I’m excited to be running through a demo on how to build Ballet Flats at Maker Faire again this year. For those of you that don’t want to wait until May, you can view the break down of the demo from a prior post. Looking forward to seeing folks!

Buy Tickets to Maker Faire Today!

I’m a bit obsessed with beautiful lines.
For this pair of shoes, I’m experimenting with ways of combining functional and non-functional straps. With the right material, I’m hoping that these will have a playful bounce as the woman walks along.

I used the sole design that I’d created on our 3d printer to test these out, but one could easily do a similar thing with a hacked pair of clogs.



Now that we have a 3D Printer at work, I’ve been revisiting some of the work I started in grad school around modular shoes. After muddling through AutoCad’s 123D Design this weekend I created this version that I’m planning to print tooday. (and maybe tomorrow – this is going to take a while).

My hope is that it’ll be a great platform for experimenting with modular shoes in a far more controlled setting that the hacks to existing shoes that I shared in the Craft article a few years ago. Stay tuned.

lasting-boot a video by tmaiorana on Flickr.

Time-lapse of a lasting a prototype boot that I’m working on for my father.

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.

I was playing with a simple pattern for this middle seam boot for my father. Once I was able to get most of the boots lasted I knew that I’d made a mistake with the geometry of the pattern. The angle of the upper part of the boot was skewed forward. (They’d be perfect for walking up a steep hill or leaning into a hurricane.)

I’ll have to adjust the pattern and recut. No biggie though, it didn’t take long. Thank God for working with cheap materials.

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!

I’ve been so consumed with traveling and an art piece I’m working on that I haven’t had a spare minute for shoes. That said, I’ve been learning a lot as I go through the process of making another large photographic quilt. Once I’m done I’ll write up my thoughts on tool use, creativity and prototyping. In the meantime, here’s some of what I’ve been up to.

One of the "d's" shot for the piece at Stanford. This on is formed by an ambulance stopped at a light on Cortland and Bayshore.

I’m psyched. I’m going to be making an installation piece for the new d.school space at Stanford University. More precisely, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. As a result I’ve been shooting photos recently related to the work I did years ago.  I love the patterns that emerge when creating an entire alphabet. But for a variety of reasons, that’s not necessary, or possible for the work I’m going to do with the d.school. And it’s resulted in something that should have been obvious, but I never thought to do. That if I prototype an alphabet by just doing variations on one letter, I’ll learn much more in much less time.

You can see a bunch of the “d’s” here. It’s been a great way to develop different methods around something that I’ve been playing with for years. I’ve learned more in two days of shooting in a new way than I did in months. That’s prototyping at it’s best.

The only real downside is that I’m making more “mistakes”. There’s a ton of photos that just aren’t working. But who cares, it’s digital, and it costs me nothing.

I’ve been busy.

I’ve continued with the experiment for this fanned, venitian, idea.

Some learnings.

First of all my foot spins out of this particular model. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fanning, but I’m in the process of experimenting with several other methods to keep the mid-foot in place. And to do so without ruining the effect you get from this.

Also, this particular design is really all about skiving. Without it you’re stuck with a big chunk of leather between the toes. Not good.

Other things I’ve noted. This  design casts some interested shadowns on the foot. It’s almost like a veil.

It’s been really helpful for me to be working on several projects at once. Particularly if there’s any glue up involved. It allows you to do something while you are waiting for it to dry. While I’m playing with these, I’m also working on a pair of mules. They are a total wreck, but the sole might yeild something interesting one day.

Recent Tweets