I originally started this particular replica several months ago and it has been waiting patiently ever since to be completed. The reason for the delay – tunnel stitching! All I can say at this stage is I don’t know what I was making such a fuss over.
The shoe is made from a single piece of leather of about 3.5mm thickness, the closest I could get to the original of 3.4mm. The shoe is an example of 9th to 11th century Anglo-Scandinavian footwear (Mould 2003, 3275-80). I decided not to use needle and thread but to stitch the seams with a length of artificial sinew/gut which meant the only other tools necessary were a sharp knife and a curved awl. The artificial sinew can be tightly rolled to a point which can then be pushed easily through the awl holes without the need for a needle. It can also be pulled extremely tight to close the seam.
The shoe uses an interesting combination of stitch types in the assembly. The seams around the toe and heel are a combination of edge/flesh on the sole and grain/flesh on the upper. I was keen to see how this seam would look when stitched. As can be seen from the accompanying photographs, it produces a wavy effect along the length of the seam.
The vamp uses an overlap seam with grain/flesh stitch holes on one side and tunnel stitch holes on the other. In the assembly the grain/flesh side overlies the tunnel stitching but, when the shoe is turned, the reverse applies and no stitch holes can be seen on the vamp, just the traces of the hidden sinew.
There are five paired slits around the heel of the shoe for a length of lacing thong. The suggested reconstruction in Mould shows this lacing thong emerging either side of the vamp seam. I laced the shoe in this way first and it resulted in large sections of the lacing thong being on the inside of the shoe where they rubbed against the foot and made it difficult to lace the shoe tightly. I then decided to lace the shoe differently, placing the closing knot to one side which made the shoe easier to fasten securely.
Although the shoe appears to be quite basic and simple the stitch types are anything but simple. The result is a robust shoe which is relatively quick to make. Now to make the second shoe and test them for comfort.
Reference: Mould Q. et al, 2003. Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York. York Archaeological Trust. Council for British Archaeology.