A Day In The Life Of An Amateur Bootmaker

I feel like life has been slightly mental lately so my blogging time has been fairly limited. Whoever thought it was a good idea to hand-make a boot whilst working, trying to start a business & remain sane was crazyyy..

Yes, that line is meant to be straight
(insert crying emoji)

Anyway, where am I up to I hear you ask? Well, Dan is currently teaching me how to stitch my shoe together and honestly I’m worried it may be impossible! I am prone to exaggeration but it is most definitely the hardest part of boot making so far.

Disclaimer: If i’ve already said that, completely ignore me. I was a naive beginner boot-maker who had no idea what lay ahead….

I mean I should’ve guessed it by the sympathetic looks I got when they realised my next stage was stitching. The “awwww” & “oh, enjoy that part” should’ve given the game away at just how terrible stitching was gonna be!

So, I bet you’re wondering – whats so bad about stitching? Well, I’m about to tell you.. Stitching takes place when you attach the insole to the leather. You know the funky yellow stitching famous on Dr Martens? That’s basically what I’m attempting to do. Minus the machinery, all by hand, using a pig whisker, some thread & a bit of wax.

So how do you do it? Once again its literally like going back to the stone ages. First, you have to prepare the thread. Then I had to rub wax up and down the thread to make the pieces stick together. You then weave it onto a pig whisker which is used as a needle to get through the holes you make in the boot….. All sounds simple right?

The hardest part comes next. Those holes have to be made meaning I have a little stick thing with a needle on the end (i’m getting really good at these technical terms) which I have to pierce through the leather, the stiffener and the insole. All in all, not ideal for a weedy armed gal like me.

Dan told me that when he first attempted stitching, his dad made him do it all on his own. He told me it took him a whole day to do 1 boot and he was nearly in tears by the end of it. Well, he was not lying! Tears, tantrums, hunchbacks and cut fingers should be expected at this stage of shoe making…

But the end is nigh (I bloody hope so anyway!) And although the stitching lines are wonky, slightly bloody and definitely not perfect – at least I’ll be able to say I put my blood, sweat and tears into it!

Not to milk it but….. many fingers were injured in the stitching of this boot

Just a reminder that the real prototype is currently being made in a factory in Tunisia. I have a really good relationship with the owner and all is going to plan. I will have 2 prototypes made very soon, YAY!

If you want to keep updated on my journey and receive updates on when WildSole will be crowdfunding, please add your email via this link or comment below https://www.krowdster.co/l/27fc1

Muchos Gracias!

Gem x

The best walks in Yorkshire (in my humble opinion)…

So, where to start? Being from the red brick streets of Manchester I was really shocked when I moved to Yorkshire at how beautiful it is! Stone, greenery, amazing walks – its all my cup of tea.

But what walks would I say were my fave so far? I would love to be one of those people who could break down where to park, how long the walk is etc but I get chauffeured there like the pampered pooch I am and pay little attention to these details… But this is my list of favourite rambles to date:

Disclaimer: If I’ve missed out any deets then you can head to good ole Google for that.

1.Malham Cove

Harry Potter lovers its time to get fan-girlin’. The deathly hallows was filmed on the ‘brain’ of Malham Cove. This is my favourite of them all as the mix of scenery is incredible! The other highlight is the cute pubs and bars at the end of the walk. Head to Beck Hall for a bevvy and something to eat – you wont be disappointed.

2. Hardcastle Crags – Hebden Bridge

If you fancy a lil Sunday stroll to burn off those Yorkshire puds then you need to head here. This is only a small walk but the scenery and mass of trees is all you need! As always, its not all walk no play – about 30 mins into the walk you get to an old mill where you can treat yourself to a hot choc or whatever else tickles your fancy. Its a good mix of being beneath the trees and risking it all on the stepping stones of death (ok, maybe I’m being a tad dramatic there)…

3. Bolton Abbey

Get your £2 portable BBQ’s at the ready, its Bolton Abbey time! This is such a good summer spot! Lie out next to the river, jump in or bring a inflatable hot dog to glide down the stream on – Bolton Abbey has it all. Theres a walk which has obstacles for the kiddies (or the big kid in you). Just a lil tip from me to you – if you’re a 5’10 string bean like me, talking from experience, I’d probs give the obstacles a miss….

4. Ingleton Falls

If you ever fancy getting lost in waterfalls then this is your place! It takes around 2 hours to plod through it all but this is one of the most relaxing, scenic walks in Yorkshire. From waterfalls, to tree lined paths and moorlands- its a beauty. Not many eating/drinking spots along the way here so I’d recommend bringing a picnic!

What are your favourite walks? If you’d like to add any helpful comments/tips that I definitely missed then please feel free!

Gem x

WHY do walking boots have to be ugly?

This is a question I constantly ask myself when traipsing the aisles of any walking boot store. Walking past the mirage of beige, brown, dull walking boots is hardly an exciting experience. I don’t know about you but don’t you think walking boots nowadays are unnecessarily ugly? Ok, ugly is a harsh word buttttt if the shoe fits? (pun intended). 

Look at these beauties..

It was about 4 years ago I got into exploring, unfortunately my lanky feet didnt appreciate walking 10 miles in ‘normal’ shoes so I had to go to the dreaded walking boot store. To me personally, it felt like I was shopping for a mop bucket or something else equally as painful. I felt like I was back at school, being dragged around a shoe shop by my mum, trying on the blandest pairs of black plimsoles all because school couldn’t dare have kids showing any form of self-expression. “Nope, all the same – you can all look shit in black plimsoles” Anyway, I’m divulging again – apologies. Back to it, dull boots…. 

So, it was around this time where I came up with the idea of creating walking boots I would actually be happy to wear. It wouldn’t just be a necessity, I could walk into town after a walk and proudly prance around without feeling like I had two rocks on my feet. I thought it was a great idea so thats where this whole whirlwind started. I don’t know about you, but I love nothing more than going into nature & still being able to express my individual style and quirks. At the end of the day without quirks we’d basically all be mega boring (no offence).

Image result for quote about being CRAZY

Anyway, in the shop I refused to buy a pair. Partly because I was a poor student and the £150 price tag nearly made me fall off my chair, but also, because why would I spend that much money on something I didn’t even like? Speaking to other people about this they thought I was mental, getting numerous blisters from walking in crap footwear, they wondered why I wouldn’t suck it up and just buy a boring pair of boots…. To me, the weird part was that they would just accept that this was the way with no question?! 

Half way through this journey I can honestly say I would be really happy walking in a pair of WIldSoles, wherever the trail may take me. Not just because I designed them and they are my brain child (ok, that may have something to do with it) but because they’re fun, they’re cool and they allow you to express your style instead of feeling like your in a pair of your grandads old work boots. 

Am I mega vain? No, genuinely not despite what the above might suggest…..hehe. But, I do think if you are going to invest in something as necessary as walking boots, why not make sure you actually like them? 

Please comment below, like/share if you enjoy my grumpy rambling & as always, thanks for reading

Gem x

Finding a manufacturer…. AKA – ‘A needle in a haystack’

So, as my title suggests its bloody hard! Apologies for swearing in the first line of this post but you know, just keeping it real.

I started out really optimistic, somehow thinking the world and his wife would be really keen to work with me. “A brand new start up with a girl who has no idea about the footwear industry? Sign me up!”

Well yeah, thats kinda how its gone so far. I feel like I have contacted every single manufacturer in the world (I am prone to exaggeration) and so far I’ve had no luck.

Image result for shoe making

However, things have changed lately….. After shamelessly putting myself out there on FB, LinkedIn and other forums (something I particularly hate doing) I finally may have a bite… OK, its probs a very mild nibble of my toe nail rather than a bite but I’ll go with that! Desperation does weird things to you – don’t judge pls.

So where am I upto? Well I’m speaking to a manufacturer in Tunisia and hoping to get a prototype made by them. Fingers are crossed that the quality is OK because I would love to get my first batch made so I can begin crowdfunding anddddd seeing if anyone actually wants to buy a pair (kinda a key factor)….

Related image
Disclaimer: I have no idea who this man is…… I like his skull though

But yeah, it is not easy & I’ve never been rejected so much in my lifeeee. BUT, I will keep going and one day hopefully the manufacturers who turned there noses up at me (not that I currently blame them) will all come flocking like little eager sheep muahaha. A gal can dream right?

Thanks for staying with me & reading/sharing/hopefully liking my blogs. I know this journey is certainly a longggg one. But we will get there in the end! & at the end of the day, I’d rather hold out for something I love than settling with something I don’t.

If you’re going through something similar – trying to start something up, build a brand with literally zero traction and your nan as you’re only fan – cheers Barbs! Keep going and pushing on, we will get there in the end. Plus when we do, we’ll have a snazzy pair of boots on our feet 🙂

Massive shout out to Dory, my fish idol.

Cheeeeeeers all!

Gem x

Another day spent with a Yorkshire boot maker…

So, here I am again back in Settle. Another sweaty journey later, I turn up to notice Dan has a production crew in his workshop. As you’ve probably gathered, Dan isn’t one for small talk so this was left to the crew who stood there awkwardly lingering, commenting on almost everything in an attempt to break the silence. Secretly, I was quite content that I wasn’t the fumbling newbie this time around. 

As I had got off the train I was faced with a huge plant pot elephant stood in front of me. Apparently, I wasn’t hallucinating off one too many kombuchas (not alcoholic I swear) but they actually have an annual flower pot festival. So, If you’ve ever longed to turn a flower pot into an elephant, fairy or Donald Trump – then apparently Settle is the place to be!

Anyway, back to it!… As Dan sat there in his 5th generation workshop, on a stool older than my great granddad, the camera crew buzzed off all the cool shots they could get. I knew how they felt, I secretly took a couple when I first arrived, under the radar of course as I didn’t want Dan to think I was uncool.. The first couple of shots didn’t quite make it on to my Instagram shockingly, the lens hardly poking out of my pocket didn’t exactly make a insta-worthy shot..

The day started with sewing my pieces of leather together on an impressive looking Singer machine. Unfortunately, I had prematurely boasted about my bunting making skills to then find out I actually have no idea how to sew. The machine was an ‘industrial’ one apparently which basically means its bloody massive and one wrong move and you can kiss your fingers goodbye. Dan joked that only one person had done that and pointed to a picture of him on the wall, I started to sew wondering how long it’d take me to follow in the fingerless boys footsteps…..

Anyway, after a few close shaves and all fingers in tact, I moved on to gluing the other pieces together – slightly more ‘Gemma friendly’. I’ve learnt that in shoemaking – paper, scissors and glue are your best friend. Memories from nursery flooded back, where I’d coat my hand in PVA glue – all so you could peel it off afterwards (just me? okk)…

After glueing I officially made best friends with the un-picker. If you’re new to this sewing malarkey then I’ll explain. An un-picker is like a rubber for sewing. Put it this way, today I spent the majority of the day undoing last weeks mistakes. Turns out Dan is a bit of a perfectionist as when I showed him my work, he looked at me and politely suggested I go do it again, I was only slightly offended I swear…

So, where am I up to now? Well, right now I have it all sewed together, unfortunately the lines are wobbly and a little amateur but at least it kinda resembles a boot now – silver lining! I’m hoping to have it done in a couple of weeks, but to be honest I have absolutely no idea how long it will take. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now – maybss if I didn’t ramble so much I’d have had them made by now, hehe.

Thank you again for reading and I’m so giddy to prance around in my WildSoles! Fingers crossed (if I have any left by the end) soon you can have a pair too!

Once again, for those of you who like a cliffhanger – to be continued…

Why is it important to rediscover our WildSole?

Well, where to start? Theres quite a few reasons I decided to start WildSole, but as you’ve probably gathered by now, I could ramble on for days so I’ll stick to 3 main things that inspired me…..

Firstly, as cringe as this may sound, I want to create a brand that inspires people to get out there and explore more. I hate how obsessed we have become by social media and screens in general and I thought it was about time I tried to change that. Don’t get me wrong, I love an Instagram binge as much as anyone, but I noticed more and more that I was feeling pretty empty from it….

Personally, I find that if I haven’t been in close proximity to a tree for a while (not a tree hugger, I swear) I start to forget who I am…… Not like a Friday night, had too many vodkas forget who I am, but more that I become tense and irritated by things that wouldn’t normally bother me…

I don’t know about you, but do you find that the more time you spend viewing other peoples lives, the more frustrated you become with your own? I end up comparing myself to the perfect instagrammer – she’s got a body to die for, sipping cocktails on a beach with male models tending to her & butterflies fluttering around her head, kind of perfect….. It’s silly, but I forget that actually, she’s probably got sand up her knickers and is worrying about her sunburnt nose and the slight bloat from that slice of sourdough bread she had for lunch. (I eat Aldi’s own but this girl – she’ll eat nothing less than a perfect batch of freshly prepped sourdough!)

Basically, what I’m trying to say is – we all too often look at other peoples lives and forget that they too, have the same worries, problems and insecurities as we do. I’ve found the only way to disconnect from this is to unplug and take yourself on an adventure, live in the moment, hug a tree if need be.

My point is, we get consumed too easily & I want to create a brand that inspires, but most of all I want to start a mission (imagine I said that in a deep mysterious voice – there you go, much more effective). No, on a serious note – I do. I want to get people out into nature and throw them into a forest. I wanna encourage people to follow their dreams and adventure until they realise how amazing this world really is (going all David Attenborough on you there – apologies).

I want people to put on a pair of WildSoles and feel like they can achieve anything. I want people to embrace their quirks but most of all, rediscover that WildSole we’ve all become so disconnected from..

GIVING BACK:

Remember in a previous post I spoke of my time when I attempted to become all buddhist monkish? (not a word – I don’t care). Well, during this time I became obsessed with the Dalai Lama and I promised myself that if I had the opportunity to start something, I would do it with the aim of helping others…

I have my own ideas on how I would like to do this, but I’d love to hear your suggestions as to how you think WildSole could, not only inspire, but also help people too.

Pretty please comment below any suggestions, I’d love to hear your thoughts…?

Gem x

A Day Spent With A Yorkshire Boot Maker…

Well, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from today. I had originally found Dan by googling around for someone to make my prototype and I came across an article. I spontaneously phoned the shop (with no idea of what I wanted out of it) & shortly after, began my journey to Settle.

I’m not originally from Yorkshire so perhaps that’s why Settle surprised me so much. Settle is the definition of quaint, it feels like someone finally managed to create a time machine and they’ve thrown you back 100 years or so. The old shoe shop has such charm, just like the village it belongs to and the sight of hundreds of shoes nearly made me wee with excitement.

Dans approach to life was a breath of fresh air, he owns no phone, no computer, just a simple landline to get him through. Unsurprisingly, he’s extremely chilled & benefits from his lack of constant connection to social media (who’d have thought?). The enquiries come to him through the door, quite literally as they’d be no other way to find him… (well unless you’re trying to make walking boots and have no idea what you’re doing, then I guess you might dig deep enough like me). But anyway, the shop had hundreds of lasts and leathers, more laces than you know what to do with and for me this was absolute bliss!

I arrived on a sweaty Wednesday morning and I was sent downstairs to get some lasts. Actually, thats a slight lie, it began by me failing to get into the shop 3 times (not a brilliant start, making me look like I have the IQ of a cauliflower). But anyway, where were we up to? Lasts, thats it. I fumbled around the cellar like a mad woman in TKMaxx trying to find a size 7 (yup, I have massive feet – don’t judge) and finally found the sacred pair.

I knew the shoes Dan made were completely handmade from scratch, but nothing could have prepared me for the amount of effort and dedication that goes in to each pair he creates. He started by making me take my shoes off (sweaty train = sweaty feet, awks) and drew with a pencil & paper around my unusually large skinny feet – poor guy!

We then went on to creating a pattern for my boots, again all pencils and paper still – proper old skool! This part of the process was the longest but necessary for cutting out the leather in to the correct measurements. Finally, several paper cuts later, I got to choose my leather and lining….

To be continued……… Just as you were getting into it, typical!