Currying Leather Properly…Part I

April 2nd, 2014

It’s been a while since I posted something on the topic of actual shoemaking rather than just showing off finished products, and we’re long overdue. I’m going to talk a bit about currying leather.

It’s not what you think – I’m not going to the Indian market to pick up the proper spices. Nor am I performing a mathematical transformation of a function with multiple arguments into a chain of functions, each with a single argument. In fact, the verb “to curry” is actually much older, and comes from the 13th century, from the Middle English currayen, from Anglo-French cunreier or correier, which was to prepare, curry, from Vulgar Latin conredare. It means to dress tanned hides by soaking, scraping, beating, etc. in order to make them supple and resistant to water. So, how does one do this, exactly? First, a history lesson…

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1600s Heel with Edge Decoration

March 12th, 2014

Yes, another 1600s shoe, but hey – why quit when you have a good thing going? =) I do try and do new things with every piece, and this one was no exception. In this case, when I visited the Museum of London, I was fortunate enough to be able to look at many of the stored leather pieces that they had in the cabinets. I’m sure I mentioned it in a previous post – anyhow, one of the things that impressed me was the level of detail in so many of the shoes.

In some cases, there were lines of fine tunnel stitching along the surface and opening of the shoe. In fact, this was even visible on many shoes from the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1545, and those guys were sailors! A point of note is that a far majority of shoes had some kind of reinforcement along the opening, either a top band or some kind of stitching like this.

How about some background and construction shots:
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1780s Shoes – Finished Products!

March 6th, 2014

I promise to write this up into an official lesson, but there is simply so much to tell that it’s a bit daunting for me! I will get it written up at some point. I learned an incredible amount on these shoes, and although I do plan to make another pair at some point soon, I think that these are of sufficient quality to present here. In truth, they knock the socks off of my Lesson 5, and I’m far more pleased with them. The upper leather is black waxed calf from Dickens Brothers, one of the oldest leather merchants in the UK. Further, it is precisely what the shoemakers in Colonial Williamsburg use. The insole, rand, and outsole leather is from Joh. Rendenbach. Both leathers were an absolute pleasure to work with.

The buckles themselves are actual antique 18th century silver buckles. These buckles are neat in that they are “clasp” buckles, where a small button is pressed and the actual strap attachment hinges out of the buckle proper. Then, once the shoe is buckled, the silver portion is clicked back in to place. Quite neat!



1780s Shoes – Teaser Pics

February 12th, 2014

I’ve been hard at work on a pair of 1780s shoes – I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but I thought that you deserved a teaser pic, at least! I’m modeling these on an old sample shoe that I was incredibly fortunate to get from one of the shoemakers at Colonial Williamsburg. These teaser pictures show the inside and outside strap closing stitches, at a modest 10 stitches per inch, just about what the sample shoe was measured at. This has been, by far, the most challenging piece for me to date, and I’ve learned an incredible amount over the past couple of weeks. As always, you also find our exactly how far you have yet to go, but if one never starts the process, one never improves. I look forward to writing up the actual lessons!




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