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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