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.

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