10 October 2014

Extra Paintings

Every time I paint pictures for my Etsy store, I have a few that don't quite fit my standards for something I feel is worthy of selling. This last painting flurry was no exception.

Here is one I painted of my beautiful blue Betta. I wish he had turned out with a bit more depth, but alas, it was not to be. I might work on it a little more some time, but more often than not, when I put the paint brush down and walk away from a painting, it is very hard for me to pick up where I left off and continue again. This one might just be worthy though!

The other one is a play off one of my all time favorite paintings Fox and Moon I made last winter. That one was a winter print while here it is a late autumn theme I went for with the big ole harvest moon. I think close ups never seem to work out for me.

Anyway, I thought I would share, because although I probably won't be posting them anywhere for sale any time soon, but I wanted to share them for fun!

Have a lovely evening!

07 October 2014

Getting Started Making Leather Shoes

A friend suggested this post, so here is everything you absolutely need to know to get started with leather shoe making!

Important tools to have


If you don't want to cry and destroy your fingers yanking needles through holes, an awl is an absolute necessity. An awl is basically a pointy stick you will use to poke holes in the leather to sew through. Leather isn't like cloth, so it doesn't have holes in the weave to allow a needle through, so you will be making all the holes yourself.

When I first tried making shoes, I didn't buy an awl, and I tried to yank each stitch through using only sewing needles. I bought some cheap ones from hobby lobby and ended up breaking all 5 or six of them on one shoe. Not recommended. Also make my fingers hurt and my arm sore.

There are many kinds you can choose from, I recommend getting one that is not super long, and doesn't have a terrible long handle either. Another mistake I made was buying my first awl from hobby lobby. It was about 6 inches long and was ridiculous to handle at that length. Though a thousand times better than just the needles. 


Buy leather needles. They are better. Unless you already have needles because you do a bit of sewing sometimes. Then use those. Don't buy fancy ones until you know you like working with leather. They aren't expensive, but why buy something when you have something else that works just fine for a trial run? The leather ones are a little thicker generally, so a little more durable when you need to yank through a hole that is not quite big enough.

Artificial Sinew

I like artificial sinew (waxed, flat lacing)because it is easy to split if needed, is pretty durable, and gives that natural fresh-from-the-forest look I'm going for. Some stuff is more like rope and is twisted. That stuff is fine too, I just don't prefer it personally. The important part is to make sure it is waxed to provide protection from water damage, and to make slippery enough to make the stitching easy. Also don't get cotton, I am told it can degrade over time. Get something good and synthetic that won't decompose on you if it does get wet.

Leather Thimble

You can make this item using scrap leather and your newly acquired awl, sinew and needle.

Vegetable tanned leather is good for protection but not very flexible. I made a short one to protect my thumb with this type of leather.

A thin garment type leather is good for a thin flexible one that will give you a better grip on the needles. I made mine out of 2-3 oz deerskin.

Box Cutter

A razor blade, exacto knife, etc are very useful for cutting out thick sole leather.


Good for cutting thread and thinner leather.

Contact Cement

Can hold shoes together fairly well, can be used to glue soles on, or glue them in place before stitching them more securely.

There are lots of other useful tools to have, but these will get you started enough so that you can make a pair of shoes without too much difficulty.

Important things to know about leather

Here are some basic info about leather that may help you when trying to decide what type of leather to buy for your shoes. The first leather I bought was vegetable tanned, and was so stiff I couldn't really make anything practical or beautiful out of it. The second leather I bought was some 2-3oz deerskin that while beautiful and soft, was too thin for my shoe making needs. I finally got it right when I bought some  3-4 oz deerskin.


The thickness of the leather is expressed in ounces. Two-three oz leather is usually pretty good for making clothing, but will require a lining if it is to be used in shoe making. Anywhere from 3-5 oz leather is a good range for a lightweight leather for shoes, though keep in mind they might stretch a bit at this weight, especially if it is deerskin. When it is more in the 5-6 oz range, the leather is a bit thicker, and is what I am using now to make moccasins. The ones I made for myself are 3-4 oz deerskin, and my new stuff is 5-6 oz cow hide. Both seem to be good for moccasins, and I think the stuff I have now would be good for making leather work boots and the like. Slightly less flexible, and slightly less stretchy than the 3-4 oz.

I buy thick stuff for soles, anywhere from 8-12 oz cow hide. Vegetable tanned leather also works if you want a thin sole that will develop a patina and wear pretty well indoors and outdoors on grass (not sidewalks and other concrete stuffs).

Cow hide vs deerskin etc

In my experience, deer, and deer-like animals (I have also gotten elk) seem to have very soft, velvety, and stretchy hides, while the cow tends to be thicker, stiffer, and a bit less stretchy. 


Vegetable tanned-
Results in a stiff leather, not recommended for shoe making unless I suppose you wanted to use it as heel stiffener or something like that.At least the stuff I bought so far.

Brain tanned-
Very wonderful, soft flexible leather. It is a difficult process to tan a hide this way though, and so is more expensive. Makes excellent soft, flexible boots and moccasins that are wonderfully warm and cozy. This is the traditional way leather used to be tanned in the old days by Native Americans.

Chemical tanned- lots of leather is tanned by chemicals. Sometimes this bleaches the skin, so that it can be recolored with dyes. Depending on the type of leather and thickness it can be good for making shoes. Much cheaper and faster to produce. This is a lot more complicated than just "chemical tanned" and there are many chemical methods, but this is enough info to get you started. I would probably buy something chemical tanned the first couple times so you don't waste too much on brain tanned. Also it is much easier to find.

Type of grain

Original grain of the leather left on, a more natural look. The grain would be the part that is on the outside of the animal, where the hair would grow out. Full grain means that the hide has not been split into thinner sections and top grain. It originally meant it had the original grain on it, but now could mean that a grain was printed onto one of the split pieces

Leather that has been split, or the grain has been taken off. Velvety look and feel.

The grain has been buffed off to produce a suede. Could also mean that the leather has been rubbed smooth to bring out a shine to the leather. I am currently using buffed cowhide to make moccasins.

Important stitches to know

Whip stitch-This stitch goes around and around always entering the leather form the same side. Is a good way to finish edges in cloth, but it also allows leather to flatten a but better, so Is good for sewing soles on turn shoes, so there isn't a seam to step on. Better if you are planning to add a sole to the bottom, as whip stitches are visible and would come into contact with the ground and wear quickly.

Running stitch- Just a straight stitch, up and down, from both sides. For sewing buffs, don't stitch this like a sewing machine, but all the way through to the other side each time. That way, if a stitch or two breaks, the whole thing won't be undone as quickly.

Square knot-
This is a pretty basic and easy knot that will work well to make sure your artificial sinew doesn't become untied once you are done stitching.

There are a ton of useful stitches to know in leather working, but these basic two will get you pretty far. If I were to suggest another stitch to learn, the baseball stitch can come in handy once in a while.

Important terms to know

Here are some important terms that are used in shoe making. Not a complete list, by any means, but enough to help you out a little as you read other blogs about shoe making.

Collar-the opening of the shoe, hole where your foot goes into the shoe
Uppers-the top half of the shoe

Insole- the part that touches the bottom of your foot, found on the inside of the shoe

Sole- the outside part that touches the ground

Toe box- the room for your toes at the end of the shoe, often there is a stiffer piece of leather inside to ensure that the toes have plenty of room

Heel-the part of the soles under the heel area that is thicker

Last- a form, often made of wood or plastic in the shape of a foot for making shoes

Quarters- the sides of the shoe, part of the uppers

Vamp- the top of the shoe, part of the uppers

Turn shoe- a shoe that is stitched inside out and is turned right side out later, common in Medieval Europe. 

Moccasin- a soft leather shoe without a heel, usually referring to any Native American shoe with a soft flexible sole

Hopefully this information is enough to get you started. If you have any questions, I would be happy to help! I am still learning so I may have to look somethig up, but feel free to ask!

Happy shoe making!!

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