14th century SwedishJutish lace up high shoes

These are calf-height shoes made for a friend who does mid-late 14th century Scanian reenactment. These are also the first pair of shoes I have finished since coming across the A&S 50 project. I get to backdate things so this is pair 3 for the project that I hope will see me turn out about a pair every two months until AS50 (the 50th anniversary of the formation of the SCA) in six years time.

I can’t remember the exact source for these shoes. They are based on a pair in a book the owner has but it’s in Swedish (I think, it might be the Boringsholm book, in which case it’s in Norwegian) and I can’t remember the title. Update: They are from the Boringsholm book which documents Danish (Jutish) finds from the late 1300s.

I don’t know how precise the reproduction is because I didn’t have any photos of the side seams so I just built those in a logical way for the style. They’re a fairly generic shape in terms of shoes of the period, you see this size and shape of shoe all over Europe at the time, but the toe is quite interesting. The protruding bit of the toe of the shoe has no sole under it, it is formed only from the upper. Here’s a picture from the book. Three soles, the left and right ones have protruding toe sections as part of the sole, but the middle one just has a blunt point on the sole, a welt, and the pointy bit of the shoe is formed by the upper only (the dark grey bit in the picture). EDIT: 08/07/08, this picture shows three unrelated soles, only the one in the middle is relevant to these shoes. The other two are just different styles of soles also found on the site.

Here’s what that looks like on the ones I made:

As you can see the pointy bit is just upper leather, not sole or welt. Never having done something like this before it took me quite a while to bend my head around how to pattern and build it. I had to stop the sole seam 5cm or so back from the point of the sole on each side so there was room to turn the toe through. That gap was then sewn up with a whip stitch after the shoe was turned. The actual point is held closed with a few tunnel stitches. Unfortunately I don’t have photographs of the process of making these. They were quite tricky to make and I missed two deadlines for delivering them (sorry M!) and didn’t really have time for a lot of during-construction photographs.

Here is the shoe just after it was turned but before the toe was finished:

The toe piece is quite long at this stage and the tip of it is unfinished edges so end on it looks sort of like a leather swiss roll. Not a good look, I don’t like leaving unfinished edges like that on things, it just doesn’t look very tidy. What I ended up doing was skiving the end of the toe piece down really thin and folding it back on itself to present a reasonably tidy rolled edge. I also managed to get everything to fold in such a way that end on you don’t see the roll under.

I don’t know if that’s how the originals were done because the toe doesn’t survive intact but it’s what I think looks best and I’m rather pleased with how it came out.

The other thing that was a first for me on these shoes was the one-piece lacing reinforcement on the second shoe. I skived the inside edges right down so they blend very nicely with the upper and they are wet formed around the angle in the upper. The reinforcements on the first shoe were done as two separate strips but I think this way is better as it provides some reinforcement to the end of the vamp opening.

The major thing that really didn’t work on these was the heel stiffener. Because this was a new pattern I left too much lasting margin. This meant that the heel stiffeners lost a lot off the bottom and ended up smaller than they needed to be. They both ended up a bit squint too, the second on really very squint. If I hadn’t been worried about missing the deadline I’d have pulled this off and redone it. If these ever come back to me to resole I’ll fix them then. In the future I will make sure I put some alignment marks on the pattern and on the leather so I can make sure the heel stiffener goes on straight and at the right height.

Here are a bunch of other pictures of the shoes that should explain how they went together.

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