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leather shapes leather shapes



Cutting out the pattern

Making a pair of "Viking" ankle boots - continued

This is also known as "clicking"

Lay your leather out onto a table top and trace the pattern onto it. Remember that ink marks can't be removed except by cutting them off, so marking should be done with a pencil, or a scratching awl. This was probably the purpose of the small spur on the back of the medieval shoemaker's knives.

head knife

clicker knife


To save leather, lay the pattern against the edges of the leather, with the pieces as close together as possible. Be sure to check the leather under the pattern for cuts, thin spots, or holes before tracing. When the design calls for a left and right pattern, be certain to turn the pattern over after tracing it on the leather (unless the right and left foot are grossly different in which case you definitely need to make separate patterns). For cutting out the leather uppers below, the feet were almost identical so no alteration to the pattern was required, just remember to turn the pattern over. Speaking from experience, I can't stress that enough, it's too late to remember when you've started to cut!

shoe sole

collar for shoe upper

left shoe upper right shoe upper

There are also different schools of thought regarding the tools that may be used to cut the leather; a sharp knife versus scissors or shears. Essentially this appears to boil down to the fact that a sharp knife cuts a single, controllable line, while scissors and shears tend to cut a line in an offset manner.  The major difference is that using a knife is simply less work. Pictures of medieval shoemakers show them with knives, and with shears large enough to cut leather. 

Draw the knife point by moving the heel of your hand. Keep your wrist stiff. If you keep the heel of your hand on the leather as you cut, it will help you keep the leather pinned to the work surface. Keep the blade straight as you pull the knife. If the angle of your cutting becomes uncomfortable, stop and pivot the leather, not your wrist. If you have to force the knife, it's not sharp enough. Strop it a few times to sharpen it, otherwise you risk losing control of the cut. Thick leathers, such as sole leather, may require two or more passes with the blade, and even soaking the leather before cutting. There is some debate regarding cutting leather on a bias or against the grain, or even using flank or belly leather.

view of left shoe

view of right shoe

Note that the flap which crosses over the top of the foot in front of the ankle is strengthened by stitching an identically shaped piece on to its inner side, in addition to the collar which is used to strengthen that part of the upper around the ankle. In the illustration above this flap has not been fastened. A kidney-bean shaped toggle is made by rolling up a length of leather, and then slipping the tail of the leather back through the slot in the extended flap of the collar. The bindings for the trousers are optional and self explanatory, so try not to get into any swordfights.

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leather shapes leather shapes