Simple Shoe Making Process
You can go a multitude of directions with stitch-down shoemaking. Here you'll find information on the simple shoemaking processes. The information on these pages will not tell you all you need to know to make footwear; in-depth directions and patterns are found in my shoemaking books. I offer three processes for making shoes: stitch-down, Soles with an Edge, and stitch-in.
the Stitch-Down Process
The stitch-down process involves tacking a sole that is 1/4" bigger all around than the bottom of a last, to the bottom of the last, forming a "lip" all around the edge. Contact cement is applied to the lip. The upper part of the shoe is completed, than a 1/4" wide line of contact cement is applied to its bottom edge. When the cement is dry, the upper is draped over the last, and its bottom edge is adhered to the edge of the sole. Stitching holes are punched on the "lip", then a stitching awl is used to stitch the upper to the sole. After stitching, the shoe is complete except for adding a heel, then sanding and buffing the edge. As mentioned, a last is needed to drape the upper of the shoe over while you are cementing it to the sole, kind of a "stand-in" for your foot, but with added toe-room in a nice shape. (You can purchase lasts from me or make them yourself). This process works best for materials that will not unravel at the edges, such as leather and quality felt.
This photo was sent to me by Brendan, the last shoemaker in Ireland (to his knowledge). Here you can see several stages in the stitch-down process; the boot in the back is ready for the upper to be pulled with lasting pliers down, then out to rest upon the edge of the topsole. The topsole has been nailed to the bottom of the last. You see cement has been applied around the edge of the topsole, and the bottom edge of the upper (which is viewed from the inside. You can see that a vegetable-tanned leather toebox has been cemented to the boot.
Soles with an Edge
I developed this product because some materials aren't ideal for making footwear by the stitch-down process. This mainly applies to woven fabrics; their cut edges would unravel if they were turned out. So, I created outdoor soling that can be stitched to footwear made from felt and fabric. The outdoor soling has a suede edge with stitching holes punched along its top edge. You can see the blue Soles with an Edge around the bottom edge of these wet-felted boots.
First, you completely make the boot, fiber sole and all, as if you were making a felt boot liner. This is set down and cemented with spray adhesive inside the suede edge. Then, a variety of stitches can be used to stitch the boot to the suede edge, to complete the outdoor-worthy boot. These soles can be purchased from my etsy shop, or you can make them yourself following the directions in my instructional video.
The Stitch-in Process
The final technique involves turning your stitching in instead of out, when you are attaching the upper to the sole - I call it the "stitch-in" technique. It's kind of advanced, so I advise you to get stitch-down shoes "under your belt" (sounds kind of uncomfortable!) before trying to make "stitch-in" shoes. When you're ready, there's a video on my blog that reveals all the secrets about how to do it. There are pros and cons to each of these approaches, so make a decision according to what would be best for the materials you are using, the amount of money you would like to spend, how you want your footwear to look.