The Gentle Craft

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#151 Post by dw » Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:01 am

Al,

Hey! You can dispute me any old time...a lot of what I know about the history of shoes and boots comes from you or from sources/links you have pointed me at. You're da man as far as I'm concerned.

Now, having said all that...I'll simply say that there may indeed be a link betweeen the embroidery on Eastern European boot tops and the machine stitching on cowboy boots (I did say, quite pointedly, that I thought you were "spot on" with regard to making that EE/cowboy boot connection). But it seems to me, again, that technique is the definitive link...the form that addresses the function.

But if you can draw a line between the embroidery of EE and machine stitchery (which is an entirely different technique with different constraints and necessities) decades, maybe nearing a century, and thousands of miles later, why not between the embroidery on the oriental (Persian?) shoes and the stitching on cowboy boot tops? Or between the horn heels of Persia and heels on shoes in western Europe? I think to take a page from your book...there just isn't any evidence for it.

Not because it isn't there or isn't true but simply because as I said ornamentation is such a a universal impulse. If early cowboy bootmakers had been using embroidery techniques to ornament boot tops I'd be happier making the connection.

The problem, as I see it, is that early drovers boots...and, in the West as you pointed out...the plain full wellingtons that precede them, had little or no ornamentation. It comes on gradually and over time. You can almost see the impulse to get fancier and fancier with what starts as purely functional stitching evolve as the cowboy boot itself evolves.

As for all the rest of your points I concede them now (if I hadn't already). Although I would add this caveat...I'm not sure when or where fingerholes come into the picture. I've not seen (that doesn't mean they don't exist) any 19th century cowboy boots with fingerholes. If they exist they are limited in number (and hence, maybe not all that significant in the evolution of the cowboy boot?). More, I don't believe I've seen fingerholes on cowboy boots that pre-date 1950, either.

So are they a hearkening back to East European roots and/or a racial memory of ancient antecedents or a more contemporary influence?

Having said all that, and just to sum it all up, I completely agree that there is a direct lineage from Eastern European boots to contemporary cowboy boots. One that is supported by the evidence both in Europe and in the US.

[Yugoslavia was just a spurious spur-of-the-moment reference to Eastern Europe]

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(Message edited by dw on January 02, 2009)

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#152 Post by jesselee » Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:39 am

To All,

I have been following this thread and will toss in 2 cents from the 1860's-1890's. While the 'cowboy' boot in the USA seems a direct evolution from the cavalry boot, which is an evolution from the Wellington (I have a URL with pics from an old book) to illustrate this. There seems to be a direct connection to many of the European styles worn by the horsemen there.
I am of the view that form follows function and will disagree on any evolution other than what I have stated above.
The Wellingtons of the Civil War period for both foot soldiers and cavalry were mostly unlined waxed finish 4/5 oz. Oak tanned leather. For the most part those used by the foot soldiers were 13 to 16 inches high (an average I gleened from my personal collection. Many times a piece was spliced into the top, illustrating the makers used every bit of leather. In all cases these boots were either hand stitched or chainstitched on a Blake machine. In all cases they were pegged.
Officers cavalry boots were mostly a 2 oz. Oak tanned leather, waxed calf and very dense, not like the garment 2 oz. leather of today. Top linings were ultimately red Morocco or red 1 ox, calf, sometimes embossed with stripes or a pebbled design.
The above relates to the 40 or so pairs I collected over many years (and boots in the collections of others). One pair broke all the rules. They were 2 oz. waxed calf, with a natural lining. The side seams were machine stitched using a lock stitch and was a #12 cord linen. They came directly from the uniform and accouterment estate of a Federal Ohio officer. I only wanted the boots.
CW period boots had no fancy top stitching, only the top edge and bottom of the top lining. This in all cases I have examined appears to have been stitched by a common domestic machine using a garment weight cotton thread. In all cases, the top linings were glued with wheat glue and many had seperated at the top seam and you could see the remaining evidence of the wheat paste.
So, form follows function. The decorative stitching was used to hold the full lining to the outer leather, and had the old timers used Barge cement (not yet invented) I doubt they would have used any decorative stitching at all. Since the lining needed to be stitches as wheat paste weakens over time, why not stitch decoratively.
The first pair of what I will call 1860's cowboy boots that I ever examined (and have a design circa 1861 in my book), was of typical CW design, with a front and back graft in red calf and a high scallop reminiscent of cowboy boots today. The heels and soles were of typical CW fashion. Now, the grafts were quite high and there was some fancy stitching reminiscent of toe bugs on the front and back so the linings would not flopp around.
This being said, reflect on toes and heels. Basic CW boots had a wider toe and shorter heel for walking. Whilst cavalry boots across the board in comparison have a higher heel as well as narrower toe.
In examining boots worn by cowboys in the 1870-90 period, these points bear fruit. Heels get higher, some to a ridiculous height not corresponding to the last, and narrow toes. Again, wheat paste and full linings requiring stitching, some fancy, some plain.
Perhaps the 'German' influence used this ;form follows function' adaptation, but I doubt there was an evolution. Cowboy boots, like Levi's jeans, a staple of the working cowboy, were born, not evolved. Form follows...etc. The only evolution I see is the brilliantly executed artistry based on the 20th. century cowboy boot.
And I doubt anything can evolve from some of the beautiful work I have seen here by those specializing in the style. Its at its peak now.

Old School JesseLee

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#153 Post by jesselee » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:40 am

A look into the past:

http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/histshoe/bootsandshoe/Listofplates. htm

Enjoy. I plan on copying the 1810 Wellingtons as soon as I can source out genuine Morocco leather.

JesseLee

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#154 Post by jesselee » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:53 am


chuck_deats

Re: The Gentle Craft

#155 Post by chuck_deats » Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:20 am

Interesting subject and interesting discussion. I will offer my uneducated opinion with little or no historical basis.

The defining feature of a “cowboy” boot is the side seam. Pictures and artwork from the late 18th and early 19th century generally show boots with a separate vamp and top and seldom a side seam. I would speculate that the precursor to the “cowboy” boot was developed by someone in the eastern U.S. (possibly a military contractor) trying to figure out a cheaper way to make boots. I am a Texan and hate to concede this. I wonder if there was a patent. Based on experience, the two piece full Wellington is the easiest boot to make if you are doing it entirely by hand. Hand stitching is slow and expensive.

The full Wellington was a cheap working man’s boot although it has been taken to an art form by some. Later with the advent of the sewing machine and more expensive leather came the four piece boot and top stitching, but it still respects its heritage of the side seam.

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#156 Post by jesselee » Fri Jan 02, 2009 6:46 pm

Chuck,

Your idea of a military contractor could be right. The US Army adopted a 3 piece boot with side seams and a separate vamp for the M1874/76 boot, one piece back in 74, 2 piece in 76 (correct me if I am mistaken, its been a long time since I examined records). The M1886 was a back seamed boot, pebbled leather with a separate vamp.
The full Wellington takes more leather and skill to make, perhaps this is why the change over. Yet after the Civil War, many cowboy boots are still 2 piece until the 1880's. Even into the late 1880's and 90's the 'Opera boot' was a 2 piece Wellington and of a cowboy style...
Influence of Judge Roy Bean and Lily Lagtree??? Speculation on the term opera being associated with cowboy... Strange segue...

Cheers,
JesseLee

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#157 Post by tmattimore » Sat Jan 03, 2009 4:08 am

From Hazard
"By 1855 Randolph, (MA), was as well known as the producer of high class boots for California, Australia and Texas trade, as New Bedford was for Whalers pumps; Raynham for its sailors pumps for Cuba."
"Statistics show that 200,175 pairs of boots and 470,620 pairs of shoes were made in Randolph in 1837"
" The randolph boots were never intended to take the place of the cheap brogans or plow shoes, but of the custom-made top boots that had never been entirely out of use or style."
"These same men on the fronteir, living away from access to the cities of the eastern seaboard, had to get along without having new custom-shoes made for them. The young cities of the West would hardly have been remunerative places for custom shoemakers: a drummer or agent with a line of ready-made boots and shoes from one of the eastern states was much more likely to meet demands."
" In Randolph and other Norfolk county and Plymouth county boot and shoe towns, immense orders with big profits stirred and pushed the boot and shoe organizations to its very limit of production. Fourty niners who had left shoemaking intrests at home saw the chances for marketing Massachusetts boots in california."
" Massachusetts Census of 1855 showed that Randolph had made that year 345,100 pairs of boots, 363,300 pairs of shoes to the value of $1,269,400"

Sounds to me like the Wellington boot business was well in hand long before any demand from the civil war came along The Army in 1855 had an authorized size of 20,000. Boots were not issued only sewn soled brogans. Col. Lee requested boots in 1855 for the new cav units but I have found no record they were issued. Experiments were made with plug in spurs in the heel of brogans but these failed as they quickly filled up with sand and mud.
Tom

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#158 Post by das » Sat Jan 03, 2009 6:25 am

DW,

Good points all, but this all boils down to how we are going to define a "cowboy" boot, and by which exact features and details? And dates become important too. For instance what's the "first" cowboy boot with fancy stitching all over the legs? The first with finger holes?

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#159 Post by das » Sat Jan 03, 2009 6:44 am

Jessie, Tom, Chuck, and all,

Great additions/observations, and nothing contradictory; however, if we can agree that the first US cattle drives from TX to KS railheads hence cowboys, took place in 18__ (tell me), and memoirs of those guys mention they wore cheap old surplus CW boots and even low bootees (brogans), we need to disassociate and step back. Then which "cowboy" boots are we talking about? From Hollywood/Tom Mix onward is pretty well known--it's that interim period between the plain bog-standard CW era boots and Hollywood that interests me, and where those guys turned for their inspirations, tricks, and so on that coalesced into the Tom Mix and post cowboy boots?

BTW, as far as I know "Opera" boots were 4-piece "Dress Wellingtons" with black patent leather vamps and counters, and softer fancy leather (e.g. morocco) legs in colors, some made imitating a man's stocking in a pair of low pumps.

I think we'd be better off tracking down the embroidered (sorry) legs--and I agree with Jesse this seems to be a matter of securing the leg lining to the outer layer when waxed-calf (not a dressy leather) was not used; ditto on finger holes, etc.

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#160 Post by dw » Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:40 am

The one point I would make here is that if we are going to focus on the ornamental stitching when trying to draw connections to Eastern Europe, then we ought to define what is meant by "embroidery," as well.

Particularly in the context of pre-industrial society, I suspect that "embroidery" has to be defined as a type of hand stitched surface ornamentation (especially on leather) using brightly coloured thread and a needle. The key words there are "hand-stitched" and "surface."

I would be surprised (go ahead surprise me) if the fanciful embroidery of Eastern Europe was functional in the sense that it fully penetrated one or more leather layers to secure the lining.

If it did, the connection between it and the machine stitching...that starts off purely functional and gradually gets more ornate)...would be more believable.

If it did not...? Well, I don't think that there really is a comparison. The techniques...and, more importantly, the results...are too different. Just because there is a splash of coloured thread on the tops doesn't necessitate a relationship, IMO.

Tight Stitches
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Re: The Gentle Craft

#161 Post by tmattimore » Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:01 am

If any one has a copy of La Chaussure By Jean-paul Roux on page 153 there are the boots of Prince Jean-Eugene-Luis Napolean which may be of intrest and on page 84 a pair of womens lace up circa 1900 which not withstanding has all the elements of desgin in the modern inlay cowboy boot.
My scanner does not function so I can't put them up.
Tom

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#162 Post by jesselee » Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:56 pm

Al,

That would be 1866. But when the war ended, men were mobilizing in 1865 to drove cattle. Then again, we have 1867 as the first big cattle year. Texas had the beef trail before they separated from Mexico, and I believe if memory serves me correctly, the Spanish in Mexico were droving cattle for quite a few centuries. During the Civil War the South drove cattle from Texas to the South to feed their troops.
So, if boots are, as we are examining, part of the cowboy legend, we can support the Oxen drives during going as far back as the 1850's when the wagons went west.
The war years certainly had an impact on the development of the American cowboy. In the Time Life series and other Old West books there are pictures of 1860's to 90's cowboys in flamboyant clothing, quite reminiscent of the days of Tom Mix (who I enjoyed once a month for 5 cents at the show).
But this style and heritage era that we give title of 'cowboy boots' to was vast. Even stage coach drivers, gunfighters, gamblers et al wore that fancy style of boot.
More appropriately it should be called the Old West boot.

JesseLee

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#163 Post by paul » Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:33 pm

"it's that interim period between the plain bog-standard CW era boots and Hollywood that interests me, and where those guys turned for their inspirations, tricks, and so on that coalesced into the Tom Mix and post cowboy boots?"

I'm with you Al. That's the period that interests me. And not so much the period, per se, as the men who were filling those orders.

If they left, say Randolf, MA. in, let's say 1866, the year the Abilene Trail (correct me please) was established, and set up their shops along the trail, and started making boots, what were they being asked to do that was different then what they'd been doing for the California and other markets?
When did the stitched in counter overide other considerations?
When did leather toe boxes get hard? Weren't they often softer in those earlier days?
How about 20 penny nails as shanks with leather shank covers?

Ornamentation would happen as a cowboy would ask for it, I believe. And I'm with DW on it being human nature to decorate one's accouterments, and these "boys' were pretty full of themselves by all accounts.

But the elements that made a boot sturdy enough to work a trail herd, would require construction differences for the task, would it not?

I might be barking up the wrong tree. Maybe those Full Wellingtons were stout enough in the shank without needing any evolution? Did the tongues come up high enough on Dress Wellingtons, that stirrup bars didn't wear too badly on the stirrups of the day?

This is where the cowboy would become involved. Working with a tradesman, telling him what he needed for this new occupation. And the trademan using his ingenuity, and past experience, comes to devise a solution to fill the request.

Just a speculatin' with my fingers,
Paul

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#164 Post by tmattimore » Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:21 pm

Paul
The earliest wellies with a proven date I have examined are those on the steamboat Arabia. 1854.
They had leather shanks probably sole leather, from the thickness. The counters were sewn in at the top side seams and down the aproximate center of the back the counters were made of three layers of upper leather. I have seen this done on Prussian boots from the 1860's.
If I were going to look for the westward movment of makers I would start in St. Louis where there was also a growth in saddle making.
I have never seen any boots with toe boxes until the 1880's but I have mostly looked at military footwear and they were never used and still arent in issue boots today. My surmise is that they became more common as the boots got fancy.
Tom

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#165 Post by das » Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:08 am

DW,

Of the EE "embroidered" boot legs I've looked at in person (mostly just the Czech ones), they dated to maybe 1880-1900 (and later) and were all machine-stitched to secure a lining.

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#166 Post by das » Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:40 am

All,

Let's return for a second to Paul's initial post that kicked this off:

"So, what influence would any of the old European shoemakers guilds, had on the development of the cowboy boot in the late 19th Century? I pick this "genre" because it already has a "history" conversation, and it likes to be talked about by many outside our own community of makers. And, of course, the great shoemaking families are likely involved also. I seem to have read bios of the known names of bootmakers from the period, as being taught and "becoming", after they came to America. Would there have been many, in the background, who were offspring of the long time shoemakers families? If my suppositions are right, and many more got into the trade, after their families had left Europe and Elsewhere, then, for me, that history would contribute to the richness of the 'history of the cowboy boot', and would add to it's symbol of independence and individuality. Jesse, Al, Mark, and any others, do you have any information about the European guilds influence in America at that time? Would anyone have any historical facts or suppositions on this subject?"

I've tried to stick with what possible "old world" connections/derivations I see influencing cowboy boots. Native American (not in the trendy sense=Indians) bootmakers who happened to cater to the western markets, or relocated to west from MA or MO, etc., and did custom work for cowboys ain't exactly within the scope for possible Euro-connections Paul asked about IMO.

Whatever ya call 'em, the high, blocked, square toes (AKA "snoot-boots", "domed toes&#34Image and the corresponding box-structure underneath them, to me, betray a very "German" connection. You're right, most 1800s Wellington boots were soft-toed, being un-lined waxed-calf there is no really good way to add an inside stiffener to the toe of the vamp that won't come loose in wear, curl, and hurt the foot--they even argued over this in the 1700s. The only semi-successful toe-box then was the square one, where you turn up an extension of the insole, and sew a "box" to it, then pull the vamp back over it. I have also seen one 1740s shoe done this way with a rounded toe--the "box" was blocked over the last, and sewn to the insole before the upper was lasted. In all events, by 1860s-1900, the only complicated blocked toe stiffeners I'm seeing are from Germany, and for the most part squared off at the tip.

One problem here is, there are so few surviving, reliably dated, "cowboy" boots, with a solid provenance to examine, to create a time-line of features. As with most things, the simpler ones tend to be earlier than the more complex are later, so what we need are a bunch of "transitional" boots, say 2-piece or 4-piece Wellingtons with basic stitching on the legs (one row), the wider/bigger tongues, stiffened toes, nails for shanks etc., then chase after who might have made them and where. When visiting DW years ago he took me out to a regional museum which had a couple of boots that impressed me as these yearly "transitional" boots (1880s-90?). Old HCCer Dave Viers in MT had collected a bunch too, and published pix of them (someplace?). With all the cowboy boot collectors and big picture books being published about them these days, you'd think some cowboy-boot-enthusiast would have sorted this out, assigned dates/types, and determined proto-cowboy-boots, pre-transitional versus post-Tom-Mix stuff.

And getting back to European roots, somebody out west needs to focus on the "German" immigrant bootmakers in TX, their origins, roots, etc. As the only direct European connection here, this must be the "point of entry", so to speak, for any Euro-details in cowboy boots.

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#167 Post by jesselee » Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:42 pm

Al,

You can see the high snout nosed square toe type boots in the url containing the pictures I added here. That was mostly seen on Jack Boots.

There were no toe boxes used during the Civil War. Most common boots were waxed and unlined. Those that were top lined usually had a partial foot lining extending from the counter to the toe area and not covering the instep. This was mostly whip stitched in. Some were machine stitched with fine thread which could be waxed over.

I have wondered if this partial lining was the reason for the toe bug. Point being is that a half lining of this type can come free of the inside of the boot. The toe bug would have been an ornate way to manage the wear of the foot lining.

I have collected, repaired, restored, remade many pairs of boots of the 1820-1890 era. late 1880-1890's show a layer of skived leather at the toe between lining and upper. Precurser of the modern toe box? In all cases I have seen it was elaborately bug stitched for strength.

With the evolution of cowboy boots going away from surplus cavalry boots to a narrow toe, the toe area was made higher. Unlike CW boots which often sported a 'duck bill' toe. The higher toe requires a toe box to retain its shape.

Within this transition is where I look for evidence of a toe box.

JesseLee

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#168 Post by dearbone » Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:47 am

Here is a post card of an old fancy boot and shoe maker sign, check out his address,it must have been before postal(zip) codes, i am sure it worked for him, so i thought i will try to write my shop address like his,
SHOE MAKER
EAST QUEEN ST.,
(One block E of Broadview Hotel)
Toronto,ON.
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Re: The Gentle Craft

#169 Post by dearbone » Thu Feb 12, 2009 6:56 am

I need to add, that the reason for posting the above picture is to pay tribute to a fellow in our trade and to share that with you, When i said, "so i thought i will try to write my shop address like his", i meant to direct attention to an address with no postal code or building number and not literally copying his logo for myself, i don't think the mailman will deliver to me without postal code and number.

Nasser

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#170 Post by dearbone » Mon Mar 23, 2009 7:28 am

Here are two banners from Paul Lacriox book.
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Re: The Gentle Craft

#171 Post by john_woodward » Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:57 am

Hello Friends, I just finished a great book."SHOEMAKER OF DREAMS, The auto biography of Salvatore Ferragamo.This book was released in 1957, but I found it as relevant for me today, as if written yesterday.I wish I had read it when I first enterd the craft.I see many pitfalls he experienced,that I repeated.I found the book insightful,inspiring and a fasinating read that I could not put down.I cannot recommend this book enough........I found a copy on Ebay,but there are other sources on the internet.

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#172 Post by dearbone » Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:51 am

I came across Ferragamo book by chance some years ago and like John i couldn't stop reading,Great book deserving of a Great Master pattern cutter and maker,He is a source of inspiration and guide when making/designing woman's shoes,He had huge dislike for sole stitching machines and he never surrendered his shoes to stitchers.He is indeed one of the greatest designers of woman shoes,I don't recall seeing any of his man's shoes.

Nasser

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#173 Post by simon_brusa » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:32 am

Hello,
I would like to make a pair of sandals similar to how the user has posted Nasser Daremi Vies beginning of this topic.
Propose again here his creation:
14509.jpg
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While these are two pictures of sandals that I have seen and I want to play.
14508.jpg
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14507.jpg

Now my problem is create the pattern from which you can then cut the leather.
There are still very practical and my biggest challenge lies in creating the pattern as I have not much knowledge.
Can anyone help me?
thanks
greetings
Simon

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#174 Post by dearbone » Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:16 am

Simone,

Welcome to the group,good choice in sandals,I tried to locate the paper pattern for it but no luck yet, i pile file and it takes time to find papers from the past,i will post a picture as soon as i find it or unlace an already made sandal to give you an idea,It is as simple as tracing your feet/foot and adding some 3 inches all-around and than slicing the strips.

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Re: The Gentle Craft

#175 Post by dlskidmore » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:14 am

Try looking at SCA sites under Ghillie.

I made a pair based on this pattern, but I modified the original too heavily to try to please mum.

The technique is still good for making the pattern.
http://my-health-experiment.blogspot.com/2011/06/expanding-shoes.html

I've not seen the gathered heel version previously. It looks like a good modification. There is a second drawstring holding the heel together?

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