I am so proud - even though this pair might look a little less professional than the first one, but those were made in a course and these here all by myself, at home, without the help of a teacher and without many of the special machines and tools.
So yes, it is possible! I will show you pictures of the making-of-process, though not nearly with every step of the way. It is a bit too soon for a tutorial - right now I am just gathering information and experience for that to come up at some later point.
However, I am going to give you a lot of pre-tutorial-information about what tools and materials I used, so you know what you definitely need and what you don't. For me, that was the most important thing to know, just so I could get started... You will be surprised how few specialty tools you need, and how you should be able to find most of it in regular hardware stores...
THE LAST, HEEL and INSOLE
For this kind of shoe you need a last - actually a pair of lasts, a right and a left one. I am stressing that point because they are sometimes sold separately as decoration-objects, so don't go for those. You can find old lasts on ebay - usually wooden ones (make sure the detachable center piece on top is included!), newer ones are hard plastic. Both is fine.
The last determines how high the heel can be. There can be only one specific hight of heel for a last, because of the shape of the arch. Read on for more information about the right hight of the heel...
Heels and insoles for flats are a easy to come up with. You can make a stacked heel (layers of leather glued on top of each other) and you can make the insole out of leather or any other sturdy material.
For higher heels it is all a bit trickier. I was lucky to score a box full of wooden heels on ebay, but they are rarely sold. What you can do is find an old pair of shoes that has the right hight of heels (and a shape you like) and deconstruct it (deconstructing a shoe isn't that easy without breaking the important elements, so I will post a tutorial on that at some point, too).
|...lifting out the insole...|
I made the pattern by putting masking tape over the last and drawing on it, later taking it off, sticking it on paper and flattening it out. Here were my pattern pieces, lining included...
I have a Vigorelli sewing machine which can sew upholstery and leather. Of course you could hand-sew everything, too. I am not completely happy with my seams, they are a bit wobbly and uneven in places, but at least it worked...
What I am also not completely happy with are the toe- and heel-stiffeners. I used cardboard, which isn't really the way to go. As you can see in the later pictures, the edges from the stiffeners show through the upper quite strongly, which isn't so great. A better solution would have been just an extra layer of leather.
The leather I used for my uppers wasn't quite right either. It had the right thickness, but was too soft. Thickness isn't as important as the sturdiness. It should feel a bit more like cardboard than like fabric to be suitable for shoes. Maybe you could deconstruct a sturdy leather bag like a briefcase! The lining leather on the other hand can be quite thin and soft, like fabric. In fact, you could also use fabric...
|My not so professional cardboard stiffeners...|
In the picture above you see the metal enhancement on the insole of the shoe on the left, which is so important... On the shoe on the right on the other hand you see the edge of the toe stiffener showing through...
Below, you see the tools I had used thus far. Simple! (Actually, you don't need the gaffer tape. Just a masking tape will do. The tin can next to the tapes is glue. Under the knives is a block of styrofoam with a piece of leather glued to it, with diamond paste on it - used to re-sharpen the knives. Also not a must - you can just change the blades...).
Not in the picture: a sewing machine or a hand-stitching awl and thread.
A pair of lasts, an insole, something for the outer sole (thick leather, rubber, even old tires...), material for the upper (here leather) and the lining (also leather in my case, but thinner than the upper...), whatever closure you want to put on your shoes...
I got very excited when I had my shoes all done and taken off the last. So I decided to put on real rubber soles. I ordered the materials from Langlauf Schuhbedarf in Germany (they also have an ebay store), but your local shoe maker would have it too, or other online shoe supply stores. I used black ones, but took a picture of the brown... a piece for the front (thinner and softer, and a special rubber for the heels, thicker and harder):
I also ordered some other cool supplies and tools...
...but you could also just use a lot of elbow grease and sandpaper, or a Dremel (which I also used for detail work...).
Last but not least I waxed the edges (also with the specialty supplies) and used leather paint for the rest of the soles (the black hides the imperfections much better!).
You can go ahead and zoom in - there are plenty of wobbly looking spots on these shoes, but they are special to me anyway...
It's definitely a dream come true to have made my own shoes in my living room. I am by no means a pro at this, and any suggestions and corrections are welcome. I am learning by doing and very happy to share my experience with others, so feel free to comment! Also let me know if the bold print here and there is annoying you - I think it makes the long textblocks a bit easier to follow. Yay or nay?
All the best to you, and thanks for reading!