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.
Slightly fuzzy shot of the shoe just prior to being soaked and turned. I don’t bother dying the inside of my shoes.
Finished shoe from the lateral side (outside).
Finished shoe from the medial side (inside). You can see how the laces work.
Finished shoe from the top. The white thing inside the shoe you just can see in this picture is a size 13 10mm thick felt insole I found in an army surplus shop cut down to fit the shoe. These make the shoes much more comfortable on modern feet and make it easier to stuff things in for extra arch support if necessary. The shoe was patterned from the outset with the thickness of the insole taken into account.
Back of the shoe. You can see the outline of the heel stiffener in this shot. This is a result of the heel stiffener being made from stiffer leather than the upper of the shoe. The heel stiffener is slightly squint relative to the upper. This is because the first method I tried didn’t work and I’d already made the holes in it so when I turned it around it didn’t quite line up properly.
Flesh side of the butted seam that closes the upper. The black marks on this are a combination of drafting errors when I was transferring the pattern to the leather and a stray blob of dye.
Grain side of the butted seam closing the upper. Not as neat as I’d have liked but I pulled the stitching a bit tight and the leather was very soft.
The attachment of the heel stiffener to the upper. I should have trimmed this back closer to the lasting margin before I turned the shoe.
The heel stiffener from the inside of the turned shoe. You can see where this is turned along with the upper.
This bulge at the base of the heel is caused by the heel stiffener. Where this is turned there are two layers of leather being turned over the lasting seam.
The laces. Shoes and Pattens calls these “latchet style” laces since they are cut from a rectangle of leather rather than being a thong passed through the holes like a regular shoelace.
Detail of the lacing reinforcement on the edge of the vamp opening. This is whip stitched on in a similar fashion to the heel stiffener for most of the circumference, but is edge-flesh seamed on the edge closest to the tounge. I did this because it was simpler to share the holes for the butt-seam holding the tounge on.
The lacing reinforcement on the other side of the vamp opening. Whip stitched all the way around. I should have skived the edges of the reinforcement before I did this.
Flesh side of the butted seam holding the tounge on.
Same seam from the grain side.
This is the lasting seam shown from the sole. These stitches go in the flesh side and out the edge of the sole to hold the upper on.
Finished shoe from the sole. You can see the welt going all the way around the sole and covering the upper where it “rolls” out from the lasting seam.
The welt as it goes around the heel of the turned shoe. Getting this to lie flat was a bit of a challenge.
The ends of the welt. These meet just under the arch of the foot where there will be the least wear on the shoe. I probably should have stitched these together since they don’t meet cleanly.
Toe of the shoe from the top. As noted above this should probably be more pointy. If it were I’d probably have the welt meet here rather than under the arch of the shoe.