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1  CLOTHING / Shoes: Completed Projects / Custom Black Oxford on: April 14, 2012 04:38:19 PM
I just finished a pair of very plain Black Oxfords for my oldest brother and am waiting to hear from him as to what he thinks of them.  He has some fitting problems that made these a bit of a special challenge.  His feet are curved quite a bit, in different places and are a size and a half different in length and one is a D width while the other is an E.  All in all it makes the shoes look a little off kilter in the pictures, but all of his shoes have the same appearance.  

These are made of 3 ounce bullhide with pigskin lining and have kangaroo laces.

2  CLOTHING / Shoes: Completed Projects / My Latest Footwear on: December 02, 2011 04:22:00 PM
I just finished these a couple of days ago for my wife and after a little adjusting she's very happy with them.  I wanted to do something outside what I had learned in school and requiring a lot more challenge.  These delivered that in buckets.  If not for the books I got from one of my suppliers I would have been totally lost.  I now know how different bootmaking is from shoemaking.  The same basics, but only the basics.  I can see why so many in the trade tend to specialize in either boots or shoes and try not to cross over.  But now that I know what it's like I'm hooked on both.  Some of the stitching on this pair is off as my machines both had problems and needed new parts and a lot of adjustments to get them back to proper running condition, and now I have to get used to operating them running as they should.  It's astounding how far out of time a machine can be and still do a reasonable stitch until a part fails and you start fixing things.  Then it all has to be set right and you have to learn how to operate it all over again.  The difference in performance is unreal!

Anyway, here are the pics, starting with several of the assembly shots so you can get an idea of what is involved. 

This is the upper, lined and ready for trimming.

This is what the vamp looks like just before the lining is attached.....

This is the closed boot from the side.  Notice that the lining of the vamp is only glued a little past the stitches.

This is the closed boot from the front.

And from the bottom.

Here is a shot of the uppers soaking in warm water before being stretched over the lasts.

This pic shows the boot after the upper has been hand stitched to the inner sole, the welt stitched around the edge,
the center filled with cork and the rand piece tacked on the heel area.  It is still on the last.

This shows the sole applied just after shaping and just before hand stitching to the welt.

And these last views are of the finished boots after all the stitching, stacking the leather heels, adding the rubber top lifts
and the black inking of the edges and sole.  The last step is 2 coats of leather balm allowed to dry slightly before buffing. 
for a high gloss a premium soft shoe polish can be used after the leather balm.

Unfortunately the pictures don't do justice to the boots.  They are a deep blood red and black lizard skin print leather.  The black trim
is a perfect complement although it doesn't show well in the pictures.  My lights are on the fritz and the flash washes everything out.
Still you can more or less get the idea.  Even though these are not perfect, I'm happy with the result.  A little more practice with the
revamped machines and there will be no stopping me. 

Now if I can just find that box of jewelry pics and get them rescanned........
3  CLOTHING / Shoes: Completed Projects / Hand Made Shoes on: November 09, 2011 11:31:06 AM
After years of struggling to find a dependable source for quality footwear that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg I finally gave up.  I also had a desire to learn how to reproduce accurate historical footwear and could find little information on the subject.  This last bit has changed radically in the last few years courtesy of the net, but is still a long way from where it could, and should, be.  Finding a school where I could learn traditional shoemaking techniques for a igh quality end result was almost aas frustrating as most in the U.S. either only teach glue lasting or are very expensive, or worse, both.  The alternative was bootmaking school which is even more expensive, but I kept searching and finally found the right place with the most amazing teacher I have ever encountered.  Below are the results of the 8 day intensive workshop I took last spring.  I couldn't fine the pics taken at the end of the class and had to reshoot so they have been worn a few times and have the creases to prove it.  They are amazingly comfortable as they were made using all the measurements from my feet and by modifying a standard shoe last accordingly.

They are made from french calfskin with rolled seams and edges.  This is a Derby style shoe cut to resemble an Oxford with hand stitched details.  The soles are heavy veg tan leather and the stacked leather heels are made of the same.  The toe piece does not overlay the vamp of the shoe as it would with brogueing (punch work) and the uppers consist of 7 pieces of leather.  8 if you include the tongue.  The lining is 2 pieces, the back piece of pigskin and the vamp piece of perforated calfskin to help keep the foot cooler in the hot months and warmer in the cold months.   The innersole is a softer version of the sole material, made so by sanding the grain side with a fine grit belt until it loses it's shine.  This greatly softens the top of the leather and eliminates the need for padded insoles.  To cover the marks from the lasting nails inside, an insert of kidskin is glued inside.  This also adds to the comfort.

Since school I have done a few more pairs, but only have one other available for pics at the present time.  This pair is one I started on while working at the local Renaissance Fair while working in my booth.  (A film crew for National Geographic shooting The Knights of Mayhem on the air this month got some footage of me putting them on the lasts, but I don't know if it will be on the air or not)  This is a pair of Elizabethan Slippers.  They are of green embossed cowhide and lined with pigskin. 

The most noticeable features of these are the high flap on the front of the shoe and the very low sides.  These are typical of slippers worn by both men and women of that time, but with heels.  This shoe ordinarily would have had no heel or a wedge of one or two layers of leather for a heel.  Only rarely would a heel such as I have on these appear, and again it would have been only one or two layers thick.  (about 3/8 inch)  The heel I put on is more to accomodate the lasts I have and I think complements the shoe nicely.
4  CLOTHING / Costumes: Completed Projects / Leather masks part 2 on: October 29, 2011 07:19:35 PM
After the Scaramouche masks I did in the previous topic I decided to try my hand at more conventional techniques.  As I had a couple of face forms left over from making papier-mache masks I decided to see what I could do with those using leather.  This first one was done on a Native American form that I got at Tandy about 15 years ago.
The leather (oil tanned chaps leather) was cut to a basic shape on the form and then soaked in hot water until soft and shaped by hand.  The pronounced ridges had to be more or less held in place until the leather cooled enough to hold it's shape.  After drying, the spikes were cut with a leather skiving knife.  The cord is skived thin and attached with shoemakers glue through holes punched in the sides.  It is sealed with shellac to provide moisture resistance and although not shown in the photos, was finally lined with doeskin for comfort.


Next is one that is based on one of the most common of all masks, the Domino.  This one is done on a standard female face form that is available at most craft shops.  The shape is commonly called a "cat mask."  Rather than stick with the usual style I turned the points of the mask down for a different look.


In order to make this one a little different I did some light tooling on it while the leather was wet, before shaping.  It's painted with acrylic and sealed with shellac.  I haven't decided if I'm going to go with a leather strap on this one or with ribbon.  I'm thinking about lining it with purple velvet.


Lastly, I have a piece that was a total experiment.  I originally wanted to try and come up with a leather based version of papier-mache but was having no luck devising a suitable compound,  Since I had a lot of small pieces of leather skivved off of various chunks of scrap tooling leather I started playing around with layering them for different effects. Using shoemakers glue and the long angled pieces I found I could get what looked a lot like feathers.


After finishing the assembly and sealing the whole thing with shellac you can see that it took on more of a wood like appearance.  This piece has since been finished with a leather ribbon-style strap and doeskin lining.  Unlike the other masks this one was assembled with the leather dry other than a liberal application of the shoemakers glue which tended to saturate the thin pieces.  This makes for a very sturdy piece.  the shellac sealer gives a high sheen and water resistance.
The color is a little darker than it appears in the photos.  More like a light maple syrup.

5  CLOTHING / Costumes: Completed Projects / Leather Masks - UPDATED! on: October 28, 2011 04:38:09 PM
I've always been fascinated with masks and history.  Commedia del Arte combines the best of both and is the grand-daddy of improv theater to boot.  The characters used simple plots and wore the same costumes and simple masks every night while making up the while thing as they went along.  It was the most popular form of entertainment for nearly 200 years.  The costumes and masks survive today as Carnivale standards around the world and the most popular of them all is Scaramouche.  

A friend of mine had one of these carnivale masks of papier-mache that was practically falling apart as he perspires a lot and he brought it to me to see if it could be salvaged.
At Ren-Fair he calls himself Asagio Parmagianno.  And he does an excellent Italian Commedia.

 After some careful reshaping I took a mold off of the inside surface using plaster bandages, coated it with shellac to cut down the moisture absorbancy and used it as a form to remake the mask in leather.  Here is the mold.
https://www.craftster.org/pictures/data/500/medium/274185_28Oct11_form_top.JPG https://www.craftster.org/pictures/data/500/medium/274185_28Oct11_form_bottom.JPG

After wet-shaping the leather and hardening it with shellac it was taken off of the mold after drying.

The mask was then trimmed and a wire put in around the rim to strengthen it and make the mask last longer.  It was lined with red velveteen and edged with gold metallic ribbon.  (The photo was taken after the mask was finished)

Next the mask was painted and the leather strap attached.  Finally it was sealed with several coats of shellac to make it moisture resistant.

Next Spring we should see Asiago with his new face again successfully courting all the ladies at the Utah Renaissance Festival and Fantasy Faire!  Perspiration proof and lighter by 20 per cent than his papier-mache incarnation.  

Round two:

Here is what was actually the first incarnation of Asagio's new face.  It was done in purple deerskin suede and painted with acrylic suing the same techniques as above, lined with black satin.
He liked it but said he really wanted the whole thing painted red and white with gold to match his costume and I didn't think I could get it to cover so I did the one above instead.

After the final coats of shellac it turned much darker as the leather soaks up a lot of the liquid and gets VERRRY stiff!

I still have this one and it attracts a ot of attention at my booth at the Faire.  I've had offers, but don't know if I want to sell it as it is my first leather mask.
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