Making a pattern for use in cutting leather can be accomplished in various ways. No one knows how medieval shoe makers created their patterns, but it seems likely they used parts of their bodies, such as finger lengths or hand spans, to take measurements and translated these to shapes on leather.
Today we have other methods. The one I currently prefer involves molding with duct tape to create foot-shaped shell that can be flattened and traced. This method is not perfect, but it has worked well for me across a number of people to form shoes that fit them well.
Once you have the light cardboard versions of your pattern, you're ready to try making a 3-D shoe out of them. If done accurately, it will be the same size as the foot it represents.
On making a pattern of a Roman shoe, but applicable to medieval as well:
Taking a pattern from a few fragments of worn and distorted archaeological leather finds in order to make a completely new pair of shoes is not a matter of simply copying the shapes and hoping the shoe will turn out right. A shoe is a three dimensional object yet the pattern has to be two-dimensional in order to be cut from the leather. When a shoe is made, flat leather is forced into a three-dimensional shape. After a shoe has been worn, the leather has formed to the wearer’s foot. When a shoe is thrown away and buried in a rubbish tip, further distortions and material loss takes place. Roughly two thousand years later, when the shoe’s fragments come to light during an archaeological excavation, it is often re-interpreted as a flat object in a registration drawing. The drawing is the best solution for preserving the information contained in the fragment, but it is not a cutting pattern for making a shoe. The cutting pattern has to be rediscovered by reducing the distortions and finding the original elegance of the design lines. Superficial wear marks and material loss on the archaeological leather fragments are often a hindrance rather than a help for reconstructing the original pattern (Volken, 2008: 360).
Last updated August 19, 2019.