- Andrew Wrigley has a million-part series on youtube called “How to Make Shoes by Hand.” Even if you’re not planning on making any, it’s an excellent introduction to vocabulary, shoe anatomy, and techniques. Also, it’s funny how he gradually wears less and less clothing as the series progresses.
- Lisa Sorrell is another good youtube personality. She does Western style boots exclusively, but there’s still PLENTY of stuff that applies to shoes in general. She runs a real shop (whereas Mr. Wrigley seems to make his shoes in his apartment) so she covers things like machinery and some volume-production issues. Also she’s generally very articulate and thorough.
- Tim Skyrme also has several good videos. Although he’s generally less thorough, after you’ve seen a few things from Wrigley and Sorrell he’ll help fill in a few gaps. Also, the eerie music makes you feel like he might lapse into a story about some cheerleader that he killed one time.
- St. Crispins put out a pretty well made video showing each step in the shoemaking process. They make up for a lack of narration by being extremely visually thorough.
- A Manual of Shoemaking and Leather and Rubber Products – Written to meet the need for a “general textbook on shoemaking… adapted to meet the needs of industrial, trade, and commercial schools or those who have just entered the rubber, shoe, and leather trades.” The author assumes little to no knowledge on the part of the reader and is very thorough.
- The Manufacture of Boots and Shoes – This book is particularly helpful for learning about pattern making; a subject that I’ve found particularly difficult to research. This is a link to the table of contents which is EXTREMELY thorough and includes more information that you could ever hope to need (e.g. a comparison of the French vs. German standards for foot measurement)
- Boots and Shoes: Their Making, Manufacture, and Selling – This volume (1 of ?) treats pattern making and last making; spending 170 pages on the former. It uses language that’s easy to understand, even when talking about complicated topics and provides useful explanations for basic terms and principles.
- American Shoemaking – …if you’re thinking of dabbling in shoe manufacture in the early 20th century. Honestly though, if you sift through it there’s really some pretty good / relevant information here and there.
- Boot & Shoe Recorder – A magazine / catalogue for shoe distributors and manufactures in the late 19th and early 20th century. I find it particularly interesting because it gives you an insight into how styles and our attitudes towards different materials and techniques have changed over the years. The edition that I’ve linked here is from 1922, but if you search Google books you can find them from as early as the 1890’s.
- Handmade Shoes for Men – ($17.00) – By Laszlo Vass. You see this book recommended everywhere, for good reason.
- Bespoke Shoemaking – ($125.00) – By Tim Skyrme. A very practical guide to the whole process. Filled with pictures and instructions that are so precise that they’re almost impossible to actually follow.
- Pattern Cutting – ($85.00) – Covers one of the more difficult aspects of making shoes: pattern making. It’s almost an art unto itself and it deserves its own book.
- Carréducker – James Ducker and Deborah Carré are british shoemakers who studied under John Lobb. Their blog has lots of great pictures of the shoemaking process.
- Shoes and Craft – Run by Marcell Mrsan of the Koronya shoemaking company. Similar to Carréducker, but with more emphasis on the business side of things and with the added charm of broken English.
- Dead & Buried – An Australian shoe maker who specializes in women’s shoes, although he does men’s here and there as well. He stands apart from others in that he makes use of modern technology (3D printers, resin casting, etc.) rather than just sticking to traditional techniques.
- Nathalie Mornu – Technically, she makes sandals. But the blog has lots of interesting information and helped me find several new places to source lasts from.
How to make a pattern:
Pattern making requires absolute precision and is one of the most technical aspects of making shoes. This, compounded with the fact that clear, thorough information on making patterns is very difficult to come by, makes it one of the most daunting parts of the process. If you notice, even Andrew Wrigley skips over an explanation of pattern making in his otherwise very comprehensive explanation of the shoe making process; likely because it really is an art unto itself and would require a whole other series of videos to explain. That being said, I’ve compiled a short list of what I’ve found to be the most helpful information on this complex topic to help save you the headache of scouring the internet and sifting through dead ends:
Shoe-Learn – (Skip to page 12) The main site is also worth visiting in and of itself. Shoe Learn seems to be an initiative to help provide further education for Slovenian shoemakers and aspiring shoemakers. I’m still not clear on why small to medium-scale shoemaking is such a big thing in Slovenia and why an institute would be founded to encourage its development, but regardless the information that they provide is very helpful. Google does a good enough job of auto-translating to make the site navigable for an English speaker and there’re lots of other helpful guides that you can dig up.
The Manufacture of Boots and Shoes – I mentioned this book above but this link takes you directly to the section on pattern making. Unsurprisingly, since shoe making has largely been relegated to factories for almost the past 100 years much of the good information on the subject comes from sources that are over 100 years old; as is the case with this book, published in 1902. Once factories took over the job there was little reason to write on the topic of shoe making since that information had become the proprietary domain of the manufacturer. Fortunately, this trend seems to be reversing itself ever so gradually. We’re now finding more and more written about all sorts of artisanal crafts as our collective infatuation with industry begins to wayne.
Where to find lasts:
This can be a tricky topic. Virtually nothing about shoemaking is very popular or easy to find and procuring lasts can be one of the most difficult parts of the whole endeavor. Of course, you can go on Ebay and find a few odd pairs or some beat up, mismatching wooden lasts, but if you really want to do it right and find a last that will yield a shoe really worth making then you really need to contact a lastmaker. Oddly enough, typing “shoe lasts” or “lastmaker” into Google isn’t half as helpful as you would imagine, so I’ve compiled the following list of all the sources that I’ve stumbled upon over the past several months:
The following are sources for a wide range of in-tact, good quality, matching lasts but are not last makers:
Other Tools & Equipment:
Making shoes requires more than you might initially expect. I know that I frequently faced the frustration of thinking that I’d ordered everything, only to arrive at a step and realize that I needed something else. So, for anyone interested, here’s a shopping list:
The Leather Guy (not super-high quality, but a great place to start)
- Leather for uppers: 4-5oz
- Leather for soles: 12oz (Alternatively, for soles you could use Vibram. Look up the number for your local distributor)
- Leather for lining: 2-3oz
- Scratch awl
- Curved awl for welting
- Overstitch wheel (to mark out your stitches so that they’re even)
- Hole punch (to make the lace holes)
- Lasting pincers
- Contact cement (Barge brand)
- Elmer’s Glue
- Light thread for sewing uppers
- Heavy waxed thread for sewing sole / welting
- Razor (like a box cutter) for skiving. There’s a tool called a “Super Skiver” that I’d recommend.
- Toe puff / heel counter for each shoe