- Awl Together Leather is the only gay, women-owned custom shoe and leather repair shop in Canada.
- Co-owner Tess shows us how she transforms a pair of vintage heels into wedges that match her style.
- By dyeing the shoe, removing the heel, then applying a new sole, a new pair is created.
Your : Today, we are redesigning a pair of ballerinas inherited from vintage and adding new soles and dyes. We decide to re-dye and re-sole them today because it’s a beige shoe, which suits a lot of people but doesn’t suit my wardrobe very well.
I usually find this process quite simple. However, there are always elements that present a challenge, in particular taking a shoe that has one type of sole and converting it to another type of sole, like what we do today. So to prep we tape the edge of the sole and the insole of the shoe and the inside to make sure no dye bleeds where it shouldn’t.
To start, we apply the dye using a wool pad. When we apply the stain, we make sure that we try to get the most even coat possible for the job. For some jobs this involves the use of a brush or stamp, and others it may involve the use of an airbrush and compressor. It really depends on the job.
When that dries, we then apply a sealant, making sure to have as few bubbles as possible. I then place the shoe on the kickstand, using pliers to remove the existing heel base.
Today the heels have to be removed for sole replacement as the new sole we are putting on is completely flat and this shoe originally had a heel base. With the old sole as a reference, I trace a new wedge shape. This will help mimic the old base heel height, but with a new wedge look. It may seem like an easy job, but sometimes it can be quite tricky to balance out the wedge and replace it with the same heel height that was there.
Then I take the layers I just cut out and sand them down applying two coats of glue. I have to do this for all layers of the process to ensure a good hold of the glue. To activate the glue, I use the heat gun then I place the soles on the sole press. The pressure from the press will allow the glue to stick. Using the belt sander, I sand the leather wedge so it has a nice even shape for the next coat.
Now that everything is ready, I can place all the layers together and start building the sole from scratch. This is a more complex sole replacement today with a few more steps, as we have to add those wedge layers to mimic the original heel height. If we leave that aside, the shoe will be radically different.
Then I’ll use the heat gun to heat the glue, so the soles stick to the shoe. To make sure the soles fit the shoe perfectly, I then place the shoes on the belt sander and start sanding off the excess material. Finally, I use shoe cream on top to give them some nourishment and conditioning and a bit of shine. At the same time, I polish the edges of the sole using the polishing brush of our finishing machine.
I find resurrecting old shoes to be incredibly rewarding. The client already has something they love and work for them, but they just want something a little different. With climate change in mind, it’s really gratifying for us to know that we’re keeping one more item, one more pair of shoes, one more piece of clothing, out of the landfill and in someone’s closet. .