Although I don’t have a photo just yet (I forgot my camera!), just this past wednesday Heidi helped me to adjust my lasts. Bits and pieces were added and others slightly sanded off until in accordance to the measurements, the last seemed well adjusted. Then it was time to take apart the original lasted shoe. I was actually quite surprised at how hard this was, the glue had really done it’s job! But finally I managed to delicately, yet with enough force, pull the lining, toe puff and upper away from each other, making sure that the leather didn’t rip. The toe puff was the part that I found the hardest to see go, because it was such a struggle in the first place. After separating the three to about half way down the shoe, I put the shoe back onto the last and applied glue to the lining, allowed it to become tacky and then lasted it back on in a similar fashion. Next it was time for the dreaded toe puffs, but this time it wasn’t nearly as hard. The toe puffs that I used the second time round were much thinner and easier to use, and so luckily this time I only had to use two. I then applied a different kind of glue to the toe puff and brought the upper over it. Then, using the first kind of glue and making sure that the two didn’t mix (This creates a ‘non glue’), I lasted the upper once again. I have not yet tried on the shoes again, but I’ll report how it goes when I do!
It was now time to try the shoes on… Something that was both exciting and nerve wracking for me. Heidi showed me how to correctly take the shoes off the last, and then onto my feet they went. The outer sides of my court shoes fit pretty well, and so did the heel, and the instep, however the arch area was slightly baggy and my big toe hit the end of the shoe. This was obviously disappointing, however I realised that it was probably a necessary learning curve and I would get more practice out of it anyway. Other than that, the shoes fit pretty well, and so we worked out where the adjustments on the shoe and the last needed to be done and left them for the time being.
The next step for my red leather court shoes, was to last the rest of the upper, at the front. This was done in a similar fashion to the lining, however it was extremely important to make sure that the lining and the upper were at the same ‘tightness’. The lining could not be tighter than the upper or vice versa, because I would end up with a strangely feeling and fitting shoe. After much checking and feeling, the fronts of my uppers were lasted, first with tacks, and then with glue.
The following week, it was time to last the lining and add the toe puffs. Toe puffs are similar to heel stiffeners in how they hold the shape of the shoe, but they also protect the toes. To last the lining, I used glue, allowed it to become tacky and then created ‘pleats’, again like the heel, making sure that it was smooth and taut. Most steps up until this point had been performed under Heidi’s supervision, however this one she left for me to do by myself. I freaked out a little, but once I’d done it and it turned out better than I’d thought I was quite happy!
Next it was time for the Toe puffs. These I struggled with a little, and one of them I had to do again. To apply the toe puffs, they must be heated up and then quickly applied and lasted in a similar manner to the lining and upper. However because they are quite hot, they are hard to handle, and go cool quite quickly, you must work fast and not make any mistakes to avoid doing it again. Again, like the lining, it was important to make sure all lumps and bumps were gone, considering that it was at the very front of the shoe.
In the end I was quite happy with the result.
Next, the skived heel stiffener was to be glued between the lining and the upper and lasted, to dry and stiffen in the correct shape. After positioning it correctly, I lasted it into shape, making sure that there were no creases or bumps around the heel and that it was all smooth. This is a process that I really enjoy, as it is when you can begin seeing the shoe actually come to life! At the very start, I seriously struggled with the tacks, as they seem so small and pernickety, and in a way, you need a certain amount of strength to push them in in the first place, but after awhile, you get the hang of it, and feel the satisfaction of hitting them into place and holding the leather correctly. The first step was to pull the front of the upper and lining over the last, and then to pull the heel down and to tack it on. Once in their final place, the upper, lining and heel stiffener were left to dry and take shape over the next week till my next wednesday session with Heidi.
At this stage, an inner sole was created by using the shape of the bottom of the last. First we roughed up the leather, wet it, pressed it onto the last with the sole press (which was quite nifty and I’d never seen before) and let it dry. The shape of the insole was then traced on and sanded into shape. For more comfort, like shown in this picture, foam was added to the inner sole and again sanded into shape.
The next step was the heel Stiffeners, which I struggled with… These are necessary to keep the shape of the back of the heel, but in order for them to be discreet, the edges need to be skived, avoiding lumps and bumps in the final product.To make the process easier, the leather stiffener is soaked in water for a while, and then skived wet. Skiving is something that also initially scared me… The first few times I did it, I found myself ‘shaving’ little bits and pieces off, but never getting a clean or smooth skive. This frustrated me, but after awhile, I learnt that it is extremely, extremely important to have a well sharpened knife. If you hold the knife in the wrong way or press super hard thinking it will skive the leather because of the pressure, especially if it is blunt, you will most likely end up with blistered sore hands for the next week, like I did. I now have my very own beautifully sharp skiving knife ( a few posts down..) that for some reason seems to be a lot easier to use.. again I think it’s the sharpness..
Although in this photo it doesn’t look fantastic, it gives an idea of what is needed to be done when skiving by hand..