better black shoes

black oxfords So, black Oxford shoes, mark 2.  This version was made with the help of my beautiful new lasts!  Or I guess I should say, old lasts?  ha.

lastsDesign, my own, based upon a classic Oxford shoe style.  My tutorial on how I made my shoe pattern is here.

Materials:  black pleather from Spotlight, leftover from my moto jacket.  I would describe this as butter-y soft, but of course since it’s not real leather that just sounds a little pretentious, non?   Lining in faux chocolate suede, leftover from my chocolate suede top. Rubber for soles and heels, contact adhesive, PVA glue from Bunnings, , insole and shoelaces from Coles.  Toe puffs and heel counters created from stiff, non-fusible interfacing and stiff cotton denim, and lots of PVA glue!

black oxfords 3

Method:  I’ve been watching lots of online shoe-making videos.  I’ve particularly enjoyed Andrew Wrigleys’ youtube series on How to make a Shoe by Hand, absolutely brilliant.  I enjoyed this more than any blockbuster movie I’ve seen in a long while!  Even though I don’t think I would ever go to that level of internal engineering when it comes to my own shoe-making effort, it was just fantastic to see a a traditional process broken down, step by step.  Honestly, mind blowing.  If you’re at all interested in making shoes then it’s a must-see.  Many times I was just speechlessly shaking my head in awe and admiration, reflexively muttering “oh my god” and will never ever EVER complain about the high cost of a shoe, EVER AGAIN!!

I also found Marcell Mrsan’s video Basic Shoemaking Method – the Cemented Construction to be particularly useful for my own project, as my own efforts run more to the cemented/glued approach as opposed to the traditional method of completely sewing a pair of shoes.  I was going to say the lazy way, but naturally making one’s own shoes could never be described as a “lazy” thing to do!

DSC_2649Detailing:  I sewed the outer and lining layers right sides together, and turned them right sides out.  Then, using black embroidery floss, I topstitched by hand around all edges in a long running stitch, in a way that a very narrow ridge of the faux suedette shows all the way around the edge, as a kind of faux piping.  I absolutely love how this looks, peeping  out  🙂

My shoe puffs and counters; in both videos they are using leather and some form of starch; I researched this a little bit more and learnt that PVA glue is also often used as a fabric stiffener too; I had plenty of this on hand so went this route.  I made mine using stiff, thin, non-fusible interfacing, and some stiff cotton stretch denim, leftover from my Ginger jeans.  And lots of PVA glue!  The first layer of interfacing was glued over the lining, then coated itself with PVA glue, then I stretched a denim layer smoothly over this.  I allowed this all to dry, then snipped and glued down the underneath, allowed this to dry a little and then trimmed and shaved the folds underneath down nice and as smooth and flat as I could.  Similar to what they call “skiving” in leatherwork, but I don’t know if I can rightfully use that word for fabric?  More like I was just trimming away bulk and bumps.  Last step was to coat the topside  of the denim with a smooth layer of PVA glue, and allowed this to dry overnight, with the outer flipped back out of the way.  This has done the trick beautifully, and my toe puffs feel just perfect, hard and stiff and very unlikely to cave in.  I made the counters in the same way.  It was very helpful that my denim has just a little stretch, which enabled me to pull and stretch it nice and smoothly around my lasts.

Note; these are the toe puffs for my NEXT pair of shoes… but they look pretty much the same as the ones in these shoes  🙂

toe puffs

I didn’t glue the outer and lining together, so the middle bit, what they call the “waistline” is quite soft and not very stiff.  This feels very comfortable and I think it does give the shoes that “feminine” look.  I like it as a nice change although maybe the shoe overall could have used that little extra bit of stiffness that the glue gives.

As usual, I covered some insoles with the chocolate suede lining fabric.  This is so soft and tough, and just perfect for lining!  I’m using it for my next pair too  🙂


Thoughts ;  I’m actually fairly pleased, I think they turned out quite elegant, especially when compared to my previous Oxfords!  These feel more stepping-out-worthy, and even like I wouldn’t be horrified to wear them in public, dare I say it.   Ideally I would like the heels a little higher, but this height is fine really, and will be very practical.  To get a higher heel I’m starting to realise I would need a different set of lasts … o man, the need for and accumulation of more new equipment continues… *sigh*

I’m extremely happy with my hand-stitched detailing, I just love the handmade look of this.  I’m preeeeeetty happy with the finishing although, obviously, it’s still not to the level where I would like it to be.  But I’m starting to realise this could be a lifelong lament.  😉

Note, I still have not cut into any of my actual leather!!  What a wuss, eh?  It feels too scary.  I’m still not ready.  I feel like I’m working towards that… like training for Mt Everest or something, ha.

Anyway.  Ever onwards and upwards!

black oxfords1

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23 Thoughts on “better black shoes

  1. They are brilliant. the handstitch gives them a lovely quality. May try a pair of mary janes myself! thank you for the links

  2. Rosa on 22/03/2016 at 5:35 pm said:

    Just amazing! In awe of your pursuit of the homemade. I thought I was bad but pale to insignificance by comparison.

  3. Thanks for taking us with you on this journey! Totally amazing. I dreamt of being able to make my own shoes too. But there just doesn’t seem enough hours in a day. So am living vicariously through your posts!

  4. love reading these process posts … I am so curios to get to the finale : the leather pair! Nice useful resources too … who knows? maybe one day ….

  5. Carrie on 22/03/2016 at 9:57 pm said:

    i really enjoy seeing you process from rank beginner on. I wouldn’t have enough guts to show my early work, but it is inspiring to me.

  6. seriously – you are living the dream for a shoe fanatic. I have said to people I sew my wardrobe and I would make my own shoes if I could. Now I see that is entirely possible. Or dream-able. I will vicariously enjoy your projects. Lovely! what about strappy leather sandals? that seems quite do-able. I imagine you already have a long list of items you want to tackle. Can’t wait to see what else you come up with 🙂

  7. LinB on 23/03/2016 at 12:06 am said:

    If natural leather can be described as “soft as butter,” I contend that ersatz leather can be described as “soft as oleo,” or even “soft as margarine.”

  8. Every pair looks better than the last! You’re making such amazing progress in such a short time!

  9. You are totally getting better at this. They look amazing!

  10. Judy on 23/03/2016 at 3:24 am said:

    Fantastic! Thanks for the links. Sounds as though you are working up to cutting into the leather! Yeah!!!
    Thanks for sharing the experience so nicely.

  11. I have never seen anyone make their own shoes! What a brilliant idea and the result is amazing. They look so classy and I can only imagine how comfortable they must be made to fit. Congratulations on succeeding at this remarkable challenge 🙂

  12. They look great – well done!

  13. You really are going ahead in leaps and bounds! It is fascinating to watch the evolution of your shoes. I am really looking forward to the boots!

  14. I am in awe of all the details, so interesting to read and to see the final lovely pair of shoes. With winter heading our way, I look forward to seeing your next version.

  15. Great work. You are an inspiration.

  16. Wow. How creative. You gotta love progress. Looking good.

    Natasha B |

  17. It is so great to see you progress, your shoes get better with every pair you make!

  18. Barbara on 24/03/2016 at 7:32 am said:

    I love your black Oxfords. In the Army, we were issued two pairs of black Oxfords that they called “low quarters”. Although my civilian sibs thought that they were ugly, they were very comfortable compared to the alternative for the dress uniform anyway, black pumps. If I had a choice, I wore the low quarters.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Carolyn on 26/03/2016 at 11:36 pm said:

      thanks Barbara! I love black oxfords as a shoe style for women too; they look great worn with black tights in winter, with a little mini dress or short skirt. Black pumps are a great classic shoe too but I think the oxfords have a certain cool factor and are far more comfortable 🙂

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