Monday, 16 March 2015

Collecting: Vintage Shoe Last

There was once a shoemaker, who worked very hard and was very honest: but still he could not earn enough to live upon; and at last all he had in the world was gone, save just leather enough to make one pair of shoes.

Then he cut his leather out, all ready to make up the next day, meaning to rise early in the morning to his work. His conscience was clear and his heart light amidst all his troubles; so he went peaceably to bed, left all his cares to Heaven, and soon fell asleep. In the morning after he had said his prayers, he sat himself down to his work; when, to his great wonder, there stood the shoes all ready made, upon the table. The good man knew not what to say or think at such an odd thing happening. He looked at the workmanship; there was not one false stitch in the whole job; all was so neat and true, that it was quite a masterpiece.

The excerpt above is from the well known tale 'The Elves and the Shoemaker' by the Brothers Grimm. It struck me that many of us are guilty of buying shoes, which appear in the shops as if by magic without thinking of the work that goes in to make them! 

I bought this wooden shoe last (from ‘laest’, meaning footprint in Old Englishyesterday from a vintage and antiques fair in Ludlow. It was in a box of assorted random objects but as I walked up to the stall I was immediately taken with it and knew I would buy it. The wood is worn and well-used with an attractive leaf stamp design, probably signifying that it belonged to a particular maker. The shoe last itself is hinged so that it folds in half and there is a removable wooden peg. 

The last was used to measure out leather and it would have been sewn historically by women. The photographs below give an idea of how the leather would have been moulded around the wooden last. The hinge allowed shoemakers to remove the last from the leather.

 It is a very tactile object and I am planning to use it to display jewellery as I think it will act as an eye catching draw to my market stalls in the future.