Monday, December 29, 2014

Shoemaking: Making a pattern to fit my customised shoe lasts

Last time we left off I had just customised my shoe lasts with some modelling clay and masking tape. This post is going to be all about making a pattern for the customised foot last. If you have average feet you're probably not going to need to do this but seeing as my feet are so wide I'm taking the plunge and attempting to make my own personal pattern before starting.

I started this process by carefully sticky-taping all the masking tape down. I did this because my pattern is also going to be made of masking tape and I didn't want to pull the original masking tape off the last when pulling my pattern off. It worked really well so I recommend doing this.

When wandering around the internet looking at all things shoemaking I kept seeing images of shoe patterns being made on shoe lasts with masking tape so I gave it a go. I read somewhere (will link it up later if I remember where...) that you should  masking tape the entire foot last horizontally and then vertically so I did that. Also I read that the wrinkles on the masking tape should be made to lie as flat as you can get them so it doesn't affect the final pattern. I got a bit OCD about it so this part took me forever.

I wasn't entirely sure what to do once I got to this stage so I experimented by slipping my last into a shoe I bought recently and started tracing the line of the fabric. This really highlighted the poor fit that I have on pretty much all of my flat shoes. I wasn't sure how much to raise it by so again I experimented. This time I put the shoe on my foot and started measuring from the bottom of my foot to the spot where I'd like it to sit. I drew little dots on my foot all the way around until I was pretty happy with the curve. Then I took some masking tape and filled the gap between the edge of the fabric and my line of dots to see if the line I created look good in practise. It did! So then I had to do the same thing to the last. I carefully compared my measurements on my foot to the last and marked out dots all the way around the last until I had a smooth curve I was happy with. The only difficult part of this process is blending your newly created line with the existing toe curve to make it all look nice and seamless. Take your time with that bit, it's worth it.

To give you an idea of what you're looking at the heel is 6.5 cm high and then it grades down to 5cm just below my ankle and grades down to 4cm all the way along my foot until it meets the curve at the front.

Then it was time to cut away the excess tape at the top of the last so I could turn my pattern from a 3D shape into a 2D one. The nerves, oh the nerves.

I should mention here that all of this was done by the help of the free downloadable ballet flat pattern on My aim was to make my pattern resemble theirs so I could follow their tutorial in their book. I wrapped the pattern around the last so I could cut mine in exactly the same spot as their pattern. You can see my very high tech washi tape doing the job below.

Once I'd figured that bit out I marked a straight line down the side and peeled the pattern back off. Now I was ready to cut the pattern off the last.

I cut around the bottom edge of the last and then cut straight down the line I had drawn on the side of the pattern before peeling the whole thing off the last. My sticky tape came with it which was great because  I was left with my original modelling clay and masking tape, just how I started. This pattern is sitting inside out below because that's how it peeled off.

Now for the tricky bit. Figuring out how to turn a 3D shape into a 2D one. The first thing I needed to do was figure out exactly where that dart needed to be located on my pattern so I could lay it flat. As you can see below I used washi tape to secure the pattern to the table and then more washi tape to secure the masking tape pattern to the paper pattern so I could match it as best I could. I'm still a little doubtful about that dart but we'll come to that later.

Next step was to find some sturdy cardboard to stick my pattern to. It's quite handy that it's made of masking tape because you can just flatten and stick it to the cardboard all at once. I flattened all the easy bits first while wondering what to do with the not-so-flat bits.

In the end I decided to clip the curve at the toe and flatten it that way.

So let's talk about that dart. Once you flatten it it kind of meets up but won't stick down. Now I don't have any pattern making experience but something is really bugging me about it. If you look closely the horizontal masking tape lines are kind of acting as my grain line. They're all lying nice and flat and horizontal right up to the dart. The part after the dart (at the bottom) is now on an angle and it makes me wonder if maybe it should actually be hinged out so that the grain line is flat? I guess because I was following a pattern and the pattern had a straight line down I figured it was best just to follow along and hope for the best.

I laid the paper pattern over the top and measure the extra allowance all around the sides. It was somewhere between 2.5-3cm depending on where you measured. I thought it might be safer to keep it to straight 3cm all over. This means I'll definitely have enough fabric but it may also mean I may have to cut bits off while making the shoe. At least I know before going into it that this bit might be tricky.

I thought I'd made a huge mistake when I laid the patterns side by side at the end because I couldn't see a difference between the two and wondered if I had done all that for nothing??

Luckily once I laid one over the top of the other it became apparent that I had added extra fabric exactly where I needed it. Apart from the toe curve I had managed to bring the entire pattern in by about 2cm all around. Perfect!

Where to now? Well careful little me is going to make a muslin now and practice sewing this shape up, testing out that pesky dart and just getting my head around the whole pattern before attempting to work with leather.

Exciting times!!


  1. I'm so fascinated by your shoemaking. I also wear out the sides of my shoes because of my wide feet. I'm looking forward to reading more about your progress.

  2. I'm glad it's helping! It feels a bit weird to be sharing each bit before I know how it's actually going to work out but I figure I'll forget what I've done by the end. Also if anything goes really wrong I'll just write about that too!

  3. I am sad you didn't include a picture if your foot with the making tape on it :p

  4. Ha! Most unflattering picture of a foot ever. You're lucky I spared you that pic, it felt really silly.