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So last fall when I was at Tir Righ Investiture I met Mistress Alicia le Wilfulle, who as well as being generally cool was going around in pattens. I used to wear vaguely period-looking modern shoes for camping in, with extra thick socks made by [livejournal.com profile] missymorgan1 if it got too cold or wet. Then I lucked into a new pair of modern shoes that, while not quite period, are an awful lot closer. They have a thin leather sole and fit very snug to my foot, so no chance to add extra insulation on the inside. Pattens are the answer! (Although as far as I know my persona would have made the much less practical fashion statement of chopines).

After doing some research (mostly in Olaf Goubitz Stepping Through Time and the Museum of London Shoes and Pattens) and taking a carpentry safari through south Calgary, I headed over to [livejournal.com profile] landsknecht_po's house to get some help with the construction.


First we cut out a practice sole from plywood and taped it on with duct tape to test the placement of the hinge:

15th Century Pattens

My research had shown that patten soles were made from soft woods like alder, willow, or poplar. Black Forest Lumber had had a selection of off cuts of each of these types of wood, and I chose one that would not be too thick to walk on (like the chopines linked to above, many extant pattens have the two stilts under the toe joint and the heel, but my carpentry skills are not yet sufficient to attempt a project of this type). I traced the sole pattern onto the alder plank:

15th Century Pattens

and cut them out using hand tools:

15th Century Pattens

The edges were still pretty rough:

15th Century Pattens

So I tried my best to even them out using first a rasp and file and then the belt sander, but I wasn't very satisfied with the result - you could still see the notches all along the edge where I had sawed down to the outline in small chunks. [livejournal.com profile] landsknecht_po took pity on me and filed the soles down much more nicely. The leather hinges are countersunk into the soles - this was accomplished with a saw and rasp and file:

15th Century Pattens

Then we went inside and I used nails to attach the hinges to the soles. The first two split the wood, so [livejournal.com profile] landsknecht_po glued it back together and we used a power drill to make pilot holes for the rest of the nails. Once the soles were attached together, it was time to make a pattern for the straps:

15th Century Pattens

15th Century Pattens

There are lots of different strap styles shown in Stepping Through Time, so I picked the ones that didn't require the use of a buckle. Some of the strap styles are decorated with punched patterns, so I picked one that was within my skill level and time limit.

15th Century Pattens - Complete


Then I wore them at Winter War:

Putting on her pattens

Frequently Asked Questions

What did you learn from this project?
All sorts of new woodworking skills - I don't have a shop but if I was going to do another project I would have a better idea of how to get started and what processes to use to make my project. Also during the course of my research, learned more about different types of shoe, decorative processes used on shoes etc. Most importantly I learned that if you get a laurel to help you there probably won't be quite as many power tools involved as you think ;)

What would you do differently if you did this project again?
When cutting out the chunks to shape the soles, I wouldn't cut quite so far towards the outline of the sole, because this was what led to the grooves still being visible after I had evened the sides out. I also received a suggestion that I could have used a coping saw (I think) to cut out the soles rather than cutting them out in chunks.

My research suggested that the soles could have been cut out while the wood was still green, and then further shaped after it had dried. I don't know if this would prevent the problem I had with splitting when I put the nails in, but it would be something to try.

I would also leave more time and get a finer punch so that I could do a fancier pattern on the straps.

What are your next steps?
Next on the footwear front is chopines, for which more research and different processes are required. If I did pattens again, I might try to do the one-piece kind with the stilts because I think they look cooler and also because they come from an area that is closer to the area that my persona is from (the hinged pattens are English). I might also like to try making shoes at some point - there is lots of good information in Stepping Through Time.
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