Chopines in Collector’s Weekly

Collectors Weekly has recently published an article on 16th and 17th century chopines. It handily tells you how to walk when your platform shoes lift you up to nosebleed altitudes.

Have a look at These Chopines Weren’t Made for Walking: Precarious Platforms for Aristocratic Feet by Hunter Oatman-Stanford — April 17th, 2014

16th century Venetian chopine made from wood covered in white leather with punch work on the toes.


Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

Castle Wynd, Inverness, Inverness-shire, IV2 3EB

This was a rather nice small museum and gallery, tucked in at the foot of the castle mound. It manages to fit the whole period from when the earth had just started to cool, through to the week before last into two floors, concentrating on the Highlands. There’s an inevitable Pictish/Celtic slant throughout illustrated with a few quality finds from each location, period and racial grouping of your choice. We spent a wet morning there and managed to identify the snake we’d seen a few days earlier.


Bone pins

Bone dice

Bone die from Urquhart Castle, possibly loaded.

Bone objects from Bernera

Viking sword charm or toy.

Bone objects from Bernera

Shoe toggle and comb plate


Bonnie Prince Charlie dice box
This small copper alloy box with a miniature portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, painted in oils on a concealed ‘lid’ hidden beneath the outer kid of the box. It contains three ivory dice.


18th century powder horns

18th century powder horns

18th century powder horns


18th century powder horns


Horn cup 18-19th C

Horn cup with silver rim and mount, Robert Naughten (1786-1857)


Leather shoe sole

Leather shoe sole and reproduction. Castle Street, Inverness

Book binding, first edition Gaelic Bible, Bishop William Bedell. Published 1690
First edition Gaelic Bible, 1690

First edition Gaelic Bible, 1690

First edition Gaelic Bible, 1690

Leather faced Tage

Tage, 18th century, leather on wood with iron nails.

Mary Rose Leather Gallery

I’ve finally managed to get organised enough to upload my photos from the Mary Rose Museum. “Mary Rose leatherwork”, or a variant on that theme is in the top 5 searches on this blog nearly every day, so there seems to be some demand for it. The museum features very low light to protect the finds from UV degredation, so the colour in the photos tends to be a bit muddy. Some of them have had a lot of work to pull the image from what at first appeared to be a black frame.

I’ve arranged the photos by item type, starting with archery equipment and then move on to other items. You may have seen some of these photos before but hopefully most of them will be new. The photos also link through to my Flikr account. I’ll update the descriptions when more information becomes available.

Archery Equipment

Archer's arm guard

Leather bracer embossed with the royal arms of Henry VIII.

Two archer's arm guards

Left: Ivory bracer with leather straps. Right: leather bracer, with stamped rosettes.

Leather Mitten 81A3292

Left hand mitten (both mittens found were for the left hand). I suspect these were used to protect the bow hand when shooting fire arrows from a longbow. The triangular shape of the thumb cut out can be clearly seen.

Mary Rose leather mitten 81A3292 1545

Fingertip detail of left hand mitten (both mittens found were for the left hand). 260mm long, 150mm wide at widest point. Unidentified leather, the other one found (81A3292 was sheepskin). The leather was stitched with the flesh sides together, then turned inside out so the seams were hidden/protected.

Mary Rose arrow spacer

Mary Rose arrow spacer. These would commonly be used with a linen canvas bag and be slung off a waist belt.

Mary Rose Arrow Spacer 1545

Mary Rose arrow spacer with the remains of arrow shafts in situ. These would commonly be used with a linen canvas bag and be slung off a waist belt.

Leather Bottles and Buckets

MR 79A1232

Back of Mary Rose leather flask 79A1232, 282mm high, 213mm wide and 57mm deep. Stitching is original and there is still some sealing pitch present. This bottle is asymetrical - the front is much more deeply curved than the back.

Mary Rose leather bottle 81A0881

Mary Rose leather bottle of the costrel form, 81A0881. Front is decorated with three vertical ridges with a double zigzag pattern between the ridges and to either side. There are several pairs of parallel tooled lines including a large inverted V and various rectangles on the base and back. The inside is coated with an unidentified subastance. The photo was taken in low-light conditions inside the museum, colours may not be accurate.

Mary Rose leather bottle 81A1214

Mary Rose leather bottle of the costrel form, 81A1214 was found in a chest along with some personal items and woodworking tools. Front and back are decorated with five pairs of parallel lines from top to bottom, framed by a horizontal line at the base and two parallel lines across the shoulders and neck. There are two asterisks on the base, with a saltaire cross (X) diagonally between them, and a saltaire cross on each end. There are reinforcing pieces in the shoulders/lugs and a gasket piece around the inside of the neck. There is the remains of a waterproof coating on the inside surface.

Reconstructed Mary Rose leather bucket

Reconstructed Mary Rose leather bucket. The leather buckets all have rust marks from iron handle rings and some have the remains of pitch sealing, indicating they were water rather than powder buckets.

Mary Rose Leather Bucket handle detail

Mary Rose Leather Bucket handle close-up


Mary Rose type 1 shoe construction

Height separated welted shoe components from the Mary Rose (possibly 81A1861) showing the way the layers go together. The colour of the label corresponds to the colour code on the chart behind.

Assorted shoe parts

Assorted shoe parts found in the 2002/3 dig.

Mary Rose type 1 shoe quarter

Shoe quarter from a type 1 shoe, displaying a topband in place.

Mary Rose type 1 shoe

Type 1 shoe (high slip on with the throat raised by the extension of the front of the quarters).

Mary Rose type 1 & 2 shoes

Museum display showing the differences between type 1 (high slip ons with the throat raised by the extension of the front of the quarters) and type 2 (slip on shoes with straight throated vamp and straight top edge on the quarters.

Shoe sole made from old bucket

Replacement partial shoe sole cut from an old bucket. The lines of stitching can be clearly seen, and can the incised arrow marking it as the king

Shoe sole cut from old bucket

Replacement partial shoe sole cut from an old bucket. The shaded area indicates which part of the bucket the sole was cut from.

Mary Rose find 79A0877 Type 3 thighboot

Mary Rose type 3 thighboot (rounded toe, turn/welt construction, secured with four straps), there

Mary Rose find 79A0877 Type 3 thighboot

Mary Rose find 79A0877 type 3 thighboot (rounded toe, turn/welt construction, secured with four straps), outer and innersole. There

Scabbards and Furniture

Mary Rose scabbards and furniture

A display of leather scabbards from bollock knives (top, centre) and a rapier (bottom) together with the copper alloy fillings used to support them.

Mary Rose Rapier Scabbard

Rapier scabbard with incised decoration and hanging strap.

Mary Rose Rapier Scabbard

Mid-section of rapier scabbard with incised decoration and hanging strap.

Mary Rose Bollock Knife Scabbard with stamped decoration

Mary Rose bollock knife scabbard with stamped decoration, the scabbard has two compartments, one for the bollock knife and one for a by-knife.


Type 1 leather pouch 81A2685

Fine embossed bovine leather, 275mm x 190mm showing the inner flap and the inside of the outer flap. Outer flap is lined with silk, the inner flap is two layers of leather stitched with the skin sides together.

Type 1 leather pouch 81A2685

Detail of the silk inside of the outer flap of 81A2685, 275mm x 190mm. False colours due to low light levels in the museum.

Type 1 pouch and unknown type pouch

Top:An unidentified Type 1 Leather pouch Bottom: An unidentified leather pouch.

Mary Rose Type 1 Leather pouch 81A1991

Fine embossed calf leather, 278mm x 197mm. The inner flap is plain. Type 1 pouches have two sections for storage, the larger is the same width and height as the outside of the pouch, the smaller is stitched in position between the inner and outer flap. Unlike the other type 1s, this one has a third pouch in front of the others.

Confession is good for the sole

I have a confession to make: I’ve been cheating. I’ve glued shoe soles on instead of doing it the right way.

A bit of background first – I offered to resole a pair of commercially made seventeenth century latchet shoes for a friend who’d worn through the supplied soles very quickly (I think they were harness butt rather than sole leather). I don’t know who made them, I was told they were bought over the Internet from someone who claimed that she’d made them and they were completely accurate other than machine sewn seams in the upper. The website now seems to be dead and she isn’t responding to email any more.

The shoes turned up and I started work. Through the innersole I thought I could feel tacks holding the heels on. I little more investigation revealed the “innersole” was a thin garment leather layer glued over the structural innersole. A hard plastic innersole as used in modern street shoes. The upper was the right shape, but had simply been wrapped around the edge of this hard plastic sole layer and had been machine sewn in place. A leather intermediate sole had been stitched on, giving the appearance of a welt from the edge, but there was no real welt. An outer sole had then been glued down on the outside of this and the heel then built up using glued layers on the glued sole layer. Needless to say, it didn’t last long, only a couple of wears but still managed to wear most of the way through.

I rebuilt the heel using glue to hold each lift in place until it was high enough with the outer lift of sole leather, then drilled and fitted oak pegs to secure it properly. I can justify this because we know that seventeenth centure cordwainers used a paste to do exactly the same thing. I then fitted a half-sole in sole leather. With glue. My reasoning was that the construction was pretty dodgy, other bits were glued, it wouldn’t matter if this was also glued. If I’d taken the reasoning to the next step, I would have concluded the sole had come off for this very reason. Of course I didn’t think it through, with the obvious result.

This plaster cast of Henry VII's tomb effigy clearly shows the groove in the sole for the stitches. I know this is a little early but it's the clearest image I have of the practice. V&A Museum.

Those of you who do turnshoes can ignore this bit and keep attaching clump soles with tunnel stitches. To put the sole on a welted shoe properly, a slit is cut in the sole and the stitches come from the welt, through the sole layers and get burried in the slit. Each stitch gets tied in an overhand knot that is slid into the hole in the sole layers so if one stitch breaks, the whole sole doesn’t come off.

Cutting the slit for the stitches. The sole was loose at the toe, so I started there.

When the stitching is done, the sole is dampened and the slit is hammered closed. This protects the stitches from wear, yet results in a secure and stable attachment that’s easily undone when the sole wears out. I hate doing it, almost more than making patterns for uppers. Unlike most of my other posts, this isn’t easy. You have to push the awl through 7-10mm of hardened leather and get the point to pop out in the width of a knife cut. I know some people who use a small nail and hammer, and I’ve used a 1/16″ (1.6mm) bit in a powerdrill to do the holes, but these methods don’t have the accuracy required.

The sole stitched on, with the slit still open.

The boomerang shoes ended up on my doorstep again and for pennance I’ve sewn the sole on properly. Did I mention they don’t have a welt? The upper goes right to the edge of the sole, meaning there is nowhere for the thread to come out on the top, I had to go diagonally through both sole layers and bring the thread out at the very edge of the upper, in the process expanding my vocabulary and breaking the point off my awl a couple of times. I’ll be making a new one from a sharpened diamond-section 4″ nail once my hands have healed enough to be able to grip things again.

Finished sole with the slit dampened and hammered closed over the stitches.