September 29, 2014

How to make perfectly identical pair of shoes

As a beginner in shoe making you have probably experienced a situation when you make your own shoes, that left and right half’s of your shoes come out differently. Your pump shoes top line on one half is more curved in front than the other half, the quarters of your laced shoes are higher in one half, or more curved, etc.

You made shoes from few details and two halves of the uppers look absolutely differently. All those mistakes happen due to the wrong folding of your upper because you folded each half differently than the other. So, how to make the perfectly identical pair of shoes?

Main problem making identical folding in both  half ‘s of shoe pair ?

 When you fold your uppers you need to use reinforcement tape (3-4 mm width) as a guideline for your folding, and in the same time this tape will reinforce the top line of your uppers and will reduce its stretchiness. So to fold identically both half’s of your upper you need to attach this reinforcement tape identically: parallel to the edge of the upper and in the same distance.

Here is the main problem: how to attach the reinforcement tape identically in both uppers? Usually, shoemakers trust their eyes, but to do it accurately you need the experience.  

 It’s often happens to beginners but that is the part of this journey. I remember myself, when I was a beginner, I always wondered how shoemakers fold the uppers so accurately for both half’s of a pair?  The answer that I got back then was that it comes with the experience,  and it really does.

Now, for me to fold both half’s of a pair equally is absolutely normal and natural shoemaking process. But if you ask yourself, how can you make your own shoes with identical folded uppers now! Without spending years finding your way, I can give you few tips how it can be done.

Note: You can’t avoid practicing and it’s absolutely necessary to improve your shoe making skills, pattern making skills, but I can make it easier for you.

2 ways to make your own shoes with identical uppers


1. Adding marks to your upper pattern

To construct the pattern of your upper, you just need to add allowance for folding to the basic pattern. This is the traditional way of upper pattern constructing. Now to make you folding easier, add to this allowance marks along all this folding allowance. Those marks will be, on the line of your basic pattern to which you added this allowance. 


Then when you will cut leather of your upper, make those marks on the inner side of the leather and attach the reinforcement tape according to those marks.  This is not the conventional way in shoe making, but it will help you to make your shoes with identical uppers.


2. Use your basic pattern as a guide to fold the upper

Before you will start to fold your uppers, attach to the outer side of the leather upper basic pattern and fold it according to the line of your basic pattern in both halves.

It works great especially if you have separate parts of the uppers, which you need to assemble for the main upper part. As the basic pattern is usually one half of the last (except of court shoes) so make for those individual parts their own basic pattern with two sides.


This method works better for individual parts in upper but it’s less effective in sewn uppers. For example, if you have pumps, you need first to sew the heel and only then to fold it. It will be difficult to attach the basic pattern to the sewn upper of your pump shoes, so here it’s better to use the first method.

In shoes like Derby, Oxford after you will sew the quarters in the heel, place basic pattern on the upper. Do it in the way, so the bottom edge of basic pattern will match the bottom edge of the upper. Place it one time to the outer side and fold it, then to the inner side.  Fold this way both half’s of your uppers. 

If outer and inner side don’t match, make basic pattern for each one of them and then work with them, just as I described above.

Those two ways can help you to improve your folding, when you will make your own shoes. You only have to decide, which one of them will suit better for your shoe design. Although I gave you those tips, I advise you to train your eyes and  learn to rely on your eyes from your first pair of shoes, as I teach it in all my shoe making classes. 

  If you want to learn more about different pattern making techniques, techniques to solve most of your shoe making problems, to know which tools for pattern making you need, you are invited to visit this directory: “Shoe pattern and templates”.  

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About the author 

Sveta Kletina

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