Testing a Shoe Pattern




Introduction: Testing a Shoe Pattern

About: Shoemaking innovator

If you have seen my other Instructable "Make your own shoe pattern" http://tinyurl.com/hyxqng2 then you will have a first edit of a paper shoe pattern. In order to develop the design and to adjust the fit you must make a mock-up or pull-over (pull it over the last)of the shoe you have designed. This step is an important part of the design and development process of a shoe either for a professional or at home.

If you have a shoe pattern and a last of your own you can use this as a basic guide to hand-lasting (the process of stretching the leather over the last)

We will go through cutting (also known as clicking- cutting was given this name in shoe factories due to the sound of the knives hitting cutting boards), stitching and lasting. By the end of the Instructable you will have successfully tested your pattern and will be able to determine what changes (if any) need to be made to it.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: What You Will Need

For this project you will require:

1. A paper shoe pattern

2. A pair of lasts

3. A sewing machine (industrial or domestic- domestic machines can usually cope with thin leather)

4. A craft knife/scalpel

5. An awl

6. A hammer

7. Some tacks or nails

8. Some leather or suede

9. Lasting pincers/pliers (optional)

Step 2: Cutting the Leather

As this is a mock-up I have found a scrap of suede that is large enough to accommodate my pattern piece. We only need to make one half pair in order to check the pattern.

1. Check both sides for any imperfections like holes or cuts.

2. Leather and suede have lines of tightness running through the skin, this means it is more or less stretchy at different points. We want the to avoid having a stretchy piece of leather for the toe area. To find less stretchy parts, pinch two parts of the skin between each of your hands and pull apart.

2. Place your pattern piece on the material. Think which foot you are making- left or right. You may have to flip the pattern piece over in order to get the correct foot. In this case I am making a right foot.

3. If you are using a shoemakers knife there is a special way to hold it for best results. Place your index finger over the top of the blade so that you can apply pressure to the blade whilst the tip of your finger can hold the material in place as you cut. (see picture three)

4. Cut around your pattern (see tips below)

5. If you are happy with your cutting- the pattern piece should match the piece you have cut then you can move on to the next step.

CUTTING TIPS: Make sure your blade is as sharp as possible. A curved blade is useful for cutting leather but not essential. Try and cut whole lines, in smooth motions. Move around the pattern, don't move the pattern around you. You might find it helpful to place heavy weights on your leather and pattern to stop them shifting as you cut.

Step 3: Stitching the Back Seam

As this is a very simple pattern, it only requires stitching to two seams.

1. With the outside of the leather facing the outside of the leather, align the edges.

2. Stitch along the seam 1-2mm in from the edge. Do not stitch the dog-tail at this point.

3. When removing the piece from your sewing machine, make sure to leave 10cm or so of thread attached.

4. Using your awl, catch the thread on the backside of the leather. Pull the thread all the way through to the back.

5. Tie the threads together to stop them from coming loose. Repeat this for both ends of the seam

6. Now stitch the dog-tail. (see picture 6).

7. Repeat step 5.

8. Use your hammer to beat the back of the seam. This will flatten it and make the next step easier.

Step 4: Lasting the Upper

Now you have cut and stitched your upper you are ready to hand last it. There is a specific tool you can use for this job, it is called a lasting pincer. Pliers will do a similar job. You can also use your hands.

1. Place your upper over your last

2. Pull the upper forwards towards the toe and as you begin to get the correct position on the last. Check the position of the upper on the heel- the heel should be at the counter-point of the last (see my other Instructable on pattern making)

3. Once you think the upper is roughly centred, hammer a nail into the lasting allowance at the toe section into the under side of the last. This will keep the upper under tension and in position, whilst still allowing small movements.

4. Centre the heel seam and check the height against the last. Place a nail through the upper and into the last at the heel

5. You now have two nails holding the upper in place. Continue lasting from the toe area. Pinch and pull with your fingers either side of the toe, then place nails into the lasting allowance. The upper should start to become tight to the last and follow its contours. The amount of material underneath the last should be even on either side. If you have more on one side it probably means you have pulled the upper too much on one side. Continue checking the top of the last to make sure the upper is still in the correct position.

6. Work your way from heel to toe pulling the upper and fastening with nails. As you work backwards, switch from side to side to keep an even tension along the upper. Nails can be placed as frequently as you wish, you will need them more frequently where the last curves.

7. Once you have secured the upper all the way round, go back to the toe area to smooth this. Pull on the loose material and create small pleats. This will create a smooth appearance for the toe. Pliers or lasting pincers can greatly assist with this step.

Step 5: Checking Your Work

Now you have lasted your upper you can begin to check your pattern.

You are now checking the technical elements of your design but are also realising how it looks. What do you think? How does it look? What looks good? What would you like to change?

1. Check how snug the pattern fits on to the last. Look out for any parts where the upper is loose or too tight on the last.

2. Look at the under side of the last and check that the lasting allowance is equal all round. Also make sure that there are no parts where the allowance is too great or too little

3. At this stage you can check your design to see if you would like to change it at all.

If you decide to change something about your design you will need to adjust your paper pattern. If for example you wanted to bring the top-line scoop further towards the toes, you can cut material off your existing paper pattern. If you want to take the line higher up the instep, you will need to copy your pattern and make your addition to this new version of the pattern.

When checking your pattern it is useful to take notes of any adjustments you need to make.

At this stage there is a lot of trial and error. I would recommend testing every major alteration you make to a pattern- a stitch in time...

If you are happy with your pattern and how it fits the last you can then proceed to making a full pair.

Watch this space for more of my Instructables where we will continue the steps of making a shoe.

2 People Made This Project!


  • Sculpting Challenge

    Sculpting Challenge
  • Heart Contest

    Heart Contest
  • Fiber Arts Contest

    Fiber Arts Contest

4 Discussions


Question 6 weeks ago on Step 5

Dear Alreed,
I have got a problem. Please, can you help me. As you can see in my picture (the white Patrons) there are two elastics in the shoe. When I put the upper in the last, they stretch out, and so I need to block them with an internal band. How can I do it? Thank you.


4 years ago

I am so excited for this series! I've wanted to make shoes for a long time but never had much of an idea how. Tried various hacks like cutting soles from old tires but was baffled by the steel wires inside - rubber is hard enough to cut on its own.

Anyway this is fantastic information very well written, looking forward to more!


Reply 4 years ago

Thank you. Next step coming soon!


4 years ago

Nice bro