Blog: Shoemaking Course

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 . 

Making Toe Puffs & Heel Counters

The Complete Shoe Making Process: Part 4


Heel counters and toe puffs sometimes called "stiffeners" are the leather parts which give the heel and toe structure in a shoe. These pieces in A.McDonald shoes are made from oak bark tanned belly or shoulder grade leather. 

The traditional oak bark ground tanning relies on biodegradable renewable tan material and a slow tanning process taking up to nine months. After a preliminary surface tanning the valuable hides lie between layers of tan for several months in century old oak pits. This ecological treatment  guarantees the extraordinary qualitative properties of all our leather shoes.  

Toe puffs and heel counters give the heel and toe structure flexibility and strength.

Each part is cut to shape skived by hand then soaked in water and wrapped in newspaper overnight. The following day the damp leather is then pasted into position with potato starch inserted between the upper and lining in the shoe ready for lasting. The Toe puff and heel counter give the upper of the shoe structure .The toe puff protects the toes from any impacts . The heel counter creats a cup like grip that secures the heel in the shoe preventing movement within the heel and protection from any impacts . Leather heel counters and toe puffs breathe and mould into the wearers foot shape creating a solid foundation for a long wearing shoe . 

If you're interested in finding out more about the shoemaking process perhaps consider our shoemaking course.

This is the fourth article in our ongoing series: "The Complete Shoemaking Process". The next entry in the series is about custom fitting a pair of shoes.

Taking measurements For Last Making

The Complete Shoe Making Process: Part 3


All custom made shoes start with foot/leg measurements. The outline of the foot and corresponding measurements are drawn onto a sheet of paper. 

A measurement of the foot length is taken with a measuring stick. Measurements of the joint, arch and long heel are then taken. These measurements are then transferred to a last. A last is chosen from our last library or made that corresponds to the clients measurements and stylistic requirements. A Last model can be either shaped by hand from a block of Birch by a lastmaker or an existing last can be modified to correspond to the clients measurements. 

Historically, lasts were typically made from hardwoods and cast iron because these materials retain their shape, even when in contact with wet materials (like leather) and subjected to the mechanical stresses of stretching and shaping shoes on them. Today, wooden lasts are generally used  for bespoke shoemaking.

Lasts come in many styles and sizes, depending on the exact job they are designed for. Common variations include simple one-size lasts used for repairing soles and heels, durable plastic lasts used in modern mass production, and custom-made lasts used in the making of bespoke footwear. Though a last is made approximately in the shape of a human foot, the precise shape is tailored to the kind of footwear being made. For example, a boot last would be designed to hug the instep for a close fit. Modern last shapes are typically designed using dedicated computer-aided design software.

The materials used in modern lasts should be strong enough to withstand the forces of mass production machinery, such as that applied by pullover machines when bottoming the shoe, and must also be able to hold tacks (known as "lasting tacks"), which are used to hold shoe parts together temporarily before the sole is added. Although hardwoods satisfy these criteria, modern lasts, especially those used by mass production factories, are often made from high-density polyethylene plastic, which allows for many tack holes before needing repair. Such plastics also have the benefit that they can be recycled and remoulded when they wear out.

 Custom made / bespoke shoemakers, often use lasts that are specifically designed to the proportions of individual customers' feet. Made from various modern materials, they don't need to withstand the pressures of mass production machinery, but they must be able to handle constant tacking and pinning, and the wet environment associated with stretching and shaping materials such as leather.

If you're interested in finding out more about the shoemaking process perhaps consider our shoemaking course.

This is the third article in our ongoing series: "The Complete Shoemaking Process". The next entry in the series is about taking making toe puffs & heel counters.

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