Shoes by Robert

A Royal Commission

Shortly before Pennsic XLVI, Lady Elska á Fjárfelli invited me to participate with a group of others in developing a set of garb for Their Highnesses Gareth Kincaid and Juliana Delamere of Æthelmearc, specifically in crafting shoes for them appropriate to Viking Age personae. (I understand that about four different teams of people came together to create sets of garb for different time periods.) As you may surmise, this was a bit intimidating given that I had only made four pairs of shoes so far, and all of them in the same style, which was not Viking Age! But... challenge accepted!

Because developing a pattern requires a foot to tape up, rather than just various possible simple measurements, I was given access to the royal feet for about 20 minutes in a tent on the edge of the battlefield. I drew sole plans and taped up each foot, sketched some lines on the tape, cut away the socks, and was away without much ado.

It was some weeks later before I could turn my attention to making these royal shoes, due to evil omens in the sky when the moon disappeared entirely, and was therefore pressed for time to research something appropriate, convert the taped socks to a pattern, and then build the shoes - all without being able to access the original feet for try-ons during the crafting.

Having found a suitable pattern in Volken, I quickly built one of hers and one of his, with the idea of mailing them for a trial fitting and comments, hopefully with enough time to incorporate those into any new shoes that might have to be made. During that turn-around time, I planned to make the mates to each of the two sent, in case they did fit (done!) or if not, perhaps someone else might be found for them.

But, due to me not paying enough attention, the weekend they were to be mailed and sent back turned out to be Their Highness' coronation... not the best timing. However, Lord Hrólfr á Fjárfelli agreed to serve as courier there and back, so the shoes were sent with him and he consented to present them and convey any notes for further work. The result: he found his too small by a significant amount; she was unable to try on hers. (However, she did try hers on a few days later and informed me that it was too small as well, though not by as large a margin.)

Thus, lacking time to complete two entirely new pairs of shoes, I made a decision to go ahead and add the planned topbands to his and give them to her (the sizes seemed appropriate given the feedback) and to make a new pair for him. To my relief, these did fit their respective recipients, and they were worn for the first time during court at Harvest Raid XXIV.

The side seams and sole/upper attachments did not differ from my previous 14th-century shoes, however this pair did require a topband. I made hers first, using a tight saddle stitch to hold it on. Adding the topband took around as much time as making the rest of the shoe entirely. Because his shoes are a bit larger, I made a wider topband, and to speed up the stitching opted to use more widely spaced passes of the needles. I also decided to make the stitch line more interesting, even if there is no exemplar for the design (see photos).

This pair of shoes also relies on a different fastening system to keep them tight on the foot. Instead of the simple front lace of the 14th-century design, these incorporate a single large flap and toggle with bifurcated anchor in the lateral side of the shoe. I didn't know how to make a toggle, but found a video showing a way to cut and roll them.

Related project: For the Skóla Auction. Those shoes, based on this pair, were displayed at the Æthelmearc Arts & Sciences Championships, Oct. 28, 2017. See the submitted documentation for that project for further details on this one.

Ready to stitch the topband, now that it's held in place with quilter's clamps.
Stitching in progress, with synthetic waxed thread, #004 harness needle, and pliers.
Hers: detail of topband, toggle, fastening, and side seam.
His: detail of topband, toggle, fastening, and side seam.
His 'n' hers, front view.
His 'n' hers, rear view.

Last updated April 16, 2018.