Simple Shoemaking Workshops
I provide instruction in making many styles of stitch-down lasted footwear
I teach one person at a time, at a time convenient for her or him
updated April, 2010
There are not enough people experiencing the joy of "lasting" a shoe! ("Lasting", in the process I teach, means pulling the upper of the shoe down over a last and evenly adhering it to the topsole that has been tacked to the underside of the last.) I hope to introduce more individuals to the pleasure of stitch-down shoe-lasting by offering one-student-at-a-time (or a couple or small group of friends) workshops.
In the basic shoemaking workshop I teach how to hand-make a "studio shoe", which is a shoe made with a one-piece upper (the part of the shoe that goes over the top of the foot) and a natural rubber sole with a low heel. We begin with the student learning to make his or her own shoe patterns over the appropriate last. These patterns are used to cut out the leather uppers and the soles of the shoes. The leather uppers are hand-stitched and embellished if desired, then molded to a shoe shape over a last. The edges of the upper are flared "out" and cemented to the topsole, resulting in a small edge around the perimeter of the shoe. The upper and the two layers of soling are then hand-stitched together along this edge.
My assumption is that you will be hand-making shoes for yourself, family and friends. However, if you are interested in starting a shoemaking business, I can help you choose a stitching machine and other equipment you might want, and teach you how to operate them. I am available to mentor you through the start-up of your venture.
use processes that are as environmentally-conscious as possible. I don’t
want to expose someone to a craft that in the long run may not be good for
his or her health, the health of their family, or our shared environment.
This means using non-toxic cement for every process in the making of the basic slip-on shoe. This is possible because,
after cementing, we stitch the soling to the shoe. When making the tie shoes shown below, I do use shoemaking cement for attaching the outer sole – nothing is available to the small-scale shoemaker that will hold the outer sole on except potentially toxic shoemaking cement. It should only be used outside, or near a fan blowing fumes to the outside. If you have a friendly shoe-repair person near you, I suggest you let him or her do the cementing of your outer sole. They have exhaust systems (hopefully) to deal with the fumes.
I love to use plantation crepe soling, made from the sap of rubber trees. It is sometimes called a "gum" sole, and truly will get "gummy" if worn on hot sidewalks, so may not work for people in warm climates. But if you can avoid those sidewalks, the crepe soling is very comfortable, and can be cut with scissors, making it ideal for the shoemaker working without a lot of machinery.
I offer classes to individuals throughout the year, whenever our schedules allow, please inquire. I charge $500.00 for two 6-hour days. For special situations, fee may be negotiable, please inquire.
Basic Shoemaking Workshop – two days
I usually begin a person's shoemaking experience with the construction of a one-piece slip-on shoe.
An alternative is to make a basic "chukka" boot, all by hand.
What you will learn from this process:
- all about materials you will need for shoemaking, and where to purchase them. This includes leather, soling materials, thread, cushioning, cement, etc.
(Check out the Resources page, you'll find the same list there that I give
- how to use and where to purchase hand-shoemaking tools. These include leather-cutting scissors, hand-stitching awl, skiving knife, (used to thin the leather at seams), shoemaking pliers, etc.
- the basics of using a last for pattern-making and shoe-forming. Before your arrival we will determine if I have a last in the size you need, either for your use or purchase ($50.00/pair). If your feet have special features, we can modify your last a bit. However, if your foot is more unusual, you can make arrangement to have your lasts made by Bill Tippit through www.globalfootwearsolutions.com. Once you have your pair of lasts, all the potential is there for you to make yourself a lifetime of unique, comfortable footwear.
-how to attach eyelets or other closures (zippers etc).
-I enjoy teaching a variety of decorative techniques (appliqué, embroidery, reverse appliqué, use of studs, rivets, paints, dyes) if you are interested.
-how to shape the upper over the last and cement it to the topsole.
-how to stitch the upper to the topsole.
-how to finish off the edge of the soling.
I offer workshops on construction of other styles of footwear, if you would like to extend your stay.
One and/or two-piece tie shoes and boots (two-days)
Includes instruction on how to make toe boxes and heel counters, and cement on the outer sole
Renaissance Faire boots and shoes (two days)
Sheepskin boot-making (two days)
Sandal-making (two days)
I live in a rural area of Western Massachusetts, near Amherst. There are many places to eat and lodge in the area. Sirius Community (www.siriuscommunity.org) is right down the road, so if you would be comfortable with basic accommodations and healthy vegetarian meals, that might be the place for you!
I have a friend a short walk away who rents out a room in her lovely home,
My intention is that, by the end of the workshop, you will be able to continue to make many styles of shoes, in whatever sizes of lasts you have. I will be available to answer questions that may arise as you continue your shoemaking adventure.
Shoemaking Books I recommend:
A "comprehensive guide to handmade footwear" by Tim Skyrme of Australia has recently been published, and comprehensive it is. The book entitled Bespoke Shoemaking is available at www.shoemakingbook.com and also at www.walrusshoe.com. The hundreds of illustrations by Tim are "suitable for framing" - the clarity of the illustrations answers so many questions I have had about more complex shoemaking processes. The book is relevant to the "stitch-down" process until the reader arrives at the sections on "soling"; at that point you are cast off into a process so painstaking that I can only look at the pages in awe. As I wrote to Tim, the suggestion that I put a tennis ball under the foot pedal of stitching machinery that stitches faster than I can manage, was worth the price of the book. Thank you for sharing, Tim!
I have heard of Handmade Shoes for Men by Hungarian shoemaker Laszlo Vass, but didn't realize until I recently borrowed a copy that it would also be so relevant to the "stitch-down" shoemaking process. There is information on choosing the correct last for an individual, and how to modify a last if necessary. There are many gorgeous photos of sublime footwear, as well as the "sublime" last and shoe makers shown creating perfection in footwear by traditional methods. This book is also available at www.walrusshoe.com.
Frequently-asked shoemaking questions:
1. How much will it cost to buy all the machinery, tools and supplies that I need to start a shoemaking business?
A. I believe everything you need for making stitch-down shoes can be purchased for under $10,000.00. Of course if you want to make them by hand, the costs are much lower, perhaps $500.00. A set of used lasts from www.walrusshoe.com costs in the range of $600.00 - $1000.00, depending on how many lasts are in the set, and -whether they are made of plastic or wood.
2. Do you teach how to make high heels?
3. Do you teach how to make fully-lasted shoes?
A. No, but I have an awesome
shoemaking friend who lives nearby who occasionally teaches. Also, in
The Shoe College, Universite des
-Teaching high quality european methods of hand-made shoe design &
construction: Men's, Women's, dress, casual, boots, sandals and high
And, in Port Townsend, Washington,