"That old sweet song..."

This off topic area is a place where, while you are visiting the Crispin Colloquy, you can talk about beer, whiskey, kilts, the latest WWII re-enactment, BBQ, grandsons, shoes in the media, and even the odd meandering essay on "why we make shoes."
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#51 Post by dw » Thu May 03, 2007 2:12 pm

Larry,

I like Sir Arthur's quote. I would only add that knowing the difference and achieving it may be two different things but both are indeed genius.

If you can tell the difference, then mediocrity is indistinguishable from ignorance...and just as temporary. Image

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#52 Post by jesselee » Thu May 03, 2007 5:48 pm

DW

"But quality is quality and if Cadillac were to switch to
vinyl upholstry, it wouldn't be quality in anyone's book even if it
had "Cadillac" printed all over the inside."

EXACTLY, and thats what makes Cadillac a Cadillac! Attention to details and materials. I don't care how much talent goes into 'vinyl', don't care if every stitch is so perfect and the upholstery lasts long. It is less than it could be, If the maker used rich Carinthian leather and did the same work, now there is quality...
Agreed again old son!
JesseLee (just a lovin this philosophisin')

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#53 Post by jesselee » Thu May 03, 2007 5:55 pm

DW

I add this, and if all boots and shoes had at least, minimum, a salesman who could fit the customer, better still if everyone considered just once a pair of custom made lasts and there were even low budget custom shoe and boot makers, there would be less fatigue, back, hip problems.
I believe I am one of the oldest cats in this alley, and I don't have an ache or a pain and I attribute it to custom made footwear.
My boot and bookbinding apprentice suffered great pains cuz of one leg being 1/4 inch off. When he stood in his first pair of custom made boots, he felt the whole hip, spine and neck realign. And he's never gone back to store bought.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#54 Post by jesselee » Thu May 03, 2007 6:03 pm

Paul

Thats the 'attitude' (I hate that word, can't think of another) that makes us who we are. To constantly strive for betterness. I am frustrated because I have one eye which is going and no natural light, but when I do, look out, I will push myself to the limit and try that double pattern 1890's stitching.
Get back to the bench and emerge with pride something which you want your name on, thats what I say to myself every day.
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#55 Post by hidesmith » Thu May 03, 2007 7:09 pm

*YAWN* (STRETCH)

I was right in the middle of a good nap, when I heard DW calling me through the cosmos.

Cadillac chooses its own quality, and in so doing, defines it. Ford chooses ITS own quality. You choose your own quality, and so do I. The fact that you might be making a Cadillac and I am making an Escort is based on the informed choices we've made, as well as the definition of quality. The "Cadillac" and the "Ford Escort" are similar only in that they are both worn on the feet. The two might last just as long as the other, given proper care. The difference is ego and convenience. Most cadillac wearers are capable of functioning in the Ford, but are more wealthy and can afford the fancy trim.

They are two entirely different products - each of them of quality, but with different definitions of quality. Why would ANYONE make something that was only capable of being billed as "mediocre"? Place a Caddy and an Escort next to each other - is there any question about the differencs between them? No one will buy an Escort with a Cadillac logo glued onto the fender. The difference is obvious. My shoe next to your boot? Exactly the same response. We have each made an entirely different product, each based on our own experiences, LOCATIONS (that is important - I live in a somewhat depressed area in the North-East, and no where even NEAR the south or west). Cowboy hats, belts and boots are not all that common in my neck of the woods. I developed a product that made sense, given my background, experiences and location. Is my quality lower than yours? According to YOUR standards, I'm sure it is. According to the product I've researched, developed and chosen to make, there isn't anything wrong with the quality. I use quality materials in my shoes, use quality methods and make a quality product. Because it is not close to the same thing you are making, there is no comparison.

All this thinkin' is tirin' me out. I'm going back to my nap.

B

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#56 Post by hidesmith » Thu May 03, 2007 7:29 pm

DW,

I just wanteed to tell you how much your little yellow guys and blue guys crack me up. I love 'em! I especially liked the little blue guy throwing a fit - that was a hoot!

B

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#57 Post by spider » Fri May 04, 2007 12:05 am

Mr. Frommer et al.:

When I first realized that nothing I do or am matters to the universe, I felt the nausea and burden of existence of which our French friends were so fond of speaking. Now I find it incredibly liberating. Mohon mountain cares nothing of what I am or what I do and it existed long before me and will exist long after me and then it'll be underwater and then the earth will be swallowed up by the sun and then the energy in the universe will dissipate until...no one knows.

Who I am is defined by what I do and I am the ultimate arbiter of what that is. I. I. I, Ego, I. I will always put myself first. I consider it immoral to do otherwise. That's not destructive. On the contrary. It is not sociopathic. It is a realization that I not only have complete freedom to create my being, my very existence, but I have the responsibility to create it. The responsibility for the human being I am is mine. As such I will do all I can to do it well. As well as humanly possible. Upon this ontology rests my entire system of ethics.

This doesn't mean I can possibly ignore my very real shortcomings, both as a human being and as an individual. That's part of what pushes me on. But I can't even begin to think of the most commonplace things without feeling awe for what man, at his best, can do. I am using ten appendages to communicate with other people all over the world. Closer to the point, it's mind boggling to think that there are those, some of whom I am priviliged to know, who can take dead animals and use them to make something that rivals anything in the Louvre, or Prado, or the Frick for beauty, while at the same time cradling and caressing every bone, muscle and tendon in a foot with the tenderness of an experienced lover.

It makes me proud to me a human and proud to be a bootmaker. It also pushes me to be better at both.

Plato had to contrive objective ideals. No one could find any, so Berkeley stuck 'em in God's mind. Ayn Rand spent her whole life pretending she found some, but loquacious as she was, never completely articulated their logic.

I don't think there are objective standards. There are some standards we can and do adopt using empirical evidence, based on someone else's creation, our own past work, or (perhaps especially) our own imaginations, and in most cases those standards will resemble each other, as form follows function.

I can't abide the thought of perfection. It's too limiting. What'll you do when you get there?

Spider

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#58 Post by hidesmith » Fri May 04, 2007 6:46 am

Spider,

Along with alledged "perfection" comes the elevation to "Boot god" and a place in history as such. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to make the bast product possible - but it will ALWAYS be inadaquate at some point, no matter how well constructed it is, or what materials are used.

Aspiring to perfection is only important to the maker. Excellant quality is what the customer expects and pays for, not perfection.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#59 Post by paul » Fri May 04, 2007 7:15 am

Spider,

Hey, you're going to be a great addition to our forum! Thanks for being with us.

I'm proud to be a fellow bootmakin' human, and to be reveling in the adventure of self discovery. Image

PK

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#60 Post by dw » Fri May 04, 2007 7:28 am

This is written on the fly, so to speak so I ask your forgiveness for any lack of polish....

I cannot share the expressed enthusiasm for elevating the individual and his or her individual (and often singular) perspectives to any level that is beyond reproach. And yet that is exactly what is being espoused.

If I understand what is being posited, defining your own standards of quality, quite apart from any consistent or agreed upon standard no matter how steeped in history and the human context, is not only a god-given right but wholly justifiable on the basis of self-interest and "Liberté, égalité, fraternité ".

Excuse me, but I say..."Bah!!" I've seen this viewpoint expressed too many times to shed anymore tears over it. However, I would ask if a person's definition of "quality" is so inalienable and so beyond question or even misgiving by the rest of humanity...

...how then do you define "cruelty?" By what standards? Is there such a thing as "objective" cruelty? Come, come, let's be consistent (and thereby introduce a bit of logic) here. Surely if if the definition of quality is a "personal choice" then so too must the definition of cruelty be personal and beyond criticism or second guessing.

Solipsism, by definition, does not recognize any other "self" or other selves (the "other" ) as being of any note. In the soloipsist's world there is no "other." Relativism, is a watered down...or perhaps better marketed...version of the exact same impulse. By its very definition, relativism elevates the individual and his or her judgment above all his fellows. Beyond second guessing or criticism...even self-criticism (which, I think, explains its currency.)

Every monster that has ever plagued human history has been, at his heart, a relativist. Oh sure, they give lip service to empirical or even absolutist thinking (especially at first)--to "community values", but it is only self-justification and an attempt to engage the tools he (or she) needs to further his own ends--ie., other people. How can it be otherwise?

This is not to say that every relativist is a monster but every monster, at some point, has to invent his own unique justification for ignoring, and inevitably annulling the precepts of tradition, his adopted faith or ideological "principles," and creating his own definition of right and wrong, good and evil, value and rubbish, people and pawns.

At some level, I think we all distrust the individual who sets himself and his own definitions apart from the rest of us...apart from the human context. And I think that is both a necessary and laudable instinct. Human beings are capable of great nobility and even acts of transcendence.
"What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god!"
Yet he is capable of the basest behaviour too and in every instance that I can think of man is at his best in the service of his fellow man and God, and at his worst in service of self and self-interest.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#61 Post by dw » Fri May 04, 2007 10:49 am

Hey guys, I have a great idea to release a little of the pent-up tension that this discussion might be creating...Image

Let's all play a game of basketball--each of us will be our own referee, and each of us will define the rules of the game according to our own personal standards and impulses. Hey, you can even change the rules (for yourself only, of course) from moment to moment.

Don't like basketball? How about a game of poker? Bruce can win with a pair of deuces (top hand), Spider can trump everybody with an inside straight, and I'll define the best hand as garbage and every pot as automatically mine, no matter what. Image


'Course even though he always sat with his back to the wall, it didn't do Hickcock much good when faced with a feller who had his own definition of what a winning hand should be. Image

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#62 Post by jesselee » Fri May 04, 2007 11:45 am

DW

Standards and quality. I liked the poker analogy. I will be the first one to boldly step forewad and say that in the reenactment end of things there is probably 3 good makers. I know for a fact that one learned from the best Civil War bootmaker in the world, and I apprenticed with that man.
The boot and it's artform thereof, is an extention of our soul/spirit, it's a mystical transmutation from raw goods to finished product. I sometimes use Barge, which is an excellent cement, but thats for my lower end boots, as it is a synthetic, and not an extention of 'me'. My 10 pound tin of lampblack is now gone into hundreds of pairs of boots, thus I use a modern dye. The service of those two items creates a quality boot, but to me, it lacks.
I am a purist, and a harsh one also. My leathers are of a good grade, and being simplistic and not into exotics, I find this easy to procure. Is that an eascape from doing a more elaborate quality pair of boots? I sometimes ask myself. I can only use 'me' as an example.
Would I buy a pair of boots made from great leather, beautifully hand crafted, yet using synthetic thread and synthetic toe boxes and counters, 'sure', for the same money as an off the shelf pair.
In MY shop when I teach an apprentice, I am his/her God, and a loving and teaching God, and I try always to teach someone to be better than me. that is my aim, and if any of them ever lost the element of quality, or took shortcuts, I would pull their papers in a heartbeat...
Poker game over, I fold.
JesseLee

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#63 Post by hidesmith » Fri May 04, 2007 7:01 pm

Message deleted at the request of the author.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#64 Post by firefly » Tue May 08, 2007 7:06 am

Well I see the arena is open again for sporting but I don't see any gladiators yet...

I have a simple question to which the answer would be pure speculation and opinion.

Who was or is the greatest bootmaker/shoemaker to ever live and why?

Was it Cosimo Lucchese for his contributions to the twisted cone last or Charlie Dunn because Jerry Jeff Walker wrote a song about him?

Saddle up your steeds and prepare to joust, oh ye knights of broadband. And remember only opinions and conjecture are welcome to the games.

Mark

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#65 Post by dw » Thu May 10, 2007 4:13 pm

Mark,

This question can have a hundred different answers and all probably, from one vantage point or the other, equally valid. And we've completely overlooked the shoemakers (who were often consummate bootmakers as well) just asking the question.

The finest pair of boots I ever saw, was a pair made by WD Atwood in the late 1800's. They were a black (calf ?) vamp with a shamrock tongue with a green Morocco top. They were shown in a book put out by the Northhamptom Museum, some years ago. What struck me was how clean the lines of the boot were...how perfectly straight the side seams. How tiny and refined and exquisite the top stitching even though (if I recall correctly) much of it was done by hand. They were not cowboy boots...maybe a little earlier and British, but nothing I have seen--by contemporary or historical makers comes close.

They are very much in the same tradition of a fine sextant from the early 19th century (I have a photo). It is beautiful as well as functional--brass, ivory, boxwood, hand engraving. It seems clear to me, that some sensibility, well beyond utility or marketing, went into the making of this instrument. There was a passion or a dedication that entirely transcends the mundane issues of making a living.

Ten years ago this forum was created with the the sole objective of creating a platform where people could learn and explore and talk about shoe and bootmaking. Learn techniques and skills, and in the process preserve and strengthen the Trade. When it was created it was a new thing. There was nothing like it in the world. It was created under the aegis of The Honourable Cordwainers' Company. And by its very nature--its format and purpose--was deliberately intended to provide a platform for a wide range of viewpoints to be explored. The word "colloquy" is defined as a discussion.

And if I might be allowed a moment of pride, this forum pioneered a number of techniques and ways of reaching out to help those interested in learning--folks like Jake Dobbins and Rob Efferinck created extensive photo essays and video shorts. Sources were shared, sometimes sources that no one had previously been aware of. Tools were photographed and discussed...sometimes even re-introduced to the Trade. A good portion of this information had never been made available anywhere else and some of it is still only available on this forum. Thirty-five years ago (when I first began) you couldn't walk into a boot or shoe makers shop anywhere and be guaranteed even a civil word if the owner knew you were wanting to learn. Lobbs of London, to this day, will not train a worker through the whole process. But Jake and Rob and all the others--the one's who offered help as well as the ones who asked questions...the ones who made themselves part of this, who gave of themselves and of their time and energy and hours and days of their lives--they're the ones who made the vision work.

Recently, I made "Rants, Rationales and Suppositions" available to all members for reading and posting. I am not certain it was a good idea. But the founding concept of this particular corner of the Crispin Colloquy was always to encourage ideas to be explored and discussed, and yes...challenged. This implies, I suppose, a certain amount of disagreement. I have never been afraid of friendly or dispassionate disagreement and I have actively sought out and encouraged people who have unique perspectives to post here. But it has always been under the assumption that it would be ideas that were challenged...not individuals.

I am the forum's administrator, ostensibly the only active moderator, and I am responsible for anything that goes wrong on this forum. I am also, at this point in time, at least partially responsible for ensuring that the objectives of the Guild --"to preserve and protect" and to be an educational arm of the Guild--are kept uppermost in mind...always...especially in this venue (the Crispin Colloquy). Fortunately, this is a sentiment and an endeavor with which I am in total agreement. Maybe in some strange way...for the times we live in...I am the best person for this particular job. I believe I have, as I have been given to understand them, been true to these sentiments and the founding objectives of this forum.

This Trade...of bespoke shoe and bootmaking...is something precious and unique in this day and age. It is something from another time and place (a place in the mind) and not guaranteed to survive into another age.

But it is also like that sextant. It is beautiful and worth preserving and protecting. My fear is that insofar as we fail to see that most essential aspect of what we do, we risk losing it. If we were to pass that sextant around and everyone made a change to it based on efficiency, scalability, economy, or even simple personal preference, when we got done with it, I fear that we wouldn't have anything left of any real value. We wouldn't have anything worth preserving or protecting.

Or take another example, there are a few...very few...samurai swordmakers left. It is my opinion that they have survived only because they have preserved their ancient traditions and skills with a rigour, and even inflexibility, that few of us want to consider in this day and age. But who would want it any other way?

I sometimes take a position that seems inflexible to many. Partly because it is my job and I am well suited to it and partly because I recognize how precious this knowledge is. It is not a popular or even easily accepted position. But folks, it doesn't have to be. It is one perspective among many. Although, again...and in my opinion only...one worth preserving, protecting, and hearing. It is only one perspective, however...one that anyone is free to challenge providing they recognize that, in this forum, it is understood that ideas are meant to be challenged back. And I am just one individual...with no particular cachet and perhaps only one critical strength (or weakness, deepening on how you look at it)--I am long past thinking I am the best or among the best or even that it makes a difference.

From my perspective, it doesn't even matter if these ideas--the ideas I have expressed and laid out in this forum for you to challenge and critique--are rejected out of hand. From the perspective of my job--representing the Guild--and my certainty that this is a body of knowledge that is worth preserving and protecting, it comes to me like the clear dulcet tones of a church bell, that even if there is only one voice crying out in the wilderness...to remember that the sextant (or bespoke shoemaking) is a culmination of traditions, of skills, of insight, and of passion, that is so valuable that if we ever forget we may never be forgiven...then that one voice is enough. Who knows, someday human beings may need sextants again.

And, it could be argued that we need the "idealism" that informed my sextant more than ever today.

Sorry Mark, for highjacking your thread...it's just stream of consciousness with me sometimes.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#66 Post by firefly » Thu May 10, 2007 4:51 pm

DW,

I don't think you highjacked my thread. I think you realized I wasn't really looking for an answer to my question anyway. I just wanted to get some folks talking about boots and shoes. And by the way I did include the shoemakers.

I do, though, appreciate your reference to Atwood and I would love to see a picture if you are willing to post it.

I also think that you appropriately read into the fact that there is no answer to the question but I do think that if we aspire to greatness then we at least need some examples. And there would be no better way in my opinion than talking about the greats and what we think made them great.

I appreciate you laying your heart on the line about the forum and its contributions. I whole-heartedly agree.

If there is one thing I think we can all count on is getting ALL of DW. You don't leave anything on the shelf.

No emoticons just a simple thanks.

Mark

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#67 Post by dw » Thu May 10, 2007 7:35 pm

Mark,

I do apologize..I hate that--when I mis-read or simply miss something in another person's post. You did indeed mention the shoemakers.

As for the Atwood photo...it is in a book that is no longer in print. Al Saguto has a copy and he showed me the photo. It really opened my eyes...put me in my proper place too, I might add... Image

I emailed Northhampton trying to get a copy but as I say the book is out of print and they didn't have any extra copies for sale. I have begged Al Saguto to photocopy it for me and send it on so that I could post it on the forum but he is very busy and views most technology with some suspicion, I think. I am sorry I can't share it with the Forum.

I have just this very moment emailed the museum again inquiring if a copy of the photo might be available since the entire book is not.

And thank you.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#68 Post by dw » Fri May 11, 2007 7:47 pm

In a previous post I mentioned Jake Dobbins, and with his resignation as moderator...which I've known was inevitable for a year or two...he's been on my mind.

When I consider all the folks who are, and have been, lynch pins of this forum, one thing stands out among all of them--they have made this Forum their own. They did, and do, jump in and help other people. They're quick to offer advice to the best of their knowledge. They, almost to a man, contribute and cooperate and give of themselves. Generously, unstintingly, and unselfishly. They give more, without tallying it up, than they get back...and that's alright with them.

Of course, not everyone has it in them to come in out of the shadows...that's fine, I'm not criticizing the "silent" ones. I'm just marveling at those special ones who reach out.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#69 Post by shoestring » Sat May 12, 2007 4:48 pm

Jake,
I want to personaly thank you for your help on the forum and through priviate mail you along with a few others help me get my feet wet.May God continue to shine down upon you in your practice,and you do make a boot when not pulling teeth.

Ed

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#70 Post by big_larry » Sat May 12, 2007 7:20 pm

No, No, you don't slide out of this whirlwind that easy!

To Jake Dobbins, thank you. You are a great leader. The counsel you gave on lasting preparation was very welcome at a time that I was struggeling. Best of luck!

I have something to say about this business of "philosophical standards of perfection." I am finding out that there are a lot of folks that can not purchase a shoe or boot off the shelf because their feet do not fit the Industry Standards of sizing. One of my first challenges right out of boot school was to fit a man with a foot that did not fit anything on the shelf. He had been buying over sized Gym shoes and was thrilled at the boots I made him. The sewing standards were terrible and I ended up hand stiching the counter.

I am driven to make boots like a salmon is driven to swim up stream to spawn. And thern we die. It is my opinion that the custom boot makers are filling a much needed nitch that Industry can not serve.

I want to thank those who set the fine standards, you sure make some pretty boots. Now I will go back down to my dumpy little boot shop and await the next impuses to comment on the world shaking issues. Dam! I love making boots.

Larry Peterson, I sent in the fee and I think I am now a member of the HCC

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#71 Post by jake » Mon May 14, 2007 3:30 am

Hey Fellers,

Thanks a million for all the kind words. For some reason, I feel an apology is in order. I should have realized my situation much sooner.

Please believe me when I say, "I sure do miss ya!". Can't remember a day I wasn't treated like family here. I pray each of you can say the same.

Dee-Dubb, words are not enough to describe my feelings for you. Not only have you been a mentor, but a true friend beyond description. Only a couple of people have influenced my life as you have.

But don't count me "out" just yet. I'll still find some time to visit. Thanks once again!

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#72 Post by paul » Mon May 14, 2007 6:15 am

Jake,

I'm just getting back to the keyboard with enough time to work up a comment about your resignation as moderator.

First of all, let me repeat a big thank you for your help and encouragement over the past years since I joined the HCC. You've left alot of good information for posterity.
Secondly, I've really appreciated the example you set with the videos you've posted. You give a good example of the ownership we feel about this guild. And you're a good teacher. Thank you.

I'm glad you're still gonna be checking in with us. So we won't have to think of you as completely absent. That's good!

PK

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#73 Post by dw » Wed May 16, 2007 5:38 am

Gang,

I managed obtain a photo of the "Atwood" boot--only it turns out the makers name was really WD Attewell. I don't remember the boot facing to the right in the photo I originally saw but this is the boot. Remember this boot is close to 170 years old. There are some things about it--such as the lack of toe spring--that look strange to our eyes. And it is no longer treed round, nor is it in pristine condition. Nevertheless, I think what the photo best displays is an example of extraordinary work--of control, of an artistic sensibility, and a high degree of refinement and grace.

The original photograph for the catalogue was taken by Chris Ridley for The Shoe Show catalogue, published by The Crafts Council, 1979. The boot is in the collection of the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery.

I would also like to thank Rebecca Shawcross, Assistant Shoe Resources Officer, Northampton Museums and Art Gallery for her time and efforts on our behalf.
4996.jpg


The close-up of the tongue is a "cut" from the original photo:
4995.jpg



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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#74 Post by dw » Wed May 16, 2007 5:46 am

I forgot to point out that the boot was made in 1840. That puts it six years before Elias Howe's pattent for the sewing machine. So all the stitching, top and bottoms was done by hand--probably using a tiny sewing awl and bristled silk. The stitching that holds the pulls on is as fine as anything we could do with a 31 class sewing machine.

The side welt looks to ba strip welt but it's hard to tell. I've seen beaded welt that was as fine as this.

The top binding is still a mysterie to me--how did he do it? Where's the seam/end? Regardless it is beautiful in both form and application.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#75 Post by amuckart » Wed May 16, 2007 2:42 pm

Hi DW,

The lack of toe-spring is slightly odd, but that's a beautiful boot.

You said:
"The top binding is still a mysterie to me--how did he do it? Where's the seam/end? Regardless it is beautiful in both form and application."

Do you have any other photographs of the boot? I'm guessing not since I figure you'd have posted them but I'd love to see one of the inside of the top binding if you have it.

If it has no obvious ends is it possible it was cut as a flat circle and then blocked into a folded ring?

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