Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Merry Christmas and happy holidays

Happy holidays shoe makers one and all!

We'll be back on January 5th, so until then, feast and make merry and enjoy some special time with friends and family.

Warmest wishes and many thanks for following our news in 2017.
Deborah and James 

Friday, 8 December 2017

New bespoke shoes and shoe making courses for 2018

Welcome back good shoe folk of the world, we are eagerly counting down to Christmas when the elves are off to do what they do best, helping Saint Nic make and wrap Christmas presents.

Until then, we're all still busy making bespoke shoes.....

preparing for the first intensive shoe making course of the New Year...

and planning the year ahead. We've a host of new short and longer-term courses planned for London in 2018, so, which of the following would you like to learn with us?

5-day Shoe or Boot making course (In-Welt) - come to learn hand lasting and hand welting; then your shoes will be professionally fitted with the sole of your choice and sent to you.

1-day Shoe or Boot making course (Blake stitched) - come to learn hand lasting; then your shoes will be professionally fitted with the sole of your choice and sent to you.

3-day Clicking & Closing course - come to learn the techniques and skills of preparing and stitching the seams on shoe and boot uppers. 

Masterclass - already have some shoemaking or repairing experience? Why not come to improve your hand sewn shoe making techniques or learn new ones with us for anything from one day to six months. Tell us what you want to learn and we will put together a course plan and timetable to suit you.

Small leather goods - would you like to learn how to make a beautiful, saddle stitched I-pad case, wallet or phone case? Come and join us for a morning of high end leather work.

2-day Footwear Pattern Cutting - is there one pattern that you've always wanted to learn to make? Choose from a Derby shoe and boot pattern module; Oxford shoe and boot pattern module; or pump/court shoe pattern module.

If you are interested in any of the above shoe making or leather working courses please drop us an email at and we'll let you know when we have more news.

That's all from us, so until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Shoemakers Conference and Competition time

Welcome back fellow shoe fans of the world. Although there are still roses out in the garden, winter is finally upon us. Temperatures are closing in on zero (I know for some of you that's still balmy!), mornings are cold and crisp and the dark nights start at about 4pm. (Again, not as bad as for some of our friends even deeper in the northern hemisphere!) The positive is it's a great excuse for heading out to shoot the breeze with fellow shoemakers, stay cosy at the shoe making bench 

or to dream up new shoe designs! 

On the subject of socialising, the calendar already has 23rd - 25th February ear-marked for the 20th Independent Shoemakers’ Conference. The conference will be hosted on the south coast of England by Lastmakers House' founder Steve Lowe and bespoke shoe maker, Dominic Casey. 

No guarantee it will look like this in February!
If you've never been, go and if you haven't yet booked your tickets, get booking! There is a fantastic line up of shoemakers sharing their advice and experience including Daniel Wegan from Gaziano and GirlingTom and Fay Murphy of Chapter2Kids shoes and the eponymous Sebastian Tarek and Marsha HallYou can book your place here and we look forward to seeing you there!

Competitive edge
There must be something in the air at the moment because there are not one, but two, new shoe making competitions taking place next year. The first is for students and is being run during the Independent Shoemakers Conference. You are invited to submit a pair of shoes that you have made, for judging. Entries will be voted on during the day and the award will be announced and presented at the gala dinner in the evening.


The second competition is the World Championships in Shoe making. That's quite some title, but however you feel about competitions anything that offers a platform to promote handsewn shoe making and the craftsmanship and skill of the shoemaker is alright by us. It is being organised by Justin Fitzpatrick aka the Shoesnob and Shoegazing blogger Jesper Ingevaldsson in collaboration with Kirby Allison's Hanger Project. The challenge is to create that seemingly simplest of styles a black, cap toe Oxford. For the chosen pieces there is some serious prize money and great publicity to be had so get making! 

That's all from us for this week, so until next week, happy shoe making! 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Christmas Shopping at Open Studios

Welcome back good shoe folk and here we are, already at Christmas Open Studios. Why does it feel like summer only just finished!

But we're getting in the festive mood - the elves have been busy decorating - and there will be a warm welcome and a selection of great gifts in studio W9 next weekend. 

Importantly, we've tried to take some of the stress out of Christmas with something for everyone from our stocking fillers and boxed gift sets to 'the ultimate' Christmas present! 

First up are our 'Socks in a box' from a set of four stylish lightweight socks... 

to single boxes of cosy winter socks in delicious petrol blue

and forest marl

Then there are our 'everyone should have at least one of these' travel and wardrobe shoehorns - Carreducker-branded, Christmas wrapped and boxed naturally.

 And new this year for shoe lovers the world over are miniature shoe last tree decorations...

It doesn't get more ultimate than a pair of bespoke shoes or an intensive shoemaking course and we've got just the thing to put under the tree, the Carreducker Promise. A hand written card in an English waxed leather luggage tag, wrapped an boxed. Job done! The lucky recipient just has to contact us to arrange their bespoke appointment or to choose which course they would like to attend.

As you know, we've been busy developing and making ready to wear shoes and boots over the last few years and Open Studios is always sale time of past season's colours and work-in-progress samples. 

So if the shoe fits...

Hope to see you next weekend if you're in London (here's the link for the Holborn address, dates and times) and if you're not and there's anything that you would like to order for Christmas - shoes, boots tools or making kits - please do get in touch.

Until next week, happy shoemaking! 

Friday, 10 November 2017

New Tool - Curved Inseaming Awl

Hello again, one and awl (that's a pun in case you missed it). We hope you have had a wonderful week and have managed to have a satisfying tool in your hand for at least part of it.

Every now and then you wish you had a better tool for the job and the following awl is a case in point.

For many years I stitched the bevelled waist from the welt side to the the sole side with a welting awl, the way we were taught.

But on a narrow waist, this left indentations in the leather from the awl which was not satisfactory. So I experimented with doing the stitch from the sole side to the welt side which turned out to be much better, except that the welting awl was not curved enough to come out soon enough to avoid damaging the upper unless you stitched slightly sideways which was not ideal.

So, after speaking with our tool maker, we have come up with a much more curved welting awl called the inseaming awl. It's a wonderful thing.

The smaller 3 inch (7.8cm) size can be used for bevelled waists, as can the middle sized one (3.5 inch, 8.9cm).

I also tried it out for general welting and it worked really well once I had got used to the angle of the curve.

They are super strong tool steel made in Sheffield, so the quality is great.

We have a larger (4.5 inch, 11.5cm) one too which is perfect for German seats. This is used on the construction of riding boots and any boot with no fastening which are pulled on and off, usually using a boot jack or, for those that can afford them, a valet.

The German seat is a rand or split lift which is effectively stitched on around the heel for extra strength using a monster thick thread.
Again, the trouble with a regular welting awl is that it is, one, not long enough and, two, not curved enough to get the stitches in around the heel.

So this big inseaming awl is perfect for this job.

Also, it has a 4mm shaft and is made from prime Sheffield steel, so it is extremely durable and difficult to break.

All three sizes are available on our Tool Shed website, so take a look and buy one. They cost £16.80, £17.20 and £18.25

We sell awl handles (£4.20) too, so you can get welting straight away.

Last of all, we are trying out some new nails. The jury is out at the moment, but they are very pretty.

And that is it for this week. We hope the week ahead is full of great things for all of you and until next time, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Learning Pump Stitch

Hello once more, dear friends, shoemakers and shoe nerds of the world. We welcome you back to our blog and thank you for returning. And for those of you finding us for the first time, we hope you enjoy the read.

This week we had an experienced Japanese student in to learn a very specific and little used construction, the pump stitch.

This is the construction we use for dress pumps and house shoes (slippers). It is not as strong a construction as a welted shoe but is plenty strong enough for the purpose. The stitching is invisible inside the shoe and so makes for a very clean look which looks cemented but is, in fact, stitched.

This has been covered before on the blog and you can get close up details on how to make them with the following links

These were the pumps he wanted to make.

And here he is making the holes in the sole before attaching it and stitching.

Making the holes in the sole prior to stitching

Making the holes

To make these holes we used a specially curved awl which got into and out of the sole quickly so that the holes were relatively short. This is good because you get a stronger construction. If you use your regular welting awl, the stitch length is too long.

These are the awls which we are now selling on the Tool Shed

Yusuke went home with one shoe stitched and the other one left to do. He will then build the heels and do the finishing. We look forward to seeing the results

We offer a wide range of masterclasses for more experienced shoemakers which you can see on our website. This includes skills like bevelled waist; storm welt; Norwegian welt; fiddle waist - the choice is yours. Please email us if you are interested

And that is it for this week. Until next time, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 27 October 2017

Replacing a Sole - An Experiment

Hello once again shoemakers of the world. We wish you a slightly belated happy St Crispins day. We hope you all managed to do a little shoemaking that day

We recently got a ten year old pair of shoes back from a customer who is receiving an OBE next week and who wanted to give them a service and get them fit for the Queen.

As you can see the uppers are in fantastic condition because we used the highest quality box calf and the customer looks after them regularly, but the soles, edges and heels were a bit bruised and battered.

It turned out that they needed a complete re-sole. So I thought it would be interesting to try a new technique for the repair.

Normally you would take the heel off and then the sole under the heel area by cutting it at an angle and then splicing a new sole onto it and putting the original heel back on - see this older post

This is a great way to do it, but I never liked the small diagonal line where the old and new soles meet. Plus the seat is a bit messy due to wear and tear.

So I decided to take the heel off and take all of the sole off and put a completely new sole on.

First the top piece was prised off with a screwdriver.

And then I took the whole heel off in a block to see if it was possible to use it in this form to put back on the shoe. This is unorthodox as usually you would take each lift off one by one.

Taking heel off as a block - not traditional!

Taking the lifts off one by one the traditional way

And then the sole was taken off by cutting through the stitches.

Start with a screwdriver

And then cut the stitches with a knife

On one shoe I took the sole off completely which is not how it's normally done. This means taking off the split lift/rand too which was saved

On the other shoe, I did the same but stopped at the middle of the heel and lifted the split lift/rand up. The sole was cut at an angle and removed. This is how we were taught to do it.

I saved the lifts with a view to rebuilding the heel with the same lifts. Best to number them.

A new sole was stitched on in the same way, the difference being one was spliced to part of the old sole - see above and the other was completely new.

Spliced sole

Both soles prior to be glued on for comparison

 The channels were cut as usual.

 Both were stitched and the channel closed.

The two versions side by side
Next the heels were built and this is where the biggest difference is in the two methods. On the shoe on the right above, the split lift was put back into place with paste and nails. On the other shoe, a brand new split lift was made and attached.

Remember that the heel was taken off as a block, so it was attached intact using paste and nails again. This is an experiment which it worked very well and saves time.

Original heel block attached
On the other shoe a brand new heel was built lift by lift in the usual way. This took more time! About 30 minutes longer.

Top pieces were attached  and the shoes were ready for finishing. Here are the two versions side by side for comparison. Note the spliced sole on the shoe on the right. This is what I don't like very much. It ends up almost invisible, but you can still see it on the finished shoe.

Last of all came the finishing which was the same on both shoes - rasping, glassing and sanding. The sole edges were set and the soles burnished. Here are the finished shoes with a high shine. They look really amazing for 10 years old!

You can see from this shot of the heels that the seat on the one on the left is not as clean as the other one. This is because it is the original seat which is a bit old and bruised from life - a bit like me!

It's a bit hard to tell from these pics but this is the area where the new repair method is better, where the new an old soles meet. In the first image, the sole is completely new with no join and a clean seat. In the second image, you can just see where the new and old soles are spliced together and the seat is a little less defined. It's a small improvement but for the time it took to rebuild the heel, worth it. I will be doing it like this from now on.

So there you go, another week over and something new learned. Until next time, happy shoemaking.