Cydwoq (‘sidewalk’)

Cydwoq boots

What would a shoe look like if a California architect designed it?  Trust me, it gets pretty interesting.

Cydwoq produces some pretty interesting uppers and I’ve gotten some really interesting ideas from looking at the footwear on the site.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any awareness of the connection between toe spring (how much the toe of the shoe lifts of the ground) and heel height.  Some of the low heeled or heelless shoes are made on lasts engineered to have more heel than provided on the shoe.

Gutter versus wall

Begonia and philodendron flourishing in the gutter

I’ve got a lot of blank space in the wall right now.  I tore out all the waffle plants.  I just didn’t like them.  It takes a lot for me to dump a plant, so that gives you an idea how much I didn’t care for this particular variety.

I didn’t tear out the waffle plants until I had a plan for replacement.  I have some rex begonias coming as soon as the weather gets just a bit better.  It’s pointless to spend the money and then have them die in shipping because the weather sucks.  I can be patient.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the gutter in preparation LouAnn’s wall.  It’s been an excellent teaching moment.  If you’ve been following the wall since its inception, you’ll know I had my timing set to water running through the wall at set intervals.   From watching plants in the gutter, its become apparent the watering periods were too infrequent.  As a result, I’ve changed the timing.  The pump pushing water to the wall is now on for 15 minutes and off for 1½ hours.  Terry has noticed we are now replenishing the aquarium with twice the volume of water.  This may be too frequent.  I don’t know how long I’ll have to watch the wall to determine if the timing is right.


I had an epiphany last night.  I need to rethink how I’m making my shoes.  I don’t need to change a lot, but what I need to change will make a significant difference to how my shoes fit and my feet feel.

Because I have a really high arch and correspondingly high instep, I can’t wear a regular shoe and expect it to not hurt my arch.  Any pressure I put on the arch is downward as the lacing tries to press my arch down to fill the void left by the arch of my instep.

I need to do one of two things.  I either need to make an orthotic to fill the void or I need to build the shoe to fill the void.  Of the two choices, I prefer the later.  I hate having to move supports from one shoe to the next.

I’ve started on my first pair of *real* shoes.  I’m going to make a glued “sneaker”.  This will take one additional piece of leather.  I’m going to glue the lining to the insole, add the fill to level off the bottom, add the fill for the instep, glue the upper down over all that, add the fill for the upper, glue on my shaper (yeah, I’m gluing it outside the outer) and then add the final outsole shaping it to come just to the feather edge.  The last bit I’ll have to have Sunshine Shoe Repair do as he has all the wonderful shaping machines.

That should give me an all leather sneaker with superior support.  It should be fun.  Let the games begin . . .

Second pair of fitters

I finished the second pair of fitters this morning and overall, I’m very pleased. They aren’t fashionable, but they do tell me how I’m doing getting my lasts adjusted. I initially thought I would need to narrow the toe box but they’re just right. As to overall fit, the right shoe is perfect. There is nothing I would change about the fit of the right shoe. The left, though close, isn’t quite perfect. My left heel slides up and down just a little and the shoe is a tiny bit short. I occasionally feel the end of the shoe with my left middle toe. Once I fix these two issues, I think I will have great fitting shoes.

I want to add a little to the height of both lasts at the top front of the cone. I think the fit would benefit from having that part of the shoe cut ½” higher.

My next pair of shoes will be a “real” pair with pig skin lining and 4oz outer leather. I’m not saying I won’t wear the fitters. I will. The first pair will work great as house shoes and I’ve already been running around outside in the second pair. They’re not pretty, but otherwise they’re great; light and supportive without being rigid. I’ve added the pair of supports out of my dress clogs to keep my knees and hips comfortable. Picture me happy.

Ultimately, I want to reshape the lasts so the supports can be built right into the shoes. When I get the lasts perfect, I’ll make a mold and recast them in the final shape. That will give me a clean feather edge, something that would make the process of creating shoes on the lasts easier.

A run at New Balance

I’m always looking for manufactured shoes in my size.  I always seem to miss by half a size.  It’s frustrating.

The latest was a pair of New Balance 3½ XW.  They arrived and the left shoe fit perfectly.  The foot bed was right, the width was right and the length was perfect . . . then the other shoe dropped.  The right shoe fit half a size too small and was tight across the ball.  My left foot is actually half a size larger than my right, so picture me puzzled.  I went online to see if I could get a pair a half size larger but their size 4 doesn’t come in an XW.  <sigh>  At least they cover the cost of shipping the shoes back.

Pattern Updates

Butt stitched shaper

The inside of the butt stitching doesn't look too bad . . .

Here’s the shaper for the left foot showing the butt stitching at the heel.  It’s not the most perfect but it certainly does the job.  I’ve got some more stitching, trimming and skiving to do before I can start assembling the shoe.  The other shaper hasn’t been butt stitched.  I stitched one before shaping it over the last.  The second I left unstitched.  This will tell me which works best, stitching it wet or stitching it dry.

Shoes, shoes, shoes

First shoes - fitters

Here they are, the first shoes.  They’re pretty comfortable, though I haven’t put in my anti-arch supports.  The neck of the shoe is too large, which I expected.  I really have trouble with the laces crossing my arches.  It’s really uncomfortable though I used a very heavy spongy piece of leather for a tongue to try and protect my arch.  I’ve rerun the laces to go from side to side on the top and up and down on the foot side (not pictured).  That’s proving to be more comfortable.

After this next pair of shoes (in the works) I’ll know how much I need to reduce the last’s width in the toe box area.  One step at a time . . .


A beautiful day in the neighborhood

First shaper with full height heel

It’s very much a Mr. Rogers kind of day.  The sun is out, the crocuses are in bloom, the elephant garlic is showing green shoots.  Spring is just around the corner.  I need to get a pair of shoes done so I can get out and play!

After completing the fitter pair, I made some adjustments to the lasts and to the pattern and I’ve started a second pair of shoes.  The first pair is at Sunshine Shoe Repair having soles sewn on and grommets added for lacing.  They won’t be good for anything except running around the house because they don’t come up high enough to stay on if I try and do anything but walk gently.  Making them told me where I needed to make adjustments to my pattern and my lasts.  We’ll see if the adjustments I made are adequate.

So here we are, new shapers are on the lasts.  I’ve cut triangles out of the shapers at the heel to reduce the bulk and help shape the leather around the heel.  This set of shapers come all the way to the top of the heel in place of the heel counter.

As you’ll see when I get these out of the wrapping tomorrow, my butt stitching needs more practice.  I like what I’m doing and I’m learning new stuff which is always fun.


Starting my first pair of lasted shoes

My foot is 8¼” long by 4″ wide.  For a 5’3″ tall woman weighing ~200 lbs, that’s not much foot and the relation of length to width makes it an EEEEEE.  Yup, that was six Es.  My sister’s foot is the same, though she’s quite a bit finer boned than I am and probably weighs just a bit less.  She has mom’s bone structure, I have dad’s.  Her face is oval, mine is square.  She has long oval fingernails and I have short square fingernails.  Why our feet are the same size . . . <shrug> . . . it’s genetics.

Because there is no company on this earth that I am aware of that makes shoes that are designed to fit my feet, I’ve taken to making my own footwear, for better or worse.  And because, as I’m sure you’re aware if you’ve spent any time on this site at all, I do things my own way, the methods and steps I used to create my first pair of shoes differ from those who seriously embrace classic cordwaining.   I’m sure by now I’ve got the folks on the cordwaining forum mentally throwing stones at me.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least gently stir the pot a little.

So here we go, my first pair of lasted shoes.

My last

Because I cannot purchase a last that will produce a shoe that will fit my feet, I have to start with a last.  I made boxes to use as containers for molding my feet.  I mixed alginate, poured it in the boxes and stepped in.  For small feet like mine I used a total of three 1lb bags of alginate which I got from my wonderful dentist.

Once the alginate set I wiggled my feet free, mixed plaster of paris and filled the molds to the brim.

Once the plaster of paris had set I tore the alginate apart to release the plaster feet therein.

I built up the plaster foot form with more plaster to give myself a toe box shape.  As you can see I didn’t add enough to the length and ended up having to add more length after I got the resin last.  I also shaped and filled in rough spots.

After the plaster was dry I cleaned up the plaster feet and sent them to my son for casting in a two part resin.  The result is what you see.  The screws allow the last to be taken apart for easy removal from the shoe.

Leather molded to the bottom of the last

To make sure the last would give me the right shape for my foot I molded a piece of leather to the bottom.  When I stepped into this form with my sock-clad foot, I could tell I was on the right track.

Rex begonias

I got an email from Keith at Rex Begonias Ltd that he was ready to ship my begonias.  I had to put him off.  We still had snow on the ground.  We’re going to coordinate so he can ship when he has good weather to arrive when ours is reasonable as well.  It’s hard to be patient.  I made the order last October and now that he’s ready to ship, I want them NOW.  I’m restraining myself.  NOW and alive and healthy aren’t necessarily compatible given our still wintry weather.

Glueing down the lining

Lining glued to insole

I’ve got a lot done in the last couple days.  I fnally got thread that works and the sewing has been fairly flawless.  I finished the sewing on the second upper and have started lasting.  I have detailed images if you need to see them, just let me know.

When the glue dried completely I will rasp the lumps and bumps in the lining to smooth it.  Once that’s done I will do an infill to make the bottom completely smooth and glue on my shaped bottoms.  These I will have to clamp in place to ensure I get firm smooth connect.

Lining – first step

Stretched and tacked

Here’s the lining, all stretched on and tacked in place.  This is glove leather.  Preshaping it works for me, I can’t say why.  I soaked the leather before stretching it over the last.  I didn’t use a pattern, just stretched the single piece of leather over the last, tacking it in place and trimming away the excess.

Next I will unlast and sew the back seam, then relast and trim the lining at the top, turn the top of the lining down and fasten it with white glue.  Then I will unlast the lining again and sew the upper to the lining and attach the tongue.

Before I can tackle the actual lasting I have to sharpen my skiving knife.  I bought the equipment to do that on my trip to town yesterday.

Bespoke sneakers

Product of a workshop

Out of the blue this morning I got a call from halfway around the world.  Frank Jones from England called to introduce himself, laugh about our life experiences and extend some advice.

He directed me to a shoe making school (run by Bill and Julie Shanor) fairly close to me that might be able to help smooth my learning curve as it applies to making shoes.  I did a bit of snooping around on their site and ran into the shoes pictured to the left.  Are those perfect or what?!  <LOL>  A little too fancy for running around in the field but the shape and function is totally appropriate.

I’ve extended the question to the Shanors (a bit of custom instruction), thanked Frank for the proffered advice and will now sit back and see what happens.  Life can be SO much fun . . .

I *love* research

I was trying to find out which needle would be the best for the stuff I’m doing and I was getting confused. I watched a guy sew a pair of moccasin loafers using glover’s needles, but that doesn’t help when you’re sewing curved seams. I’d read something and one person would advise a certain size Osborne needle and another would say use a Tandy in that size and my brain would begin to whirl . . . If you’ve done research trying to learn stuff, you know just what I mean. Everybody’s got an opinion.

Did you know . . . you can make a steel boars’ bristle type needle out of an E guitar string? How cool is that!? I knew I needed a flexible needle as I’m going to be doing butt joints on some stuff. I’ve looked at threading and using boar bristle needles and have winced. I happened upon a link to a YouTube video on making a steel bristle needle and I’m gonna give it a try!