I CAN Make Shoes workshop review

A few months ago yeah! Hackney ran a competition with I CAN Make Shoes to give one of our lucky members the chance to take part in a shoe design workshop. That lucky person was e8yim, she’s back to tell us how it went…

I CAN Make Shoes

Lasts and manolo blahnik's book

Back in the day, the stretch of the Kingsland Road between Haggerston and Dalston was full to the brim of shoemakers. Jimmy Choo’s rather more humble beginnings were based near The Fox and Terry De Havilland’s workshop is still very much alive and kicking in a row of Georgian houses set back from the main road. So it makes sense that just a few more minutes north, one early March morning, I found myself in a Dalston warehouse at an “I CAN Make Shoes” shoe design workshop that I’d won by writing about my knackered but favourite brown boots on the yeah! Hackney website.

‘I CAN make shoes’ is run by Amanda Luisa who is a shoemaker by trade. Full of energy and ideas, she makes bespoke shoes for her clients and sells upcycled shoes on the I CAN Make Shoes ASOS marketplace shop (taking forgotten or old shoes and transforming them into brand new ones). Amanda runs regular workshops to share her knowledge and passion for shoes and most importantly, her firm belief that with the right know-how, anyone can design and make them at home (really!).

Amanda Luisa on right showing how to cut a pattern from a last.

On the day that I am there, Amanda is working with Lizzy, another shoemaker who is at the time, preparing her first collection. The studio is a warm and welcoming space which is small enough to ensure that the workshops feel intimate and inclusive. The mugs of tea and bowls of Haribo went down extremely well as did the lovely big books full of shoe designs through the ages that are scattered around, intended to prompt inspiration before it was our turn.

We began by learning about lasts (the mould that shoes are made around), heels, how to measure a foot and how to ensure a shoe is designed so it is comfortable and works on a real foot with all its range of movements. While these workshops are totally intended to be fun, this is serious cobbler business. Amanda expertly steers us through the drawing stage and we are taught how to convey a 3D idea into a 2D drawing that a factory can translate into your desired pattern. We move onto using masking tape to wrap a last and drawing our patterns onto this before cutting it out to provide the template which can then be used to cut leather and other materials. There is a real sense that I could actually leave with enough ideas and knowledge to attempt this on my own.

I CAN Make Shoes

The pattern cut from the last

While the one day design course packs in far more than expected, it stops shy of actually making a pair of shoes – and rightfully so as there is a lot to absorb. The three day course gives you the opportunity to do this. Two of the girls, both budding shoe designers, had just completed it; mid way through, one brought out the wonderfully soft caramel coloured heels, with big bows she had made. Not only were they a cool pair of shoes, they were a well-made bona fide pair that she had made from scratch having never made any before. It was actually quite surprising to see them, having always thought of shoemaking as something that required a lot of heavy machinery, money, training etc.

I CAN Make Shoes

My pattern drawn onto the last - the design sheets underneath

I was equally pleased with the teetering glam rock style wedges I designed and with my completely useable pattern in hand, it was fascinating to learn about the wide range of materials used by shoemakers to bring these to life – for example fish skin (!) as well as exotic python skins or softest napa leather and of course not forgetting pleather (the toxic smell alone should steer you in the right direction)…

Fast forward a few weeks later, I went to Terry De Havilland’s workshop to check out making some bespoke shoes for my wedding in June – the drawings of designs and piles of lasts and skins were quite familiar now, and I have to say, the python skin heels that we’re working on are not too dissimilar from the ones that I had sketched out myself at ‘I Can Make Shoes’! I importantly did not forget to ask for memory foam insoles to make them super comfy (thanks Amanda and Lizzie!).

Amanda also runs a sandal making workshop, perfect now that we’re all getting excited over the longer and warmer days; there’s also an upcycling course to help you revamp your old shoes – rewarding, green and easy on the wallet. These courses would also really suit a group of friends to do together, plus it means you might get some groovy shoes for crimbo!

Details are on the website: