Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Peasant Shoes I

My friend Asfridr has doccumentation for this type of really simple shoe, I hope she will upload it soon. In the meanwhile, this journal post of hers may be of interest.

These are very very simple shoes to make. They use only one piece of leather and put seams at the toe and heel to turn it into a rough bag shape. Gathering is then used to shape bag into a shoe.

Asfidr showed us how to make mockups out of felt. She described two main ways of making toes and two ways of making heels. I tried both on two mockups:

This first style has a slightly stubbed toe

The second a pointy toe

I decided I liked the second version of both toe and heel better, so made them up out of leather

I used thinnish alum tawed leather because of the simple expedient - cheap and available. Thicker leather would probably be better.

These were very easy to make, much easier and quicker than turnshoes. Only trouble was my code - I wanted to use a nice medieval waxed shoe thread (in preparation for more turnshoes), and I haven't got the right mix of wax yet. (that might be a blog post of it's own). If you want easy shoes, use a commercial pre-waxed thread.

I also would be happier if my stitches were tighter (again the wax probably isn't helping here), but this doesn't affect the usability of the shoes.

Here are 3 views of the shoe



detail of the stitching at heel and toe:

And what you've been waiting for - the shoes on:

I field tested them at Rowany Festival. Here's a report:
they wet through slowly- but combined with wool hose wasn't unpleasant, slowed down moisture getting through and the hose were only damp, not dirty of muddy. Thicker leather might mean these shoe lasted hours before getting wet, and they dry relatively quickly for leather. Drying overnight alongside the fire (away from the direct heat) might work in a medieval hut.
Also I took my shoes off and went barefooted when it was dampest, which the canny medieval peasant probably did (the farmers sowing are sometimes shown barefooted), at least in more temperate weather. Having dry shoes to put my cold feet into on the cooler festival days after a while barefooted worked well enough for me.

I'd also like to try tallow on them - I think that might work wonders. But then I'd have to be more careful about transporting them As I'd rather not have tallow on my clothes. Shoes lined with dry straw or fleece might last most of the day if you didn't cross rivers in them. Or overshoes - I'm not sure if peasants would wear pattens, but some kind of cheap overshoe could have been used.

I was comfortable. this leather is a bit thin, gravel paths, and sharp edges hurt. Thankfully these were really rare on the Glenworth site. I didn't have any trouble with my slight tendancy to roll my feet inwards. Seams did not rub. Shoes could be worn barefoot.
The lacings were the main adjustment. Too tight and walking normally was difficult, too loose and they fell off. The was a good spot in between. I was using cotton lacings (I've replaced them since with leather which shouldn't get/look a grotty), and over a long day they loosened off. Extra long lacings that looked around the ankle and tied at the front of the ankle might work better - one of my lacings was longer and I did this, and it stayed on a bit better, and Ii think the thong dragged in the mud less.

I replaced this with leather thonging (shoelaces I think - thanks op shop), and this looks cleaner, but knots in it do not stay done up as well as braid (yes i do always have some fingerloop braid handy). Also the ends dangle about, but I need them to tie the knots. I could move the knot tying place from the back to the side - but then they wouldn't fit either foot. I could sew them closed (I don't really need to loosen the lace to get in and out of the shoes), but I like the adjustability, for when my foot changes size, the lace swells when wet, stretches from use etc, and also it is a little easier to get off If I can untie it. Finally, bringing the laces over to the front and tying a second knot at the front of the ankle seems a better option, but my leather thongs are just a little too short for this unfortunately.

Dancing was no good in these - they fell off mid bransle- but maybe if I had had the lacing just right it might have been ok. They were also slippery on the dance floor, just like my turnshoes. I didn't break into a full run, but I suspect this would have been a problem, while a few jogged steps were not. I guess barefoot might have been an option for the frolicking peasant.

They lasted more than 3 days worth of wear. And another 6 months of at least once a month. You can see one scrape on the back in the close up shot of the seam after 3 days, and they are only a bit dirtier after 6 months. Sturdier heavier leather would probably be sensible.


Amelia said...

hello, I was wondering if you knew about Melbourne's collaborative op shopping blog 'I op therefore I am'


there are links there to maps and addresses of Melbourne's op shops. let me know if you are interested in joining.

regards, Amelia

Rebecca said...

Re: getting your slippers to stay on, I use the extra long lacings, occasionally wrapped up my calves over hose, with leg wrappings over the top. Not sure how accurate it is, but it keeps it all in place.

The other thing I've seen in a couple of places, is having a second cord tied across the front of the foot, like the strap on a Mary Jane shoe. I can only recall seeing it on ethnographic examples though.

This PDF
Has a photo of a frieze with what looks to me, like slippers that are being pulled up by the back of the shoe.
(Hope it's that link. Internet is being slow right now.)

Jac said...

All my leather soled shoes have had slippery soles, though they provide more grip when they are damp. I made a pair of slipper type shoes for Festival on year, and glued a hard leather sole on to them, which I've been assured is a perfectly period solution, though I've not documented it myself. The extra layer provided much appreciated protection from the stony ground, but did tend to come un-glued at the toes.

Diane Donald said...

I love reading through your blog! I know this is an old post, but I wonder if using the leather rough-side out (or adding a rough side out sole on the bottom) would help with slickness. The leather shoes I wear for Scottish dance have rough side out leather on the soles. When they get slick I can use a wire brush or scuff them up on rough ground (cement, stone, etc.) to restore the grip.

Teffania said...

The rough side of the leather is also the side of the leather which is most permeable to water and more vulnerable to scratches and wear and tear. So I doubt this was done (or often done) as it undermines some of the main reasons for wearing shoes n a medieval context rather than a modern dancing one. I do scuff the skin side of the leather up a bit, but nothing will provide grip on wet grass or mud - I think barefoot or patens is the solution.