I am making a platform out of many layers of fabric, and to save time and energy, and to make the process much more efficient, I decided to have what’s called a press knife made. A press knife is made of steel, and one edge is blunt, and the other is sharp.  You place this over leather or fabric and use a hydraulic press to press the knife into the material to cut it into that specific shape.

Bending the steel to fit my paper pattern

Adding a structure brace to be sure the knife keeps its shape through constant pressing

I have posted a quick video on YouTube as well showing the bending of the steel…he makes it look so easy!

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As part of my research for my Master’s Project, I am teaching myself some traditional Chinese details, one of them being embroidery.  I went to Central St. Martin’s library and rented a book titled Chinese Embroidery: Traditional Techniques by Josian Bertin-Guest to research embroidery styles used in historical Chinese embroidery.  After a few days of practice, I wanted to challenge myself to do one of the images in the book, and I am really happy with the results!

Here is the process:

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(sorry for the yellow-ish photos in the middle…I was working into the night!)

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My Master’s Project is centered around traditional Chinese symbols, and utilizing them in modern ways to make a collection of international, current footwear.  Since the inspiration is China, and also because of my extensive experience in China, I flew to Dongguan to work with craftsmen to create this pair.

Here is a few photos of the process:

My original sketch

The upper pattern sketched onto the taped last

My sketch on a plastic pullover, and the paper pattern from the taped last

The prototype in progress

The pullover, the proto, and the packet (contains the sketch, the spec, and the pattern.

Corrections written in silver pen directly onto the proto.

Bats were used as a traditional symbol of fortune and good luck, as the sound of saying bat in Chinese (fu) sounds similar to the sound of fortune in Chinese (fa).  After scouring numerous books for bat imagery, I found the one above, and wanted to tailor it for a metal piece as part of a heel.

The heel master (as I like to call him), creates a side, back and front profile pattern for the heel shape, and I make any necessary corrections.

Creating the base heel shape.

I sketched the metal piece design directly onto the heel base, to show scale.

After hours of talking, some details seem to have gotten lost in translation, as this isn’t what I was imagining.  The lines are too one dimensional, flat, and squared off.

So more hours of discussion and clarification, and more sketching ensued.

The second sample…much better!

Here is the final product:

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When taking my course, I have met some students who asked for advice with sketching shoes.  I realized that I never had experience with this either until I started in the shoe business, and thought some quick tutorials might be helpful.  I have a couple uploaded onto Youtube, so if you would like some sketching advice, check them out!

Stephanie’s shoe sketching tutorials on Youtube

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I love the markets in Guangzhou…you can find whatever you are looking for, and discover items you didn’t know existed!

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In footwear production, templates are used to make the cutting process much easier.  This metal template for an outsole, called a “knife”, is sharp on one side, and the maker must use a hydraulic press to press the knife template into the outsole material.

For a short video showing the magical wonders of the outsole beveling machine, please visit:

Now a “toe puff” is attached.  A toe puff is a stiffener which helps the shoe’s toe keep its shape (so the wearer’s toes do not show through the shoe).  The toe puff must be thinned at the edge so that once the shoe is lasted, the customer cannot see a ridge of the toe puff’s edge.  First the toe puff is heated, and stretched onto the upper lining.  It is further heated and stretched until no wrinkles are visible.

Next, adhesive is applied to the underside of the upper lining, and finally the upper leather is lasted, and we’ve almost got a shoe!

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