Tracing the shoe pattern onto buffalo hide.
Tracing the shoe pattern onto buffalo hide.

Diversity and Continuity

Field study: Chappal making in Kolhapur

In spring 1999 a Bata Shoe Museum research team led by Arun Dutta travelled to the Kolhapur region of Maharashtra, the third largest and among the most populous and economically important states in India. In their workshop, shoemakers Chaya Bamne, Tarabai, Susheela and Shivaji demonstrated and described the chappal-making process to the museum research team.

Construction Method

  1. A pattern is traced on buffalo hide and the sole is cut out. The pattern is reversed to cut the opposite of the pair.
  2. An insole is cut from cowhide or goatskin using a pattern and additional pieces of leather are glued to the insole on either side. These are trimmed with a rapi to form the kan (ears) to which the instep strap will be attached.
  3. The insole and sole are glued together and hammered with a metal mallet to smooth the leather.
  4. The heel is traced out on buffalo hide with a pointed tool, then cut and pasted to the sole assembly. The heel may have single or double layers.
  5. The heel, sole and insole are stitched together at the edges using fine strips of leather.
  6. The upper, consisting of a toe ring, main strap to cross the instep, and narrower mid- and side-straps is prepared. The toe-ring is formed of skived (shaved) cowhide, folded and stitched with fine leather strips. Using a pattern, the instep strap is traced onto cowhide, cut out and decorated with leather strip.
  7. The mid and side straps are made of goatskin strips braided together by pulling one then the other alternately through tiny slits made in the opposite strip.
  8. The upper components are stitched together with a needle (aari). The edges are trimmed with a knife.
  9. Slits are cut in the insole for the toe-ring. One end of the prepared ring strap is inserted into one slit and drawn through the other, then tucked into the first slit. It is then stitched to the insole at the point where the ends overlap.
  10. Similar slits are cut in the insole for the mid- and side-straps. These braids are drawn through the slits and are then knotted, which secures them.
  11. The ends of the instep strap are inserted between layers of the kan flaps and stitched in place with leather strips.