December 26, 2014

Shoe making Case Study: Cover Your Shoe Last Using Right Masking Tape


When you want to make your own shoes you start from shoe pattern. One of the easiest and fastest ways to do it, is to make shoe last cover using masking tape.

Today’s case study will be focusing on the beginning of our shoemaking process, which is super important and can determine the quality and efficiency of your work. This step of shoemaking is the first one and if you want to learn about the entire process of shoemaking, you are welcome to read this post: “Beginners in Shoemaking Tools and Materials Definitive Guide 2023”

In this shoe making case study, I will research and test  which masking tape (adhesive tape) is the best to use to cover our shoe last and to make a pattern.

There are different types of masking tapes and my research will not be about :

  • The adhesive qualities of masking tape.  
  • The price.( It can be different in each country.)
  • The best brand of masking tape. You may not have the same brand as I used in my research.


So what will I research and test?

We will compare the narrow and wide masking tapes and will determine with which width of masking tape is better to construct a pattern to make your shoes.



These are two most common types of masking tapes that you can buy at your local store wherever you live.


How the width of masking tape can influence on your shoe making?


Does the width of your adhesive tape can influence on the time you will make a shoe pattern and the  quality of your pattern?


  1 How much time it takes to cover the shoe last?

To make solid pattern from tape you need to cover it in two directions: along the length of the last and along the width of the last.  You can learn how to cover the shoe last i my free guide ( the guides are downloadable at the sign up)


    * So I will test which one, the narrow or the wide masking tape will consume less time to cover the last.


The Workflow of taping, meaning which tape (narrow or wide) is more easy and comfortable to cover the last will also influence on our work time.


    *So I will compare the workflow of taping with narrow and with wide masking tape


   2 How the width influence on the quality of your shoe pattern

You know that during attaching of masking tape to the curved surface of the last  folds are created.

So to make accurate shoe pattern you need to avoid creation of folds as much as you can.

Note: You have to understand that those folds will not affect on correctness of your pattern construction, when you will make your own shoes. The folds on the surface of masking tape  will  disturb you when you will apply the design of your shoes on the shoe last. So to make this work easier and more accurate, it is better to have smooth surface of the tape. ( on the shoe last)

That’s why the width of the masking tape can influence on creation of folds during covering of the last with the tape.


     * So I will compare which masking tape, narrow or width, will create fewer folds


One of the most important steps in pattern making that influence dramatically on the quality of your shoe pattern  is :

 How you will transfer the 3D adhesive tape pattern to the 2D pattern on the cardboard.


In other words

How you will flat the curved pattern from masking tape to attach it to the cardboard for further work on your shoe pattern.


Now you can ask yourself, how the width of the tape can affect on the flattening of tape pattern?


  1. The process of tape pattern flattening is influenced by the density of the adhesive tape pattern.


  1. On the other hand on density of the tape pattern affects the amount of tape layers created during the covering of the last.


  1. Then on the amount of tape layers influences the width of the masking tape



     * So  I will check how the width of the masking tape can influence on flattening of the    

       adhesive  tape pattern when attaching it to the cardboard. Plus, can it influence on the

       correctness of the further pattern making



Bottom line: I will test the narrow and wide masking tape according to these 4 parameters:

  1. How much time takes to tape the last
  2. Workflow of taping,
  3. Creation of folds
  4. Flattening of masking tape pattern on the cardboard  

Eventually all those parameters are connected and influence each other and together will influence on all your shoe making process.



Shoe last cover using masking tape 

Narrow tape VS  Wide  tape


There are different width of masking tapes and it range  between 1cm to 18cm  ( and maybe you can find even more than 18cm width). Usually most common width of masking tapes which is used in shoe making is between 1.5 cm and 5cm.


I will not check 15-18cm wide masking tape (although some shoemakers use it), because it is very rare and can be found only in special stores.


So let’s check the most available narrow and wide masking tapes that everyone can find in their local store around the world.


In my local store (just simple stationery store) I found the narrow masking tape with 2.5 cm width and wide masking tape with 5 cm width. I bought both of the same company to make a true case study. So they have the same adhesive quality and same density.

Note: 5 cm tape I usually use in my work, but now I will check it thoroughly than ever before and will compare it with the narrow, which I use rarely.

I use the narrow tape rarely only because when I learned shoemaking many years ago we always used the 5 cm masking tape. When I  worked as a shoemaker in different footwear factories , shoe last cover using masking tape was always with 5 cm tape, so I guess with time as the years went by it  became my pattern making routine.

Maybe it’s a time to change it. So I will make the test to see if my shoe making routine is the right one.


Conditions:To make true case study I will cover the same last ( pump last) and will use the masking tape of the same company as I said before.
To know which type of masking tape is better to make shoe pattern, it’s enough to cover only one half of the last.


Note: Usually when I am working on the pattern of the footwear with symmetrical design I cover only outer side of the last with masking tape.  If the shoe has asymmetrical design I cover both sides of the last. You can follow the exact steps in my Unisex Sandal Course. Here is the link:

Unisex Sandal Course


Let’s start.


Testing the narrow masking tape


1.How much time takes to tape the last

To cover the outer side of the last with narrow masking tape took me 8 minutes.

I attached this tape in two directions (as it must be) : horizontal – along the length of the last,

vertical- along the width of the last.



2. Workflow of taping

To attach each layer of tape to the outer side of the last was very easy.

It did not require any effort.

My actions were very mechanical: roll the strip of tape, attach it and cut it


The main reason that It did not require any effort was

During attaching of this narrow masking tape I didn’t had to flatten the folds on the tape, so:


3. Creation of folds was very minor issue.

The  last has pointy toe and physically I couldn’t avoid the creation of folds on it.



Throughout the rest of the last surface, folds were not created.



4. Flattening of masking tape pattern on the cardboard

A little bit effort was required to flatten the adhesive tape pattern during its attaching to the cardboard.

I couldn’t spread it well on the cardboard. To do it well I did few cuts in the heel area, where the last has a curved shape.




Test with wide masking tape


1.How much time takes to tape the last

It took me 3 minutes to cover the outer side of my pump last.  Here also I attached the masking tape in two directions.



2.Workflow of taping

To attach well this wide masking tape it required a little bit extra work besides just rolling the strip of tape and attaching it to the last.

Along the  instep line and joint line in the center of the last I had to make few cuts .

Then I had to reinforce them to make it solid enough.

Also it requires extra efforts to avoid creation of folds


3.Creation of folds.

I had to try to avoid creation of folds as much as possible.


So each time in the curved places of the pump last I needed to pull back the adhesive tape during attaching. It requires extra effort, because I had to control this action to not pull it too strong to not tear the strip of masking tape, otherwise folds were created.


I spend an extra time to flat all folds that were still created on the surface of the masking tape



4.Flattening of masking tape pattern on the cardboard

It was one super easy to flat the 3D masking tape pattern on the cardboard to transfer it to 2D pattern.

I didn’t use any efforts and didn’t have to make cuts in order to attach it  smoothly to the cardboard.



Advantages and disadvantages of each masking tape

Let’s compare the narrow and wide masking tape according to the parameters above.


1.How much time takes to tape the last

Shoe last cover using masking tape with  wide  stip, you can see I covered faster than with narrow tape.

The reason for this is that it is wider and just with 3 strips of tape I covered all outer side of the last in horizontal direction.


For some reason I covered  the last faster also in vertical direction.


2 .Workflow of taping

With wide masking tape it was more difficult than the workflow with narrow masking tape. The time to tape with wide tape was still faster, because it requires less actions of cutting and attaching of tape to the last.


Now the question arises

How can the width of tape affects on the workflow of taping?


It’s geometrical explanation to this problem. As narrow the strip is , it is easier to cover round shapes ( as our shoe last ).


You can understand it easily if you will imagine that you need to construct a simple ball from paper.


So if you will construct it from wide slices you will get ball with sharp angles. The slices are wide and its amount is small and that why they create sharp angles.


If I will construct the ball from narrow slices, their amount will be bigger and they will create smooth transaction between each slice. This paper ball will be closer by its shape to the real ball.


That’s why to attach the wide tape on the curved lines I had to make cuts and then reinforce them.


 3. Folds created

More folds were created when I worked with wide tape, than with narrow tape.


So this process of attaching required extra efforts with the wide tape.

The taping with the narrow tape was easier and without any extra efforts.


4.Flattening of the masking tape on the cardboard

This is a last parameter, but as you remember it is one of the most important parameters.

It can influence on the correctness of your further pattern making, when you will make your shoes.


When I attached the narrow tape pattern to the cardboard I had to make cuts in the curved heel area , because this tape pattern was thick.


On the other hand,  the wide tape pattern I attached perfectly without cuts at the heel. It was not so thick and dense.

Why the narrow tape pattern was too thick and the wide tape pattern was not?


You know that to cover last (one half or full last) you need to attach the tape ( no matter what the width of the tape) by layers of tape strips.

So to create good and strong attachment between strips you need to attach one strip on another.

Their mutual area on which one tape strip is attached  on the other should not be less than 1-1.5 cm. You must attach tape this way as in horizontal direction and in vertical direction as well.


Narrow tape has width of 2.5cm.  So when I attached it, layer by layer, once in horizontal direction and then in vertical according to the rules, I automatically created almost full pattern with thickness of 3 or 4 strips of tape.



That’s why this narrow tape pattern is too thick.


The wide tape has width of 5 cm, so in total it has 3 or 4  tape strip layers only in the mutual area. Total width of those places is 1-1.5cm. So the biggest surface of the wide tape pattern has only 2 layers of strips.


That’s why it was stretchy enough and I attached it without the cuts. This way I get the pattern on the cardboard with same dimension that my pump last has.


Now you can ask yourself,  how those cuts at the heel can influence on the correctness of the pattern?


The fact is, that when you make the cuts on the heel you deform your pattern. It becomes wider or narrower (depends on the place at the last) and doesn’t match the actual last proportions. You would need to correct it later on.

It is especially an influence on the correctness of such footwear types like moccasin and footwear with one cut elements on the back. In those type of shoes every millimeter is important.


Personally I don’t like to make cuts on the pattern in the places,where I can avoid it. It creates extra work and extra check that you need to make to your pattern, when you will make your own shoes.


Note: there are unavoidable  folds on the vamp, but it has nothing to do with the density of the tape.



Now it is necessary to answer the main question posed at the beginning :

Which masking tape, narrow or wide is better for shoe pattern making?

I can not answer this question conclusively, because each masking tape has its advantages and disadvantages, but I choose the wide masking tape with width of 5 cm.


It  has ONE  big advantage over the narrow and I am not talking about how much time it takes to cover the shoe last with tape.


( it is for sure takes a more time to use the wide tape)


It has great possibility to be strong and solid enough and in the same time stretchy and not thick.Plus, It  keeps the right proportions of the last which is very important.

So you can easily attach it to the cardboard without extra checking of the pattern in further steps of the pattern making.


You can tell me that with the narrow masking tape the workflow of taping is easy and maybe for beginners in shoe making it will be easier to use it , especially to those of you, who struggle with covering of the shoe last and don’t have the patience for it.


But I strongly advise you to train yourself to work  with wide tape and with the time you will appreciate it a lot.


Yet, if you are more convinced that it’s better to work with narrow tape following the few parameters of this case study, you can check this post.


Remember that for shoe last cover using masking tape, here you need to pay attention on how  you will attach the tape strips  to avoid creation of more than 2 layers of tape, especially in the instep and joint last lines.To do that you will need extra time.


Now I have figured out which one is the best for me. Which masking tape are you using in your shoe making  work?

If you found this Case Study useful and you ready to see more shoe making case studies on this blog, please leave a comment.

Join My 20K Subscribers Community!

Weekly I share with my subscribers actionable shoe making content. By enrolling in my list you will be the first to know about my new shoe making courses and special offers I have.

About the author 

Sveta Kletina

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I have always questioned which tape method is the best! I do not think anyone had done this comparison before and why I think it is so important. The pitfalls are just like you described. Since there are many different manufactures of masking tapes would you suggest scotch masking tape or do you have a preference. I have tried painters blue tape and Blue frog – simple answer don’t waste your money.
    My local art store had masking which worked well and it is not made by scotch its some off brand, or does it matter?

    1. I think it does not matter! Most important thing is that it sticks to the last. I have been searching for a good masking tape for a long time until I found it in my art store as well. As I love footwear pattern making and creating different shoe patterns It is so important to work with the right masking tape. If we are talking about accuracy in the pattern, folds and extra work, choosing the right masking tape is very important. Pete, do you use wide or narrow masking tape?

  2. Sveta,
    I use a combination of wide and narrow – depends on what I am doing. I was taught by Bill to use narrow and tape the entire last. I also seen this done in the factories we work with. SInce I have been using your techniques I have been using the wider ones which I prefer. If it is a new last I will tape the entire last and then make my mean form. My second time around I will just do one side like you showed in your first lesson. Then make the paper pattern around the shoe. This save a ton of time and accuracy seeing how it actually fits.

    Then I use your technique and mock up samples using vinyl that acts like leather and is real cheap that I buy at a local fabric store. I also buy my masking tape at a art supply store and it is much nicer than scotch masking tape and cheaper hahaha!

  3. Sveta,

    Thank you for the research. I normally use the narrow type but with your outcome now, i will like to text the use of wide masking tape because of time factor.

  4. Hi How i can register to buy courses there is not a REGISTER section on your website and if there is one is not visible .

    Regards: James

    1. Hi,
      You should visit “pricing page” purchase the course or bundle that you like and you will receive your login information.

  5. Sveta you’re the best. You are just a GOD sent. I’ve been going through all your posts and each time I do, I don’t just feel like stopping. You are a great teacher, full of knowledge, skills and experience. I will want you to hold my hands as a beginner without any experience. I love you so much. Keep up the good work. I will definitely make sure I save to purchase your books and others. Thanks a lot, I’m so grateful. Sveta it’s really nice knowing you. Bye.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}