Monday, September 26, 2011

Shoe Making Workshop

This past weekend a few of us here in Texas attended a mid-19th Century shoe making workshop conducted by Cody Mobley at Pioneer Farms in Austin. First I wish to say how gracious the site is for hosting us for our workshop and events. They allowed us to use their structures for the workshop and to stay in for the weekend. I also put out many kudos to Cody for volunteering to lead this workshop and producing the patterns and soles. He is a great instructor and an asset to the hobby!

The workshop began in Saturday morning but some of us stayed the night on Friday on site. Staying at the site is always a wonderful convenience. The braying of the donkeys singing us to sleep and the thumping of the site cat, Peanut Butter, running down the hall of the Bell house to wake us up.
soaking soles
The workshop was held at the Aynesworth house. We went up early to make sure all was ready and set the soles to soaking. Not everyone that had registered attended but we had, including Cody, 13, I think. Cody started out giving us an overview of the tools and materials used. Cody provided the necessary needles and threads. He had, prior to the workshop, produced sized patterns for our uppers. So we then started cutting out our uppers from the fabric we chose. I had chosen a green wool. It is a beautiful fabric. Once they were cut we started sewing them together with a back stitch. After the uppers were together we attached the toe and heel foxing and then the heel stiffener. For easier sewing the stiffeners were soaked prior to sewing. The foxing was sewn with a straight stitch and the stiffener just whip stitched.
Foxing attached
At lunch break I took Cody to a local Joanne’s to get cotton drill for the linings as he didn’t receive his order in time. Yes, we went in period dress. The looks!! It was hilarious. One woman obviously buying her Halloween costume, looked at us and said “You obviously have this costuming thing down, what do you think of this?"
Upper lined and bound
After we got back Cody started cutting out the linings as we finished up the uppers, foxing and stiffeners. Then we stitched the lining in the same way as the uppers. Once done we basted the lining to the uppers at the top, along the bottom and the side slit. The top and slit edges were then bound. We were given the option of using cotton tape or Cody would strip some of our fabric for binding. I chose to use the tape as a contrast. This is about as far as I got the first day. It doesn’t sound like much but sewing on the leather took quite a bit of time. So closed the first day of the workshop.
That evening some of us decided to out to dinner rather than stay on site. We all wanted large classes of water and tea. Yup, in period dress and more funny looks. When we returned to Pioneer Farms we all went to our respective structures for the evening. Vicki and I shared the Bell house. The evening was warmer than the night before and it was hard to get to sleep. Later in the evening a man who had been walking his dogs down the dry creek that runs into the property called out and said he couldn’t figure out how to get out of the site. Apparently the women in the cabin had a skunk experience that night and the gentlemen in the barn dealt with the horses, so fun all around.
The next morning we got up early; Vicki had brought her suffragette outfit and I wanted a picture. It is so cute! She looks so perfect in it.
Vicki Betts suffragette
The workshop started again at 9:00 and the day was already hat and humid. We lost a couple of participants and a couple more came but not in period dress; it was just too hot. This day consisted of the sole and turning the shoe. It was also museum day and the site was open free with several other activities going on, so there were tons of visitors coming in and out watching what we were doing.
Attaching the sole
Cody had already made the soles, punched and grooved them for us. He also started the threads attaching the sole. The sole was attached using a walking stitch consisting of two threads and needles. This, for me, was the most difficult part of the process. Even though the soles were soaked, the sewing was tough and I didn’t get the hang of the stitching right off. But I got it done.
Sewing the toe
Turning the shoe

The shoe was then set out to soak for a bit before it was put on the foot and the toe sewn and trimmed. Getting this wet wool over the stocking feet was a chore. We all laughed as we struggled to get the shoes on. Cody sewed the toes and then the shoe was set to soak again for easier turning. Cody also turned them for us. Once turned, the shoe was put on again, more struggle and laughter. This was done to stretch the wool to the foot. Since we didn’t have the eyelets done yet, Cody stitched the slits up as if laced. We left the shoes on until they dried. Once dried they slipped right on, no struggle. 
Turned shoe
Garrett's slippers
Most of us only got one shoe done, minus the lacing eyelets. Rather than lacing I’m putting elastic in mine for gaiters as my ankles are bigger than the pattern and lacing would be impractical. Vicki and Garret both finished their shoes and slippers respectively.
Vicki's shoes

I really enjoyed the workshop even though my fingers hurt and I allowed myself to become dehydrated. Thanks much again to both Cody and Pioneer Farms for making the workshop possible!

Additional photos can be found here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Long time no write

Been awhile since I've written. The gardening has been a no go for the last month, just too hot down here. But seeds are ordered and will be planted by the first of October.

Started planning my conference dress. Can't give away the fabric but I can share inspiration.
Y'all have to come back after March 4th or so to get the details.
Shoe workshop coming up; report will be posted next week.