Handsewn Shoemaking with Deborah & James
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 84 hours over 12 days

Handsewn Shoemaking with Deborah & James

Learn the traditional heritage craft of handsewn shoemaking in London, the city known for its reputation and history of shoe craft. Master shoemakers Deborah and James will guide you through the 200+ steps of the shoemaking process to make your own.
  • Snacks, Coffee, & Tea


One Guest
USD $3335
Additional guest(s) (max 4)
USD $3300

Meet the Artist

Deborah and James are master bespoke handsewn shoemakers using only hand tools and centuries-old techniques with over 200 steps in the construction process. They've both completed a traditional three-year apprenticeship with a master shoemaker and have now been making shoes for over 30 years combined.

Their leather shoes are hand welted, which is a traditional English shoe making technique and the precursor to the Goodyear welt. They make footwear with a strong silhouette, which is durable, repairable, recyclable and which looks more and more beautiful with age.

The materials they work with are also exceptional. They work with natural oak bark leather which is pit-tanned as it has been since Roman times in the South-West of England. It makes the best, most durable soles and components in the shoe; it is sustainable - the oak bark, hides and salt are locally sourced; and has a low environmental impact (the water from the tannery is clean enough to go back into the neighboring mill stream).

They're passionate about passing on their skills and have been teaching shoe making to enthusiasts from around the world since 2006, also introducing them to the wider world of leather work, like how to saddle stitch a card case, key fob, or dog collar. Beyond teaching what makes a well-made shoe, they look to inspire people to make with their hands, experiencing the benefits it brings to their well-being.

VAWAA Includes:

  • An introduction to leather and the benefits of different types.
  • An introduction to a well fitting shoe and the pros and cons of different shoe and boot styles.
  • Guidance through the 200+ steps in the shoemaking process – starting with a pack of leather, leather shoe uppers and lasts (the blocks the shoes are made on).
  • Shoemaking processes include hand lasting, hand welting, hand stitching the sole, hand building the heel and hand finishing the shoe.
  • A comprehensive set of shoemaking notes, and list of tools and materials used in Deborah and James's design process.
  • Your own handsewn pair of shoes.
  • Option to buy kits, tools and materials to continue making shoes once the session is finished.

Explore London

England has a worldwide reputation for footwear excellence and London is a centuries-old heritage for footwear, style, and fashion. In fact, the City of London is deeply immersed in the history of shoe craft as it is home to three medieval guilds linked to shoe making: the Worshipful Companies of Cordwainers, Leathersellers and Pattenmakers. Not to mention, London is one of the world's most visited cities. There is always something to explore — from the Southbank Centre, the city's most vibrant cultural quarter, to the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Design Museum, two of the world's leading art and design museums, to Brick Lane Market, great to visit on Sundays for second hand bargains, street performers, and food!

Additional Details

Best time to visit is in spring and summer, between March and September, when the day's are lighter, brighter and longer. It's best to avoid the Christmas holidays, between December 20th and January 2nd.

This VAWAA is available for a longer duration, up to 21 days, as well as for masterclasses to learn specialist techniques such as fiddle waist, Norwegian welt and bevelled waist, or pattern making. Please ask when you send your booking request.

Due to the nature of the tools and work involved, guests must be physically able and 18 years old or older to participate. Cannot be adapted for kids, elders, or people with special needs.
Deborah & James's Availability 12 days

Guest Reviews

  • Jaki C., United States

    Who new! Such a beautiful undertaking to commit to a pair of shoes. Every day, Deborah and James were with me I felt the commitment to excellence and authenticity. I'm crazy about my new shoes and would do this again in a red hot second.