Sunday, 16 June 2013

Jorvik Shoes V.1

These shoes were made for someone else, and were my second pair of shoes. Shoes are hard to make, but are one of the things that really makes your kit look good, so it's worth making them (and trying to get better at it). That being said, I haven't made a pair since and so have forgotten everything I learned in the making of these ones.

Techniques involved: leatherworking
Materials used: veg tanned leather (2.5mm or so thick for the upper, soling bends for the soles), veg tanned goat skin, nylon and linen thread

Tools used: clicker's knife, awl, saddler's needles, brute force

References: I got the idea for these having seen someone's nice shoes, but I can't remember whose shoes. Luckily they did tell me that they were based on a find from York, but I didn't refer to any materials published by York Archaeological  Trust when I made them.

Post-making, I got hold of Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York by Quita Mould, Ian Carlisle and Esther Cameron. Their edited description of this shoe is:
One-piece ankle-shoes, fastened with a single toggle and flap (Style 4a1)
Seventeen examples, all from 16–22 Coppergate, had a single, wide flap with a toggle and loop fastening. The uppers were sewn to the soles with either a tunnel-stitched ... or an edge/flesh-stitched seam. 
Shoes fastened with a single flap and toggle are dated to c.930/5–c.975 at York. A single example came from an earlier context dating to mid 9th–late 9th/early 10th century, and another came from a context that extended into the 11th century. Shoes of this style have been found previously at York. Stitching preserved in a shoe found at 5 Coppergate  was of animal fibre, probably wool. Others were found at Hungate and Feasegate.
In the same document, the use of goatskin is discussed. Although it was not widespread, at least one shoe made entirely of goatskin was found which dated to the late ninth or early tenth century.

Queries: None, as this is a well documented item.

Summary: The shoes I made are broadly similar to the ones found in York in design, but differ in some details. My thread for the soles was nylon and not an animal fibre. The stitching on the uppers was all done with linen thread, so they differ there also.

I used a goat skin toggle because the leather was less thick than that I used for the uppers, and thus easier to roll. This use of mixed leathers in one shoe is not one I've found a basis for, though from looking at the shoe it would be hard to spot.

Both the toggle and loop style which I used differ to those on the original shoe, and next time I will copy them as closely as possible instead. I also did decorative stitching to attach the toggle, but didn't whip stitch the edges of the upper.

Although my shoes are superficially similar, they lack some important characteristics which would have made them much more authentic. As we have such detailed evidence for these shoes, next time I will try to make a much closer copy.


  1. Great work.... I hope you keep on, not only creating but blogging your efforts as well. Vivat!