Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 20 January 2017

January Intensive Shoemaking Class - the Second Week

We are getting to grips with 2017 and have got back into the swing of work,and as such, have had a very busy week with our Intensive Shoe Making Course

If you are a shoemaker in the UK or a student of shoemaking, in February there will be the 19th Independent Shoemnakers' Conference to be held in the Isle of Wight. The Independent Shoemakers is a collective of shoemakers of all kinds from all over the UK - from bespoke makers like ourselves to clog makers; orthopaedic makers to sandal makers (and everything in between).
The conference is a great event where you can meet other shoemakers; attend interesting workshops on all aspects of the craft; and socialise with fellow shoemakers. It is a fun weekend.
It is very friendly and welcomes shoemakers of all standards from professionals to beginners and even those who just have an interest in the craft.

If you are interested in going, email us at and we will forward you the application form.

Week two of the course has many and varied delights including stitching the soles; thread making; attaching bristles; gluing down the channel; smoothing the sole. And that is just day 7.

Lovely straight stitches - very nice work!

Day 8 saw us tackling heel building, starting with the split lift or rand. We make these from a strip of heel bend, skived on the side and hammered into a horse shoe shape.

Kaori attaching the split lift/rand

Two flat heel lifts followed the split lift, attached with paste and nails, and followed by shaping with the knife. Straight at the sides and slightly pitched at the back.

Akari shaping the heel
In case you were worried by the last pic, our workshop is toasty and warm, all year round.


Shaping the heel


On day 9, with the heel built and shaped, we cut the seat and the heel breast.

Cutting the heel breast

Cutting the heel breast

Cutting the seat

Checking the heel marks
 And we attached the heel top pieces.

Charles balancing the heel top piece

Balancing the heel on a glass board


Day 10 and we finished the heels and moved onto the finishing, starting with a bit of tidying with the knife.

Tidying up the sole edge

Lee rasping the heel

Rasping the heel breast
Unfortunately, Akari had to go back to Japan and so Day 10 was her last day so we did a group selfie to mark the end of her study with us. She will be back in February to finish her shoes

So two more days to go and one student less. At least she left happy and looking forward to coming back to finish.

We will show the final shoes in next week's post but they are all on their way to very nice shoes.

And on another note, for those of you in the UK, I will be presenting a section of the Inside Out show on BBC 1 South on Monday 23rd January. It can be seen nationwide on the HD channel I am told. Otherwise catch it on the iPlayer after the event. It's a nice piece about legendary shoemaker Ducker and Son in Oxford - worth a watch

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 13 January 2017

January's Shoe Making Course is under way!

Welcome back shoe fans. Already two weeks into a new year and it's all go at the workbench with our four January students and new evening class members!

Sharpening a shoemaker's friend or foe, his knife

Skiving stiffeners

Trimming the insole
Ploughing the lip on the insole

Marking the heel breast line
Marking the holdfast

Creating it in the insole

Lasting the lining

Shake it, shake it out... the cramp that is!

Glassing the welt
Making threads


...and more welting

As the second shoes get under way, that's it from us for this week. If you fancy taking on the shoemaking challenge, then you can see details and download booking forms for all of this year's courses on our website

Until next week, when we'll be posting more updates from the course, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 6 January 2017

2017 here we come!

Welcome back shoe enthusiasts...we hope that you have had a good festive break and are looking forward to the year ahead? Who knows what it will bring, but hopefully many, many more beautiful shoes. 

For us, it starts with a blast of teaching as our January Intensive Handsewn Shoemaking course gets under way on Monday. With almost two weeks away from the workshop our hands and bodies will be feeling it almost as much as the students I am sure! 


The year is already filling up. As well as shoe making and delivering bespoke orders, we're launching the next Kickstarter soon; there are exciting new plans for London Craft Week; the evening classes are fully booked; and now places on the New York and August courses are filling up!

But before we dive into the new year, forgive is an indulgent moment as we look back on 2016.

  •  The Design Museum opened in West Kensinton opened with us in it!

There's a fabulous shoemaking film - being viewed here by James under the critical eye of film maker Camilla Corr - a pair of boots, tools, patterns, leathers ....

  •  We saw some great shoe making by students during the year...including

Charlie - very proud

Johanna and Barbara....


Wei Fen and Nicole...
Matt, who came back for a masterclass...

The January 2016 guys...

and a very rambunctious summer class!
 and enjoyed some lively discussions alongside some excellent shoemaking on Monday and Wednesday evening classes...

  • We started an annual Shoemaking School alumni Christmas drinks tradition!
  • We made Winkers Resort Shoes in a wide choice of fabrics...including bespoke commissions

  •  We received our National Shoefitters Association certificates

...and were proud to help Cockpit Arts celebrate its 30th Anniversary...

  • Launched our new branding 

  •  Launched Barkan Desert Boots 

Warmly received by our Kickstarter supporters - thank you all - and their canine friends!
We look forward to welcoming Akari, Lee, Kaori and Charles on Monday and to helping them to create their first pair of handsewn shoes. We'll let you now how they get on. Until next week, happy shoemaking!