Last month I demoed how to make a ballet flat from a one-piece pattern at Maker Faire in San Mateo. You can see the video soon. (See other Craft videos here.)
For now, I wanted to write up a bit of what I discussed in the Maker Faire demo. As I’ve been writing it up, I realize that there are many places where some additional illustration would help. I’ll generate those in time. For now, I hope this helps and I’d love any questions about areas that don’t make sense.
1. Start with the Last.
2. Cover the last with painter’s tape. Alternate the direction of the tape and overlap the strips.
3. Draw in the centerline.
4. Then draw in the topline. (In a more detailed version, you would also draw in the draft lines, CP and V points. Not shown here)
5. Cut along the center line (on the back only) and the topline. Carefully peel off the tape.
6. Flatten the painter’s tape against a piece of paper.
7. Cut out the taped piece and paper.
8. Fold the pattern along the centerline. (in this case, the back top edges should come close to lining up)
9. Fold a piece of cardstock legnthwise. (it should be at lease 2 inches larger than your pattern.) Regular paper will do, but I prefer cardstock for it’s heft.
10. Place the pattern against the folded cardstock. You’ll align both folded edges. Then, place a tack just under a quarter of the way down the pattern. You will use this to rotate the pattern and allow for the spring in the last.
11. Draw in the bottom line. Stop at the vertical line. (the widest part of the foot, typically)
12. Pivot the pattern with the tack in place. The top of the heel line should be about 3/16″ from the fold. Then trace the remaining outline.
12. Add 3/4″ along the bottom line that you just drew. This is to account for the lasting allowance. (the extra material you’ll need to pull under the bottom of the shoe.
13. Add a note at the back heel to add 1/4″ seem allowance. Then cut out the forme. It should be symmetrical.
14. Unfold the forme and place it against your material. The material should be wrong side up. In this case, I’ve used felt so it doesn’t matter. Outline the pattern completely. Then add 1/4″ seam allowance at the back.
15. Cut out the material. And mark the centerline using the forme. (Not shown here).
16. Fold along the centerline. Wrong side out.
17. Line up the inner heel line. This line will be more accurate than the cut lines. Be careful with this step since it will greatly affect the fit of the shoe. Once aligned, clip the edges. (or, if using felt, you can pin them) Then sew along the heel line. (The dashed line in this illustration.
18. Cut out the midsole. Using the last, trace an outline of the bottom edge on vegetable tanned leather or a similar material. Copex 300 works, but so will cardboard for prototypes.
19. You will now have a midsole. Check to see that it is very close to the feather edge (bottom) of the last. Trim if necessary.
20. Nail the midsole against the bottom of the last. With leather, the smooth side should be touching the last. Brads work well as nails since they are smooth, small and bend easily. Flatten the nails to keep the midsole in place.
21. Turn over the last. Now place the sewn upper over the last. Line up the upper so that it matches the intended topline. Near the top of the back line, nail a shoe tack (brass if working in leather) into the back of the heel. This will keep it from slipping off during the lasting process.
22. Lasting the shoe. Now you’ll last the shoe. Start with the toe and heel. Pull the material taught, then tack. Then start to move to the sides of the shoe, checking continually to make sure you aren’t distorting the upper. A timelapse video of me lasting can be seen here. There are also many videos online which demonstrate this process with far more craft than I can offer.
23. Once the shoe has been lasted, trim away any excess material. Then trace the outline of the remaining material on the bottom of the midsole. This will help show you where to apply the glue and give you a reference for connecting the upper and midsole during the gluing process.
24. You’ll want to do the following step in stages. First pull out the tacks for zone one. Then glue both sections of zone 1. That way, the shoe will stay in place as you pull out some tacks for the gluing process.
25. Pull out the tacks for the first two sections of zone 1.
26. Glue the underside of the upper and the midsole. Let dry. Then attach in place. Once attached, hammer to fasten. Repeat this process for the remaining zones (2 and 3.) Take care not to get any glue on the last. Doing so will make it very difficult to remove the last without damaging the shoe.
27. Once all the tacks have been removed, take out the brads. You’ll also want to sand the bottom of the shoe smooth and add cork to any cavities that exist. For shoes with any kind of heel, you’ll want to add a shank for support.
28. Cut out the outsole using the same process as cutting the midsole. Apply glue to the bottom of the last and the inside of the outsole.
29. Carefully attach the outsole to the shoe. Hammer in place.
30. Break the last. (basically, utilize whatever hinge mechanism exists on the last.) Pull the last from the shoe.
You’re done! Assuming, of course that you’ve been doing all of the above steps for both feet.