Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 20 January 2018

January Intensive Shoe making Course 2018 - Week 2

Hello once more, dear readers, we hope you had a good week and that you have not suffered too greatly waiting for part 2 of our Intensive shoe making Course blog. Read on and enjoy...

Week 1 finished last Saturday with shanks and cork. The students prepared leather shanks and put cork filler in the forepart.

After a much appreciated day off, the students came back on the Monday full of energy and enthusiasm and tackled stitching their soles.

They also made threads using hemp, homemade thread wax and some elbow grease.

Aleksander making a thread

Stitching the sole
Once the sole was stitched, we moved onto heel building using a spit lift (rand) and 2 leather lifts. This is done with paste and nails which are punched below the surface so that the heel lifts can be skived flat.

Checking measures

Valivann balancing the heels

Shaping his heel with the knife

Once the heels were built, the heel breasts cut and the seat trimmed, they attached the top pieces using glue and nails.

Punching a nail

 With the heels built, we moved on to the finishing which is rasping, glassing, sanding and dressing.

Sanding the sole edge

The sole is dressed with polish for a natural finish

Sanding the heel breast

More polish for a natural finish

Burnishing the wax on an inked finish
  Once the finishing was done, we removed the lasts by breaking them on the lasting jack - push!

And here are the finished shoes which we reckon turned out really well. The students would say that despite some struggles and hard moments, the course was a great success. The sense of achievement is amazing when those shoes go on your feet. Fantastic! Well done all of you.

Finished! Nice job Valivann

Beautiful collection of handmade shoes made by the class of January 2018
One happy Russian, well done Aleksanders

Proud shoemakers Rob, Valivann, Pamela, Margot and Melissa

And so it ends. Another course in the bag.

We are running plenty of shoe making courses throughout 2018, so check out the dates and sign up! We are happy to answer questions, so email us at

Until next week, happy shoe making

Friday, 12 January 2018

January Shoe Making Course - week 1

Welcome to 2018 good shoe making folk of the world. I don't know about you, but it felt as though the Christmas holidays really flew by! 

We're already five days into our Winter shoe making course and the students are doing a fantastic job. They've skived stiffeners and toe puffs - learning both push and pull skiving to see which suits them best...

They've blocked their insoles...

 and trimmed them once dry.

Then they drew out their holdfast on the insole and carefully cut it out...

Keeping a note of the various stages and tips on holding tools or measuring as they went...


Then they made their holes for stitching

Next it was down to the satisfying job of lasting over the upper, lifting the back to create tension across the quarters, lasting the toe flat then pulling the back down and lasting the heel. Shaping the stiffener at this stage with a French hammer creates lovely contours...

Then on to lasting the lining at the toe...


before lasting the toe puff and allowing it to dry.

Finally the toe puff is shaped with the hammer and then a rasp...

before the uppers are pulled over and lasted at the toe.

The toe puff is pasted before the upper is lasted and again, judicial use of the French hammer helps to create a smooth and even pair of toes.

 All set for welting!

That's all for this week. Until next week when we'll see the results of the students' 12 days of hard work, happy shoemaking!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Merry Christmas and happy holidays

Happy holidays shoe makers one and all!

We'll be back on January 5th, so until then, feast and make merry and enjoy some special time with friends and family.

Warmest wishes and many thanks for following our news in 2017.
Deborah and James 

Friday, 8 December 2017

New bespoke shoes and shoe making courses for 2018

Welcome back good shoe folk of the world, we are eagerly counting down to Christmas when the elves are off to do what they do best, helping Saint Nic make and wrap Christmas presents.

Until then, we're all still busy making bespoke shoes.....

preparing for the first intensive shoe making course of the New Year...

and planning the year ahead. We've a host of new short and longer-term courses planned for London in 2018, so, which of the following would you like to learn with us?

5-day Shoe or Boot making course (In-Welt) - come to learn hand lasting and hand welting; then your shoes will be professionally fitted with the sole of your choice and sent to you.

1-day Shoe or Boot making course (Blake stitched) - come to learn hand lasting; then your shoes will be professionally fitted with the sole of your choice and sent to you.

3-day Clicking & Closing course - come to learn the techniques and skills of preparing and stitching the seams on shoe and boot uppers. 

Masterclass - already have some shoemaking or repairing experience? Why not come to improve your hand sewn shoe making techniques or learn new ones with us for anything from one day to six months. Tell us what you want to learn and we will put together a course plan and timetable to suit you.

Small leather goods - would you like to learn how to make a beautiful, saddle stitched I-pad case, wallet or phone case? Come and join us for a morning of high end leather work.

2-day Footwear Pattern Cutting - is there one pattern that you've always wanted to learn to make? Choose from a Derby shoe and boot pattern module; Oxford shoe and boot pattern module; or pump/court shoe pattern module.

If you are interested in any of the above shoe making or leather working courses please drop us an email at and we'll let you know when we have more news.

That's all from us, so until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Shoemakers Conference and Competition time

Welcome back fellow shoe fans of the world. Although there are still roses out in the garden, winter is finally upon us. Temperatures are closing in on zero (I know for some of you that's still balmy!), mornings are cold and crisp and the dark nights start at about 4pm. (Again, not as bad as for some of our friends even deeper in the northern hemisphere!) The positive is it's a great excuse for heading out to shoot the breeze with fellow shoemakers, stay cosy at the shoe making bench 

or to dream up new shoe designs! 

On the subject of socialising, the calendar already has 23rd - 25th February ear-marked for the 20th Independent Shoemakers’ Conference. The conference will be hosted on the south coast of England by Lastmakers House' founder Steve Lowe and bespoke shoe maker, Dominic Casey. 

No guarantee it will look like this in February!
If you've never been, go and if you haven't yet booked your tickets, get booking! There is a fantastic line up of shoemakers sharing their advice and experience including Daniel Wegan from Gaziano and GirlingTom and Fay Murphy of Chapter2Kids shoes and the eponymous Sebastian Tarek and Marsha HallYou can book your place here and we look forward to seeing you there!

Competitive edge
There must be something in the air at the moment because there are not one, but two, new shoe making competitions taking place next year. The first is for students and is being run during the Independent Shoemakers Conference. You are invited to submit a pair of shoes that you have made, for judging. Entries will be voted on during the day and the award will be announced and presented at the gala dinner in the evening.


The second competition is the World Championships in Shoe making. That's quite some title, but however you feel about competitions anything that offers a platform to promote handsewn shoe making and the craftsmanship and skill of the shoemaker is alright by us. It is being organised by Justin Fitzpatrick aka the Shoesnob and Shoegazing blogger Jesper Ingevaldsson in collaboration with Kirby Allison's Hanger Project. The challenge is to create that seemingly simplest of styles a black, cap toe Oxford. For the chosen pieces there is some serious prize money and great publicity to be had so get making! 

That's all from us for this week, so until next week, happy shoe making!