In September last year I went back to school…
Lou recently relocated her Shoe School from Dunedin to Wellington and offers 1 and 2 day workshops for pattern making, leather sneakers, sandals and a 5 day workshop in shoemaking. She studied shoemaking in Australia and has twice been to Tokyo to intern with a Master shoemaker.
I enrolled in the 2 day sandal workshop.
The first day started in Lou’s fabulous workshop located in Newtown. While we waiting for everyone to arrive we explored.
Sewing machines…of course
Tools, thread, Franken-shoes…AND A KITTY!
We began by talking about our inspiration images and sketching our ideas.
I had been working on a Pinterest board with way too many ideas but ultimately I narrowed it down a Chie Mihara sandal. My goal for the weekend was to replace my worn out “Romies” with a more “grown up”, sophisticated, me-made version.
“Romies” in NZ refer to a specific Roman sandal style that both genders usually wear to school in summer. My pair was made in NZ by a company called HealthForm. I don’t think you can get this brand anymore and it’s sad to see that all the examples I looked up online are made overseas.
This is my second ever pair of Romies, they are at least 10 years old, they last a long time (or at least this brand does). After wearing them for school most people never wear them again. When I was at school the manufacturers realised they were getting really popular and so they went from a cheap summer shoe option (~$10) to an overpriced one (~$50).
I bought my first pair later as a grown up and loved them. They take a little while to wear in, you’ve got to persevere until the leather straps gets nice and supple and the sole molds to your foot curves.
When I wear my romies in summer they get noticed. The comments are all good, people usually reminiscent of summer school days. I guess it is is a bit odd to wear them as a grown up.
After sketching and chatting we started to look at the leathers and discussed accessories. My roamies would need a buckle so I grabbed a few of those first.
I swayed between so many leather options, it was too hard to choose. I saw a lot of sandal inspiration using a bold colour with a metallic. I came so close to using the green and gold however I kept coming back to the simple and timeless brown of my original idea.
My next pair of sandals could be more extreme, the second goal of the weekend was to come away with something I loved and could wear all the time…but I still used a little of the gold for some fun bling.
Next we drew around our feet. It was weird to see my foot like that, it looked so flat and…huge! But just like in sewing, when you write down your measurements, accuracy is more important than flattery.
We then adjusted some base patterns to suit our sandal design.
The whole process for me was very similar to sewing. From picking fabric, the right pattern, making adjustments, it’s the same methodology.
We tested out pattern in paper first and made adjustments.
(Also super proud with myself for remembering to paint my toenails)
Next we transferred our modified patterns to cardboard, adding on seam allowances and noting strap and other critical placement points.
Pattern card matches nail polish, check ✔️
And then it was time to cut the leather. I also cut out some lining leather which was glued to my outers.
Rand was attached to our soling next. This it glued on, the stitching is just decorative.
We chose our soling and EVA foam. Layers of EVA foam will add of thickness to the sole and also create the heel.
I covered my insole with more lining leather
My ankle strap was to be hand sewn on – I used a punch to create the holes in both my strap and shoe. The buckles we’re attached using a rivet.
And then things started to come together really quickly.
After another check for fit there was a flurry of gluing and trimming.
First the straps…(outside because the glue is very smelly!)
Then the EVA foam and soling.
The glue is heat activated. After it dries on both sides we used a heat gun to get it tacky before joining the pieces. I wooden roller helped to apply pressure.
Lou did the scary skiving and trimming part – that blade is sharp!
Insoles were tacked in place and…OMG they were finished!
Here’s a comparison with my old roamies above.
The fit is really comfy and I was so happy with my colour choices in the end.
The 2-day course was a lot of fun and with only 4 of us we got a lot of teacher time with Lou and her assistant. This is an expensive pair of sandals but there was nothing we did in the course that couldn’t really replicate at home so with a few purchases I’m looking forward to trying to make a second pair by myself.
If you’re even vaguely interested, are in Wellington, or could get here for a few days, then absolutely DO IT!
13/10! I really want to do the 5-day shoe course next.