Tag: leather

These Shoes Were Made for Walking (in Time and Space) pt. 3

Or, Kitty’s continuing shoe adventures, TARDIS edition, Part 3 of 3

When I was a wee girl, when my governess was trying her best to teach me how to sew buttons onto my frocks, I thought hand-sewing was a curse and an abomination unto Nuggan (Sir Terry, you are missed).  

Every time she turned her back, I tried stapling, gluing, and (I kid thee not) melting buttons on with a miniature blowtorch, because all of those seemed like quicker and more fun options than the good old needle pulling thread.  But now that I’m a professional seamstress with five or six industrial sewing machines, several sergers, and a thingy just for making buttonholes, I’ve discovered in myself a strange and unholy attraction to my least favourite childhood lesson.  

There is simply no way to machine-stitch an entire shoe of the kind I’m making here.  I know, because I tried frantically to find a way. Look what happened when I tried to machine-stitch Kitty Paws: 

Machine-stitching is not always the answer

Only when I got tired of exploding machine needles and lopsided mutant shoe fetuses did I give up and sit down to hand-stitch the beasties.  Then I discovered a whole new world!  There’s a something tranquil about dragging yards of thread through tiny holes, molding the leather into artistic folds and tucks, and gradually transforming a few pieces of random-looking jigsaw pieces into actual footwear.  It’s a moment of relaxation in the madness of a working day, wholly absorbing and meditative.

By “a moment,” of course, I mean quite a lot of hours.  Remember those non-figurative hundreds of holes I punched in the last chapter? Now, my needle would have to pass through each and every one of those holes, sometimes several times.  The holes in the various pieces intentionally don’t line up, and one piece has to be squished or stretched to fit the next, which is how we get a three-dimensional shape from flat ones. This is what it looked like partway into the process, as I’m sewing the toe: 

Toe In Progress

And later, as I’m sewing the heel area: 

You can’t use just any thread and needle, of course.  The thread is waxed for strength, and, I suspect, also for tangle prevention and weather resistance.  It’s weirdly sticky and bristly.   Look, it’s so strong that it stands up: 

And the needle is round-tipped, so it doesn’t try to make its own holes or scratch the leather when your hand slips, which, believe me, it will. 

Incidentally, I am deeply impressed with the paint and topcoat I used.  I did in fact slip up multiple times during the sewing and scraped the needle across the painted surface, and it never even left a mark. Both are a brand called Angelus, if anyone wants to know.  I’m still fairly new to this and haven’t tried any other brands yet.

Anyway, after all those trials and tribulations, the TARDIS boots were complete, and here they are! Remember, if they look a bit blobby, that this is just me trying them on the moment they were done, with no prep other than rolling up my fleecy pajama legs.  No fancy photography here.  They honestly do look better in real life.

These are shockingly comfortable, and with the Vibram outsole, they’re durable and cushioned enough for me to go for a run.  Though you can’t really see it in the photos, they also make my muscular, wide feet look surprisingly streamlined – at least relative to any other comfy shoe I have ever tried on.  I intend to wear these with my TARDIS corset at the next event we attend, because I’m confident I’ll be fine standing for 12 hours straight on a concrete floor.

Interesting fact: according to the chart I’m using, I come out to be about a size 7 length and a size 10 width for the same style.  When I buy shoes, I usually need to go for a size 10 just to get the width and end up with inches of extra toe length.  I gather this is not an unusual thing amongst women, so if this has happened to you, I may soon have the only shoes you’ve ever tried that actually fit.

While I was in the zone, I made these other boots for someone with very tiny feet that happen to be proportionately quite wide (size 5 length with something like a size 12 width for the same style).  This one has kitties and pawprints, because we secretly know cats are really behind all this.  

And these plain gray ones for everyday (size 7 wide), which are the right length but far too narrow for me, but hopefully will find a good home:

Next time, I mean to make Ravenclaw boots, because no amount of wishing seems able to turn me into a Hufflepuff.  If anyone has any other suggestions or design ideas, let’s have ‘em.  Now I’ve started, I can’t seem to stop.  

P.S. I hope to have a few prototype pairs at Calgary Comic Expo (April 25-28, 2019), so feel free to come by, try them on, and help me calibrate my sizes and widths.  Because everyone’s feet are so insanely variable (and I thought corsets were hard to fit!), the more people try, the more I’ll learn at this early stage in my shoe education.

These Shoes Were Made for Walking (in Time and Space) pt.2

Or, Kitty’s continuing shoe adventures, TARDIS edition, Part 2 of 3

Last time, we made it to the point where all the boot pieces were cut out, everything that needed gluing was glued, and I was ready to start painting.

Painting leather isn’t quite as simple as painting canvas.  Before I even got out the brushes, I had to strip everything from the leather’s surface – any residues, oils, and finishes which might keep the paint from adhering properly.  If you skip this step, all your hard work will likely chip or rub off rapidly.  I used this deglazer, because I had it handy.  Next time, I might do a little research to find a less toxic alternative, because it was a bit hairy.

Evil-Smelling, but So Useful

Note the scary blue gloves. The deglazer is wildly volatile, evil-smelling, and also flammable.  I should have taken it outside, only it was snowing, so I ended up with a chemical-induced headache instead.  Yes, I tried the vented glue table, but I think these fumes are lighter than glue fumes, because the vents didn’t suck them up quickly enough.

But hey, it did the job. I don’t know how well you can see it in the photo, but the only the right-hand piece was deglazed; it’s much less shiny and more porous-looking. . It also smoothed out the work surface nicely.

Before & After De-Glazing

When I was done coughing my lungs up after inhaling deglazer exhaust, I finally set about painting.  I used paint especially formulated for leather, not regular acrylic craft paint.  The leather paint costs a LOT more, but it has much better durability and stays more elastic after drying.  Remember, dear kittens – leather STRETCHES.  If your paint doesn’t, it may “craze”, or form lots of tiny cracks, and eventually chip off, when your foot moves and bends during walking.

This (below) is after I put in the basic galaxies.  I swirled on five or six colours with round brushes, blending out any hard lines with a cotton rag.  It took longer than I expected to get everything the way I liked, but nobody wants stick-figure galaxies.

Next, I added stars. The key here is to add points of different sizes and concentrate them more near the hearts of the galaxies.  I used brighter white stars as well as duller gray and beige ones to add a little depth.  Finally, I drew in the TARDIS. Painting crisp lines on the pebbly surface of the textured leather proved trickier than anticipated, and my draftsmanship has never been my strength, but it’s the suggestion of TARDIShness that counts! 


I decided to put the TARDIS on only one shoe, because, after all, there’s only one out there.  The foot without the TARDIS was given the consolation prize of a shooting star and an extra half-galaxy or so.  

Once everything was well dry to the touch, it was time for the topcoat.  I could have left it as is, but after spending the better part of five hours painting, I was &*$# well going to make sure my work sticks around. The finished seals and protects the paint and helps make it more weather-resistant.  This is the kind I used:


At this point, I had to wait for everything to dry completely before hand-sewing it all together, and also for Felix to cut and polish the outsoles, so I could actually wear this in the real world.  There were a LOT more steps to this process than I had realized before I started.

But next time, these funny-looking puzzle pieces get turned into actual, wearable boots!   And then it will all be worth it, right?  Right?