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!


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