• Introduction    
  • Tools and Supplies    
  • Sewing Notes    
  • Safety Notes    
  • Material Selection    
  • Getting the Pattern    
  • From Duct Tape 
    to Cardboard
  • Pattern Adjustments   
  • Cutting out the Pieces   
  • Preparing the Sole   
  • Starting Construction   
  • Assembling The Back   
  • Applying The Lacing Blocks   
  • Making Buttons   
  • Attaching the back to 
    the front
  • Cementing the Upper 
    to the Sole
  • Sewing the Upper 
    to the Sole
  • Attaching the Rubber Sole   
  • Sewing on the Buttons   
  • Lacing Up   
  • Glossary 
  • Design Home   
  • Material Selection

    Or: But leather's too expensive!

    I recently received an email from a young man with a very good question. I spent a great deal of time working on an answer, because the issue he raised had simply never occured to me before. His question was:

    How much vinyl should I purchase?

    A simple answer, you might think, but there is a more important question underlying this one: can you use vinyl instead of leather to make a pair of fitted boots. Because the issue is so important, I include the text of my email reply:

      Vinyl? I wouldn't - for the following reasons:

      1. Vinyl doesn't have the same properties as leather, specifically the stretchiness that makes this particular style of boot so comfortable over time. You see, with leather you can make the boot too small - and I often do so on purpose - and it will still stretch to fit. Vinyl won't do that.
      2. Since it's a manufactured product vinyl lacks the porosity and natural imperfections that allow contact cements (such as Barge®) to properly adhere. Barge will peel off.
      3. You can't skive leather, which means that edges meant to "turn", like at the welt, won't very well.
      4. Because vinyl isn't fibrous, it will not last. You're throwing your money away.
      5. Lastly, switching to vinyl isn't going to help your sewing machine: areas like where the button block meets the upper/welt/midsole are going to be too thick for most home machines anyway. Without an industrial walker or shoe patch machine, you really should hand-stitch.
      Yes, leather is expensive, but it's expensive for a reason: leather is not a purchase, it is an investment. You can, with a little judicious searching, get lower prices in some places than others.

      So, take a look at Hide and Leather House for their 4.5-5 oz. cowhide. Their "List 3" hides are reasonably priced and are exactly supple enough for boots: that's what I use. You might also check with a company called The Leather Factory - they periodically run sales on what they call "chap leather", which is thinner and even less expensive and is perfect for a first pair of boots. It's never listed on their web site (the online catalog is piss-poor), so call them and ask.

    Go to the next page: Getting the Pattern


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