I can’t believe Maker Faire is right around the corner.

I’ll be speaking at the Craft Demo Area at 5pm on Sunday, May 22nd. It’d be great to see you there.

flattening out the pattern

Flattening out the pattern.

Oh, so busy. Both with work and fun stuff as well.

I don’t have time to write up all the details right now, but, go to my Flickr page if you want to get a preview of the steps I’ll be demonstrating at Maker Faire in a couple of weeks.

Image of a Last available for borrowing
The last is one of the most essential tools in shoe making. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest to find. If you don’t have a lot of money or luck or the patience and skill to make your own, getting a pair of lasts in the right size and style is highly unlikely.

So let’s change that.  I have more lasts than I can possibly use. I hang on to them for both sentimental and practical reasons, so I’m not interested in selling them. However, I don’t want to see them go unused. There are so many budding shoemakers out there who could put them to loving good use. So, inspired by Oakland’s Tool Lending Library, I’m going to start my own little library. This one will lend lasts.

I’m still working out the details, but here are the basic rules.

Take care of the lasts.
Don’t do anything to the last that can’t be undone. You can add cork to it, but you can’t remove any of the original material. If it’d too big, get a smaller size. These are my babies after all. Look after them.

Return them on time.
I know shoemaking takes time, but I can’t let you hog the lasts. Make sure to return the last within 6 weeks. I’ll give you a due date when you check it out.

Share your work.
This is a community. Let others benefit from what you’ve created. Also, I’m curious. If I’m going to lend you my lasts I should at least be able to see what you created with them. Seems fair, right?

Pay for your own postage.
I’m not looking to make money (hence, a library) but I also don’t want to lose money doing this. So you’ve got to pay for the postage both ways. (probably about $10-15)

Expect things to change.
I’m just prototyping this idea. I’m sure there are plenty of complicating factors which I can’t anticipate at this moment, so expect things to change.

How do I sign up?
For now, email me. TOM [ at ] REDCOVERSTUDIOS [ dot ] COM. I’ll make sure you’re not a robot or sketchy and we’ll go from there.

How do I find what lasts you have?
Most of my lasts are up on my Flickr site. Currently, I don’t have a sophisticated system for searching, but I have tagged most of the lasts by size and gender. When you find a last you like, not the image title and send that to me. I’m also in the process of cataloging the rest of my lasts, so there’s more to come.
Happy shoe making!

Skiving is a way of gradually thinning out the leather in order to create a smooth seam when you fold it over. If you are used to sewing cloth, this may be a surprise to you (I know it was for me). The illustration below should give you a sense of why you need to skive. Unlike a clothing hem, the edges of shoes will cause problems (given the snug nature of the fit). Throw in the fact that leather is almost always thicker than cloth, and you’ve got a recipe for blisters. So, skiving comes to the rescue.

Skiving is one of those skills shoe making skills that takes a long time to master. I still screw up all the time.

The good news is that the practice can be therapeutic. Get a piece of scrap leather, a sharp knife and go for it.

I’ve used the traditional style skiving knife as well as well as the “safety knife” (both demonstrated below.)
The safety knife is easier to keep sharp because it has replaceable blades, but it’s easy to overcut, and you end up with a lot of useless blades.

With a traditional knife

With a safety knife

Prototyping is such a discipline. I was so tempted to use leather to try this out. Paper has similar stiffness so it did the trick. When in doubt, don’t buy/make anything.

There might be something here, but since I’m not that steeped in the fashion world, I’m sure this could have been done before. If anyone knows of something similar, please let me know. The idea is that the initial strap holds the foot and the rest are there as decoration. I’m pleased with the architectural aspects of it and I think there could be some interesting things that happen with the light on the different layers. The underside of the leather also has tons of possibility. I’m also curious how it will interact with the shape of the foot. This is going to yield some unusual lines.

Questions:
How comfortable will it be? How will it perform in action? Will it be playful? Annoying?

Learnings:
The paper was great. Just pinned it to the EVA blank. No glue, no waiting, infinitely modifiable. I need that.

Other thoughts:
I’m not really sure what I’m doing here. Just playing around trying to find something that is worth pursuing in more detail. Trying to come up up with something new is hard.

I haven’t been building as much as I’d like to lately so I’m trying a new schedule. Up at 6 (or 6:30) and I’m going to give myself 2 hours to work on shoes. This morning I started by playing around with material. Just cutting grooves into EVA foam to see how it responds. Eventually I ended up here.

The idea is to create a structure (with the stays) that would support a very lightweight and loose fitting boot. The sandal type strap across the forefoot would provide a snug fit.

I’m not sure if this will go anywhere, but I could see it having the potential to play around with some very unusual profiles without sacrificing the fit of the shoe.

lasts from lodgerIf you are interested in shoes or entrepreneurship, this is a nice little interview from Style Salvage. Of course, I love it because I’m fascinated by shoes, and shoe making, but there’s also some interesting things they are doing to get by without following the typical business cycle of fashion production. Most notably, they release a shoe of the month. Not a mass release, but a custom shoe that they can test and tweak before investing in a full run. It’s great to see folks talking about their process of rapid product development/testing/iteration/prototyping because it applies to so many industries. How would you take what they are doing and apply it to pharmaceuticals? Banking? Real Estate? Would it work? Where would it break down?

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