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Big initial MIt’s summer, which means it’s time for espadrilles, those comfy shoes first worn in Catalonia in northeastern Spain in the 14th century, though the term, espadrilles, is French. They became very popular in the U.S. in the late 1940s, thanks to Lauren Bacall, who wore ankle-laced espadrilles in the movie “Key Largo.” In the 1980’s Don Johnson wore them in “Miami Vice,” starting another wave of popularity. In the meantime, the French (and Catalonians, one presumes) have kept wearing them for their comfort, durability, and low cost.

My favorite person in the whole world, Erin Perry, has been wanting a pair but couldn’t find them in a color and price she liked, so I said, “Heck, get those boring gray ones and I’ll paint them for you.” She gave me an embarrassed look, as if to say, “I should remember by now that I can have any color shoes I want…” and went off to order a pair from Urban Outfitters for $14! Here they are.

Erin espadrilles before side at 72dpi

In the photo they look like they’re a nice French blue-gray, but in person they are just… gray. Not very French and not very summery! Erin wanted a much bluer and brighter French blue, so I got out my Lumiere paints and started mixing.

I used an air-tight baby-food jar as my mixing container so I could save some of the custom color in case Erin wanted me to do any touch ups later, over the years. The color we ended up with was equal parts of Indigo and Pearlescent White with a dollop of Pearlescent Blue to brighten things up a bit.

If you haven’t painted fabric shoes with Lumiere before, you’ll be delighted at how easy it is! The texture of the cloth provides a lot of tooth, as professional painters say, so it really grabs the paint. In fact, most folks who buy Lumiere use it on fabric, not leather.

It’s simpler to use on fabric, too. If your fabric shoes are clean, you don’t need to prep the surface, and you don’t need to seal the paint. The bottle says the paint should be heat-sealed, but that’s only for people painting clothing that will go through the washer. You can just brush on the paint (use a fairly stiff brush, unlike when painting leather), let it dry and wear your shoes.

I have been holding off on showing you the photo of the finished espadrilles because I am a little embarrassed after Destiny’s magnificent tattoo-painted pumps last week. But hey, DIY shoe design is a craft for everyone, including those of us who still paint trees that look like lollipops. So here are the finished shoes!

Erins espadrilles after side at 72dpi

Because I used Pearlescent White in the mix, these have a slightly gleaming finish. If you wanted a flatter French blue, you would use Jacquard’s “sister” line of fabric paints, Neopaque, and mix in Neopaque White instead of Pearlescent White. I don’t carry the Neopaque line in my Sassy Feet store, but I’m sure you can find them elsewhere online if you’re interested.

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