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In another thread, I offered to provide a list of books that relate to shoemaking. Rather than burying this post in that thread, I thought a separate thread would be more helpful.

First off, there is a web-site, the “Crispin Colloquy†(), managed by the Honorable Company of Cordwainers (HCC), which has a great deal of information available in the “sources†section. Also, the HCC sells a CD-ROM with several years of archived posts. The combination of the current and archived postings has very valuable information about all sorts of boot- and shoemaking information, such as sources, techniques, and uses of different pieces of equipment. There are also some very good pictures posted of the techniques and equipment. The HCC also sells DVD’s of various presentations on shoemaking techniques as taught by HCC members. Finally, one of the HCC members has scanned and edited two copies from a series on shoemaking (“Goldingâ€) which are available for free downloads as PDF’s; the two scanned volumes cover foot-measurement/last fitting and the making process. The CD, videos, and download are all available through the HCC ( homepage in the “Guild Library†section. I cannot say enough about how much the HCC can help people learn about the actual production of custom shoes and boots. There is a second site,, that covers some of the same ground; this site was created by a group that had a disagreement with some on the HCC site, but it’s content seems less deep and there are typically fewer postings. Still, it’s worth knowing about.

Now, on to books.

Most people will be familiar with the Vass book, so I’ll not discuss that; however, it is quite helpful in giving an overview of the process of producing handmade shoes.

A book called: The Dictionary of Leather-Working Tools, by Salaman, gives a good description of the tools traditionally used in custom shoemaking. This book is still published and is highly recommended for anyone actually considering undertaking shoemaking.

The shoemaking process has, at its core, three primary steps:
1. Measuring the feet and producing a last.
2. Creating a pattern from the last, cutting the leather, and sewing the upper (“closingâ€).
3. Creating an insole, putting the upper on the last, creating and sewing the welt to the insole/upper, attaching filler and the outsole, sewing the outsole to the welt, building the heel, and finishing the shoe (all encompassed in “makingâ€).

Many of the modern books cover only one of these topics, as each is a separate skill. For books that cover the whole process, there are a number of old books/collections, such as*:

• John F. Rees : The Art and Mystery of a Cordwainer (London, 1813)
• James Devlin: The Guide to the Trade, The Shoemaker (London, 1839)
• S.S. Campion: Delightful History of Ye Gentle Craft (Taylor & Son, Northhampton,1876)
• The Art of Boot and Shoemaking J.B. Leno (1895)
• The Manufacture of Boots and Shoes Edited by F.Y Golding (London 1902; 1934), 8Vols.
• Boot and Shoe Design and Manufacture, E.J.C. Swaysland,(Jos. Tebbut 1905)
• The Boot and Shoemaker Edited by E Bordoli (Gresham Publishing 1917),4Vols.
• Boot and Shoe Manufacture, Frank Plucknett (Isaac Pitman & Sons, London 1937)

These are discussed on the Crispin Colloquy for those interested in identifying them. They are typically fairly hard to come by and expensive to purchase. (*This list sourced from DW Frommer/

Lastmaking. There are a number of books available that discuss lastmaking, but most that I’ve seen are targeted at the professional market and relate primarily to the creation of lasts for factory footwear; I have not found these terribly useful in general â€" these include American Last Making by Adrian and The Shoe Last by Pivecka and Laure. The book that I think is best is by Koleff, Last Designing and Making Manual (available from Walrus Shoe -- 262-882-6006 or email to [email protected]). It gives a very easy methodology for creating the sole pattern and upper profile for a last, based on tracings and measurements taken directly from the foot.

There are also a few books available on the fitting of shoes; these, while interesting, are of limited value in the context of actually making footwear.

Pattern Making/Closing. The books I’ve seen address the topic of pattern making, but not the topic of actually sewing the upper. The best book I have seen on the topic is the Pattern Cutter’s Handbook. This is available from Noble Footwear in the UK (email: [email protected]). Koleff also has a pattern making book, but I’ve not seen it so cannot address its utility. I also own Practical Pattern Making by Anzelc, which I don’t find nearly as useful as the Pattern Cutter’s Handbook. Another book, Modern Pattern Cutting and Design by Patrick, is highly regarded, but I’ve not seen it so I cannot comment on its utility; it is now out of print.

“Making†I do not know of any modern mass market books that cover this topic. However, DW Frommer, a highly regarded custom bookmaker, offers courses, on-line tutorials, videos, and books that teach “making,†along with the other parts of the process. I cannot speak to the quality of these materials, but DW has taught a number of people who today are custom bootmakers, so I trust there is a lot of value in his training. Based on his participation on the Crispin Colloquy, he is very knowledgeable, helpful, and makes a beautiful boot. (

For those interested in the Frommer materials or using the Crispin Colloquy site, one should be aware that there are some differences in the production of cowboy boots versus shoes; among these differences, the approach to making patterns is different, and most cowboy boots have the outsole sewn to the welt only from the inside ball of the foot to the outside joint â€" the balance is secured using wood pegs. Shoes have the outsole sewn from the inside edge of the heel to the outside edge of the heel. Also, the choice of materials may differ, as boots will typically use heavier and thicker leather, and many bootmakers have migrated to Dacron thread for sewing welts and/or outsoles rather than the linen thread used by bespoke shoemakers. Finally, most custom bootmakers use specialized sewing machines to sew on the outsoles, rather than doing this by hand. Nevertheless, most of the techniques used in bootmaking are applicable to shoemaking, perhaps with some modification.

I hope this is helpful to those of you perhaps interested in the technical aspects of shoemaking.
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