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Friday, June 23, 2006

Coppergate Shoes

This was a commission, and also the first one taken directly from an existing period pattern. It is the Coppergate ankle boot from York and is destined for the Battle of Hastings 2006.

Difficulty: Easy
Total Time: 15 hours

The cost for a shoe may be able to be reduced if you purchased your supplies with two or three other people as you will have a lot of excess.

First a pattern was made specifically for our friends foot. If you are making shoes for yourself you will need someone to help you with this step as it is best to trace around the foot while the subject is standing. Most people have one foot that is bigger than the other, so make sure you trace the bigger "freak foot". Once you have your tracing you draw the basic shape of the shoe around the foot for your sole pattern.

There is a little measuring and guess work involved as the upper pattern is drawn. You will need to use the sole pattern as a guide to ensure that as you would be sewing around the shoe the heal and toe parts are matching up. When you are reasonably happy with your basic pattern it is time to make a material mock-up and try this onto the subject. With the subject standing in the mock-up check things like the toes, heal and the comfort around the ankle. Make sure it is snug, but not tight, as leather is not quite so stretchy as material.

The next step is to cut the pieces and then scarf the leather - that is to take of some of the leather on an angle around where you will sew so that you get a good match of the two pieces. It is best to do one shoe at a time and then try on the first shoe so that you ensure you are creating a good fitting shoe and not wasting a lot of material incase it doesn't fit right.

Using an awl, punch holes through both pieces of leather and start sewing from the toe. We prefer to make our shoes form as we go, rather than having a difficult turning process at the end. As you start from the toe, work in both directions easing the shoe into the right shape. Only punch four or five holes at a time because the leather will start to form and move and you need your holes to line up properly.

Continue sewing the entire way around the shoe. Once you get past the toes this process gets a lot easier and quicker, plus practice helps as well. My partner sewed the second shoe in only two hours.

After you have finished both shoes, try on the subject again to ensure they are both fitting correctly. Then make up your toggle and fastening and using your subject as a guide, determine the best place for these to sit. We had to cut back the flap before fastening the toggle. Sew these in and you have a pair of finished shoes.

We also cut a second piece of sole leather for each foot and take these and the shoes down to our local shoe repairer where we get the second piece glued on. Not only does this protect the stitching really well, it also provides extra protection for your feet.