Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A special guest star and some lovely sandals

Hello and welcome to you new visitors to this here blog! Make yourself at home, have a look around...
You may have already seen these lovely nautical inspired sandals during your internet wanderings. They were made (with a little assistance) by none other than Zoe - ethical seamstress extraordinaire, inventor of the toffee/flapjack-hybrid-snack, and she of the excellent "So, Zo..." blog.

I've been following Zoe's blog for a few years, I really admire her ethos, and I saw a while ago that she had made a reference to one day, some day, somehow, maybe making some kind of vaguely functional footwear, and I thought "Hey, that's my department, I reckon I could help make that happen!" So earlier in the year I contacted her with an offer to play for a day in the workshop at work. Our sandal making day was a couple of saturdays ago, and it was a real blast!

You may have seen Zoe's post about the day, but I thought I'd take you through our sandal making process. I've realised I didn't take very many photos throughout the day (we were too busy chatting and applauding each step of our sandal progress!) but here are a few progress shots...

The beginning of the patterncutting process. 

I started by taking Zoe's foot measurements. These include an outline of each foot, measuring around the Joint - the widest part of the foot, as well as around the Instep - the highest part of the foot. Using this information I could select a Last - the foot-shaped mould around which the sandals were built. We chose a flat last with joint and instep measurements that matched Zoe's, and I taped it up so we could draw on it. This is a very handy method of playing around with the lines of the sandal, getting the balance right, and allows you to have a really clear idea of how it will look in the end. We then cut the masking tape straps from the last and used them as a base for the pattern. The pattern pieces included folding allowance and lasting allowance - the extra bit of material that gets attached to the underside of the insole.

Zoe then cut out the pattern pieces in leather - a process called Clicking - using a clicking knife and once she'd skived the edges on the skiving machine, prepared them by adding non-stretch topline tape (to prevent the straps from stretching out) and folding the edges of the white straps. The red straps remained raw edged. 

Using the lovely industrial Singer post machine (the working area is on top of a vertical post rather than the flatbed of a domestic machine) Zoe stitched the straps to lining leather and trimmed away the excess. The white straps ended with loops which would enclose the red straps.

The finished uppers ready for lasting (Lasting is the process of shaping the upper around the last and attaching the excess material to the underside of the insole). The red straps have raw edges, the white ones have folded edges and include buckles.

I cut an insole (a double layer of insole board) and Zoe smoothed the edges on the big sanding machine and then covered it with the lovely inky blue leather she had brought along with her. We then used the remaining masking tape on the last as a guide for where to place the straps over the last and then attached them to the insole, making sure that the right and left sandal were matching and even. While Zoe was lasting up, I prepared a sole of 6mm rubber with a hard-wearing rubber heel top piece. A quick try-on of the sandals showed that we needed to adjust the fit a little bit across the joint.

Once adjusted, Zoe then stuck the prefinished sole to the underside of the insole and hammered it down to ensure it was properly attached.

Et voila! Some lovely, brand new, nautical inspired sandals that had only existed as a concept that morning, and a couple of very happy shoemakers! 



  1. This whole concept of this post is full of awesome. Two bloggers learning, making, laughing, it's so amazeballs. It makes me happy.

  2. I've just shown this to my partner . . . . (subtle hint)
    Are the sole components readily available in small quantities?

    1. Hello Snippa!
      Thanks for your comments, I"m glad you're enjoying the blog.
      The soling material used for these sandals is 6mm lightweight EVA (a sort of spongy rubber). It comes in large sheets from which I cut the sole to size - first roughly with a knife and then I use the big grinding machine to grind it to the exact finished shape, before sticking it to the underside of the insole.
      You can buy individual soling units in pairs, commando soles etc, although these will also require trimming back to the correct size.
      Check out and have a look in the Footwear Components section (you may have to register to view the catalogue)
      Alternatively, have a chat with a friendly local shoe repairer - they'll have all sorts of soling materials in stock and you may be able to strike a deal!
      Let me know if you have any more questions!

    2. Thanks for your help. We'll have a look at that site.
      Pete has most of the tools required because he already does leather working. He's not made shoes before though and has found your blog of great interest - good news for me in my search for the perfect sandal!