Gabriel had worn the first hole in his Bobux soft soled leather shoes back in July when we went to Mammoth Lakes for a family vacation. Nearly two months and a few more holes later I have finally replaced them with my own soft-soled creation! We love the soft-soled shoes because we believe in some of the barefoot technology theories, mainly those regarding the importance of muscle development in the feet and legs that otherwise may not occur with feet bound in thick hard soles.
Not only were the holes in Gabriel’s shoes a call for a slightly larger size (as his toe was beginning to peek through) but they were also the mark of many steps taken on various terrain of which gave Simon and I a sense of glowing pride; Gabriel being so active he walked/hiked/climbed holes into his shoes! Perhaps that was part of the delay in me replacing them.
My experience with making shoes is limited to one: in junior high I made my own pair of leather moccasins from a pattern. I have fond memories of those shoes. They took me a very long time to complete because I had to punch the holes using a leather hole punch which was very difficult and I could only manage a couple holes before I had an aching throbbing hand and needed to stop. I’m not sure how long it actually took me to make but I some how remember them taking me anywhere from one to three years to complete (haha!).
I didn’t have a pattern for Gabriel’s new shoes so I searched online for moccasin patterns and found one. I stuffed one of Gabriel’s shoes with craft stuffing (my homemade shoe last) and then set to taking measurements per the instructions online. After sketching out the pattern and cutting it out of printer paper, I folded and stretched it around my “last” (aka stuffed shoe) and it was totally nonsensical. So without further thought I simply abandoned that pattern and decided to make my own pattern from Gabriel’s actual shoe.
Not really knowing how shoe sizes increase (do they just get longer or wider too?) I added a hefty quarter inch around the entire perimeter of my tracing (error #1: guessing). I cut out my paper pattern and realized I forgot to add space for the seam allowance (error #2: need that). I decided I would just add extra as I cut out the pattern from felt when I made my prototype (error #3: random cutting plan). I then set out to construct my prototype and though it wasn’t a total failure, it turned out to be quite large (error #4: I made a pair instead of one).
None the less my enthusiasm prevailed and decided to take my new learnt lessons and apply them to another attempt.
The leather that I ordered had arrived and it was beautiful! The pressure was on. I set out to retrace Gabriel’s shoes to make a more accurate pattern. So first I completely disassembled one of his shoes to trace. Then I checked and double checked that I had traced the shoe well. I then added a smidge extra around the edges for size (ahh yes back to error #1). This time I decided the pattern was accurate and ready to cut from the leather.
I carefully traced the pattern onto the backside of the leather and meticulously cut it. When I had all my pieces cut I was so thrilled I stayed up far later than I should have to begin stitching them together.
Instead of using a leather hole punch (since I could spare only a couple days on the project) I decided to try using an awl that I had in my tool box for bookbinding (brilliant idea #1!). The awl not only pierced through the leather like it was butter but also pierced into the table beneath (error #5). However that was easily remedied by placing a piece of bass wood between the leather and the table.
I pierced only about 6 holes ahead of my stitching so that I could keep the edges lined up well as I worked. I was really making an effort to curb my enthusiasm and maintain a cool and collected pace so that the shoes didn’t suffer the fate typical of my crafts. Lucky for me at this point I was interrupted by Gabriel waking up and needing me. So I had to stop for the night.
When morning came around I jumped out of bed and ran out excitedly to my partly constructed shoe, showing it off. Simon thought it looked a bit big and suggested that before I continue that we try it on Gabriel’s foot. What a great idea! Well it was indeed smaller than my first attempt with the felt, but sadly it was still way too big.
So lastly I decided to trace the shoe exactly and skip the extra sizing. I then cut them out, stitched them up and popped them on Gabriel’s feet. They were a perfect fit and Gabriel seemed quite pleased with them!