Wednesday, 21 January 2009

peasant shoes II - peasant shoes for royals too! part 1

[pushed out early - please check in a week or two for updates]

While I was making the previous two prototypes I noticed this picture:

I have shown this before, but hadn't thought about how they were constructed.

So I tried to make my own copy:

I made these the same as the previous pair of peasant shoes, but with an initial higher cut at the ankle, which I then cut into tabs. There were less gathers at the front, due to the way the tabs pull. It might even be possible to remove the gathers completely for someone with a narrower foot than mine.

It wasn't much harder to make than the last pair, and looks more interesting. I didn't end up with an exact copy because I was working from memory and put too many tabs in.

Here's the pattern laid flat:

This didn't really look like the picture unfortunately. And something was not quite right to my mind about the fit of these too - there were stress lines the at ran along a diagonal over the outside of the heel. I began to wonder if instead of drawing on the curving tabs, I should just be making slashes, and letting them become their own tabs on my foot.

And then I found this, lurking in an article I'd looked at before and put away:

An extant shoe made in one piece! And one that looked quite similar to the ones I'd been making.

The Article: Gall, Günter. "Die Krönungsschule der deutschen Kaiser." Waffen- und Kostümkunde 15 (1973): p1-24

The caption to the above diagram says:
Die Schnittmuster für die Sandalia des 12. Jahrhundert, die aus einem Stück Brokat, wohl mit unterlegtem Leder, geschnitten wurde. Die Konstruktion dieser Sandalia zeigt die Nähte auf dem Rist und an der Ferse, die durch die Goldborte verdeckt wurden.

Roughly translated by me (corrections welcome) that is:
"Cutting diagram for the 12th Century sandals, from one piece of brocade, probably cut in one piece with the underlying leather. The construction of these sandals shows the stitches on the instep and heel, that were concealed with gold bands." (Note- I believe this should read vamp, instead of instep.)

The article talks about these shoes and 2 other existing and many post medieval lost pairs, one of which is the more famous "shoes of ". It notes that on this pair the gold bands are used to conceal the seams, but the other two pairs are made in a different fashion (a 2 piece construction similar to ordinary turnshoes of the day I believe), but still use this decoration placement. The article contains few details of the construction, but talks extensively regarding the historical provenance of the shoes. There are probably many more details I am missing in the translation.

I then enlarged the cutting diagram shown above to the width of my foot at the instep, and made a mock up shoe out of felt from this tracing.

[picture to be added]

Unsurprisingly, the shoe is too long for me - I do have wide toes, a narrow heel and high insteps, that mean few modern shoes fit well.

I decided to make a version that fitted my foot's peculiarities, adapting the above pattern to my measurements.
A few adjustments and I had a shape I was happy with.

[picture to be added]

The next step will be to make a version in leather an brocade fabric, but that will be in the next episode I think. Just a warning - this project is being nudged aside by other projects that are more wearable at the event's I'm attending soon, so it might be a while to wait.


pearl said...

Oooooh! Shooooooes! =)
Can't want to see part two!

Sophia White said...

Greetings from Northshield! I am just getting into the SCA and working on first garb. My persona is mid to late eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon, and I have gotten several good ideas from your work here (especially headrails). My budget is limited, to say the least, and I was looking to make my own shoes. I bought some fake leather that looks quite real on the right side, for a belt bag, and I hope to have enough left over to make shoes like the ones in this post. I don't see a date for them anywhere in this post or the other places you linked to. When are they from?

Teffania said...

Hi, In the york leatherwork book ( free at from memory a very similar style of show is dated 9thC but believed to have belonged to a slave as it is quite a bit less advanced than most of the shoes of the era. In both that book and "Stepping through time" there are some other one piece shoes whihc from memory date mostly to the 6th C. There are also near modern examples of one piece shoes in "traditional dress" of some european cultures.

It was from these roots that I speculated that this style of construction might exist in the 12th C (and consequently 11th C) as primarily a style worn by those who couldn't afford better. I still wear shoes of this style not because they are right, but because they are less glaringly wrong than modern shoes and very quick to make.

The evidence for my speculation was 1) the pair of 12th C shoes pictured, which I have since discovered I appear to have misinterpreted and the cutting plan shown was mere speculation on the part of early archaeologists, so probably wrong. (ie not evidence any longer) and 2)a blurry picture - I wanted to see if I could reproduce the look of the picture using this cut (it looked similar to some one piece shoes of near modern times), but I didn't succeed so the jury is still out. 3)if something existed before and after the 12th C, then it increases the likelihood that it may exist in that period, maybe in a small/isolated population

I recommend that you use these shoes the same way - If authenticity matters, get/make yourself a pair of turnshoes. If you need something to wear for now, then these can be made up very quickly and can be less glaring than modern shoes. If you are using fake leather, be aware that it will not be very strong or sturdy. These shoes should ideally be made from about 3mm thick leather, my 1.5mm thick leather examples wear through quickly and I feel every pebble through them. The fake leathers I've seen are fairly thin too, so you may want to wear them only indoors, and I recommend sheepskin or similar liners. A friend made some from fake leather and while I don't think he finds them great, they were wearable.