Monday, February 22, 2016

Shoe Lasts

I've been wanting to make some shoes out of fabric and tried just draping fabric over my feet and marking and cutting and sewing, but that approach was cumbersome and inaccurate, mostly because if you are trying to fit your own feet, you can only do it bent over in an uncomfortable way. So I did some research and found out that the right way to make shoes is to first construct a pair of lasts, that is wooden models of your feet that you can then use to assemble fabric over the same way that a dressmaker uses a mannequin.

Here's my first attempt at a pair of lasts. They are made of redwood and red cedar, what I had laying around and what was easy to carve.  Professional lasts are made of  a European relative of beechwood.  

Another view of the lasts.  I have also sliced the lasts into two pieces for easier removal from the shoes.  

Glueing up redwood two by fours to get sufficient elevation.

Added a block on the side to get adequate width for the lasts.

My feet traced out on pieces of 1/8th inch plywood.  Next step was to trace around the foot patterns and then start carving to match my feet.

The last sitting on the fabric which will form the soles of my new shoes.

Foot patterns with notations indicating elevation of my feet at various points.

Can't see much here, but I'm draping some felt over a last so I can mark a pattern on the felt to cut out.
So now I'm on my second iteration of the lasts.  A last is not actually an accurate copy of your feet but more of a mold for the shoes you intend to make.  As such it needs to be slightly longer than your feet to account for toe room.  It also needs to be a little taller than your feet to account for insoles or padding and socks that you will have inside the shoes in addition to your feet.  And if you want to make pointy-toed shoes, you will want a different last than if you want to make a round-toed shoe and so on.  And if your two feet are not exactly symmetrical, you have the luxury of making custom lasts that let you have shoes that not only are different lengths but also heights and widths. Still learning.

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