Late 14th Century Ankle Shoe

I made these shoes in 2004/2005 for my lovely wife, who wanted something appropriate to wear with a cotehardie and that would cover her ankles. They are based on shoe number 100 from Shoes and Pattens, 2nd Ed, page 66. The find these are based on dates from 1375-1400.

This is the next pair I made after the completely worn out shoes mentioned earlier. There was a gap of a bit over a year between finishing the previous pair and starting these and a gap of about a year between finishing the first one and the second one, much to my wife’s frustration (sorry honey!). The take home lesson here is not to do one shoe complete and then the other one, but to do each stage of cutting and assembly on each shoe in turn so they get finished at roughly the same time and motivational issues don’t creep in between the shoes because I feel like I’ve “finished” something and want to take a break when there’s only one of a pair done.

The patterning was done by Master Llywellen ap Daffyd, who got me started in medieval shoemaking as a lesson in how he did things. The toe is probably squarer than it should be but the picture in S&P; makes it look like this. What we missed when this was patterned was that the shoe in S&P; is missing chunks of toe. This is a good example of why you need to be careful with outlines of recovered fragments, they aren’t cutting patterns, they are the shape of the bits of shoe after it has been worn and soaked in the ground for several hundred years and may or may not bear any resemblance to shape of the parts when they were originally cut out.

These shoes are a single piece wrap around upper with a separate tounge which is attached on to one side of the opening with a flesh edge seam. They have lacing reinforcements on each side of the vamp opening and a welt. The welt wasn’t a feature of the shoe that these were based on fbut did appear on other shoes of the period and I wanted to see how much more difficult they made the assembly — not much as long as you tack everything in place before doing the sole seam.

They are made from 2mm veg tanned deer hide, which is wonderful stuff to make shoes out of. It is strong but extremely supple and goes amazingly floppy when wet which makes it easy to turn. The leather was dyed with an iron-oxide dye (steel wool dissolved in vinegar) and heavily greased with a commercial saddle grease both before assembly and after turning. The heel stiffener and lacing reinforcement are ~2mm veg tanned cowhide. The soles are ~4mm chrome tanned cowhide because I didn’t have any thick enough veg tan when I made these, heavily waxed with saddle grease.

This was the last pair of shoes I made using pre-waxed polyester thread, something I will never go back to using but I hadn’t worked out linen thread at the time I built them.

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