Shoemaking research

We’ve got snow, I’m waiting for more leather to arrive (sow hide, goat skin and goat kid skin), I still don’t have needles and I’m bored.  So, let’s research!  <grin>  It is one of my favorite things.

I was reading up on leather needles and different cords and what threads others use for stitching leather stuff.  I was wandering through the forum at and I ran into a link for a forum for shoemakers.  I kid you not, I have seen some of the coolest shoes and boots!

There are masses of people there making sandals, shoes, chukkas and boots!  It is an AWESOME forum!  I’ve seen everything from Roman soldier footwear and huarache sandals to award winning cowboy boots!  Before you go visiting, make sure you’ve got the time because there’s a tremendous amount to see!  The shoe pictured to the left is an example . . . and the pattern is really neat and conserving of leather!

We’re skiving, we’re skiving . . .

Rough shape ready to skive
Skiving complete
A judicious spray of water . . .
Starting to shape . . .
A few twists and more nails, more hammering . . .
Sufficiently trussed


Lots happened today . . . and now we wait.  While we’re waiting for the leather to dry, let me give you a recap of the steps.

The day before yesterday I cut stabilizers from light weight soling.  These are to replace the toe box, side stabilizers and heel counter.  This  may not work, but you know me . . . I have to try.

I got the stabilizing mid-sole (the one between the inner and the outer) wet and wrapped them in newspaper overnight, then tied them to the bottoms of my lasts using strips of t-shirt material.  I wasn’t worried about perfect at that point, I just wanted the general shape so I could see if I needed to do any additional trimming before I skived the edge.

Yesterday my skiving knife came.  After carefully sharpening the knife, I skived 1/2″ of the outside edge, feathering it down to nothing.  I only cut myself twice!  <LOL>  Neither was serious enough to require bandaging so the job got done.  I want the edge to not show on the outside of the shoe so the quality of the skiving job was important.

The I sprayed the leather on the grain side and set my last into place and, using a piece of t-shirt material began conforming the leather to the last, spraying with water occasionally as I worked.

Next came lots of nails, some rubber bands, some more strips of t-shirt material, more twisting and hammering lumps to make sure all was smooth and lots more nails.

Now we wait for them to dry.

I need to get the other pair of lasts lengthened so they match this pair.  With two sets of lasts I can do two steps at the same time.  I could be shaping the uppers ready for gluing . . . Or, if I’d been smart enough to lengthen the other pair of lasts and use them for this step, I could be gluing the liner to the insole on this pair of lasts.

Hindsight.  It’s a beautiful thing.

New growth update

New Wood Fern frond
New fern growth
Another fern with different shaped fronds
The above fern with the base showing additional growth
Vine fastened on with runner roots showing new off-shoots
Lovely spatulated ends on the heleocerius

Fern in the gutter

Check all the new growth!

The wood fern frond is still small in comparison to the dirt-rooted version but I really chopped the heck out of the root structure to get the pieces into the wall.  I expect the robust growth to take a while as the root structure reestablishes itself.

Beside the planting of the wood fern is one of the new ferns I got from eBay.  I won’t know what the fronds will really look like until all the frondlets uncurl.

Up near the top of the wall is another new fern and the fern fronds have a completely different look with the ends of the fronds looking almost purple/black.

At the base of that frond the plant shows new growth that looks different from the frond.  This will be an interesting one to watch.

The bi-colored vine at the bottom of the wall has rootlets growing off the vine into the wall.  It’s showing three or four new shoots.

The heleocerius has got a lot of really good growth with the longer bits showing lovely spatulated ends.

The fern in the far corner of the gutter is really getting stretchy.  I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like once the fronds unfurl.

Gutter avocados

A split and company

I’m trying to determine if the warmth of the water and the flood and drain have a big influence on how fast an avocado seed will sprout.  I’ve actually got three seeds in the wall gutter now.  We’ll see how it goes.  The split in the original seed is growing larger each day.  I don’t want to pull it up for fear of damaging the root.

I really need a deeper/bigger gutter.

Babies and seeds

Baby peppered corydoris catfish

Gutter avocado

Well, we’ve got a new baby.  Our Peppered Corydoris catfish have a youngun.  I noticed it this morning.  It’s about an inch long, so it’s been around a while.  I don’t pay too much attention to the aquarium.  The sun was out early and bright and there that little bugger was . . .

As to the attached plant wall, I’m in holding mode until my Rex Begonias arrive.  I dabble.  the current dabble is a gutter avocado.

I eat a lot of avocado.  I have already given away a 5′ tall many limbed avocado tree.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself . . . this was one of those “what if” moments.  I just had to set the seed in the gutter to see what happens.  I checked it this morning and it looks like it’s starting to split!

I’ll give this one away as well once it’s established.  I don’t have room for an avocado tree.

Pattern making

Getting ready to draw the pattern

The ;attern cut off the last.

I’ve got my shoe last stuffed into a crappy Hanes NOT 100% cotton sock.  When you wear kid sized socks and you buy a low end brand, don’t expect the content to be consistent from year to year – this purchase was a really unpleasant surprise.  I’m using them up any way I can until all six pair are gone.

With the socked last covered in ~3 layers of painters tape, I’m ready to start drawing lines for the pattern breaks.

Once I cut the pattern off the last (cut right through the sock) I traced the parts onto card board (cereal boxes work great) and added seam allowance where appropriate.

I need to do more to this pattern.  I need to figure out whether I will use a separate tongue or draw a tongue onto the front portion of the pattern.  Decisions, decisions.

I’d like this first pair to be fairly simple.  I’ve got a bunch of fairly thick really good quality leather I might use to make a pair of kickers while I’m waiting for my shoe leather to show up.

Shoe leather

I bought some shoe leather yesterday . . . gray kangaroo.  I’ve had kangaroo leather gloves before (different tanning method for glove leather) and they’re tough.  I also bought a skiving knife that can be sharpened.  I did not want the kind that had replaceable blades.  They may be safer but they’re more costly over the long run and they take more passes to get the job done.

The leather won’t be here for a week.  That gives me time to play with patterns.

And the beat goes on

My foot shape versus Doc Martin lasts

How much can I stretch this and make it work?

I found a pair of Doc Martins at Goodwill for $5.  While I couldn’t comfortably wear them for very long as they were (they tipped me forward and squeezed my metatarsal bones too much and have zero support in front of the heel on the outside of my foot), they will hopefully provide something I can work with for a pattern.

Once I got the bottom deconstructed I stuck the upper on my last.  You can see the difference in shape between my foot and the Doc Martin last.  I can wear them but they’re really uncomfortable.

I would re-last this upper onto a new sole, but the trick here is, I don’t know if there’s enough material at the bottom edge to fasten the upper to the sole.  The second part of the problem is, the lining of the toe is fabric that doesn’t stretch.  I either re-line the front of the upper or build a new upper using the disassembled upper as the starting point for a pattern.

Let’s get leafy

Lovely fall colors

I’ve gotten a good start on the tree top for Lorr’s quilt.  I think it’s going to be lovely.  The quilt isn’t as complex as the sunset quilt so, when I have time to work on it, it’s going together pretty fast.  I still need dark browns, charcoal/ink navy/midnight green fabric for the border and silvery pale blues for the background behind the tree.

This is going to be a simple yet striking quilt that Lorr and Patty should be able to use without fear of ruining something of heirloom quality.

A twist on split pea

I like soup.  If I make it in bulk I can freeze it in pints and have lovely soup when I feel like it.  I’m currently on a split pea kick.  Today is my fourth batch in the last couple months only today I added a new twist.

It looked so yummy . . .

The first time I bought ham for split pea soup I got the perfect ham with lovely flavor and not too much salt.  The resulting soup was eaten up REALLY fast. Ooo, it was lovely.

I was less fortunate with my second ham purchase.  It was a named brand loaded with salt which pretty much ruined the soup.  I still have some of that ham in the freezer and it took quite a while to get the soup eaten.  I will have to figure out what to do with it.

The last two times I made split pea soup I used a smoked sliced pork shank.  It is the perfect flavor.  The bone and skin add to the flavor of the soup.  You have to remove the bones and skin before serving the soup . . . or not.  Last time I just left the bones and skin in and we ate around them.  I’m not so sure I could do that feeding kids or guests.

This time I replaced half the water with Pacific Natural Food’s roasted pepper and tomato soup.  From what I can tell from taste testing as it cooks, this is going to be AWESOME soup!  <grin>

Okay, ingredients . . . 2 cloves elephant garlic, diced.  Use regular garlic if you prefer.  One medium onion (not a sweet onion, use a good strong flavored make-you-tear-up yellow) diced.  Two carrots, peeled and diced.  Two celery stalks including the leafy tops, diced.  Two bay leaves, some crushed peppercorn, some crushed allspice berry (I get them whole at the local market – use 3-5), a teaspoon of thyme, a sliced pork shank (~2 lbs).  Add a package of split peas (rinse them really well), a package of the aforementioned soup and a quart of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the split peas meet your standard of done-ness.  I like them falling apart but YMMV.

Add milk or heavy cream or a dab of sour cream to the bowls if you’d like just before serving.  Add some crusty garlic bread and you’ve got a great meal.

Variations . . . going on the principal there is no such thing as too many veges, add half a fennel root bulb.  It adds a really nice flavor.  Leeks are good as well.  Enjoy!

Update: The soup was absolutely fabulous.  I bet none of it makes it into the freezer . . .

Glorious color

The glorious tree-top color

I sorted fabric two days ago and started cutting the treetop yesterday.  I mumbled something to Wadly about scaffolding so I could walk back and forth while applying color to the top of my design wall.  I think he’s a bit aghast at the concept of  having more construction like stuff in the house.  I have a step stool to use for now . . . wholly inadequate but it’s what I’ve got.

Maybe I should give him a choice . . . 8 foot step ladder or scaffolding . . . <evil grin>

Ferns and orchid cactus

Wood ferns
Long frond with a second starting
One in the gutter (bottom right corner) and one in the wall, both showing new growth
Fronds with legs! <grin>
Nubs of growth

Orchid cacti

I got a single lot of mystery ferns on ebay. I put as many in the wall as I could but still had some bigger starts left over that I couldn’t find a spot for.  I passed those on to LouAnn.  They might prove to be interesting!

My wood fern is doing fine.  Of the four starts I put in the wall, all are growing.  One has grown a normal hairy foot with two fronds running off through the greenery.  The little one on the left is the one doing most poorly.  It puts out little puny fronds that never seem to mature.

I pulled one wood fern start and replanted it in another part of the wall.  I thought it was dead, but once I pulled it I realized the new growth was down between the backing and the felt.

I’ve got at least two new ferns that are in the gutter.  One I can see easily and it’s got a frond sticking up from the foot.

One of the ferns near the top of the wall has produced a long frond with arms sticking out from it.  That one should be interesting.

I’ve got a fern with a thick stalk that’s putting out multiple blunt protrusions.  That, too, should be interesting.

And finally, I bought a lot of orchid cactus cuttings.  They came all nicely hardened off and I was able to put them directly into the wall.  None of them is showing growth.  We’ll see how they do.

Lorr’s Quilt

Line drawing of Lorr's quilt
Dance template will be used for grass section
Blunt pinwheel for tree truck blocks
Oriental pinwheel for the leaves.


My next big quilt is going to be for my son and his SO.  He and Patty both like fall colors, so I’m doing a tree in glorious fall oranges and reds using the watercolor technique I used for the sunset.

This time I want to use a variety of blocks and not set them in columns and rows.  I want the application of the color to be less organized so I’ll set some of the parts askew and join the blocks of like colors in a running bond pattern where I can.

I have designed four different types of the pinwheel blocks.  One produces a triangular block which, when assembled produces six pointed nested pinwheels when the color is organized.  The pinwheel element is the sharpest of the blocks and I’ll use this one as grass.

I have a blunt pinwheel block that I’ll use for the tree trunk and a rounded pinwheel I’ll use for the leaves.

I’ll use the square dance block (same as the sunset quilt) for the backgound.

I’m having trouble finding pale silvery blues for the background.  I’ve got lots of yellow/orange/red/burgundy for the leaves and lots of green for the grass but I could use more dark grayish brownish for the tree trunk and more charcoal darks for the 8″ border.