I can make shoes, no I really can!!!
But believe me this small feat (get it….feet) was not all my own doing. I was very fortunate to be able to attend one of ICANmakeshoes.com day courses in London last Saturday. I must admit it is a shoe-in to be one of the best courses I’ve ever been on. (ok that’s the last footwear related pun I promise).
I CAN make shoes run courses not only here in London but also in New York, sounds pretty damn cool just writing that sentence. They teach budding cobblers to make everything from sandals to stilettos, ballet pumps to bespoke blokes shoes. Class sizes are kept small to ensure that you have the support needed on the day. I joined the Ballet pump course, the session was attended by a couple from Switzerland, a lovely young lady for her 15th Birthday present, and a professional lady with a penchant for stitching. It seems the draw of making shoes reaches far and wide.
Our ballet pumps session ran from 10 to 4 ish, although we ran over because we (erm….ok I) nattered lots. The session itself was hosted by the company’s founder Amanda and her colleague and main tutor for the day Toni in their trendy studio about 5 mins walk from Bethnal Green tube station in East London.
Now I’d done a little bit of reading up beforehand, but nothing really beats being there in the room surrounded by all the gear. I attempted to look knowledgeable when the phrases such as “lasting allowance” were used, I assumed this was the equivalent to a seam allowance that wasn’t trimmed back and well kinda stayed around….to be honest I couldn’t keep it up for too long and soon gave away my amateur shoemaking ability. But this is precisely the beauty of this course, there’s no pre-requisite knowledge required, the expert tuition teaches you from the ground up. So you really can go home confident in your ability and able to actually make your own pair of shoes, of course you’ll need a few bits of kit and some slightly nauseating glue, but it’s all achievable.
We all begin by selecting some leather for our shoes from a wide selection all supplied as part of the course, you get to choose from patented red to snakeskin gold to beautiful natural tan hide, it’s all here. Gemma had not so subtly hinted at her preferred colour combos, none of which were to be blue, we did have a giggle about the mischief I could get up to, but thought better of it.
Gladly there was a little bit of stitching involved, which meant I got to spend a few minutes back in my everyday comfort zone. That said if you don’t sew, Amanda and Toni will be there to support and show you the way.
I was constantly amazed at each stage as the shoes come together, there’s quite a bit hidden inside a pair of shoes that you don’t realise and for me it’s great seeing the whole process unfold.
If you take along a pair of shoes that fit you well then you can make a pair of perfectly fitting shoes by simply slipping your shoe on to the best fitting yellow last. This is exactly what I did as Gemma wasn’t with me on the day.
The pace is steady and easy to follow. None the less there are varying speeds that people do things at, but both Amanda and Toni are great at ensuring no one is left sitting idle and everyone is progressing well. Remarkably no matter what stage someone else is at, the whole group finish their shoes at the same time, give or take 5 minutes.
Theres a few tips and tricks that are shared with you through the day to help you succeed, some of them that are only gained with the experience of seeing so many shoes made before their very eyes.
I can honestly say I absolutely loved the day and would thoroughly recommend that if you do one course this year, make it this one. Go on, choose a one today.
I’m already thinking of some purple snakeskin dancin’ shoes for me!