My inside shoes for the Ascension Day project are done, but they need over-shoes for protection!
Pianelle: Outdoor Overshoes
If you have been following along, you might recognize the image above, which is a detail of the Ascension Day peasant woman. According to Vecellio, she wears “…. socks worked with white shoes worked, and then the pianelle (similar to pattens) over…” Fortunately for me, there are several extant shoes with a raised platform sole to study. I tried to concentrate on the examples that were most similar to my Ascension lady, but many more can be found at Francis Classe’s Raised Heels site.
Some velvet ones like above would be fun! But alas, that will have to wait for another time, since these ones will be leather.
But before I worry about what goes on the outside of the shoe, I need to get the innards sorted out. For the most part, 16th century midsoles were made from wood, leather, or cork. When I went looking for the yoga blocks suggested on Raised Heels, I also found premade shoe heels.
I wasn’t sure I would remember where I purchased the cork from, but the box package has taken care of that for me. Those premade heels look like they will be fun to play with, I’ll use the block for a later set.
This heel is lovely and shapely, but much too tall! It also has too much of a curvy profile: the extant shoes are angled but nearly flat from toe to heel.
A few minutes with my husband’s bow saw cut these down to a much more reasonable height.
The toes of the cork were a little more square shaped than I like, so I rasped them down to a rounder form.
I decided that the top of the heel was too narrow, aesthetically and functionally, so I cut even more off and glued the original slice back on. I liked this width much better. To fill in any funny gaps, I used the cork dust and crumbs that came off during the sawing, and mixed it with leather glue to make a cork paste. After a day of drying, I sanded any bumpy spots down.
Once the bases were complete, I could trace around them to get the insole and outsole, both made of thick leather. Marking sides (left or right) as you go avoids confusion later.
This isn’t the clearest picture, but what I did was poke holes around the edge of the insole with my curved awl, going into the grain side and out the side.
Then add color! I dyed the smooth side of my insoles black.
I decided that the toe of my pattern was a bit too pointy to work with the fairly round cork toe, so I cut that down a bit. The whole shoe is being covered with a very thin red leather, so the beige pieces above are veggie tan, about 1/16th of an inch thick, to give the red some structure and strength.
The edges of the red are just glued down for now. I should have stitched them before sewing the rest of the shoe, but since I was pressed for time, that will have to be done later.
I used two threaded needles to sew back and forth (saddle stitch?), connecting the insole, vamp, and cork cover/rand.
Ideally, I would have sewn these on a last, but since I did not have a rounded-toe last, I had to guess at vamp size and hope it would fit. The shoe on the right above is pinned in place before I sew, which makes sure that I am evenly gathering the toe as I stitch.
I covered the cork top and sides in a thin layer of leather glue before laying the red cover on top. It will eventually be secured down with stitches, but the glue helps in the meantime, and also helps the red leather conform to the shape of the cork in the concave areas.
The toe was a bit lumpy, so I hammered it down with a leather covered hammer to make it a little smoother. I didn’t take an ‘after’ picture to show you, but it helped a little.
The red leather tears easily, so I loosely stitched it beneath the cork.
I had a bit of excess at the back, so I trimmed away till I was happy, and glued the seam down. That’s another part that needs to be stitched down later when I have more time.
I cut a V shaped groove into the outsole, using a sharp craft knife. That’s where the stitches will go.
To hold the outsole on temporarily, a few nails were hammered into the sole and cork. Speaking from experience, don’t try to walk in them at this point thinking that the nailed sole is ‘good enough’. The ground will do everything it can to grab the front lip and trip you. And then you’ll feel stupid.
Also from experience, wash your hands very often, particularly every time you use glue during the process. Otherwise, you’ll end up with dirty smudges.
I was not quite done yet when we got to the event I wanted to wear these at, so my husband and friends helped by pre-awling some holes and doing a bit of stitching for me.
Eventually they were done (done enough to wear and take pictures) and I got to parade about in my fancy new pianelle!
I kept looking down and thinking how much my feet resembled hooves!