Vernet 1814: Boots - Part 1

Call me crazy, but I'm actually attempting to make the shoes that are in my Vernet fashion plate.  I've been working and reworking mock-ups of my shoes for about 5 months now.  I've read and re-read Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker, published anonymously by a Lady in 1855.  Most of it is straightforward, but when it comes to working the leather, and attaching the uppers to the sole...I must admit, I am struggling.

The only other time I attempted to make something even remotely looking like a shoe it was an epic failure.  SEE HERE if you don't believe me.  I am hoping and praying that this time I am somewhat more clever than I was then.

The first step was to find a proper shoe last.  Any old last wouldn't do, because shoes in 1814 would have been made with a straight last.  In other words, there wasn't a left or right shoe...both would have been the same.  Finding an original antique straight last is hard to do.  Finding one in my modern shoe size 8 1/2 is even harder.   I searched and scoured Ebay and Etsy for weeks, until I came across IT...the golden last...the one that shone and made angels was perfect (well, close enough)...and it was cheap!

See how straight it is?  No curve in toward one side or another.  I'm guessing that this last was made in the early to mid 1800's.  
The only small defect it had was being a tiny bit too short in the heel.  So, I altered it with some scrap leather to get the needed size.

Once the alterations were done, it worked like a dream. 

Let's see....I've gone through how many mock-ups now trying to get the right cut and size?  
(Ignore the various types of fabrics, I was using up scraps for my mock-ups.)

Mock-up #1

Mock-up #2

Mock-up #3

Mock-up #4

Well, if it isn't obvious by now, I should tell you that I'm making boots.  Four mock-ups and many frustrated hours later, I finally felt confident enough to cut out the uppers in the real fabric...a heavy weighted black silk, with black cotton drill lining. 

With silk covered buttons attached, I'd say they are looking pretty sharp.

Now, for a look at the leather soles and how they are coming along...

Such a mess!  I'm nearly ready to call it a day and just GLUE the uppers to the soles in a modern fashion.  But...not being one to give up easily, I've ordered a different awl, one made specifically for leather working.  Hopefully, this will save my sanity.

To be continued...


ZipZip said…
Go it, Jenni!It's such an adventure, clearly, but you're taking on something yourself without the aid of experts, and it's very cool indeed to see the progress and the learning.

You know, if you lose patience at the last :) -- you could call The Last Genuine Leather Company and see if they'd cut and awl some soles for you. They make moccasins and boots and and have professional tools there, plus some for sale. They are on not far from school.



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