One year ago when the world had not gone crazy with Covid-19 yet, I paid a visit to Melody Chia‘s home workshop in Melbourne where she makes handwelted shoes.
We settled on the design of the shoe over conversation and tea: kangaroo leather, the size of the shoe, no brogue-ing on the toe cap, semi-brogued seams, fiddleback sole, metal toe-taps.
Over the next few months, Melody worked hard on bringing the shoes to life. She sent me many progress photos from the clicking of the upper, the lasting of the upper, the sole construction to the polishing of the JR Outsole.
I originally wanted to go back to Melbourne to pick up the shoes in person, but Covid-19 threw those plans out. I had them posted to me a few months after they were already completed.
They came in a beautiful, hand sewn shoe bag that Melody also put together. When seeing the shoes for the first time in their final completed form, I was absolutely amazed at the stark quality difference between a carefully crafted handwelted pair of shoes vs. a regular Goodyear welt factory made ones.
The last that Melody used was True-To-Size so fit my size UK 7 feet like a glove. The handwelted construction and kangaroo leather used in the upper also meant they felt light on my feet.
A key mark of expert craftsmanship can be found on the waist of the shoe. Typically impossible on machine made factory Goodyear welted shoes, the stitching along the waist, almost like magic, disappears underneath the upper and the sole. This technique, known as a blind waist, makes the shoe look almost blake stitched, but in fact is not.
The grooves along the welt, also known as fudging, that you can see in the picture below were all done one groove at a time in the construction process. Normally, shoe makers would use a fudging wheel to do this quickly, but Melody’s perfect attention to detail and control meant she wanted to do them one by one instead.
A pair of shoes would typically take 80-100 hours to complete. The care, attention and heart that Melody pours into each pair of shoes she makes shows she is an artist of the highest standard. At $3000 per pair, this works out to about $30 per hour for the labour she goes through to produce one pair.
I would definitely recommend ordering a pair of these unique shoes when one wishes to upgrade from a unpersonalised Goodyear welt shoe to a piece of art made just for you.
Check out her Instagram for her other creations!
I am a school teacher by day and in my free time, pursue my passion and hobby in leather shoes. I administrate the Welted Shoes Australia community on Facebook and our primary purpose is to educate Australians about quality footwear. I also co-founded the Thomas George Collection to bring high quality footwear to Australia at accessible prices.