Making Shoes (With Mixed Success)

So… there have been a few people in the world of sewing blogs (notably Carolyn, Sue and Jodie) who have ventured into making their own shoes. It’s kind of a natural progression from making your own clothes, except it isn’t, because you need an entirely different set of materials, tools and skills. Still, inspired by the work of Carolyn, Sue and Jodie, with the appealing idea of having custom made shoes in whatever colour/fabric I choose, I did a little research. There are some resources available online for making shoes – I know Jodie took an online class at Shoemaking Courses Online and rated it highly – but there wasn’t much around for free. And most of the stuff I found on Youtube required a full setup of specific styles and sizes of shoe lasts and specialist hand tools, not to mention materials and hardware that are not available for easy purchase by total amateurs. Rather than do the sensible thing and invest time and money in skills, tools and materials, I continued to research shoe making with the idea of attempting to make a wearable pair of shoes from household objects with only basic tools. (Ambitious? Moi?)

I probably should have started with sewing a rope washing line into a pair of espadrilles or something, but frankly, I have never worn espadrilles… my summer shoes are more the 6″ tottering wedge variety. Still, sandals are simpler because that eliminates the need for toe puffs and heel counters (specially shaped pieces of plastic that help the heel and toe hold their shape), and the lasts are not as critical to the process. Flat sandals would probably have been a good option (I considered both Greek style leather sandals and Pakistani style Khussas –  I may yet make both of these) as they don’t need the metal shanks and heel hardware you need for high heel sandals, which are really hard to buy anywhere. Also, considering it from the refashioning/recycling angle, options for refashioned shoe projects are minimal if you’re not keen on wearing pre-loved shoes (it’s so hard to clean them!). One option was to butcher an old pair of shoes for the hardware, but without the lasts to help you put it all back together again, it was going to be tricky. I thought cork wedges would be a good compromise as they don’t need the metal shanks, and cork is easily available. Another idea was clogs or some kind of wooden soled shoes, but that would have required a lot more in the way of carpentry skills.

Of course, I googled “how to make shoes out of cork” and straight away came back to Shoemaking Courses Online, which looks like a super site. They have a whole course on how to make cork wedges, and the course description page has a breakdown of the steps involved along with video stills from the lessons. I should note here that I did not purchase the course, but looking at those few images was enough to make me believe that it could be done with minimal tools, and to give me the basic steps. So what follows is in no way a review and is not a reflection on the quality of the course, just to be clear, though it looks excellent.

I gleaned three key pieces of information from the course page. One, you can build up the 3D shape of the wedge by glueing layers of cork together. This allowed me to use abundant, cheap cork placemats instead of going for more expensive items such as cork yoga blocks. Two, you can shape cork easily by hand using a file. And three, you can use the file to take a fairly simple extrusion of a sole shape into a more complex 3D object that looks like an elegant shoe (I was finding it hard to visualise this initially).

I started by gathering raw materials. First, one packet of IKEA cork placemats. There are four and they are 42 x 32cm and 3.5mm thick. Compare this with the materials in the online course – hers looks to be about 1cm thick which means a lot fewer layers and therefore a lot less work, but this is what I had.

P1200262

Next, some fun fabric for the uppers. This top I bought several years ago in the Marie Curie shop in Middlesbrough. I recognised the fabric immediately as Minerva used to carry it – Clare made a stunning dress with it at the time.

P1200379

This was £4.00 and I snapped it up with the intention of wearing it as-is, but it was just a bit too big to be flattering.

P1200450

Lastly, another type of IKEA placemat which I earmarked for the shoe soles. These turned out to be not terribly suitable, but read on to find out why…

P1200267

 

Continue reading

Embellishment: Ruffles

Do ruffles count as an embellishment? In my book, they do!

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the pie crust blouse is back in fashion at the moment. Well, the joke’s on me, after cutting that one up that time. Anyway, here’s how the reverse transformation can be done. I’ve seen a few of these tutorials online but here is my version of it.

Take one vintage blouse that looks as though someone maybe wore it to escape from the circus…

P1150907

Fun fact – I actually bought this on the same day I bought the pie crust blouse that I cut up, so it’s been in stash for a while. It’s from the Swedish Red Cross (Röda Korset) shop in Jörn, on my trip to Northern Sweden. I paid SEK30:- (about £2.50).

P1200279

Continue reading

Embellishment: Embroidery

P1190987

This is the second in a mini-series about embellishment.

I picked up this top in Lewisham Scope (£3.50). It’s a very light poly satin, almost poly chiffon. It has an interesting neck band, which is sewn on doubled over but with the two edges off-grain, but it’s the print I wanted to investigate. It’s different shades of purple in a cross hatched, almost painted, pattern. I wanted to explore an embroidery that would complement the print and this being straight lines, it seemed like an easy place to start.

P1190994

Continue reading

Embellishment: Crochet Trim

P1190985

Greetings, Refashioners! Long time no see. I have a few posts to share that I’m finally getting around to, starting with several on the theme of embellishment. This one is from earlier this year.

I was heading out on a holiday-season holiday to a hot place, but digging out my summer wardrobe in winter felt a bit strange. To spruce it up a bit, I wanted to add an off-the-shoulder top of the type that was really fashionable this summer. You know the ones. They were everywhere! This is a very straightforward idea that I’ve been thinking about for a while. If you’ve got an old summer shirt in your wardrobe that could do with a bit of TLC, this could be just the ticket.

I started with an old shirt belonging to Mr CSC (with his permission, of course!).

P1200002

Continue reading

BONUS POST: Wedding Dress Refashion!

Calm down, I didn’t refashion my actual wedding dress. It’s been put away in two specially made garment bags for safe keeping.

But I did refashion “a” dress to wear at “a” wedding…

I bought this vintage (wedding?) dress in a shop in Deptford a few years back. The fabric is so, so pretty, but as much as I tried to believe it did, it just didn’t fit. The waist was far too high. The bust was too big. The torso was too short. The sleeves were too short. Basically it was made for a much shorter person.

P1190035

My plan of action was to remove the sleeves and make the bodice longer by chopping it off above the bust and adding a (longer than the original) contrast section instead. I considered adding a transparent section like you see on some wedding dresses, but didn’t really give it any serious thought until coming across this old blouse in my stash. It’s rayon and very thin, and the perfect colour to match the cream tones in the dress.

P1190043

For the record, the blouse was purchased at the Mind shop in Whitby for £4.50.

P1190048

 

Continue reading

Wedding Dress: Part 7 (The Big Reveal)

I hope you’re still following along this epic series and haven’t gotten too horribly bored by the whole thing. It will be over soon, I promise!

I’ve written at length about all the different parts of the dress… the corselette, the underskirt, the dress shell and even the veil, but seeing at all come together was a very satisfying moment.

P1180547

P1180548

Continue reading

Wedding Dress: Part 6 (The Veil)

Let’s talk veils! There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted a veil, and I quickly earmarked the kind of thing I was looking for (white, long, nothing that comes over the face). Here are some of the images I was working from.

v1 v2 v3 v4

Since I had to give up the idea of embellishing the dress because of time constraints, I thought it would be safe to play around with embroidering the veil and making a jeweled ornament for the comb – both could be abandoned at any point and a plain veil made in half an hour, if the deadline got too close.

Since my wedding motif was a star, stars were the obvious choice for the embroidery. I did quite a few samples, trying to make a star shape that looked as good on the front as it did on the back, which turned out to be tricky – the veil is of course seen from both the inside and the outside, so it was important that the reverse looked good. Also, there couldn’t be any stitches on the reverse outside the shape of the star, because the veil tulle is of course see through, so they wouldn’t be hidden. I considered this star stitch before dismissing it because thread showed through to the right side between the points of the star. What I eventually settled on was a modified raised fishbone stitch, times five for each star. I don’t mind telling you I got halfway through doing these stars in pink before deciding it was too harsh against the white dress and switched to silver. Metallic thread was not terribly easy to work with, so I ended up with a satin grey.

P1180559

Continue reading

Wedding Dress: Part 5 (The fabric and The Dress)

I hope you’re as excited to talk about my fabric as I am!

I bought my final fabric from Misan Fabrics in London (unfortunately they don’t have stock online so I can’t point you towards the exact fabric). It’s pretty special. It’s a cloque jacqard, mixed fibres. Parts are white, parts are off-white. Parts are shiny, parts are not. Parts are rippled, parts are flat. Hopefully you can see what I’m talking about below.

The whole thing is textured. Quite unusual for a bridal fabric, but I love it.

P1180203

I transferred my adjustments from the dress muslin to my paper pattern and started playing with the placement. Right up until the moment I laid a long length of the fabric out on my kitchen table, I’d thought of it as abstract, which of course it isn’t. There are clear repeats in the pattern forming ‘bands’ of similar blobs all the way down. This presented a dilemma; whether to cut the pieces to preserve the ‘bands’ all the way around the dress, or whether to do something different? To make things worse, I had just over 6 metres of fabric and was cutting around two fabric flaws/stains. After much placing and pinning, and replacing, and repinning, I flipped some of the pieces upside down so that there would be no band effect on the dress, to try and make it look as abstract as possible. It took a few goes pinning it all so it would fit and avoid the stains at the same time (and my table is only 2 metres long), but eventually, I took a deep breath and started cutting.

P1180204

Continue reading

Wedding Dress: Part 4 (Skirt Lining)

Hi folks, hope you’re still following this series and haven’t gotten too bored with the whole thing! Today’s post is a quick one about the skirt lining and some of its features.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t planning on having a skirt lining at all, the dress was going to just be on top of the underskirt with a regular hem. I bought horsehair braid for a nice crisp hem and everything. But then I changed my mind.

I wanted a bubble hem – to keep the volume of the skirt all the way down to the ground and give it more of a rounded, bubble appearance. To get the bubble effect, you make the lining narrower and shorter than the skirt, and join them together right sides together. The skirt is gathered onto the lining and the whole seam is hidden on the inside.

The point is, this can only work with a lining because it has to be held up from the inside all the way round. So, I cut a lining, following the shape of the original skirt (luckily I had metres and metres of fabric).

Here it is, wrong side out over the underskirt. You can see that I’ve made it narrower at the hem by simply tapering the seam allowance. Note that this only happens in the bottom fifth of the skirt as the underskirt tulle wants to be unimpeded to produce the volume required above that.

P1180526

Continue reading

Wedding Dress: Part 3 (The Corselette)

Welcome back folks, today we’re talking corselette construction!

Firstly, I need to give a big shout out to Laura Mae at Lilacs and Lace as her post on corselette construction here is absolutely excellent and formed the basis of what I ended up doing. Thank you Laura Mae! There are not many resources out there on corselettes so do read Laura Mae’s very informative post if you are thinking of doing something like this yourself.

I also read Susan Khalje’s “Bridal Couture” from cover to cover (it’s OOP – HOW IS IT OOP???!! – and very expensive online but Clare was kind enough to lend me her copy – and to show me her wonderful wedding dress that she made in person!). This book is highly recommended to anyone thinking of making their own dress as it covers every aspect of construction. Some of the styles are a little dated but the information is brilliant.

Here’s my muslin for the corselette section, which is loosely based on Burda 02/2011 #113, extended to the high hip and with a few other tweaks.

P1180119

Note that I used an invisible zip here as the least bulky option. I hadn’t heard that you are apparently not supposed to use them in wedding dresses because they are apparently not strong enough (I read that somewhere recently). For what it’s worth, my dress used two invisible zips, one in the corselette and one in the dress itself and they were absolutely fine. Anything other than a concealed zip down the centre back would have ruined the line of the dress, IMO.

P1180122

Here’s how it looked under the dress muslin – I trimmed away a bit of what was showing through the armholes in the final version.

P1180126

Continue reading