SHOES

Many shoes have been found from our period; in water logged areas in Dublin, Heddeby and York. The wealth of find material means that we have a pretty good idea of what shoes and boots the Vikings and Saxons wore. Consequently, there is no acceptable modern substitution for C10. foot wear. Your choices are limited to buying or making. There are quite a few people currently making shoes, so supply is no problem. Cost is also reasonable, especially when compared with buying a pair of hand made shoes, (see the society trading officer for details).

Making yourself a pair of shoes or boots is not too much of a problem providing you have basic craft skills and a small selection of essential tools. The wealth of shoe finds can been categorised in many different ways, but for the purposes of reconstruction we need only two. These can be referred to as the 'Front Seamed' and 'Side Seamed'. The latter is a little more economical to make but an exact pattern is required and is therefore a little trickier to make. The former is easier to make but perhaps a little more wasteful of the leather. No pattern as such is needed for the front seam type so we shall consider the making of this one first.

Manufacture Of Front Seamed Shoes
To ensure your shoe making project is to be successful, yon need to have a pretty good pattern of your feet, so start off by drawing around your foot on a piece of cardboard. Cut this out and turn it over, then check that it will do for your other foot. Label each side of the sole 'L' & 'R'. This is not as daft as it sounds, shoes are sometimes made inside out then turned around, hence 'turn shoes' and it is easy to get confused and end up sewing a right sole to a left upper.

For the front seamed shoe, no pattern as such is needed for the upper. All you need is a piece of leather that is long enough to wrap around your foot and tall enough for the type of footwear you require, (see figure 26). Make the length and width of the upper longer than you actually need, then trim off the excess when you have finished.
 

Figure 26


From the illustration you will see that a front seamed boot is simply a front seamed shoe that comes further up the leg. You will need to select some leather for shoe making. This does not have to be high quality (and expensive) tooling leather, but cheap center spit hide is equally undesirable as it will not last very long, (see annex 9).

For the sole a thicker piece of leather may be used, stitching the upper to the sole through the side of the sole (annex 10), or else sewn through a thinner piece of sole leather and another piece of leather glued to the sole. Any stitches that protrude through the sole will eventually wear away, then your upper falls off! Side stitching or gluing another sole to the bottom will prolong the life of your creation. Another factor is modern roads. The Vikings did not have them, but we have to contend with walking on tarmac and gravel, so any number of soles that give the feet protection are desirable. Remember to assemble your footwear with the 'shiny' of the leather downwards.

When cutting out your leather soles from your cardboard pattern, add about 1/4" - 6.5mm. all round the foot for seams. Also add a heel triangle, about 1.5" x 2.5" - 4cm. x 6.5cm. (see figure 27). The triangle prolongs the shoes life by having the heel seam out of the way of heel scuffing. Our ancestors must have been prone to scuffing their heels as this is a very common foot wear feature!
 

Figure 27


Now that you have leather for your sole and upper, cut a slit in the middle of the long edge of the upper, slightly 'V'd at the edge, (see figure 28). When pulled apart, this slit becomes the heel triangle, so it needs to be 2.5" - 6.5cm. long. This allows the upper to cling to the back of the foot and stops it becoming baggy.
 

Figure 28


Starting at the heel triangle, sew the upper to the sole, round one side then around the other, finishing at the big toe. (figure 29a). You should now have a foot shaped tube, open at the front. Put your stockinged foot inside your tube, and pinch the leather together up the middle of your foot, till you reach the leg. Mark this line and sew up, (annex 10). You can leave your foot inside when you sew up, but this is not advisable as you invariably end up sewing the shoe to your foot. Wooden lasts were found at York, probably for this very job. However, if your marking is accurate enough, you should not have any problems. Remember
to leave a big enough gap between the top seam and your ankle/leg to get your foot in and out.
 

Figure 29a


Finally trim the leather off the top of the foot, and shape the remainder either as a boot or shoe, (figure 29b). Complete the foot wear with fastening toggles and loops, (annex 11) edge whipping, (annex 10), dye if required and add leather preservative,
(annex 12).
 

Figure 29b


Manufacture Of Side Seamed Shoes
The second type of shoes to consider making can loosely be classified as 'Side seamed shoes'. These are a little trickier to make than the front seamed variety as they have to be a fairly good fit when they are cut out and assembled. (The front seamed shoes, as you may remember, were loosely cut out and trimmed after assembly).

A good pattern of your foot is required if this type of footwear is to be successfully manufactured. Reproducing original shoe patterns of Viking footwear or even modern adapted patterns of successful shoes simply does not work. Not only do people have feet of different lengths (generally longer than Viking feet) but even people who have the same length of foot have varying widths of feet, proportionally much wider than Viking feet.

The best compromise is to obtain a pattern of your own foot and adapt it to conform to one of the many pattern variants, (figure30a).

Obtain a pattern of your sole, (see above - 'Making a pair of shoes I'). Obtain a pattern of the upper of your foot by either cutting up an old pair of shoes, such as plimsolls that are still a good fit, or by making a paper pattern of your foot by cellotaping pieces of paper together over the top of your foot, until a sort of paper sock is achieved. Next, cut the old plimsoll or paper sock off your foot in such a way that it resembles one of the basic shoe patterns when laid out flat, (figure30a). Check that this pattern will do for both feet and label 'L' and 'R' accordingly. Usually a single cut is required from the outside of the foot, cut
diagonally to the front of the top of the foot. When this cut is inserted, a pattern similar to the York-1 pattern is obtained.

With your pattern laid out flat, add about 1\4" - 6.5mm. all round for seams. From a suitable piece of leather, mark out two soles and two uppers, (see annex 9 below) . Add about 1\2"-l3mm. to the length of the short edge in case of upper or sole mismatch which sometimes occurs when you sew a straight - edged piece of leather around a curved one. Remember to put a slit up the back of the heel, 2.5" - 6.5cm. long, and round off the corners.

This kind of shoe can also be sewn onto a thick piece of leather, as detailed in the previous section. Otherwise a thinner sole can be sewn onto the shoe, inside out, hence the term 'turn shoe'. A turn shoe is a shoe, like this one, that is assembled inside out and then turned the right way round.

Manufacture Of Turn Shoes
With your sole and upper patterns, check that they will do for both feet. Mark out one for each foot from a suitable piece of leather, (annex 9) , and cut out the various pieces . Pair the uppers and soles together, remembering to put the "shiny" side of the leather outwards and downwards. If chromed leather is being used, hide the chromed side inwards and downwards.

Start the sewing at the heel triangle, and use saddle stitching, (see annex 10). Sew up the short side first, then sew round the long edge. You may have to pull the leather tight to ensure that they meet together at the side of the foot. A little extra material on these edges will ensure a good seam.

When the sewing is completed and any excess leather is trimmed off, the shoe can be turned the right way round. Stiff seams can be rubbed with bees wax and hammered flat to prevent chafing. Toggles and laces can be added, but remember that they did not lace up boots and shoes as we do today. We tend to lace up a vertical arrangement of holes, whilst they thonged up a horizontal arrangement of holes or slits, (see annex 11).

To complete the shoe, the top edge of the seams can be "whipped", (see annex 10). The leather can be dyed and waterproofed with preservative, (annex 12) . Extra soles can be sewn or glued to the bottom to help with the roughness of modern roads.

Finally, inner soles can, and probably were, used against cold wintry ground! Authentic inner soles probably consisted of stuffing the shoe with straw. Cheap foreign soles of raffia or hessian can be used, they can be bought from bargain shoe shops. Alternatively pseudo inner soles can be cut from a piece fleece.

Patterns
Figure 30b Shoe from Denmark
Figure 30c Shoe from Sweden
Figure 30d Shoe from Heddeby (type 2)
Figure 30e Shoe from Heddeby (type 6)
Figure 30f  Shoe from Heddeby (type 3)
Figure 30g Shoe from Heddeby (type 4)
Figure 30h Shoe from Heddeby (type 5)

 

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