You guys. This weekend I think I hit Peak Craft. I made my own pair of shoes and they are gold and they are awesome.
Work recently awarded me a bonus, so I thought I’d try my hand at something new and a bit different to the sewing classes I normally go for. I’ve been following I Can Make Shoes on Twitter for a while and I’ve always been impressed with the pictures they post – flats, heels, sandals, men’s brogues – they make them all and they all look super professional. I signed up for their Ballet Pumps for Beginners class with a firm idea of the kind of shoes I wanted to make.
Now, I will say this: I am no Imelda Marcos. I do not have an obsession with shoes, I don’t have thousands upon thousands of pairs in every colour under the sun and I certainly don’t salivate over stilettoes. However, not long after I moved to London, I bought a pair of gold court shoes from Miss Selfridge. They were just about perfect in every way. They had a reasonably substantial two inch heel, were super comfy and they were the perfect shade of gold. We’re not talking nine carat Elizabeth Duke specials here; they were the sort of pale gold that can look almost silvery in certain lights. I loved those shoes. They took me to work, and they took me out on the town (and probably Infernos in Clapham, so it’s a miracle they never stuck to the floor). I wore them until they just about fell off my feet. By the sad day I finally threw them out, a lot of the gold had rubbed off, but I didn’t care – it gave them a really cool vintage look which I loved. This was exactly the kind of look I was going for with my handmade ballet pumps so it was lucky for me that I Can Make Shoes’ Bethnal Green workshop had just the right leather in stock. It was like FATE.
The class was really well run. There were two teachers to five and a half students, so you felt like you always had enough one to one help for the tricky bits. My classmates were a mother and teenage daughter from Edinburgh (the mum was helping out her daughter Sophie, hence the half), a couple from Switzerland who’d come over especially for the class and Great British Sewing Bee winner Matt Chapple!! Everybody was lovely, chatty and helpful, and Matt (who was making his shoes for his wife) very patiently put up with our questions about the programme and what he’s been up to since walking away with the trophy.
Anyway, the shoes! I had never imagined that there were so many pieces and steps that go into making a pair of shoes. To be fair, it’s not something I had ever really thought about, but it was really interesting to see what goes into construction during the class. For example, did you know that there’s probably a layer of cork between your insole and outer sole? They use a mixture of cork and glue as a filler to even out the dip created by the leather upper and lining. I managed to get pictures of most steps, so it’s probably best to let them do the talking.
Most of the construction was pretty straightforward and absolute beginners will have no real bother with making their own shoes. Our teachers, Toni and Amanda, explained each step really clearly, and the class was well paced. The only bit we didn’t do for ourselves was the stitching around the top of the upper as Toni and Amanda did those for us over lunch. Well, I tell a lie. I had to have help with my insole sock (the padded bit of black leather that helps support your foot) as I wanted a scalloped edge and they only had right-handed scissors. If I’d tried it, the scallops would have ended up the wrong way round, so Amanda did that for me too. It’s not easy being a leftie.
The studio is lovely – it’s a bright, well laid out space with sample shoes on display, and plenty of space to spread out your work. One of the nice things about it was that Amanda and Toni actually encouraged us to make a mess! All scraps were to go straight onto the floor so you could concentrate on keeping track of your pieces in a clear work area.
We ended up finishing about an hour and a half after we were meant to, but it didn’t really matter. We were all having a great time making a good job of our shoes and having a good natter, and of course we needed a bunch of class photos before leaving, proudly displaying our finished shoes. Only trouble is, we had to wait 48 hours before being able to try them on in order to let the glue dry properly! I tried mine on last night, and they are a little tight across the top, but nothing a bit of regular wear won’t fix.
If you’d like to have a go at making your own shoes, I can’t recommend this class highly enough. It is a little on the pricey side at £195 for a day’s workshop, but all the materials are included and with two extremely knowledgeable and patient teachers giving you their attention you can’t really go wrong. It’s a really enjoyable day and if you want to pick up a new skill, why not choose one that will complete your outfit?!
It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for me. Chris and I went to Pamplona with one of his friends so that they could do the bull run, and I went along to make sure that they didn’t kill themselves. It was a nail biting two and a half minutes, but they both managed to emerge unscathed, thankfully. The rest of the festival was great fun – a bit like St Patrick’s Day but for a whole week, and with everyone wearing red and white all the time instead of green leprechaun hats. Chris and Jim went to the bull fight, but I declined – I am in two minds about whether the bull run itself is all that cruel, but having seen a bull fight on the TV, I knew it was not something I needed to see.
A few days after I got back to work, an old colleague of mine got in touch to see if I was looking for a new job. It had always been my intention to start looking around about now – I’ve worked hard since last summer to see a few long-term projects through to the end, and I’ve achieved a lot in that time. I now feel that I’m ready for a new challenge. The role that I was going for was considerably better paid than my current job and would give me the opportunity to really get stuck into some interesting work. I cobbled my CV together that weekend, went for an early morning interview the following Thursday and I was stunned when they offered me it on the spot! I handed in my notice that Friday and had quite a tearful conversation with my boss (on both sides, not just me), so I am off to pastures new!
All this has meant that I haven’t been doing much sewing recently. I’m currently working on a (hopefully) wearable toile of the Colette Aster blouse, and I have a few plans for other bits ready for another holiday in mid-September (excellent timing when I’ll have just started a new job). More on those to come, but it might be slow going for a while!