It's old news now, but I ran across them when looking for some other shoes and thought I'd show them to you. I made them a couple of years ago down in London. It was the same weekend as the London Marathon and a bunch of us from the running club went down. Most of the group, including Bill, were running the thing (been there, done that - twice); Bob had gone done a few days earlier to work the exhibition. Me, I went to a shoe-making workshop.
I wrote about it in my Christmas letter in 2007, but just in case you didn't get that:
There were only half a dozen of us, about half around my age, the rest (of course) younger. The instructor was a tiny Asian girl who designs and makes shoes on a freelance basis as well as working as an instructor, so she was quite knowledgeable about the business and could answer lots of questions from would-be cobblers. The girl next to me was very pretty, with shiny black hair and a great tan. I thought at first she had on a shirt with ¾ length sleeves, but it turned out her sleeves were turquoise and red tattoos. Aside from that she seemed perfectly normal in every other way and I had to laugh at myself being so surprised – after all, I was in
Our first task was to choose the fabric or leather, the heel style (we only had a choice of flat or a small square heel) and the toe shape – round or pointed or sort of a squared-point. Then there was the choice of the lining and any straps, as we were all making mules to keep it simple. The girl next to me chose a beautiful turquoise suede for her flat shoes and ballet-style red ribbons – you guessed it, to go with her tattoos. I chose the squared toe and small heel and a Missoni-type printed fabric.
We worked the shoes on hard plastic, size- and style-specific lasts, sole side up, slotted onto poles that fastened via a vice-grip to the table edge. We had to hammer little tacks in, paint with hot glue, use a large super hot fold-down iron and a funny sewing machine with a post instead of a bed (?) (I think that’s what it’s called – I’m not much of a sewer yet either). The instructor would show us on someone’s shoes and then we did whatever she did, step by step.
The process took from 10am – 6pm both days, with a short break for lunch. It was very hard on the fingers and whilst we all had chairs, you ended up standing most of the time to have the required dexterity. The further we went the more nerve-wracking it was, as there was more and more to lose if it went sour, but I did come away with some shoes I’m quite pleased with. I’ve only worn them once, mind, and just around the house [well, twice, around the house, now]. They are definitely the most expensive shoes I’ve ever owned!