May 10, 2014

Creating solutions when you lack of good materials

What are you struggling with right now? What makes your process of making shoes difficult? I know there are things that I struggle with and I know you do too.

This week I sent an email to members of my footwear design course asking for a feedback, and I received many replies, questions, ideas (thank you very much) and many of members shared with me what they are struggling with and not specifically at design course, but generally in learning and making shoes. Although, it’s is not new to me and I keep answering dozens of emails to you guys each week, but somehow during this process of creating lessons and working individually on each process I might forgot to focus on general problems and through my experiences and knowledge that I gained with working in this industry for all this years, I can make it easier for you to find the answers, and that’s exactly what I will do with this blog.  Just as I did in Making Shoes blog.

As you can imagine I myself struggle with different issues in making my own shoes just like you are, maybe we have different problems, but they all need solutions. As I always say, creative mind, motivation and necessity will guide us to solution, and although shoemaking have his ancient rules and guides how to do things it doesn’t mean you can’t search for your own ways, that is what I believe in!
Back in the days, when I was just getting started with my  first collection I discovered a very dark side of an shoemaking industry in my country, something that I never dealt  with when I was working for a big local manufacturer. In my country there is a huge problem with finding a good quality leather for shoes, well it is almost impossible and who can afford it, just imports, something that I could not afford back then.
Just to explain you what type of leather we had here for sale, so many of you who have the same problem with finding good leather or other materials could relate. The leather that was for sale, was leather that is used for furniture. It is not a good leather for shoes, it is very starchy  and floppy, very hard to work with, very hard to last it, and results were horrible. As I had no choice back then, I did used that leather by finding a solution to my problem, I reinforced it with fabric, and no, not with a special fabric for leather as I didn’t had it neither. I just used very thin and not stretchy cotton fabric.

The process is, you must to create a pattern for this fabric reinforcement, and this pattern is the same pattern as your upper pattern with small changes:
1.   6 mm less from the upper top line, where folding is.

2.   6 mm less from the bottom edge

3.   2 mm less at back line and every line where is an open cut.

4.  4mm less from the underlying allowance.

1 2 3
Before you attach the fabric, you must skive the upper edges and then attach the fabric to the upper before sewing.
This process allowed me to make my first collection, and I guess necessity is the mother of invention. That was not perfect and I surely do prefer to work with good leathers, but back then I had no choice like I know many of you do too, so know that you can always find a solution if you look for it.
Every week I will look for new solutions and experiences that I personally went through and I will share them with you, hopefully it will help you in your work and your progress of making shoes. 

Two last questions I want to ask you again.
What are you struggling with right now? What makes your process of making shoes difficult?
Let’s keep it rollin, share yours in the comment below.


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About the author 

Sveta Kletina

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  1. Sveta you speaking to the choir with me. Yes the problem is still the same here in the US. I use sewing materials to fuse the backing to leather. I found some very good suppliers that sell single hides as well. I now use 2/3 oz vegetable tan leather and dye it myself plus it is easier to skive. I have learned a tremendous amount from all my mistakes – love the statement “Mother of Invention” this statement is born out of innovation and trial and error. Great article.

    1. I actually love this process, I use to dye veg tan too, you can get beautiful colors that you usually don’t get in the store. I couldn’t imagine that you have a problems with leather in US!!!!! Eileen, you are not alone in this!!

  2. Sometimes the pattern i use for my shoe, having add what is expected to the pattern as what suppose to go under. When i finally want to last, the excess that we are suppose to put under the sole don’t usually be enough and i wonder why. Can you shared some light on this please?

  3. I have the same situation as Olusola…lasting measurements for pattern are not enough for me, I need to add on at least 5mm extra to the pattern. Am still trying to source shoe leather, but have been using 0.5/0.6mm goat and sheep nappa leather for now. I use pig split for the lining.
    But my biggest problem which holds me back the most is finding shoe lasts. When I do find them, they are either too small or too big. Buying from overseas is just not an option as our currency is very weak against the Dollar, Pound and Euro…. plus one has to add postage and customs. I would like to adjust the ones I have, but like Paul I do not know how to apply the foot measurement to the last to have enough toe space, which surely will be different for various last shapes? Also, will adjusting at either the toe or heel not affect the joint line, or does a few mm not matter? And another thing, how does one tell the difference between various last shapes eg. sandal and casual/ballet flat, or if a casual flat will work for a derby/oxford or not?

    1. I can see some problems are similar, so I think I will do better, If I will write a new post tomorrow, and answer some of the questions and possible answers and solutions to them.

  4. For me it is finding supplies. It is where I live for sure, but I am really struggling to find the midsole material (hopefully you will again sell some), cork material and shanks. Tools are also difficult for me to source, but definately not as difficult in the supplies mentioned. I will be in Italy (you might need to give me some areas to look for these while I am there) this summer and I am hoping to find them there to return here with. But, the moment I am in the flow of it then it turns into a treasure hunt for the next step in finding something that I didn’t already have. Eventually I will figure it all out, but for sure it is a challenge and also the sewing with a home machine is proving to be a learning curve for me with the leather.

    1. Dear Rene,
      First, the materials that you mentioned are for sale on the site ( Texon, shank board) I guess I need to get it more visible. Here is the link:
      In italy you can find all tools that you need and materials as well just figure a way to get it back home :). What kind of sewing machine you have?

      1. Yes I just found the link to the materials. I had looked several time for a link at the top, but assumed you were still not ready to sell them online yet, but finally found them today and then saw your reply. Once in Italy I will have no problem mailing them back to myself so that is the easy part. Maybe you can let me know some places in Florence or Lucca that I can possibly try. Bartoli is very close to where I will be and I actually emailed them before you started to sell them again and they said that it is no problem for me to drop by. The shanks and the cork board have been the hardest to source for me. I did find some in Tokyo last week, but it is a long flight from me so I don’t go that often and regret not getting lots of them, but no cork board. I currently have a Husqvarna straight stitch (I don’t remember the model, but it is a nice one) sewing machine and I am looking for a used shoe sewing machine or a used leather sewing machine but they are hard to find in the area that I am in. I have recently found a leather shop that will let me use his sewing machine for a hourly rate so that is really good for me to be able to progress but not convenient. Any tips with a home machine would be great or information on used sewing or inexpensive sewing machines (like what to look for). I would love to buy a nice one, but hesitate due to the size and space it may it take up too much room and I already have 3 machines that take up too much room.

  5. I wanted to add one more thing that would be really helpful for me at least. If with each of different shoes in the lessons you can talk about the leather or materials you are using for the uppers in more detail for instance the oz and type or whatever else might be beneficial about them. I find it useful to have the list that you supply on the page, but more information about the leather especially would be really helpful since this is first time I am really getting to play with the different types of leather and the only way for me to source it is through the internet so I can’t touch it before hand or really know from the internet much about it other than the color oz and type. I also ordered veg tanned leather since it can be dyed.

    Thanks, Rene

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