My Experience with Cordwaining (a.k.a. - cobbling or shoemaking): A Failed Attempt

Last year, for the Jane Austen Festival of Louisville, I "made" my husband a pair of Regency Inspired Boots.  They are passable from a distance, but slightly obvious up-close.  They also are a bit clunky, and he couldn't dance well in them at the ball (at least he SAYS the boots were the reason for his bad dancing).  This year, Carson asked me if he could have a different pair of shoes, at least for the ball.  We priced reproduction slippers, but can't afford them.  Then I saw, and was inspired by, Sarah Jane's, and Sabine's lovely shoe making skills.  So, of course, I dove into trying to make a pair of my own.  I used some other sources for inspiration as well.  A few of them are  here, here, and here. 

I traced very close to Carson's foot, then smoothed it out a bit into the shape of a sole.

I made the sides and sole out of scrap fabric, and made them into a mock-up.  I DID try the cloth shoe on Carson at this point, and it fit well.  I only made a few minor adjustments because he thought it felt loose.

I'm sorry I didn't take step by step photos of the process, but this shows you that the sides (and sole) are made of three layers; leather (or faux leather in this case), cotton duck, and a silk lining.

You can see the shoe taking shape in this image.

I did most of the stitching on the machine, but I hand sewed the little side seams.

When sewing the upper part of the shoe to the sole, I matched up the bottom of the sole to the right side of the the shoe upper.  Keeping the lining out of the way, I stitched around the sole...

...and turned the shoe right side out.

The last step was to hand stitch the sole lining into the shoe.

And here it is (please excuse my husbands hairy legs and modern day socks).  What's wrong with it, you say?  How was it a failure?  Well, even though it's an adorable little shoe, I should NOT have made any minor adjustments, nor taken it in any.  The mock-up was made of a slightly stretchy cotton, but the shoe, being made of leather and other stiff materials, does not give.  So the original mock-up was correct.  The shoe slips off Carson's foot ever time he picks his foot up, because it's too small.  The heel doesn't fit.  Other than being a bit too small now, I suspect that the side and back of the upper part of the shoe need to be taller.  I'm really bummed about the outcome.  I mean, yes, it was a learning experience and all, and I know what to do now if I ever decide to make another slipper, but...   Maybe I  should stick to sewing clothing...


Nabila Grace said…
well it looks good :o)
Please do not give up after the first attempt - like every handcraft it is a learning curve and you'll get better every time!
I think the result of your first attempt really isn't that bad at all and now that you'll know what went wrong, you know where to start next time. Btw leather often takes a bit of time and wearing, but usually it adjusts pretty well to the feet especially kid leather.
I keep my fingers crossed that you'll give it another try for nothing is as delicate as finally being rewarded with success.
Jenni said…
Thank you for the encouragement, Nabila and Sabine. I do have some spare material left over from the first attempt...maybe I will give it another try.
ZipZip said…
Dear Jenni,
Do give it another try, please! I think you can do it...but maybe after the festival, when you have some ease.

Oh, I wish I had time right now, but there just isn't. :P

Very best,

vesna said…
well, it was a nice try.
for tha ball you could just buy him jazz shouse. not only pumps were worn on dancing floor, so jazz shoues would be ok if you put a nice ribbon instead of string lace :D
here you can find them for 10 euros or so. just buy the one with one piece sole
something like this

hope it helps


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