In January of 2014, I took a week long class on making women's pumps. Here you will find the ongoing chronicle of my shoe projects - the successes, the failures, the experiments. Occasionally, if I'm not working on shoes, I may also show some of my other art or craft projects here. Comments and questions welcome!
I've been working on a lot of small projects, but in the middle there, I ordered two pairs of lasts from shoe-last-shop.com. The company is in Finland, but has the lasts made in either Portugal or Italy - mine came from Portugal.
Good to know - their prices are good - but shipping is expensive.
Here's what I got!
Higher heels (yay!). Just two pairs. After the holidays, I want to order some of the lasts I liked so much at shoe school, from Jones & Vining. I have shoes planned for these, but need to get through the holidays first. Also, I'm going out of town on vacation for three weeks - so, no shoes for a while. (Although, I'll be looking for supplies on vacation - may have some cool new stuff!)
In other news, one of the projects I finished is a quilt for one of the nephews.
Time to get going on figuring out boots. Past time, really. I had taped up a last *ages* ago - the same one I used for the blue and black oxford. Tonight, I wrapped my leg in scrap fabric, then taped it up, cut off the tape, and added it to the last. I have no idea how this is really supposed to work, but this works for me.
Next I'll work on the design. At some point, I have to actually make a decision about whether I want it to lace up the front (probably a good idea) or zip up the side (closer to what I want it to look like, I think). Either way, I can finally get off my butt and do something about this.
I haven't heard back from my contact at Jones & Vining recently. I should really poke her, but on the other hand, I don't have the money just laying around at the moment to splurge on a bunch of lasts. I'd really love to do a boot with a taller heel - but perhaps that can wait until I have a better idea about what I'm doing.
One of two quilts I'm making this year for nephews for Christmas gifts. I thought it would take about a week, and so of course it took three. The younger boy loves monkeys, and I happened to have some sock monkey fabric laying around. This is what happened. The reverse is red super soft micro plush - so if it never goes on the bed (unlikely), it'll still be good for curling up on the couch on a snowy afternoon to watch cartoons. (They live near St. Louis. I'm assuming it snows there in the winter...)
Totally just tossed it onto the guest bed to snap a quick photo. I may or may not take a better one before I wrap it up and send it off for the holidays. The room is very green - that's not just the lighting in the photo. :)
One big thing that's been keeping me from completing more projects lately (other than the fact that it's summer, and really, really warm, which makes me want to do pretty much nothing other than nap on the couch downstairs with a book) is that my workshop is a mess.
Several in-progress things, crap that hasn't been put away, filing that needs to be done, and new supplies that haven't been put away yet are overtaking the space. Also, every few years, I really should pull out whole categories of stuff (ribbon, quilting fabric, other fabric, paints, etc.) and re-organize, and I haven't done any of that in quite a while.
So today, I re-organized and put away all the dye equipment, since it was all sitting out after doing tie-dye onesies for a baby shower a couple of weeks ago. I don't, unfortunately, have a photo of them (SO CUTE!!!), but will post one once I get it from the cousin who had the camera that day.
Also today, I did the ribbon. A large portion of it was still in a Rubbermaid tub from a workshop I did last November (!!!), and a bunch of the rest was just stacked on the floor. Not good. Here's what it looks like now that I've whipped it back into shape:
Why so much ribbon? I have a problem. I just can't resist ribbon for some reason. And over the last few years, Costco has been my main enabler. Those bottom two rows are pretty much all Costco.
What on earth do I do with so much ribbon? Mostly, I make woven ribbon Christmas stockings:
I've sold a bunch of these, and given even more away as gifts. I'd estimate I've made nearly a hundred of them over the years. I really like working in the non-traditional colors. Some of my favorites have been black and white, or bright pink, or caramel.
What else do I make out of ribbon? I do the same weaving technique on pillow covers sometimes, and one time, I made a messenger bag for my younger sister, the Hello Kitty fan:
I've been toying with the idea of making a laptop bag for myself, or perhaps a purse, but that will have to wait for another day. At least now, the ribbon is tidy, and perhaps soon I can get back on top of the four or five other fairly urgent projects that I'd really like to get done soon.
It's made of linen, from the fabric store, and one of the most nicely-finished garments I've ever made. And I did it the right way, too. I had an old Vogue pattern, and made a mock-up, and altered it until it fit properly, and made a new pattern. And I finished all my seams, for once. And learned how to make bound buttonholes. Overall, I'm very happy with how it turned out.
I also bought three yards of this:
I have no idea what I'll do with it, but I love it. Maybe another blouse? perhaps a more oxford-style one this time? I think as a dress, it would be too much all in one place, and be overwhelming.
Problems? Lots of them. These were most definitely an experiment, and some parts were more successful than others. I think I could do a much better job the next time.
For one, I forgot to remove the heel tack before removing the left shoe from the last, and tore out the decorative punchwork and stitching on the counter:
Also, the top edge of the counter isn't tall enough - when I wear the shoes, they feel like they're about to slip off my heels. On the other hand, too bitey of a top line along my achilles' tendon on commercially produced shoes has long been a problem for me, so I think I just need to remember to start lasting with the heel point up a little higher on the last.
My lasting wasn't great, so the pattern is a little distorted. It's hard to tell, but they're just a tiny bit lopsided. I notice it, but I doubt anyone else ever will.
I do very much like how the lacing area and tongue turned out. In the future, I'll have he better sewing machine, and this will look even better. Ditto on the edge piping.
Here's the last two problems: The beautiful back line I was going for completely disappeared. I think I may need (eventually) to invest in a splitter. I've been using suede and hirschkleber for my counters, and I think they're just not robust enough.
Second, the oak heels, which I thought I had sanded smooth enough turned out to be not smooth enough. I can see the uneven ridges through the kangaroo leather, which seems to magnify the problems, rather than leveling them out. Next time around, I'll be experimenting with casting heels from plastic, from Smooth-on, and inserting one or more steel pins through the center.
A final note about lasts, and toe shape. Here's my two pairs of heels - the first pair, from class, and the new ones. You can really see the difference in toe shape in this photo. The size is the same, and the heel height is the same, but the toe shape is very different, and that's why you need so many pairs of lasts.
I keep meaning to post about this, but just haven't managed to do it.
I splurged, and bought myself a really nice, heavy-duty sewing machine. Not a $2,500 industrial model, that comes bolted to a table and has a motor that needs to sit in a gallon of oil. But I've tried it with leather, in the way that I use it (multiple layers, multiple textures and stretchy-ness, with and without support of some kind inside), and it will be perfectly adequate to my needs.
It's a Juki - the brand our instructor kept saying was the best - and it works really well for garments, too. I'm finishing up a shirt in the next few days, and my sewing has never been this precise before.
On the other hand, it only does a straight stitch. What do I do when I want to make buttonholes?
I finished the sewing - most of which I ended up doing by hand. That sucked. But the hand-stitched bits look better than the machine-stitched parts. I guess I need to start looking into getting a better sewing machine. Regardless, I'm fairly pleased with how the piping on the edges turned out.
Here's how I did the piping: I cut a strip of the black leather, and skived it down as thin as I could. I sewed it along the upper edge, right sides together, then flipped it over, and stitched the lining to the upper along the stitch line. (Stitch-in-the-ditch.)
And I got started on the lasting.
I even remembered to take out all the tacks holding the insole to the last, except for one in the middle, where I'll be able to remove it after the shoe is lasted.
Since I had the glue out, I also took the opportunity to cover the heels with leather. Still crossing my fingers that white oak will be strong enough.
And... here they are - linings glued down, ready for the toe box and counter.
I know, no posts for a long time. I haven't made any more progress on the shoes - I'm having trouble with the stitching along the top edge.
Also, I'm just back from a two week vacation. One week camping in Yosemite, and one week visiting friends in the Bay Area. While in San Francisco, I got to visit Britex, a really fabulous (but expensive!) fabric store. I was last there about twenty years ago.
I was visiting a friend who was studying at Berkeley at the time, and we were exploring the city. I ducked into a fabric store to check it out, and felt like I had walked into a magical world. It was beautiful. Colored bolts stacked to the ceiling in a rainbow of colors. I didn't buy any fabric then, but I took a photo of the wall of fabric, and grabbed one of their post cards.
That post card moved with me for years. I might still have it.
Turns out, that store has FOUR FLOORS, one dedicated just to buttons and trim. So I went back, and this time, I spent some money. Here's what I picked up at Britex:
Some fabrics for this year's costume - I'm going ORANGE this year! (The one that looks brown and the one that looks red in this photo look a lot more orange in person.)
Some trim and buttons for the costume:
I don't know what I'll do with this one, but I loved it:
This gorgeous silk - very expensive, so I only got a half yard. I think it'll make a fantastic tank top/shell. It feels *so good*:
On the way home, we stayed one night in Ashland, and I had a chance to check out the two fabric shops in town. Got some more stuff for the costume, and yes, that's Kaylee's tail in the photo:
In other news, I've been elected Vice Chair of Norwescon for the coming year, so I anticipate I'll be really busy. For starters, there will be a lot of events I'll have to attend up in Seattle that I might have skipped otherwise. Not as much time to work on the shoes as I'd like. But - when I do make some progress, I'll post it here.
Unfortunately, no new progress on shoes. Norwescon has, however, come and gone, and I did have three new costumes this year. Unfortunately, there are not photos yet of my Wonder Woman getup, but here's the group of us doing Norse Gods & Goddesses:
And just me, with my skull makeup front and center:
Also, I did manage to get my Columbine costume done as well:
I'm wearing shoes I made myself with both of these costumes. Win!
Now, I'm trying to get back on top of the shoes, but first, I feel the need to clean up a bit. Things are in chaos. This is frustrated by the fact that I'm absolutely exhausted. In the two weeks leading up to the convention, I experienced some pretty horrible insomnia, and since then, I've been sleeping a lot.
There's been a lot of talk lately, in convention circles, about harassment. In general, and specifically relating to the harassment faced by women who wear costumes, especially when their costume is from a character with whom they do not share body type/race/age etc.
And this sucks, and is wrong.
So a bunch of us are dressing as Wonder Woman on Sunday at Norwescon. Because all of us, no matter our dress size, are Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman, over the years, has had many incarnations. Likewise, all of us who are Wonder Woman are different people. One person is doing a very sparkly, corset-ed version; someone else is going the Steampunk route.
While I do wear costumes at Norwescon, I am generally a jeans-and-t-shirt girl. So here's my Wonder Woman costume - jeans and a t-shirt.
Because even though I'm not in a shiny leotard, I am still Wonder Woman.
And if anyone else would like to join us in dressing as Wonder Woman at Norwescon, please feel free to do so.
Am currently working frantically on some costumes for Norwescon, and stealing a little time here and there to keep making progress on these shoes.
So - in addition to the gimping, I wanted some decorative holes punched along the edge of the black pieces. I did this with a leather hole punch (the kind with a hammer), and mostly just eyeballed it. So it's a little uneven. But I doubt most people will be looking closely enough to tell the difference.
Then, I used some rubber cement to stick the pieces together, and stitched them down. I want the stitching to show, so I'm using a light blue thread.
I'm also still having a hard time with the sewing machine not holding tension very well on the thicker thread. I don't know what the solution is to that, other than buying a very expensive industrial sewing machine, or doing all the stitching by hand (NOOOO!!!!!).
And here are the uppers, all stitched together. Pretty snazzy, no?
I have to make a pattern for the lining and counter now, and cut and sew the lining, before I can do anything else. We'll see how far I get before it's time for ALL CONVENTION, ALL THE TIME.
First up, found another good shoe blog - http://shoesandcraft.com This is a guy who makes bespoke shoes, I think in New York. Mostly men's.
Tutu is at a good stopping place - the frills are all sewn on, and I've finished the waist band. All that's left is the decorative fabric that goes on top. I'll get going on that next week.
First, I wanted to get on top of that second pair of shoes - the lace-up, oxford/spectator inspired ones. My black leather *finally* arrived, so I could start.
Here are the pieces cut out:
I still need to make the pattern for the lining, and cut the lining, obviously, as well as making the patterns for the counter and the heels.
The jagged edge on the black pieces (which I think is called gimping) is typically done with a machine, as part of the cutting process. You just run the cutting needle (like a sewing machine) along the cut line, and it gives you a nice, even, zig-zag edge. I don't have one of those machines, so I cut all the little teeth by hand, with a pair of scissors.
The next step here is to get out the hole punches, and do the decorative holes along the edges, and also, to skive the edges of the light blue leather.
Have finished the basque, and put on 8 of the 12 frills. Boy, do these suckers take a long time. Each frill is 6 yards long, widths increase by 1" increments from 2" to 13". Here's some progress photos:
That last one is upside down - it looks better that way.
The cats have been banished from the room while I work on this. Kaylee can't resist shredding the tulle, Simon pulls the pins out, and both of them have a thing for shoving things off the table.
Black leather *still* hasn't arrived, so still no progress on the next pair of shoes.
Corset hardware, however, arrived on Friday, and the corset is finished. Here's how it happened:
First up, the beautiful black velvet with little white gems on it is a stretch velvet. Stretch is not so good for corsets, so I added some heat-bond interfacing, and some ugly quilter's cotton I had lying around, for stability, to each individual piece, and stitched around the edges to hold it in place.
Sewed together the outside.
Added some mis-matched decorative diamonds on the front center panels. Sorry about the washed out photos - the lighting in my workshop is great for working, but terrible for photography.
On the back sections, stitched the lining to the outside at the back edges, stitched a channel for some boning, added grommets, and added another channel for boning - one piece of boning on either side of the grommets. (This also helps keep your grommets in a nice straight line.)
On the front, stitched the lining and fronts together along the center opening, leaving gaps for the loop side of the busk. Inserted the loop side and stitched it down. Poked holes with an awl for the studs, shoved them through, and stitched that down, too.
It's probably impossible to tell from these horrible pictures, but the busk I got has little diamonds in the studs.
So, I stitched up the side seams, slipped the rest of the boning into the channels on the lining, laced it up and did a trial fitting. It was a bit too loose (I've lost some weight since the pattern was drafted for me originally), so I took in the sides a little.
The fit was just about perfect, so I added binding to the top and bottom edges to finish it.
And here's the finished corset.
I've started on the tutu to go with the corset - I've got the basque made (basically a crotch-length, high-waisted, very tight mini skirt), and have sewn on the first three rows of frills. I'll try to remember to take some photos of it soon.