How to Make Shoes for Hobbyists and Survivalists: Complete Guide
It’s an interesting thought and, topic for discussion if you ever witnessed or considered connecting the two worlds referred to as hobby and survival. Could it be that filling in a space labeled “hobbies “on your resume would reveal clues and insight into your personality that perhaps, you’re not even aware of? Any job recruiter is more than likely to ask you a few personal questions about yourself: “What sports do you like to play, how do you spend your time off, or have you any desire to go back to school or take classes online?” Just hearing these types of questions or, stopping for a moment to ponder the meaning of your thoughts before filling in space on your job application, could speak volumes about your secret dreams and desires.
Knowing a little bit about how life sometimes plays out; it’s easy to see what began as a simple pastime or “hobby” escalated into a fulltime reality for some people. The idea of actually being able to do what we love and thrive at it is an awesome thought.
Making shoes at home
Now, let’s look at the same two worlds from a survivalist point of view: Life is about necessities. Food, water, shelter, clothing, and shoes. It’s also about being prepared for the future and taking the responsibility for your own provisions. It might mean doing everything from hunting, planting and harvesting your own groceries to making your own shoes from the leather you tanned yourself. The bottom line is: having a hobby may help you survive and survival demands know-how. When the two worlds collide-something wonderful happens.
We know from certain historical and biblical texts that wearing shoes of some kind are necessary. Life on planet Earth has required people to work, and much of that work takes place in not so friendly environments. As a result, men and women have been making and wearing their own shoes for thousands of years. In fact, the world’s oldest shoe was made using cowhide leather and was discovered by a team of international archaeologists in a cave in Armenia. The shoe was perfectly preserved and was estimated to be 400 years older than Stonehenge located in the United Kingdom, and, 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. This cowhide treasure was constructed from a single piece of leather and was designed to the shape of the owner’s foot. The archaeologist’s noticed that it had grass inside. Whether this was to insulate the shoe or was added to maintain the shape is unknown. They were not able to tell if the shoe belonged to a man or woman.
Other objects found in the cave were large containers filled with well-preserved barley, wheat, fruit and edible plants proving that shoes have been as important to survival as food and water. Even before those events took place, necessity has forced mankind to find a way to protect their feet with whatever materials they had within reach. To date, the oldest non-leather foot covering ever discovered is a pair of sandals made from plant material found inside the Arnold Research Cave in Missouri, USA. And just to give you a little cherry on top of your archaeological sundae, this sandal had laces!
Somewhere Between Then and Now
Only the Names Change
Shoes. They still cover and protect your feet. They’re still made from animal skins and plant materials. And, they are still necessary. The only changes that have taken place are the names by which they’re called, some of the tools and the new fabrics that have been introduced. Shoes by any and all names can still look as sweet, function in bad weather and, help you stay cool, comfy and warm – and it’s easier than ever. Nowadays, with a point and a click you can either purchase your boots online or gather all the materials you’ll need to make them yourself. By the same token, the survivalist’s that used to live in caves are now referred to as preppers and the folks who make their own shoes because they actually enjoy it are called hobbyists. No matter how you go about attaining your footwear, some things about shoes will always stay the same. The following is a compilation of all the essential components needed to make a pair of shoes:
Naturally, the type of materials needed to make a pair of shoes will vary, but you’ll probably need one or more of the following on hand:
- JuneTree Cowhide
- Vintage Style
- AHG Leather
- No Holes or Cuts
- Reed Leather Hides
- Multiple Lengths
Step #2: Tools
The number of tools needed in making a pair of shoes would literally run into the hundreds. However, the foundation of the art of shoemaking was built upon these:
Step #3: Education
Shoemaking as a hobby or survival starts with the desire to create. The same way a sculptor can see an image inside a rock, a shoe designer looks at a sheet of leather and imagines a stunning and functional pair of riding boots. It’s the actual manufacturing process that demands precision and know-how.
Here is a list of steps you can take in determining the best way to get from the cutting table to the dance floor:
- Attending in-person shoemaking school offering courses in design and shoemaking techniques.
- Online courses specializing in teaching design on the last, making shoe patterns, cutting patterns, shoe assembly, heel design and assembly, sole design and assembly, sewing techniques, lasting and shoe finishing.
- YouTube videos teach everything from basic shoemaking to designing and making specific styles of shoes.
- Workshops are short in-person courses that introduce you to hand-tooled methods in shoemaking. Learning a new skill and completing a pair of shoes are usually the end result of a short shoemaking workshop.
- Shoe colleges offer from two-day workshops to twenty-day certificate programs teaching foot measuring techniques, pattern making, shoe assembly and finishing.
- Private tutoring is available and may include courses in mules, pumps, sandals, various boot styles and handbags.
- Step by step video courses will teach you how to make shoes and are available twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week. They will take you from pattern cutting to a finished pair of shoes. You’ll be able to download lessons to your computer and work with a minimum set of shoemaking tools.
Making the Move from Hobby to Survival Mode
Taking Your Passion to the Next Level
Let’s just say you’ve been designing shoes in your spare time for quite some time now. You’ve made yourself several pair and always hear good, encouraging comments from friends, family and co-workers. You’ve even gone so far as to start making shoes and giving them as gifts during the holidays and birthdays. Everybody thinks you’ve got the talent to make shoes for a living but, you’ve never investigated the prospect or, know anyone who has. While it is a limited list, the following steps may help you get started and give you some perspective on what it takes to learn about the business end of shoemaking:
Step #1: Introduction to the Business of Shoemaking
A private workshop lasting three days catering to people interested in the business of manufacturing and designing shoes.
Step #2: Cottage Industry Development
This course is perfect for shoe manufacturers who make all their shoes by hand. The course teaches marketing techniques for small-scale operators and home-based manufacturers.
The Art of Shoemaking Online or In-Person
- How to Start Your Own Shoe Company
- Book By Wade Motawi
- Shoe Design
- Book by Fashionary
- Crafting Handmade Shoes
- Book by Sharon Raymond
Tapping into the genius behind shoemaking and familiarizing yourself with the who, what and how will make the learning process that much easier. Let’s dive a little deeper into the actual shoemaking procedures and the literal “drawing board”.
Step #1: Generating Your Concept
Considered by making professional shoe makers to be the most important step in the project is the design phase. Start by making some sketches of the type of shoe you want to make.
- This is where you illustrate your concerns such as wide toe area, heel height, laces, etc.
Step #2: Constructing the Wooden Last
Before you do anything else, make your last:
- The “last” is a wooden object that you will build the shoe around. It looks like a foot with additional space in the front of the toes for accommodating the particular style you have in mind. A shoe with a modern look might have a pointed toe. The last would then have a little extra room in front of the toe to accomplish your design for a contemporary looking shoe.
- The last allows a shoemaker a harder surface to work with thereby resulting in accurately drawn patterns and quick context when you need to double check your work.
Step #3: Casting Your Feet
- Alginate for the mold (this is very fine and extremely toxic-wear a mask)
- Quick-drying concrete
- Bolt (any size 2″ long or more)
- Two Washers and Two Nuts (that fit your bolt)
- Furniture pads (adhesive floor protectors, optional)
- Knob or handle (for top of foot)
- Craft sticks (optional, for Step 2)
- Rubber bands (optional, for Step 2)
- Plastic Tupperware (to fit your foot)
- Sticks for mixing
You’ll be sitting down while you cast your feet. Have your floor protected and be prepared to sit very still for 10 minutes (or until alginate feels rubbery and semi-solid).
- Pour enough alginate powder in the Tupperware so that it goes halfway up the side of your foot.
- Add water until consistency is similar to pudding-good to follow the manufacturer’s directions, but you’re still going by consistency. This product sets quickly so stay focused.
- Once the alginate is set, you should be able to remove your foot by wiggling your toes until you’re free.
You can make your own last by casting your foot and editing it to your foot shape and size, search online and buying them from a vendor or have a shoemaker make them for you. Being careful with chemicals is an understatement. If you do make your own lasts you’ll be working with harmful substances so be diligent about following directions and cleaning up afterwards. Be extra careful if you have kids around-don’t let them breathe in powder filled air and remember it doesn’t disappear immediately. Make sure you have really good ventilation at all times. Lasts can be made out of wood or by mixing two silicone components together. Before beginning, thoroughly research which techniques and materials will best suit you and your goals.
The Main Differences Between Making Shoes as a Hobby or for Survival
Valuable Skills in Becoming Self-Sufficient
Making shoes that qualify as survival gear could be worn by military personnel, law enforcement, construction workers, factory employees, emergency medical techs, forest rangers and, any other profession where safety and durability is vital. Outdoors people like lumbermen, fishermen, ranchers, hunters and farmers are also viable candidates for survival shoes. Making high quality shoes as a hobby or survivalist is entirely possible given the right materials and construction techniques. Of course, we’re talking about pricier materials and expert construction methods needed for such an undertaking. For example, it’s unlikely you’d make snakeskin boots unless you were surviving in a cold, inhospitable environment or, hiking through thick brush and muddy river beds where you might come in contact with a venomous snake. One mistake here could cost you a fortune-even your life. Once you get outdoors and start thinking about making your own survival shoes, you’ll be amazed at the possibilities and options available:
Step #1: Making the Transition from Hobbyist to Survivalist
Every emergency shelter, basement or refuge should be equipped with clothing and shoes that can accommodate the seasonal changes that occur during the year. There are various shoe materials available in addition to the usual cow and deer hide. They may seem unusual choices but could come in handy depending on where you live:
- Eel Skin
- Elk, reindeer and moose
- You will also require secondary materials for assembling and stitching the items together.
- Waxed thread for stitching
- Sewing needles designed for stitching leather or heavier fabrics
- A sharp knife
- Buckles for fastening
- Nylon straps for fastening
- Band or circular saw
To make your own tire sandals or moccasins, gather up all the materials you need and begin. Use your choice of any type of soft leather you like. Keep in mind the lining of the moccasin should be made of material that is even softer such as an old sweatshirt. The exterior of the moccasin is going to consist of two pieces of cut leather: the vamp and the heel. The lining is made of the top, sole, and another heel. Regardless of design a moccasin is most often constructed using a heel, vamp and lining.
- Begin by cutting and sewing the heel and vamp together to form the moccasin outline.
- Then, insert the lining. Either attach the lining with thread or glue to keep it from slipping when worn.
Step #2: Sandals Made out of Tires
The sandals you can make from old tires are said to be even easier to construct than moccasins. Usually, the only materials you’ll need to buy are some buckles and nylon straps. Old tires are available almost everywhere. In fact, you probably know someone with a couple in their yard or garage. The bottom line is they are plentiful and work great if you’re looking to make a durable shoe. Start by:
- Tracing the outline of your foot while standing on a piece of paper.
- Drawing two tabs on either side of your foot beginning right below where the toes start and just before your heel.
- Also, by drawing a tab sticking out from your heel, you will be able to connect the other tabs together making the back of the sandal. These tabs designate where the buckles and nylon straps come together and attach, so check to make sure they are at least 3/4 of an inch wide.
- Make the tabs narrower near the foot, flaring them out slightly near the end as you’ll be cutting slits in the end that is flared.
- Your next step is cutting off sections of an old tire bigger than your foot and tracing it with all tabs included.
- Make sure your tire doesn’t have steel wires running through it. If it does get rid of it-it won’t work.
- Cut your tire using a circular or band saw. After cutting, lay the tire sections so that they curve upward.
- Trace the outline of your foot and the tabs on the inside, then proceed to cut the sandals from the tire.
- Locate the front two tabs and cut a horizontal slit at the end of the tab wide enough to accommodate a nylon strap to fit through. Do the same thing on the back two tabs including the heel tab, making two vertical slits at the end of your tabs which are also wide enough to fit the strap through.
- Finish up by threading a piece of nylon strap with the buckle between the front two tabs and threading a piece of the nylon strap with a buckle through the three tabs on the back. Your tire sandals are now complete.
Walk A Mile in “Their” Shoes
It seems that where there is a will-there is truly a way. No matter where you are or, what the budget is, there’s a professional nearby to help you hone your craft.
Step #1: SimpleShoemaking.com
Sharon Raymond has authored two books on shoemaking and teaches students on an individual basis how to make flat studio shoes in one or two-day workshops. Styles include Sheepskin boot making, Renaissance Faire style boots, baby shoes, children’s shoes and sandal-making. Classes on additional shoe styles are also available if you’ve got the time for more classes.
Step #2: Manhattan’s Jewish Community Center
Classes focusing on shoe making, sewing, leather purses, illustration and design. Workshops range in length. Check website for more info.
Step #3: Learn It All in The Big Book of Self-Reliant Living
Step #4: Pensole Footwear Design Academy
Teaching students the complete footwear design process including concept-development, design, material selection, problem solving, marketing, prototyping, business strategies, branding and networking.
You are the only person who knows the dreams and desires you wish to pursue in this life. If you’re a shoe designer with the hunger and passion to design your own line, start today by gaining as much knowledge and know-how as you can from those in the industry. There are literally thousands of sources to learn by: videos, books, classes, workshops and websites all at your beck and call. If you’re not sure how committed you are and want to dabble in shoemaking as a hobby-start by reading a book published by someone in the industry. There are many arts and crafts sites online who carry everything you need to get started on the novice level.
Survivalist’s are people who are actively engaged in preparing for the future. No matter what is going on in the world we all know that emergencies happen so anything we can do to prepare for disruptions in our everyday routines will help us get through the tough times ahead. Survivalists are known to train in emergency and medical techniques as well as self-defense training. They are also known for stockpiling food and water, preparing to become self-sufficient, and building structures such as survival retreats or underground shelters. Shoemaking is held in very high regard by survivalists because of the absolute necessity to protect and cushion your feet in any type of terrain. Repairing footwear is also of the utmost importance when there may be times you have to do it yourself. After all is said and done, we see that the hobby of making shoes and the survivalists view of shoemaking are not really so different. Both start with a desire to create and are willing to take the time to learn as much as they can about the craft. You too can turn your shoemaking vision into a reality. Be patient, ask questions and do the research-you won’t be sorry when all of a sudden someone says, “Hey, where did you get those cool looking shoes?”
- https://uptowork.com/blog/hobbies-and-interests-on-a-resume Natalie Severt 2018-02-16 blog Examples of Hobbies to put on a resume
- https://www.liveabout.com/tips-on-where-to-take-a-shoemaking-class-2988936 Desiree Stimpert 2014-07-14 Tips on Where to Take a Shoemaking Class blog
World’s oldest leather shoe found in Armenia Date:June 10, 2010Source:University College Cork
- http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Shoes-at-Home/ WilliamBottini 02-26-2011
- http://www.history.org/Almanack/life/trades/tradesho.cfm Shoemaking Traditiom Continues article
- http://www.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_materials_needed_to_make_shoes answers
- http://www.luscher.org/making_shoe_lasts.php mark luscher
- https://www.shtfblog.com/5-shoe-styles-for-your-shtf-survival-teotwawki-gear-list/ 5 Shoe Styles For Your SHTF Gear List