Ghillie Shoe Commission

A while ago I received a request to make a pair of carbatinae (ghillie shoes) for a reenactor.  It was the first time I have done this long-distance without being able to measure the foot directly.  Luckily, we had good communication and I had a shoe last in his size so with these factors and the fact that this style is a fairly forgiving fit, I was able to create something he was happy with.

Being constructed from 12 oz Hermann-Oak harness leather, these should last for a very long time if not worn extensively on wet concrete.

I really love the simplicity of this design and continue to learn and modify my technique with each new pair.  With high quality commercially tanned leather, they can’t be made particularly cheap, but with high quality materials you certainly get what you pay for.

Very little sewing makes this shoe a fairly quick project to complete once the cutting is done.

This was the first time I used a last to make this type shoe but it was a big help in the forming stage.

Setting the pattern and cutting them out is most of the battle.

Once they’re broken in, they fit your foot like a leather stocking, allowing for a barefoot, but well-protected feel.  I certainly like this shoe.

Ghillies (simple shoes) again

Here’s a simple shoe design that was made by our ancestors before there were shoe shops or Zappos.  Much of the Europe population, both male and female wore a variation of this for many millenia, right up into the early 20th century.  They are commonly associated with their Celtic cousins in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland but they are essentially the same as the simplest Roman carbatina.  Essentially, it’s a basic European shoe.

I made a set of these around 1986 with a little instruction from an Eighteenth Century reenactor and loved how simple they were to make.  My experience up that point was with Native American style moccasins the difficulty I had with sewing in those days.  This was a perfect option for me and I find that it is a popular class when I offer it as an introduction to leather working and moccasin making.

While this isn’t exactly a tutorial, it does provide the basic information necessary to get started on a pair for yourself.  I would suggest a pattern to be cut from heavy cloth before diving into cutting valuable leather just to get the fit right.  It’s a forgiving design so,

Don’t Panic.

pattern and finished

pattern and finished

rear view

rear view

sewn heel

sewn heel

lacing the toe

lacing the toe

after wetting and shaping

after wetting and shaping

drying before oiling

drying before oiling

And finally, six years later, they still function well.  The soles are getting thin so it’s almost time to renew them.  Fortunately, a pattern can easily be made and adjusted from the old pair by wetting them, letting them dry flat, and using that as a starting point.

dsc_0130-3 dsc_0127-5Dive on in.

Save

Save

Irish Brogues and Other Simple Shoes

It’s time for new shoes.  After a soon-to-be-finished commission for a leather satchel, I intend to dive into a brogue-making project in the style of 19th century Ireland.  This basic design certainly dates back much further than this as shown by archaeological finds in bogs throughout Europe.  Don’t confuse these brogues with the more modern usage such as:

ModernBrogueThis is a brogue in the Scottish/Northern English semi-formal fashion with decorative holes reminiscent of the drains left in old field shoes.  Nor is this to confused with the type of shoe that some modern-primitives call “ghillie-brogues” or more properly, just “ghillie”:

These earned their proper name from Scottish Ghillies; a term used to denote game wardens, hunting and fishing guides, and sometimes, even poachers.  A simple shoe style that probably goes back several millenia in Europe.

What I decided to shoot for was a shoe that is relatively simple to produce, is closed for winter use, and can be regularly worn in public without arousing too much comment.

birdshoe

Haarlem, Netherlands, ca. 1300-1350.

To me, something like the “bird shoe” above is very cool but not really acceptable in an unforgiving office environment.  I would gladly hunt elk in these but for some reason, modern work culture has a fairly standardized and limited uniform.  This style tends to be cut from a single piece and sewn around three-quarters of the sole.  This one is punch decorated, probably to show off the stockings inside, a sign of wealth.  This is a form of “turn-shoe” or soft-sole sewn inside-out then “turned”.  A sturdy high top 12th century Dutch example with a center-seamed upper is seen below.  In my opinion, these would make a fine winter shoe.

shoe_12th

12th Century center seam shoe from the Netherlands.

I can’t help but see the similarity between these and North American center-seam moccasins.

BogShoeThe style above is a well-documented Irish “Type 1” dating anywhere from the 1st centuries A.D. through the Middle Ages.  A little more complex in construction, especially to get a perfect fit, it has been argued that these may be the result of craft specialization in the early Christian period of Northern Europe.  I plan to make a pair of these and contemplate them as a possible design for teaching simple shoemaking.  There is some real sewing involved, but not enough to intimidate most beginners.

shoes-fig3

From: Lucas, A.T. (1956). Footwear in Ireland. The Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society 13(4).

For those who know American moccasin styles the pattern above seems very familiar as a one piece, side-seam shoe.

So, this brings us to the “Irish Brogue” or Type 5 shoe.  These are known well up into the nineteenth century and I wouldn’t be surprised to find them in even more modern contexts, especially amongst the poorer populations.  There are similar shoes depicted in Colonial America, probably made in the home for lack of money or access to a cordwainer.

Newports

Early American shoes from Newport, Rhode Island.

The above brogues appear to be a “built” shoe, having separate soles, multi-pieced upper, and a heel lift; the only difference between these and others from the period is the lack of ties or buckles.  Although difficult to tell from the image, they are likely constructed similar to those below:

Lucas, A.T. (1956). Footwear in Ireland. The Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society 13(4).

Lucas, A.T. (1956). Footwear in Ireland. The Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society 13(4).

Hopefully, updates will soon follow to track the creation of a new pair of shoes.

Jack Boots

1The Shoemakers’ Shop of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia has posted an excellent photo-essay of making a pair of 18th Century Jack Boots.  Their leather work is phenomenal and shows real craftsmanship.  Any leather worker can appreciate this even if they never intend to make a pair of shoes.  This pair is particularly interesting with the fire-tempering and waxing that occurs.  Their research is in-depth and is well documented.

histJackbootStages of heating and finishing the boot.

2Perfectly stitched in the traditional manner.

3The upper coming together.

4Ready for waxing.

5A judicious use of heat.  The grass keep the temperature relatively low.

6A finished specimen.  Ready for riding.Have a look at their Jack Boot page.  There is commentary with each photo.  While not full of detail, the images go a long way to understanding the process.