Making A Mule: The Process

We finally finished with our mule project in Shoe-Making class.  I have been trying to photograph the steps, but often I was so into what I was doing, I’d forget.  Please forgive the holes–I think you’ll still get the idea.

We begin with selecting a “last:”  quite simply, it is a mold for your shoe that comes in the shape of your finished shoe.  Each last determines the height of the heel, arch of the toe box, etc.  You must use a different last for each shoe size and heel height.  I have chosen a dainty size 6 for my project (Surprise! No one had any available in my size!).


Tape up the last to make a pattern


After drawing in your design details, cut off the tape and secure to pattern paper.


Draft all pieces according to your master.

Cut your leather according to your patterns, then sew the outer upper pieces to the lining upper pieces, being sure to leave the area at the toe open and unstitched.


Cut and sew the pieces of the upper.


Cover your heel with leather and set aside.

Now you will make a sandwich out of 2 pieces of Bontex and a metal piece called a “shank” that lends support to the foot when worn.  Nail this sandwich to the last.


Nail the bontex sandwich to your last.

Now the tricky part.  Nail the upper piece you have sewn to the top center front of your last, and flip over and mount on a shoe jack.  Beginning at the front center, pull and stretch the lining leather all around to the bottom, and nail to secure.  Continue to do this, working from the center outwards, until the lining is tight around the entire upper.  At first, I worried that this was not possible, getting it flush on the upper.  But after much elbow grease and perseverance, I did manage to do it.  Once it is all stretched and nailed, wait awhile (I waited overnight, but you don’t have to), and working carefully, remove the nails one at a time and cement the lining to the bontex.  A classmate works hers below…


Last the lining of the upper.

Once the lining is lasted, flip back the outer upper (so it looks like it’s talking to you), and get it ready to add the toe box interlining.  This is a piece of plastic, covered with adhesive on one side, used to give the toe area its structure (bought pre-made).  You must put it in a toaster oven until it sags and then quickly mold it to the toe box of the shoe, shaping it carefully under the last, and using an iron to secure and flatten it even more for good measure.


Shape your toe box.


Shaped Toe Box

Hooray!  Now we are ready to last the upper lining.  You may have to sand down the sole area to remove some of the bulk.  Fold down the upper lining back over the molded toe box and lining.  Stretch this piece just as before and nail.  Wait awhile, then glue as before.  Carefully sand to remove bulk.


Last the outer part of the upper.

Remove the mule from the last.  Here you must nail on the heel, using a special machine that knocks it on through the bontex sandwich.  Once the heel is secured, you then glue on the sole, and wrap it up tightly to set.


Glue on the sole and tie tightly while it sets.

LOL–I totally forget to take a pic after I unwrapped it!  I will get that up soon.  For now, hope that was informative!

To know absolutely every detail that I’ve left out, you’ll simply have to take this class at FIT! 🙂

Any questions?  Feel free to ask!


What week is this again?

Okay, I’ve been quite lax in keeping up on this blog this week–and there’s been so much I’ve wanted to share with you!!  I’ve been keeping incredibly busy with schoolwork (and when not doing that, going out on the town).  Last weekend, Sam and Louie took me out to an independent film afterparty (the Blackout Film Festival)–the food was great!  I was kind of disappointed I’d missed the films, as they were all responses to the current economic climate.  I heard many good things about it and look forward to perhaps finding the independent works online.

I can’t even remember much of what I’ve done since then–worked on my first collection for sketching class, done laundry, more schoolwork, school loan and accounts drama, fantasy-shopping for boots on ebay… all of it has been overshadowed by the reminder of a small obsession I acquired at eighteen on my first shopping trip to Toronto…

Cat had taken me to a store just south of TO’s Chinatown that sold mostly small designer goods and custom boots, where, incidentally, she bought me my very first designer piece–a gorgeous Diesel purse screened like an old dutch painting. I still have the purse.  Although this is not the point of my story.  There was along the wall a pair of boots that made my heart stop (this back before I cared ANYTHING AT ALL about footwear). They were a pretty, slim-fit pair of high wedge ankle boots–only they had cloven hooves at the toe box.  Be still, my beating heart!!!

They had been made in a limited edition by a custom bootmaker, and the biggest size left was an 8.5 (I remember that exactly because Cat is a 9 and they were too tight for her, too–I’ll admit, it would’ve broken my selfish heart if they had fit her and not me–I’m mature enough to admit it now).  The price tag was just under $2000, but I didn’t care (thank goodness they didn’t come in my size because I would’ve had them home without batting an eye!), I would’ve bought them anyway.  For weeks after, I obsessed over those boots and vowed that I would someday have my own pair.

Flash forward to about 3 years ago, wanting to be a circus pony for Halloween (think of the feather possibilities!), that I googled “horse costume.”  It was through an innocent google images search that I first stumbled upon “ponygirls.”  Now, if you don’t know what these are, do not, I repeat, do NOT google the term.  For the unsuspecting, it can be quite… er… surprising.  Pony people are part of a small, clandestine group of people who, shall we say, are quite enthralled with dressing up and acting like, well, ponies.  This is no innocent game of make-believe: it is a very adult sexual fetish…

And it… is… fascinating!! Grown men and women, full equine regalia!!  I tell you, those costumes are downright attractive!!  Although I’m really not interested in riding/being ridden by my mate while whinnying like a frisky filly, I love the idea of this fetish, and knew from that moment that I wouldn’t mind at least dressing up like one… for Halloween, of course.  And I also knew I could blow their existing costumes out of the water.  You think you’ve got gear?  HA!!  I’d have the best-dressed bronco in the barn!  Sadly, as so often happens, I ended up having to work a show that Halloween, and my best-laid costume aspirations fell by the wayside.

::Giggles:: Do you know where I’m going with this yet?

Carol put the bee in my bonnet with these...

Carol put the bee in my bonnet with these...

Early this week, Carol sent me a pic of an artist’s work she’d stumbled across while doing some wearable-art research–yup, you guessed it: hoofed shoes!  Now I don’t think these are actually wearable.  They’re really nowhere near as beautiful as the cloven-toed numbers I saw a decade ago. But darnit! I haven’t been able to get them out of my head all week! I’m dreaming about them, for heaven’s sake!  I’ve stayed up nights trying to find them online–I HAVE TO HAVE A PAIR OF THESE BOOTS!!!  I ended up finding teasing taglines–only to find them linked to blogs raving about “hoof” fashion boots.

These are quite lovely, to be sure, and I wouldn’t mind having a pair of them either, but I thought to myself, “Now why can’t I find some bloody HOOVES?!”

Mmm... the shape is just grand!

Mmm... the shape is just grand!

Then, I stumbled upon an enchanting blog entry singing the praises of so-and-so’s hoof boots, and how lovely they are, yada yada yada… same old, same old, but… hel-lo: end of the entry signed Mistress-somebody.  I had stumbled upon a ponygirls blog!  And they were discussing where to find the best hooves!! CRIPES!! Why hadn’t I put two and two together sooner?!!  It was brilliant in its simplicity!!  Find the most hard-core horsey-people in the world and ask them where they buy their feet!

There are no words for the sound I make when I see these boots... I'll take TWO, s'il vous plait!!

There are no words for the sound I make when I see these boots... I'll take TWO, s'il vous plait!!

Good Lord, now we’re cookin’ with gas!  Everyone had their own opinion of how they should be shod.  Among my favs were these hot numbers to the left… as you walk away (tail swishing provocatively, no doubt), you leave little horseshoe prints in the dirt!! HA!! GENIUS!! How do I love these, let me count the ways.  This is a prime example of fetish fashion going mainstream–Nina Ricci sent her models down the runway in these bad-boys a couple years ago.  Insanity.  I must have a pair!

Still, this is not what I’m looking for… what I want is a perfectly lovely, daytime pair of hooved ankle boots.  Enter  Somewhere somebody wanted to dress up as a faun, and abrakadabra, she made this inspiring video:

Watch it and be amazed!  What a great bloody idea!!  From a costumer’s perspective, think of all the possibilities!!  Bondo will be my new best friend!  I will take this woman’s technique and perfect it for my own needs.  In a few months time, I will have the perfect daytime hoofed wedge boot!  And it will fit me!!  The shape of the Antonio Berardi boots above, combined with the calf-hair idea of the artist’s statement shoes, plus a little tibetan lambswool, the perfect wedge base (which I’ve found on ebay), and the materials in this video all add up to one exciting craft week for me!

Would I ever wear these things out in public, you ask?  And I shall answer you…

Yes… oh yes… I will wear them every day it’s not raining…

Last night as I walked home from John H’s loft party, I stumbled across this display window from Macy’s:

Trapeze Night NYC 004

…and I took it as a sign from God.

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