Brooklyn’s Best Kept Shoemaking Secret!

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What do sewing teachers do when they’re on vacation?  They keep sewing!  This time our ongoing quest to learn how to make absolutely everything under the sun took us to sunny Brooklyn, NYC…   Here on Grand St. in the heart of the Big Apple, I met two exceptionally talented ladies who are making some of the most beautiful hand welted leather shoes that I’ve ever seen – and they were kind enough to share some of their shoe making tips and tricks with me!  Jesse Moore and Marika Verploegh Chassé are Brooklyn Bespoke, New York City’s premiere shoe makers….  and occasionally they play shoe making guru to the shoe-curious like me.


Here’s Marika, working on a pair of mens derby shoes.  Do you know the difference between a pair of derby shoes and a pair of oxfords?  Marika, a shoe making teacher at FIT will make sure you know!  There’s a big difference if you’re drafting a pair – brush up on your shoe making terminology here!   Sadly, there aren’t alot of people who are making shoes like these ladies are anymore.   They have travelled the world over for the last 20 years, learning from the best of the best.     Likewise, there aren’t many contemporary shoe making text books – many of them are over 100 years old and aren’t of much use for the aspiring modern shoe maker.  Frank Jones has written the most up to date text and shares his years of factory experience in his book, ‘Pattern Cutting’.


My pattern drafting experience for garments proved helpful in understanding the basic concepts of pattern making at times, although shoe making tools are not always dress making tools.  I loved using the roller foot on their beautiful post-bed machine, though it took some getting used to – as did cutting patterns with ‘windows’, where the seam allowance for every piece is included in the master pattern.

Regardless, I am obsessed with shoe making.  The space you have to work with is extremely limited, so millimetres matter.  Even a 2mm  pattern adjustment can make a huge difference in the way a shoe fits – but despite the careful delicacy that’s required to design an elegant pair of shoes – the final product needs to be as solid and tough as it can possibly be if it’s going to withstand the abuse and punishment that we give to our shoes. Thanks for a great week, Jesse and Marika!

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