Sunday, March 13, 2016

Blue Leather Ballet Flats

About 6 months ago I bought a whole hide of leather from The Fabric Store with the dream of turning it into a bag and matching shoes. Here I am today to tell you I'm living that dream.

I blogged about the making of this Leather Tote Bag about 6 months ago when it was hot off the sewing machine. It has since been carried out the house with me every day for 6 months. It's the single most used and loved bag I've ever owned and it's such a great feeling that I made it with my own hands.

As you may know I started a course through ShoeMaking Courses Online at Christmas time and I've been slowly acquiring all the required shoemaking materials to begin learning from Sveta. My lasts arrived around 2 weeks ago and I got stuck straight into her lessons, starting with making a pair of ballet flats. I was so confident after watching all Sveta's lessons that I dove straight into making these shoes from this leather knowing there was no turning back if anything went wrong. I'm so proud to be sharing the successful outcome with you today. FYI there are tons of pictures in this post but it was hard to cull them all down!

Let's start by looking at the shoes and the fit before zooming in on some of the...quirks.

Firstly the fit. They're hugging my feet in all the right places and they're wide enough to completely encompass my flat feet. I mentioned on Instagram that when I originally started shoemaking I had no idea about lasts. This course has an entire class dedicated to lasts, their measurements and measuring lines to make sure you know where to start from. She also includes some charts to work off to make sure you choose a last that's the right size for you. This is when I learnt that even though I generally fit into a size 39 in the shops that is not the size last I should buy. I was in complete denial when I measured my feet and found out I'm actually a size 37. There's NO WAY my hammy feet would fit into a size 37 no matter how much I tried. However the charts also revealed I have the widest feet you can account for without having to buy fully customised lasts. This makes sense seeing as I have wide flat feet. So although I technically went down 2 sizes I went up a whole bunch of sizes in the width and TA DA! Magic.

They're a tiny bit tight at the moment - like that feeling you get when you buy new all leather shoes that need a little breaking in before they fit your feet. Also I learnt in the making of these that I like my shoes to have structure to them, to be firm and support my feet. I knew when I was trying to teach myself to make shoes (see here) that I kept making shoes that felt like slippers and I just wanted them to feel supportive. I really feel like I've achieved that with these shoes. They have the exact amount of flex and support that I like in a shoe. I can't believe my luck really.

You can also see in the photo below how much coverage of my feet they provide. I've spoken before about how I can never cover the sides of my feet because my feet are busy pushing the sides of the shoes under my foot. These shoes are really encasing my feet in a satisfying way. I think I'll fix up the neckline a little to dig out a couple of millimetres around the outsides of my feet but other than that the neckline is pretty spot on.

So let's get into the details of how they've turned out vs. how they're meant to turn out once you're adept at making shoes (which I'm clearly not yet). You can see below that while the neckline is really holding it's shape without a foot in it it's also quite messy. I really tried to topstitch the upper and lining together on my machine around the neckline but my machine just couldn't do it. This means the upper is simply  folded over and glued down and the lining is just glued to it. This is meant to be a bit neater once the stitches are there to hold everything in place. It would also give me a clearer guide of where to snip the lining which is a little hacky looking rather than neat. Something to work on.

I absolutely love the way the sole looks once it's attached. She talks you through skiving the edges so it softly follows the curve of the shoe. However the heel could be attached a lot neater. I'm currently doing all my sanding by hand so it looks quite rough but I think I will buy a dremel at some point so I can get a good, clean, polished edge on the sole and the heel.

You can see below that I accidentally put the right sole (pictured left) on a few millimetres further back than the left. This was a happy accident to find out that if the heel layer hangs out over the sole layer you can sand them back and make them look like they're one piece. However the left sole was put on a few millimetres more forward so I ended up with a gap between the layers that no amount of hammering would bring together. I'm glad I made this mistake on one of them so I could learn for next time.

From this angle you can also see that I left glue on the edges of the shoes when applying the soles. You're meant to rub an eraser over excess glue to get rid of it but that didn't seem to help so I'll be more careful next time and maybe apply masking tape around the edges to make sure it doesn't extend beyond that point.

Also this is just a sensory thing but they make a really satisfying sound when worn. Like they're actual shoes. I love that I've switched to working with veg tan leather for the soles. It's easier to work with and has such a great finish.

All in all I'm super impressed with how much I've learnt. My first attempt was successful because the instructions are couture-like. Detailed, considered but still accessible. I've really learnt just how much each millimetre affects the final shoe and the fit. I was miles away trying to teach myself but I feel like I could make just about anything now.

I have plans to make a pair of ballet flats in black that I can wear to work all the time plus I'm really keen to make sandals before the hot weather ends. Then I'm excited to make boots once the cold weather arrives. So you can imagine my head is spinning with possibilities. Just like the beginning of sewing I'm now only limited by my imagination. It's a wonderful place to be.

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