Archive for the ‘Learned’ Category

1350s Shoes from Fischmarkt

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

This pair is based on a 1350s extant piece documented in “Archeological Footwear” authored by Dr. Marquita Volken. The pattern comes from an unusual extant shoe which has an oval cutout on the inside of the shoe, along with a buckle strap to close the shoe around the foot. This shoe also has a binding strip all the way around the shoe including the strap, and is quite a pretty example of a medieval shoe. A few points of note – the original has the buckling on the inside of the shoe (it is easier to buckle your shoe this way while sitting down or standing up), but it unfortunately hides the pretty cutout and the buckle. As a result, the recipient asked that the buckle be placed on the lateral (outside) of the foot, rather than the medial side. Further, you will notice a rather thick sole – this was constructed as a turn-welt shoe, even though that particular style doesn’t really start to come about until the third quarter of the 15th century. I took several cues from Dr. Volken’s book in the construction of this pair, and I’m particularly pleased with the way they worked out. The decoration is inspired by several extant 14th century pieces with lines of decoration across the vamp of the shoe.

Let me share some of the techniques that I tried, starting with the binding strip. Although I’d done binding strips in the past, this was the first time that I’d done it in this manner.
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Europe Trip Part I: Munich

Friday, August 15th, 2014

In case some of you were not aware, shoemaking is actually not my livelihood. In fact, my primary breadwinning is far less interesting to the general public, although it does sometimes afford me some liberties. In this case, I was traveling to Germany for work (Munich specifically), and since it was my first time in Germany, I decided to arrive a bit early and see the sights, visit a few museums, and sample the local cuisine. I understand that this is not, strictly speaking, related to shoemaking, but if you bear with me and be patient, I can promise you shoemaking insight of the kind of that has opened my eyes and made me a believer! To start, here is what is on the front of most subway cars in the Munich U-Bahn: a fellow in medieval clothes going along for the ride. This is apparently Munich’s “mascot,” the Munchner Kindl. He appears on Munich’s coat of arms, as well as obscure places like manhole covers, and the front of U-Bahn trains. =)

I traveled to Munich a few days before work needed me, and took the time to visit three different museums: the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, the Munich Residenz, and the Alte Pinakothek.
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Currying Leather Properly…Part II

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

After looking at the four pieces, I discovered that there was something of a difference between the piece of leather that had been oiled on both sides rather than just the front, so I decided to go with just the one which had been oiled on both sides. For the tallow, there might have been a slight difference in tallowing leather that had been wet – it didn’t take the tallow as well. As a matter of course, you kind of want as much oil and grease in the leather as you can get, which will keep it in the best shape. So, dry is certainly the way to go, and you will get more tallow into it when dry.

I also noticed that to get a rather darker look than I was looking for, I had to apply a couple of coats of fish oil. I also found that if you dunked the leather in a bucket, it did NOT take the fish oil very well, so I ended up simply spritzing it down with a spray bottle and using a rag to apply the fish oil. Essentially, the dryer your leather is, the darker the oil will make it look. Dark leather is lovely, but you don’t want streaky dark leather, so I would err on the side of a bit of dampness and several applications. I let this leather sit for about three weeks, and although I am told that it is supposed to “jelly” up a little, I did not notice a significant difference. Possibly, I did not oil the leather enough. In any event, you can see below the leather I started with and how much darker it is now. Quite a difference!

However, tallowing made the leather beautifully supple and smooth – I cannot say at this time if the leather will retain its suppleness and smoothness over time or if the tallow will leech out too quickly, but I will be sure to keep you in the loop and update this post accordingly. From now on, all of my shoes will be at least tallowed, if I do not have the time to oil them as well. Neatfoot oil might have a similar effect, but it is modern, and I’d rather go for something that has some historical appeal to it. We are, after all, reproducing history!

Currying Leather Properly…Part I

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

It’s been a while since I posted something on the topic of actual shoemaking rather than just showing off finished products, and we’re long overdue. I’m going to talk a bit about currying leather.

It’s not what you think – I’m not going to the Indian market to pick up the proper spices. Nor am I performing a mathematical transformation of a function with multiple arguments into a chain of functions, each with a single argument. In fact, the verb “to curry” is actually much older, and comes from the 13th century, from the Middle English currayen, from Anglo-French cunreier or correier, which was to prepare, curry, from Vulgar Latin conredare. It means to dress tanned hides by soaking, scraping, beating, etc. in order to make them supple and resistant to water. So, how does one do this, exactly? First, a history lesson…

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