the execution was far from perfect. I designed the toe caps too small to start, and then I didn’t take the stretch of the suede into account, which made the right and left shoe unevenly lasted in comparison. (The left shoe, which is rightmost in the image below, has a wider strip of suede at the toe as a result. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.)

Wasa was the first shoe I made with proper buffed Baker insole shoulder leather. This is the stuff of insole legends, weighing in at 7.5 mm while moist. I absolutely love this leather for insoles, and see myself using it for some time to come. Carving up the holdfast with a regular straight knife, this insole leather gives a lot of confidence.

Pink Panther

Half premium Weinheimer boxcalf, half Italian pink madras calf from buyleatheronline.

I gave myself a blogging vacation with this pair, and didn’t shoot the construction or make a ‘construction’ post. So, here’s a random pic of the face.

Rosenlund

It was first at this pair, finished in may 2020, that I started to feel like: “hey… maybe, just maybe, I can actually do this”. At any rate, this vintage Tanneries du Puy boxcalf is really a leather to behold.

Here in construction, shaping the fiddleback waist:

Arkham

Finished in august 2020, I think Arkham continued on the ‘new level’ of Rosenlund. The upper leather is Weinheimer boxcalf. I worked the toe stiffener carefully to follow the beautiful chisel shape of the Springline lasts (model #980).

It wasn’t perfect, but lasting this super firm Weinheimer leather with seamless heels was really hard. (As in firm as well as challenging.) I applied warm water to the nap side of the leather before lasting, to make it a little more pliable.

St Andrews

This is a recreational shoe in more ways than one – meant to be used for golfing, it was also made as a playful little excursion. They were made with Softspike inserts, as explained in the construction post.

Here’s before slapping the outsoles on and sealing the deal:

In closing…

This is not the biggest blog in the world, but it’s my own little corner of the internet and I quite like it. I always think it’s fun when readers get in touch, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line at the contact form. How’s your own journey coming along?

Thanks for reading!

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