Did I ever think I could make boots from my living room floor? Not in a million years! But guess what? It happened! (Makes me think I could win the lottery with thinking like this… 😂)
I’ve made shoes with I Can Make Shoes before – I was lucky enough to be gifted a high heel making course a couple of years ago (see my blog post here) and even a couple years before that, I’d done a flat pump class with them too. You could say I’m very familiar with their style of shoe making and teaching!
I’d always like the idea of making more shoes at home. To be honest I’d bought a lot of the stuff to do it myself but never quite got the motivation to do more than a more sandals here and there. There’s something about homemade shoes that never feels quite as solid as shop bought.
But with the boot making class that was a whole different kettle of fish! I’ve always struggled to get long boots that fitted well. I’ve got short chunky legs and small wide feet – not the best combo when it comes to finding “standard” sizing to fit! I had previously toyed with the idea of doing a short course at the London College of Fashion where you design and make a pair of boots but for around £800 it didn’t seem worth it! (I’m not sure they even do this class anymore either!).
With the release of the I Can Make Shoes online boot making class, I did have a good long think about whether it would be worth the investment but figured if I could make a couple of well fitting pair of long boots from this course it will be! So as a post January blues treat, I made the splurge!
The main upside of signing up to this course was that I already knew a lot about their techniques and terminology which made things simpler and I only really needed to concentrate on the boot making specific parts. I also had a lot of leather to hand and shoe making paraphernalia to complement the Beginners Shoe Making kit that came included with the class.
The shoe making kit that comes complimentary with the class signup includes all the bits you need for one pair of shoes. You need to decide what type of shoe you want (low, mid or high heel) and they supply the parts specific to each one. It includes you insoles, heels (if using or randing otherwise), soling materials, glues, knives and tools – it’s pretty comprehensive and all you’d need to do is add your choice of leather/ upper fabric and lining. I’ve been in the habit of picking up leather remnant pieces over the years so actually had a fair bit in my stash already!
The course takes you through the making process of three entire boots with different design elements. It starts with a flat lace up ankle boot, then a pull on high heel cowboy boot and lastly a mid heel zipped knee high boot. The idea is that these elements can then be mixed and matched for when you design your own boot
For each style, Amanda (the course teacher) starts with the pattern making process from designing directly on the last to create the master pattern and pattern pieces. She then makes a mock up to check the fit, makes any final changes before cutting out the uppers and lining. There’s a teeny bit of sewing involved to get the uppers together and then it’s onto the lasting (wrapping and stretching the leather around the last) and glueing process. Throughout it all, there’s lots of advice on what materials to use and tips and tricks.
I decided to start with a zipped ankle boot for my first try. I figured that this would be the sensible choice as it would allow me to practice elements like a zip without too much of a commitment on the leather front!
My design used my mid heel last and two types of leather – a light pinky beige with a sheen and a beige snake print. I made my pattern with a split into two parts – the front using the lighter leather and a higher top line and the snake print at the back and over the heel.
The pattern making process is an interesting one. You literally cover the shoe last in masking tape, stick paper where you want your boot leg to be and then draw your design directly on it. I can see where a lot of trial and error is going to happen here!
I got some cheap faux leather upholstery material to do my mock up in and it seemed fine? I say that a question as I had no real idea! I could see that it would a) my foot would go in and b) it would go over the last in some approximation of an ankle boot… I wasn’t super convinced but at the same time I knew I wouldn’t learn unless I tried it out!
So I just dived in and made the boots! I had planned to take lots of photos of my process but the reality was that my hands were covered in far too much glue to do it!
I’m not sure what the beige leather is – it’s quite a thin leather, possibly a lamb skin. The snake print is a cow hide and the beige lining is a pigskin. The zip is a heavy duty (no. 3) plastic zip I got off eBay from my favourite online zip seller (unintentionally, I always seem to end up ordering my zips from them!). The plastic heel and resin sole material were from the kit.
There are many, many, many flaws with what I’ve produced here. You can see where the top edges of the boots aren’t even and the centre seam is a bit wiggly on one side. The soles are cut particularly badly so don’t look too closely! Most of the problems are from the lasting process and that is all down to experience I think. I found it so hard trying to make match the boots whilst lasting as pulling the leather around just shifts everything around!
At the end of the day I’ve made something that is wearable (talk about a wearable toile!) which is more than I would have imagined a year ago!
My long term goal is to be able to make some over the knee boots by next winter. Fingers crossed I’ll get there!