Shoemaker's Blog

Step by step guide:  patternmaking

The Complete Shoe Making Process


Patten making is the process of drawing on the last and making the pattern pieces for the upper, heel, sole, insole and stiffeners.

The first step in making the upper pattern is to create  a forme which is a blueprint of the last size, shape and heel height. The form transforms the 3 dimensional shoe shape to a  2 dimensional piece of card. Here the upper pattern design lines can be drawn. From this drawing you can cut the pieces that make the upper pattern. For example these pieces may be the vamp, backquarter, toe cap, heel cap and lining pieces.

Once you have cut your pattern pieces a test upper is cut from scrap leather to create a test shoe or Pullover . This test shoe is pulled over the last . The test shoe tells the maker if the pattern pieces fit correctly to the last . This test shoe is then used for the 1st customer fitting to determine if the pattern and last fit the customers foot . 

Step by step guide to the shoemaking process

Part 1: Leather

Welcome to part 1 of our tutorial series which shares our process for making handcrafted shoes.

Finding the right leather for your shoes is an ongoing quest .

To make our shoes and accessories we use leather from bison, cow, calf and horse, each with its own unique quality. The enduring relationships with tanneries, who employ traditional tanning techniques, that honour the leather for its unaltered character, is the key to beautiful shoes.

Choosing the right leather

Choosing the right type of leather for the shoe and wearer is essential. Sourcing leather that is uncommon, comfortable and durable requires continuing research and refinement.

Did you know that different sections of the hide are used for different parts of the shoe?

You can see in the diagram below the different sections of leather for calf (top row) and horse hides (bottom row).

For example: the butt area is used for soles.

The shells, culatta, double horsefront are used for upper leather. Calf side for upper and lining leather .

Insoles, heel counters and toepuffs are cut from double shoulder leather .


Lineapelle, is the worlds premier leather fair held in Italy each year. Here the best tanneries come together to show their latest leather finishes and designs . Everything from upper leather, welting, soles, heels and lasts can be found. We regularly travel to Milan to source new leather materials.  

Our leather dying staining process

Over the years we have developed various finishing techniques which change as often as the leather. Some hides are a blank canvas, some don't require any finish. The key is to find unique leather first then build a story.  

Our point of difference is that we source unique leathers and add another layer of surface texture. 

All of our surface treatments are a combination of dyes, stains and metals. There is continuous experimentation and testing. Every pair of shoes is bespoke, with its own special characteristics and detail.

care and repair

Your shoes tell the story of your journey.

Every leather is unique and different care requirements are recommended for each . If you have any questions about care please call or email .

Polish your shoes regularly; a beeswax based polish like SAPHIR  is best.

Use cedar shoe trees to maintan shape and deodorise your shoes.

Bring your A.McDonald shoes back to our workshop for cleaning and repair.

Slow Film Trailer

Trailer of the complete shoemaking process shot by Jim Rice .

This film is a sneak peek of a 75minute film shot by Jim Rice detailing every step of the shoemaking process. This high definition film shot in real time explores a day in the life of a shoemaker. Sit back relax and enjoy. 

The full version will be posted on the site in November 2015. Jim Rice has been a professional photographer for over 25 years. Originally from the UK, he attended Bournemouth college of Art and Design. Jim moved to Australia in 1988 and worked as a staff photographer at Fairfax for many years. Jim has now taken up a freelance career with the emphasis on photography and films specialising in craftsmen and women. The slow film movement lends itself to showcasing the skill of artisans whose craftsmanship is unique and expressive.

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