I figured I’d switch gears from embroidery and touch on a topic that has been rather popular for my readers; Roman footwear. I should note that when I started typing this article I had intentions of providing all the steps in one post, but I’m barely halfway through and it’s already over 1000 words. So, I’m breaking it into a couple different articles; beginning with the pattern making process, followed by the calcei construction, and I’ll even be throwing in a Roman-related giveaway.
My previous articles talked about the construction of a pair of Roman Caligae (shown on left), Calcei, carbatinae, and trying out a duct tape pattern. I said I’d post an update when we had the patterns cut out of leather and it’s been a year and a half soooo, better late than never! As per usual, Ryan works faster than I can photograph, so excuse the gaps in pictures, but I’ll try to include links to the sources we referenced while constructing this pair.
Back tracking a bit, there were quite a few ‘newbie’ problems with the caligae; They turned out way too big, the hobnails went in crooked, and they had shifting inner soles. Live and learn. We had never made leather shoes before, but we at least know to not make the same mistakes twice. We opted for the duct tape pattern for the next pair, in this case the Calcei. I’m sure professional shoe makers are probably laughing at our duct tape method, but honestly it’s quick, effective, easy, and above all else, it’s a very custom fit. Plus, this is a hobby for us and I have no intention of becoming a professional shoe maker.
Calcei Duct Tape Pattern
As I said, the second pair completed was a pair of Calcei. It’s a roman military cold weather boot. In hindsight we really should have started with these due to the ease of construction and uncomplicated design compared to caligae. It’s a more ideal style for beginners to try in order to get used to forming leather into a 3-dimensional shape. I left off on the step of drawing the design on the duct tape form. . .
Once you have the design drawn onto the duct tape, you cut it out. The way you do this is by slicing out exactly where your sole was and cutting the pattern open along the green line shown above (The green line being the visual center of your foot). The pattern should lay [relatively] flat though there will be some puckering around the toe areas. Try to ignore that as much as possible. You’ll want some heavy duty card stock or thick paper (bristol board works well) to trace the duct tape pattern onto. I should also mention that while you’re cutting and tracing, be sure not to rub off your calibration marks and to freshen them up if they begin to fade. Once you have them traced onto your card stock pattern you’ll be safe, but until then, make sure not to let them disappear.
Chances are you are going to have to make a few minor adjustments to your pattern if the cutting process resulted in some funky edges. Ryan had some issues with the heels of his due to shifting and bending the sole during the duct taping process. You can see below the difference between the duct tape cutout and the final altered pattern.
You will also note the pattern is bigger than the duct tape form. So let’s break it down to what modifications you need to make to your pattern:
1. Smooth out your lines, removing any really odd chunks that got chopped due to an error, like the heel on the right boot on Ryan’s, and make the ankle/top a graceful curve. Be sure to compensate your addition/removal on the sole pattern as well. Also, try to stick to the rule of not deviating from the duct tape pattern by more than 1/4″. (Or you’ll fuck it up!) 😀
2. You need to be able to extend your tabs so if when you press your duct tape pattern flat, the tabs seem to overlap or one gap is larger than another, even them out, but keep them about 1 inch deep. *TIP* I drew one side then used tracing paper to transfer the identical tabs to the other side, making sure they’ll line up when the shoe is closed.* When modifying the tabs, BE SURE not to move the top tab, and that the length of the toe is IDENTICAL, so don’t cut into that at all.
3. Once you’re happy with your shape and lines you can move on to adding to the pattern. DON’T move onto these steps until you’re absolutely sure you’re done tweaking because otherwise you’ll be doing things twice. First thing you’re going to add is the 1 inch extension onto all the tabs.
4. Next add 1/4″ onto the top of the toe for seam allowance.
5. Finally, add 1″ along the entire bottom
Take your time on the pattern because it’s really the most important step. If it’s wrong, all your work will be for a pair of ill-fitting, P.O.S. shoes!
If you have any questions regarding the pattern making process, or pattern modifications feel free to leave your comments/inquiries in the comment section below. Check in regularly for part two in this series and for a chance to win a certain cleansing product used by Ancient Romans!
****UPDATE!!! Check out Part 2 of the Calcei Making Process here!!!****