I hosted a small workshop a couple of weekends ago, and both students came away with some beautiful shoes (that also happened to fit, the more critical part). One was a 1560s pair of pumpes, and the second was a pair of shoes based on the 9-10th century finds at York. You can tell from the smiles that both were very happy with their work!
I earlier made a pair of Poulaines on a set of modern lasts, and the results were not bad – in fact, I thought they were rather pretty. Of course, we all know that the fit has to be perfect, otherwise they can be as pretty as they like, and they won’t be suitable. As a result, I decided to carve a last based on historical reproductions. First, the finished results, and I apologize for the fuzzy image.
The lasts that I received were appropriate for a mid 15th century shoe, so my task was to scale the last up to suit a larger foot.
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I’m starting to experiment with making the insole of the shoe smaller than the last itself so as to prevent the welt from sticking out so much. A lot of the 16th C. welted period examples have the upper essentially larger than the treadsole (and insole) so that when the shoe is worn, you don’t actually see very much of the treadsole. In many cases, the treadsoles were truly tiny compared to the actual size of the shoe, and the toe actually overhangs the sole by a goodly amount. In this case, I made the insole about 3/16″ smaller all around than the last. The effect may be hard to see, but it is important for achieving the proper look (but so are the right lasts, and I’ve dragged my feet on those!). I think for the next pair, I’ll need to cut the insole 1/4″ smaller, or more in order to get the kind of profile I’m looking for.
I keep on worrying that, at some point, someone is going to say, “Hey! You made a pair of shoes exactly like that back in 2011!” To that, I would inevitably respond, “No shoes for you!” =)
There are, actually, some differences in this pair. The sole is pasted in and there isn’t a heel stiffener (I’ve found that the stitching itself acts quite well as a stiffener).