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Last week I talked about working with some Steve Madden shoes. This week we’ll go to the opposite end of the spectrum and talk about the ulimate non-designer shoes: Crocs.  Most people either love Crocs or hate them. (If you’re a Croc hater, read on anyway because you’ll find ideas you can use on other shoes).

Crocs grabbed my interest as a DIY shoe designer because one of my very first DIY shoe students brought Crocs with her to class. I told her I didn’t know if the Lumiere paints we were going to use would adhere. She cheerfully said she’d try it anyway. She painted her pair a gleaming Burnt Orange, and told me later that the paint peeled off the first time she wore them.

I took that as a challenge.  So I bought a pair of off-brand “Crocs” (made from EVA) and experimented. I tried sanding the surface before painting with Lumiere. The paint peeled off anyway. I tried prepping the surface by spray-painting it with a primer for plastic surfaces. Again the paint peeled off. Then I tried spray-painting them with paint from the hardware store specifically for use on plastic, like patio furniture. Guess what happened? I got so frustrated I threw them out, which is why I can’t show you a photo of big sheets of paint peeling off my EVA clogs.

Okay, I thought. Some surfaces just won’t take paint, and I guess EVA — which, unlike plastic patio furniture has to flex and bend — is one of them. So what CAN I do to them? Well, I can embellish them!

Cafe crocs at 72 dpi It seemed to me that the easiest way to embellish this kind of shoe was to lace and tie something through the holes so thoughtfully provided by the manufacturer. So I got some very colorful ribbon yarn and tried a number of lacing patterns. Result: Better than nothing, but nothing special. Then I got the idea to add small colored jingle bells to the mix and tie them on with lots of little knots. When I cut the yarn after each knot, I left generous tails, which were what formed the embellishment. Above is the result. I call them my Cafe Croc-a-likes.

My next step was to see what I could stitch onto a pair of Croc clones. Using my favorite design technique, the juxtaposition of opposites, I went looking through my stash of chains to see what I could use. I came up with some gunmetal-colored double curb chain, which I had bought awhile back at Ornamentea. I draped it this way and that over a red clog until I found a simple pattern that made the most of the chain. Then I got out my Dandyline beading thread and stitched down only the beginning and end points of the chains. That way, the chain would move a bit and make a nice noise when the shoes were worn. I call these my Punk Croc-a-likes.

Punk crocs pair at 72 dpi

Last of all, I decided to figure out how to glue embellishments onto EVA clogs. After experimenting with several types of glue, I determined that E6000 works best. This time I started with shocking pink clogs, black velvet ribbon and two black lace yoke appliques, usually used on V-necklines. I glued those on, let dry 24 hours, then added two little Swarovski elements for even more juice in the “juxtaposition of opposites” game.

Boudoir crocs at 72 dpi

The result is a pair of Boudoir Croc-a-likes. One note: The nice thing about using lace appliques is that you can cut them to size without worrying much about their raveling. I’ve used white ones on bridal shoes and a lovely slate blue pair on faux suede boots painted Burnt Orange. You can find them online by searching for “lace appliques yoke.”

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