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Art and Sole – the Art of Shoemaking


Art and Sole – the Art of Shoemaking

Several years ago I took a course at Art and Sole Academy in Toronto and it was an amazing experience.  I would never have understood the amount of time and effort that goes in to making a pair of shoes by hand until I spent a week making these shoes.  Since I took the course I have noticed that shoe-making has become more popular so there are now more courses and  more resources  available.  
The final product, blue suede platform sandals

The shoe-making process begins with your shoe design. After looking at many different styles of shoes I picked out a platformed chunky heel sandal design. How hard could it be, I thought? What I did not realize is that the only thing you do not make by hand is the heel. Basically everything else is constructed from pieces of leather which you cut, sand, sew, shape, and glue. The process is arduous but very rewarding in the end. Once you can make a shoe, the options are limitless.

The first step is to pick out the material for your shoe. For this pair I chose suede, however you can choose from a different array of textiles. It should be durable and you can always line it with leather to give it strength and structure.

Example of a shoe last for a round toe heel

The most important piece you need for shoe-making is the last. There are many different types of lasts depending on the height of the heel and the shape of the toe. There are also specific lasts for making boots. It is essential that the last is in your size. For those who can afford it, you could have lasts made in the shape of your own feet.

Using the last as a reference you make a pattern based on your shoe design. To make the pattern, you cover the last with masking tape and then you draw the pattern of your shoe design on the masking tape. After you draw the pattern you cut it out along the lines.. I am simplifying it but this is basically how you start. After the pattern is made you start to make each piece of the shoe.

The picture below demonstrates all the different parts of the shoe. While I made most of it by hand, I believe you could find pre-made parts online. Some parts you find will be made out of cheaper synthetic materials or you can look for the parts made in leather. The more expensive shoes will use leather which is why they cost is so much more,

The anatomy of a heeled shoe

I will provide some photos of various steps during the making of my shoes just to give a little more insight into shoe making.

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