Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Boot School!

I'm back from a two week intensive boot making class, at Bonney and Wills School of Shoemaking.
Here's what the five of us in the class created in two weeks.  !!!  Pretty exciting, right?

But enough about everyone else.  Here's *my* boots:

Those photos were taken before the boots were really stretched in - the lace gap up the front is now narrower, and I'll have some proper photos taken once I have the matching purse to go with them.
It would be impossible to put everything from those two weeks into one blog post, so here are a few highlights:
Modifying lasts
The last I used was a boot last with a pretty horrible, long, square, up-curved toe.  We chopped it off, and turned it into the rounder toe I prefer.  Also, a little extra material was added onto the sides at the ball of the foot, because I have freaky wide feet.

Designing the boot

Making patterns for boots is pretty cool, and now I know how to do it.  But you still start the same way:  tape the last, design the foot part of the boot. Then that design is made into a 2-D pattern, and that pattern is continued up the shaft of the boot to the desired height.

Cutting and sewing the uppers and lining

My boot had a lot of piping, and the wingtip and heel cap were this really shiny, squishy faux alligator (sheep skin, of all things). The lining is an orthopedic calf in cream, very soft, and was stitched to the outer at this point.  I took my own sewing machine with me to class, because I'm familiar with it, and it's what I'll be using now that I'm back home, as well.  Unlike my first class, this time the sewing went really smoothly.  I'm very proud of my stitching this time. 

Brush-off design, eyelets, and hooks

I came to this class with very few pre-conceived notions about what I'd be making, other than that it would be a boot, and likely knee-high.  I had seen some boots our instructor had made, using a brush-off goatskin, and I was intrigued by the material.  Basically, the leather is dyed red (or brown), and then a dark coating is applied.  You "brush off" the coating to reveal the red underneath.  Generally, it's brushed off sort of all over, or all over after stitching, so that the places where the parts intersect get highlighted.  Sometimes, a cord or other object is placed underneath to make a pattern.  I wanted to do something more intricate.  So I designed a honeybee (based on a tattoo found on the internet, of course) and made a stencil from poster board.  The stencil was rubber cemented to the leather, and the design brushed off with a polishing brush on a grinder.

This is the point where I should have put in the eyelets and hooks, but it wasn't critical that it didn't happen until after I sewed together the shafts.

Then the outer was assembled.

The back seam was actually zig-zagged, then pounded flat.  Reinforcement tape was applied up the seam, on the outside, and then a decorative back strap placed up the seam, to cover the reinforcement tape.  The heel cap was attached at this point, too.

The tongue (which was, oh my god, very long) was attached to the vamp, and the vamp attached to the quarter. 

Of course, an insole had to be made.  And a platform.  Here's the back part of the insole:

And here's the platform going on.   The platform is made from Birko cork, which apparently can be purchased from shoe repair suppliers, like O. Baltor & Sons in San Francisco.  It's basically ground up cork, suspended in a rubber adhesive.  You cut it to size, warm it up, and stick it to the insole, where it'll form nicely until it cools down.  Then you can sand it to shape.


Next we laced up the vamp so it wouldn't stretch out, and lasted the boot.  Those tall sides meant there was a lot of leather flapping around.  Once lasted, I cleaned up the bottom, added filler, and glued on the sole.  Next, I completely forgot to stamp my logo into the sole,  (DAMN!) and attached the sole.  Then the boot could be un-lasted, and the heel attached properly.
All that remained was to clean the whole thing up, make and insert the sock liner, and polish the whole thing with a coat of neutral shoe polish.

Generally speaking, boot school was an amazing experience.  I really enjoyed the people I met in class, and we all made something different, so I got to learn about oxfords, zippered boots, and western construction, even without making any of those things myself.  One student had been there for an additional two weeks prior, and was also making a pair of welted high heel oxfords - I was very excited to see that process, and I think I have a pretty good handle on it now. 

We were a little ahead of schedule, and there was a lot of time spent waiting for glue to dry, so I made a pair of sandals (post to come) and another student made some leather flip-flops. She happens to live nearby, so now I have a shoe-making buddy locally - someone to share information and resources with - which is pretty fantastic.  Mostly, my two weeks in Ashland were tremendously exciting, and exhausting, and just jam-packed with great learning.  I can't wait to make another pair of shoes now.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ashland Shoemaker Symposium

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to attend the first ever Shoemakers' Symposium in Ashland, Oregon.  It was a fantastic experience. 

I don't have a ton of photos, but I think the high point for me was the opportunity to socialize and geek out with other makers of shoes.  We're an odd bunch, but I found some kindred spirits there, learned a lot, and made some great connections with some of the vendors.  Shoe making equipment, tools, and supplies are hard to find - it's great to be able to actually *talk* to the people who can provide those things.  Many of them don't have websites or online ordering - you just have to know who has the thing you want, and call them up.  Like, on a telephone.  How last century!  Of course, we're making shoes by hand, here. 

I just had to purchase some leather, of course.  I got some frog skins, and lizard, and ostrich shins. (This is not my haul - this is the vendor's table.)

There was also a competition - these are some of my personal favorites of the submitted shoes:

These amazing boots were inspired by a sculpture.  You can't see it in this photo, unfortunately, but the stitching and overlay work is really amazing - almost every color you see is a separate piece of very thin leather, not paint.  (There's a little bit of shading done with dye, but mostly, it's separate pieces of material.)

I had seen photos of these before - Deborah's very cute star cutout pumps. Now I got to see them in person. 

Rose, who was in my class last year, and was a speaker at the symposium, made these, and won the People's Choice award for them.  Very sharp - and exactly what I would have expected from her!
Again, a really great weekend.  Lots of good food, and wine, and interesting people I want to stay in touch with.  I'll be heading back down to Ashland on Sunday to start a two week long class on fashion boots - so there will be more shoemaking stuff here shortly!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


No posts here for a long time, because I was super busy working on costuming a show.

I don't generally costume for theater.  Too many costumes, in too short a time period, with not enough budget.  In this case, I had ten actors to dress in about three weeks.  The director's theme was Cotton Candy, and I was really hankering to do some Rococco-Punk, which is pretty much exactly what she wanted for the show.

Unfortunately, I don't have an all-cast photo in their costumes.  I'm still waiting on the "official" photos.  But I've got some behind-the-scenes stuff from the actors, and a few bits and pieces to share.  Here's a bunch of the cast in their "green room" - the parking lot behind the theater.

And a shot on stage, during a dress rehearsal:  (ignore the trash on the table!)

This was a very colorful show.  Each character had a color - which makes the decisions a lot easier.  The women all had custom corsets (which I made), and wigs.  All of the actors' shoes, with two exceptions, were modified in some way.  Here are my lovely ladies:


The beautiful Heather Christopher as Mme. Pernell.  Heather's wearing her own Fleuvogs, purple fishnets, lavender pantaloons, a hoop-skirt frame covered with a ruffled skirt, a linen blouse, and a tudor-esque corset in purple brocade.  The skirt is about ten rows of 3" ruffles, made from a thrift-store bed sheet, and some lavender costume satin salvaged from a skirt I made about 20 years ago, and never wore.  (The tulle from that skirt got re-purposed into a veil for another character.)  The linen for the blouse was a find while on vacation - the fabric for the pantaloons came out of my quilting stash.  It was that kind of show. Here's Heather when we first tried on her corset:

I kind of love the post-apocalyptic-looking parking lot with this costume walking around in it.  They look like circus performers.

Here's a variety of shots of the layers of this costume:

Next up, is the lovely Adriana Chavez as Elmire.  There's a bit of slapstick in the first act, with her in a bunch of dressing gowns, which are pulled off her as the scene progresses.  By the end of the show, however, she's fully dressed:


She's wearing a shirt of mine that happened to be the right color, tudor-style corset, pantaloons (again, fabric out of my quilting stash), a couple of dressing gowns from the thrift store, a skirt made from a thrift store sari and some lightweight cotton from my vacation, and thrift store shoes, covered in turquoise suede, with the heels painted white. All of the women's wigs were cheap cosplay wigs, styled by the director and me.  Here's Adriana the first time we got the corset on her.  (I love the Star Wars t-shirt with it.)
And now, our gorgeous Vanessa, as the innocent Marianne:
She's got a chemise of a very lightweight cotton (found on vacation) decorated with ribbon roses, a more Victorian-style corset, pantaloons, and a skirt-thing on the hips made from a thrift store sari. The shoes in the photo above didn't end up getting used - they were too loud on stage.  Here's the shoes we ended up using for the show - ballet flats covered in hot pink brocade:
Here's her corset when we tried it on.  I really love this pale pink as a corset, and the boys at work chose this as their favorite thing I've ever made:

And finally, the outrageous and saucy Amanda, as Dorine, the maid:

Amanda's corset is more modern in its lines - no gussetts.  Just straight lines, and that little collar-point turn over in the front.  (One of these days, I'm going to make myself a long-line corset, over the bust, in dark grey pinstripes with that little wingtip collar.  Something I saw at a convention a few years ago, and I'm totally going to steal that idea...)  She's also wearing a thrift store blouse, with lace added at the cuffs and collar, and a skirt I made.  Her shoes are some of my favorites for the show - I didn't have quite the right color of dark blue spray paint at home, but I did have royal blue, and black.

One of the shoes was a little tight across the vamp, so I sliced off the "leather" bows that were on these shoes so I could cut them open just a little.  And of course, glued on replacement bows to match the costume.

On to the boys.  Our title character, Tartuffe, is a charlatan priest.  Typically dressed in black for these shows, our director wanted him to be brighter and more charming.  He's played by the crazy good looking Michael Christopher. (This whole cast was so gorgeous.  That's a benefit of costuming a play:  you get to be around beautiful people who take their clothes off for you.)  So we put him in white and gold.  He dyed his hair an ice-blue for the show, so I didn't have to do anything there.

His jacket is a thrift store suit jacket, which has been painted white with house paint.  The trim is free-hand painted gold paint.  His shoes are thrift store dress shoes, spray painted white.  As he wore them, they flaked off along the crease lines - I really loved how they turned out.  All the mens' shoes were done this way, and inspired by a suit worn by Bill Nighy in the film Love Actually.

 Orgon, the patriarch, is played by the very talented Christian Carvajal.  I never knew someone could look good in yellow, but he really carried it off.  Carv's jacket was another thrift store blazer, painted yellow with latex house paint.  His shoes were spray painted white, then given a wash of yellow - yellow acrylic paint brushed on, then wiped off with a paper towel.  The jacket was originally a black and white houndstooth print, and his black trousers, I think, complimented that underlying color.

We also put color in the actors' hair - in this case, some yellow spray.  Some days were more successful than others.  In this photo, it looks like I put in too much.  Generally, it was more subtle than that.


The brother-in-law, Cleante, was played by Rick Perlstein.  (I'm running out of superlatives for these guys - they're all fantastic.)  Rick's color was green, and again, his jacket was painted with house paint.  Something about the fabric really didn't want to take the paint, so I ended up going a little more spontaneous on his.  The underlying color was brown, and his trousers were brown to match.  His shoes got the same treatment - spray painted white, then a wash of green. 
Rick's hair had to be sprayed up, and the green color was hair chalk.  (Hot Huez, specifically.) 
I don't have much in the way of photos of Rick, unfortunately.
Next up is Xander, as Marianne's lover, Valere.  His vest was finished about two hours before curtain on opening night.  He's also wearing some thrift store trousers that I shortened, and spray-painted shoes.  He also had a touch of blue in his hair.


Jesse Moore-Hendrickson played hotheaded Damis.  His costume was very simple - just dress shirt, shortened trousers, painted shoes, and color in his hair.  Jesse is very tall, and I couldn't find socks that went all the way up to his knees in an appropriate salmon or coral color.  So I dyed some very tall dance socks from Dharma Trading Company.  He's not wearing them in this first photo.

That last photo also has Rick's shoes. 

I don't have any photos at all of the final costume - Chris Rocco as the officer at the end of the play.  His was also the least interesting costume.  Grey shirt, black jacket, trousers and shoes.  Shoes weren't painted - the only things we did for him were to put some purple in his hair, and some gold trim on the jacket. He was also on stage for around five minutes total.

During the run of the show, I also took the costumes home to launder them as often as needed.  Which, since Olympia was experiencing a heat wave, and the theater is small and not air conditioned, was pretty much every night.  This show pretty much dominated all of my free time during its run, as well as before.

So, that's what I've been up to for the last couple of months.  More blog posts coming soon, now that the show's over, and I'm back to doing things again.