Tuesday, March 12, 2013


What is a pair of shoes doing on the white linens in my hotel-room?

Well, this is not just any pair of shoes. I had just finished making them. Yep, that's right. I made them...

You might already know, that I have a miniature obsession about wanting to learn how to make shoes. Real shoes. In my self-studies I am still on the level of house-shoe-making, but I took a one-week class in London, which catapulted me forward, far, far forward... ;-)

Aside from different shoe courses Prescott & Mackay  offers bag making, tutu making, belt making and corsetry classes, as well as offering private tuition. After finishing the 5-day shoe making class, I'd love to take every single other class they offer. I had a brilliant time in London (yes, I was wearing the London coat!), even though I didn't have much time to check out the city. But the morning walks to the class, the lunches at a lovely indian health food store and three visits to West End shows sure was enough to leave me thrilled. Aside from the class, which left me exhilarated!

Five days from 10 am to 6 pm, I learned more than I dreamed I would, and I feel ready to try my first real pair of street shoes at home now.

The First Day
was spent with some introductory talking, then preparing (taping) the lasts (they had three different styles to choose from, and while neither one of them really had a shape that would have been a first choice for me, I ended up pleasantly surprised) and designing the shoe. After that, we cut the tape off the last and flattened it out onto a sheet of strong paper.

Our tutor Tom was super nice and let me make a much more complex pair of shoes than what is normally done in these classes. They make regular court shoes, which are basic pumps. But instead, I got to make a kind of Derby, with laces and all...

That was already all for the first day, just making the paper patterns. There sure were lots of pieces! Lining and all, adding the right amount of seam allowances (8mm for overlapping, 5mm for folding, 2 mm for seams...).

The Second Day
was spent cutting out all the many pieces from leather. There are many more than you'd expect, lining, insoles and all... And that was the only day I found a bit hard on my hands. We cut everything, paper and leather, with a scalpel, and if not used correctly, pressure gets a bit much on your index finger...

We only made minor other things aside from cutting, cutting, cutting on day 2...

The Third Day
was finally spent sewing! We used a lovely old Singer industry machine for leather sewing. I finally know a little bit about leather machines to be able to either buy one myself or decide I don't need one after all. We'll see.

You can't really see it in this picture, but this machine has a wheel next to the needle, which rolls on the leather and thereby moves it while sewing. As opposed to the transporting from underneath which other machines have (regular sewing machines for example).

I was sewing at half the speed of my slowest sewing speed ever, just because I knew every stitch matters... We were sewing with a seam allowance of 2mm at the heel, a strange feeling for someone accustomed to 1,5 cm! Precision is really important, even more so than in garment sewing.

I was pretty quick and even had time to create fancy insoles...

In the picture below you see the very inside of the shoe. This is a pre-made sole, made exactly for that specific last, and it's the piece that causes most head aches in trying to replace in my home studio. It has a built-in enhancement along the back part of the sole, so the heel doesn't break off...
I do already have some ideas about how I can come up with it at home though...

The Fourth Day
was the first day of the actual "shoe making".
After sewing together the lining and the uppers, they finally went on the lasts... By the way, the seams were also glued and/or taped before sewing, just to give everything extra durability...
In the picture below, the bright stripe along the edge of the upper is the lining, which was cut off in the very end. And you also see some double stick tape along the edge of the front part of the shoe, before it was sewn to the rest of it. Oh yes, by now I had already successfully put in 16 eyelets. I was pretty nervous about those...

The lining is pulled over the last, tacked and glued separately, then a toe puff and a heel stiffener are put in...

The Fifth Day
was spent continuing right where we had left off: the upper gets the same treatment: pulling, tacking, glueing... It was so much fun!

One of the reasons for me to take this class was to find out what tools I actually need to invest in, in order to be able to make shoes at home. And I was so surprised at how few there were! Aside from the sewing machine, these are basically all the tools we needed:

Surprising, right?
What a thrill it was to finally pull the shoes off the lasts! We had evened out the bottoms with cork filler, glued the heel on and then the soles, and once they were off the last, we put two screws into the heels from the top. Then the insoles were given a little heel pad and put in to cover those screws and give the shoes their final look. And that was a wrap!

They fit me perfectly!
This is by no means a real step by step. There were so many little things to be done! We all finished before 6pm on the last day and they say nobody ever left with unfinished shoes. We were five people, the maximum they take is 6, so everyone gets enough attention and personal assistance.

I will continue my shoe making with the house shoes from my old booklet, but I am also jumping ahead and planning my first pair of real shoes all by myself. I need to organize a few things first, and then find the time, but in my head, it is all shaping up nicely...

Anyone interested in learning how to make shoes should definitely check out Prescott and Mackay!
What a great week! And the funny thing is, making shoes exhilarated me in a strange but very welcome way: I feel like I never want to buy anything anymore, I want to make EVERYTHING myself. I am so tired of always buying stuff, and I am so in love with making. Sure, this is my most expensive pair of shoes, so to say, and it doesn't really look it, but it was so much better than buying anything...

I hope you all had a good week too, and I hope I'll find some time to catch up with all your lovely blogs and DIY endeavors!


  1. your shoes look amazing. I would love to take a class like that :)

  2. Wow, those are beautiful. I share a similar mini-obsession but I'm starting with refashioning. These are very inspiring!

  3. Absoluter Wahnsinn!

  4. unbelievably!!!!

  5. They look fantastic! I wold LOVE to do what you are doing. you have inspired me to see if there are any shoe making courses near where I live, though I doubt it tbh. I will certainly bee keeping an eye open for your future shoe creations xXx

  6. I've always wanted to do this. Your shoes are AMAZING!

    I totally agree about making vs buying, even though it rarely makes financial sense.

  7. wow - it looks like you had a great time! those shoes look fab - it is something i'd like to have a go at at some point - but there a few things a bit higher up my wish list!

  8. Pilar Gonzalez MilanMarch 12, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    Sounds complicated, but the result is spectacular.
    They are lovely shoes

  9. These. Are. Amazing. Your work on shoes is so inspiring. I loved everything you shared with the house shoes, and these are just beautiful!!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a terrific post!!!

  10. Charityshopchic.netMarch 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Fantastic post, I would love to do that course! Your shoes are incredible and so 'you'. I'm amazed, well done!

  11. Erica @ Recycled-Fashion.comMarch 13, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    Very cool! Not many people could say they've made their own shoes, they're really nice too

  12. AnaJan stepalica.blopspot.comMarch 13, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Wow, that's super interesting, would love to try making a pair of shoes! Yours turned out really lovely, never would've guessed they were your first pair. Well done!

  13. Wow! This is incredibly cool. And such cool shoes, too! I'd love to learn how to make shoes too :)

  14. They are incredible and look so amazing! You are so talented!

  15. Those are amazing! Beautiful, and wonderfully detailed, professional job...I can't even imagine making your own shoes.

  16. These are beautiful Well done for all the hard work. I am sure you are very proud. I hope you are able to carry on to do a pair on your own soon.
    Sandy in the UK

  17. Oh my gosh! That is so special! A dream come true! Congratulations!

  18. Amazing, amazing, amazing! They look exquisite and better than any pair i've seen in the stores. Well done, Katja!

  19. Oh it must bewonderful to make so nice shoes. Thank you for the pictures of making off.


  20. You are my hero !!! I SO want to make shoes too ! I am of the exact thinking that I am tired of buying stuff and I want to make everything. And I think shoes are the last frontier since I know how to make everything else ! Thank you so much for this incursion in the world of shoe making. I hope I get to experience it some day.

  21. Oooh I love to hear from like-minded people! My next shoe-making post is coming up real soon, so stay tuned!

  22. Marlise (pomme & asperge)September 8, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    Wow unglaublich! Die sind wunderschön!! Sehr inspirierend!

  23. Francine Johnson McGeeOctober 8, 2013 at 5:19 AM

    I have always wanted to make pair of my own shoes. It's one of those things that is often made cheaply, and never exactly the way you want or need them. Being able to make them yourself frees you from the marketplace also, which I like. Plus another way to express yourself. Yay you!