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It Gives One Paws…

(Or, The Evolution of Kitty Paws, part 2)

Last time, I felt we had a proto-shoe concept that looked promising.  

They look a little rough, to put it kindly, but they’re just prototypes, the light in here’s awful, and my feet are really not photogenic, so it’s not entirely the shoes’ fault.  They seemed like a decent starting point for what I’m after, which is as follows:

  1. Soft lightweight shoes that feel as though I’m barefoot.  I want to be able to walk five miles and never spare a thought for how my feet are feeling.  I want to be able to break into a sprint if I feel like chasing a pheasant, or stand on a concrete floor for a 12-hour shift and not wish for death.  
  2. Versatility.  I’d like these shoes to be a chameleon that can change to suit different purposes depending on design details and embellishment, so a fairly basic shape would be best.
  3. Reasonably attractive shoes I can wear with most things, including skirts and dresses, keeping in mind that I am a pathologically introverted resident of a small town who only talks to people at mandatory events.  I am not a fashionista, and I think high heels are for the deranged or very brave.  So do consider the source when I say “attractive.”

If you’re a fan of glamorous-looking, unyielding shoes with lots of built-in shape, Kitty Paws (as I’m currently calling these mythical shoes) won’t be for you.  You’ll probably loveFelix’s shoes.  What we’re talking about here are shoes for people who really don’t like wearing shoes, who’d prefer to go barefoot if it weren’t for fear of what you could step on.

So. 

These shoes looked simple. I tried to make the shape simple, as I am not an experienced shoemaker, and I wanted to be able to grade for different sizes and modify for different shapes fairly easily.  But of course, they were anything but simple.  

Shoes are weird. Changing one tiny part seems to cause a butterfly effect-like, chaotic, ever-expanding mass of changes to every other part.  I made several slightly different versions of the basic idea, each time changing a very minor detail, and each version came out completely different in look, fit, and feel.  Take these two:

The black shoe on my right felt too wide at the ball of the foot, so I tapered the sole a little – no more than a quarter of an inch — before making the green one on my left (please ignore the bits of fabric dust and fluff; I’m still in full sewing production here while dabbling in shoemaking.  Also, these are just the midsoles, not the soles you’d be walking on – those go on later.):

That meant I had to reduce the vamp (that’s the upper part of the shoe) pattern a little to make it match the reduced sole, once again by a minuscule amount.  The finished shoes are visually undistinguishable in size. But they don’t FEEL remotely similar.

The original black shoe feels like they might fall off if I started running, just too loose all over.  My toe doesn’t touch the toe of the shoe on the inside.  There seems to be excess leather pooling near the toe.

The fit is not uncomfortable, exactly, just tight, but I think that’s because the green leather is very stretchy.  Speaking of which….

The green ones feel quite, quite snug, and a good deal shorter, even though I made no length changes whatsoever.  The toe area is gently squeezing my toes, and you can actually see some pull lines from the tension.    

There’s another variable factor I’ve discovered in shoemaking that wasn’t really a thing when making clothes: leather.

Sure, different fabrics affect the look and fit of clothes, but once you’ve worked out how a particular material handles for a specific design, it’s done and dusted.  Leather NEVER behaves the same way twice.  You can a left shoe out of a hide and cut the right shoe out of the exact same hide an inch away, and the two can behave completely differently.  Bits are more or less elastic, thicker, thinner, stiffer, floppier, spongier, crunchier – you name it.

I’m starting to be able to guess how each bit will behave with better accuracy as I gain more experience, so hopefully this problem will solve itself.  This is relevant as a lot of you have said you’d be interested in this sort of footwear.  If we ever get this to a stage where we feel comfortable offering prototypes for ready-to-wear, it should be a non-issue anyway, as people can try them on first and just pick the fit they like best (I love a stretchy-but-snuggish fit, but you might prefer a looser or more structured fit).

Next time, I will be dividing the difference and making a version somewhere between these two iterations. I’m also hoping to refine the look subtly in the interests of arriving at a future product that does not look like waders.  Though it may be my feet that look like waders, in which I’m going to have to test the design out on some of you to see what it looks like on normal feet.

Next time: more iterations that look just like all the others, but are progress all the same.

Are Comfy Shoes Rocket Science?

(Or, the Evolution of Kitty Paws, Part 1)

As someone who’s made her own clothes since dinosaurs walked the earth, I take certain things for granted. Deep, capacious pockets in skirts, pants that never ride up, perfect-fitting underwear, a corset in Ravenclaw colours – I can have whatever I want.

Kitties by Kitty

Until it comes to shoes.

Why are shoes so hard? By which, of course, I mean practical, comfortable, pretty shoes that cuddle your feet and make you feel like you’re walking on marshmallows.  Aaaaaaand — here’s the hard part —  that you can wear to a variety of occasions.

I do NOT mean those ethereally beautiful, utterly insane designer thingies that look more like jewels than shoes, because a broken ankle often offends.  I also don’t mean hiking boots or running shoes.  I adore those cushiony-soled trainers as much as anyone, but even I would not wear them with a nice summer dress.  Or with my Steampunk dominatrix outfit, or to a funeral.  

Then there’s the one-size-fits-none syndrome you’ve all encountered when buying clothes.  Feet, like bosoms and hips, some in different shapes as well as sizes.  Apparently, according to shoe manufacturers, no one else in the whole of space and time has feet like mine, because I have to buy shoes three sizes too long to squeeze my paddle-like paws into the toe box.  This is patently bonkers, as when I started actually measuring lots of people’s feet, I found mine are statistically LESS wide than average. 

So we have embarked on a multi-year crusade to make sane, sensible shoes that are also at least somewhat attractive.  It really has been years.  And it’s REALLY not like making clothes.  

Felix has taken up the proper kind of shoemaking, with lasts and scary hardware and four kinds of hammers. It involves a lot of maths and gluing and pounding in dozens of tiny deadly-looking nails before yanking them all out again.  This, I found, is not for the Kitty.  I don’t do maths and hammers have an unholy attraction to my thumb.

But he does makes gorgeous shoes and boots.  Here are some of his recent efforts:

They’re lovely, and shockingly comfy, and I plan on offering all kinds of indecent inducements to get him to make me a knee-high black steampunk number next.  

But I also want the other kind of shoes.  You know – soft, dreamy, lightweight shoes I can wear to pop out to the shops, to a summer wedding, or to go dancing in a Jane Austen costume ball and never once need to think about my feet.  I want shoes that feel like I’m barefoot.  

These shoes don’t exist, at least not for my feet, so I’m in the process of creating them.  One of my new year’s resolutions (other than eating more fish and petting more dogs) was to try to get over my fear of technology enough to blog semi-regularly, so here it is: Entry the First.  I hope this project will get somewhere quickly enough that I can have some prototypes to test at CCEE in April.  

In the meantime, I’ll be posting more entries on the upcoming iterations of the Kitty Paws project. Right now, here’s where I’m at after a few months of experimentation:

(1) An early attempt based on a moccasin concept.  Comfy, but looks like bedroom slippers.  I’ll probably use them as bedroom slippers.

(2) Tried making them pointier-toed in an effort to make them look more delicate.  They now look like more delicate bedroom slippers.

(3) Yet another try, making the toes even pointier and reducing the underwrap portion in an effort to refine the look a bit.  I actually kind of like these and may develop them further later for walking shoe type-thing. In the meantime, my bedroom slipper collection is growing.

(4) Attempted to change directions in the hopes that a boot style might work better.  Once again, these are exceedingly comfortable, far more so than anything I’ve ever bought.  But they’re booties.  Once again, I may develop these into something later. 

(5) Maybe my standards are falling, but this one is starting to feel like I’m getting somewhere. There are definitely bumpy bits, but I may run with this and see where I can go with it.  Also, I’m not used to this much hand sewing (with an actual needle and thread!) and I’m starting to get blisters.

Wish me luck, and I hope to return soon with wearable Kitty Paws.

Taboo Calgary 2018

The show is in Halls B&C at the BMO Centre and we’re in booth #410-414.  Show hours are:

  • Thursday: 5pm – 11pm
  • Friday: 5pm – 12am
  • Saturday: 1pm – 12am (note the new starting time this year)
  • Sunday 12pm – 6pm

Taboo Edmonton 2018

The show is in Halls G&H at the Edmonton Expo Centre and we’re in booth #312-316.  Show hours are:

  • Thursday: 5pm – 11pm
  • Friday: 5pm – 12am
  • Saturday: 1pm – 12am (note the new 1pm start time)
  • Sunday 12pm – 6pm