Friday, March 28, 2014

I made shoes!

Since I saw Tilly's post about making her own shoes, I've been wanting to try it too. Of course I Can Make Shoes, where Tilly took her course, is in London.  Now, finally I was in England for work and decided I would spend some money on this, as I have small feet (EUR: 34, UK: 2) and it makes it hard for me to find shoes that fit and are the style I want. The only course that would fit my schedule was of course none of the cheaper ones, but the one for 3 days: Start your future in footwear, which came with a price tag of £500 (see this and other courses at the website). But I decided it was worth it. Even if turned out to be something I wasn't interested in, I thought I would at least have the experience.

Before I signed up, I wanted to know if I could make mid-heel shoes instead of the high-heeled ones, as I normally wear children's shoes that have no heels at all, and I don't think I would actually wear the high-heeled ones. Amanda got back to me super quick and told me, it's possible, but if I want to make sure there is a correct last for my size, I should buy one, but I could order it and receive it when I came to the course, so that the shipping costs were less. I thought this was a great idea, since I was already getting excited about making my own shoes, and to make them you would need a last of your own. It of course got the price up with £100.

Well, finally the long-awaited day arrived. I was staying in London with a friend and I had looked which bus I should take to the train and then which train to take further. Well, I did take the right bus, but to the wrong direction. In the end I was only about 15-20 min late and hadn't missed much, so it was ok, but I was really annoyed at myself...
The day started with Amanda telling us about the shoemaking process and she had taped our lasts already with masking tape, so that we could start designing right away. I was a bit worried as I'm not particularly good at drawing, but doing it to the last in 3D wasn't too bad. And of course Amanda was there to help :) I chose lovely bright red suede for my fabric and I really wanted to get the mary jane style, as they for some reason don't ever have them in my size - well, with heel anyway.

Filling the bottom with cork filler
After drawing the pattern, we cut it and after adding some allowances cut the fabric. Mine was quite thin, so I also needed interfacing. And of course you need lining as well. The whole shoe making process seemed not too intimidating when you have help all the way. I'm sure you can also learn at home (they sell kits and instructions on the website as well), but I would really recommend taking a course. Even though I had someone explaining what to do, I messed up and Amanda ended up fixing things. I'm sure that by myself I would've had been lot more frustrated. No, there was no frustration at all and after the first day I had almost finished the upper (which is the top part of the shoe), and I had my insoles covered as well.

Second and third day went by as fast as the first one. Lizzie joined Amanda as a teacher and it was even less waiting around. We were also quite lucky as there was only 4 of us, when the maximum size of the group is 6. We had a great group, 2 Brits, 1 Egyptian and 1 Finn from France. We all bonded over lunch and shoe-making. I loved to see everyone's shoes taking shape and they were all fairly different to each of our tastes. And I loved all of them, even if I think I would only wear mine.
See more pictures at the gallery of I Can Make Shoes
The shoe making process involved a lot of gluing, some stitching, and then some drilling and hammering... I definitely learned some new skills and I was very happy with the end product. There was the strap, though, which if I really had thought about it, I would've liked to topstitch that with white like the shoes, now it looks a bit home made. Also, I noticed after letting them set a bit, that one of the sides wasn't pulled as tight as it could and it's a bit wonky. But I would say these are minor details. All in all, the shoes are great and the little things don't really show if you don't look too closely.
The shoes had to wait a week before you could try them on, so that there was time for the glue to really set in. I finally tried them on and they fit like they were made for me. Oh wait, they were. Here are few pictures with me wearing them. Sorry about the mirror pictures, I'm staying at a B&B and needed to make do.

If you are interested in shoe making. Or more likely if you already know how to make shoes you might be interested in J. T. Bachelor and S&K Leathergoods & Fittings that sell leather and shoe making supplies in London (these are here to remind me as well...). If anyone knows other good places for supplies (especially in France!), please let me know in the comments!


  1. This is so so cool! I wonder if there is anything like this in the US?

  2. This is very cool!

  3. ooh wow, you made your own shoes, that's so cool! They're lovely too, very nice colour!

  4. Thanks! I was amazed that it can be done :)

  5. Yes, and not as hard as I would've thought!

  6. I would think so, there always seems to be a lot more options on workshops in US... I found something just googling shoemaking workshops US. Might really depend on the area. For example in Paris the only thing I found was a school that thought professional shoemaking, but you had to commit for a year and it was basically full time study and fairly expensive. I recommend excessive googling. Or traveling to London (always a good option!).

  7. They look great! I'm dying to go on one of their courses, just need to save up

  8. Thanks! I'm telling you they're worth it!

  9. Ihan älyttömän hienot!!!