Three years ago nearly to the day, I was walking through the Camden Market area of London, past a cluster of punk-clothing street vendors, when I spotted a pair of shoes with black cat faces on them. Now, you have to understand that I am a longtime lover of black cats. I’ll spare you the names and histories of my black cats, suffice to say I got my first one in 1980 or so, and have had one or more ever since.
So when I saw these shoes, by Anarchic, I really, really wanted a pair. But I hesitated…. The vendors themselves were all done up in punk style and I was a little intimidated, I have to confess. So I ended up going back to the U.S. without the shoes and was kicking myself about being such a chicken!
Then I realized I could MAKE my own kitty shoes. I asked my friend and colleague, Destiny, to sketch the kitty face for me. I then took the face, made several photocopies, and cut out the various face parts to serve as patterns. The only tricky part was remembering to cut out enough pieces for TWO kitty faces….
Here are some visuals, including the pattern, which you can feel free to use to create kitty shoes for your personal use.
I found some black scrap leather and painted part of it with Lumiere’s Pearlescent White. Then I Scotch-taped down the individual pieces (cat face and irises on black leather; ear hollows, whites of the eyes and nose on Pearlescent White leather) and cut them out.
The next step was to put a leather needle and medium-weight white thread in my sewing machine and stitch around the edge of the face. (If you don’t sew, you could paint that tiny broken line by using a toothpick dipped in Pearlescent White. Or, if you are going to put your kitty face on a shoe that’s any color other than black, you could probably skip this whole step!)
Then it was a matter of looking at the original drawing and placing the leather pieces where they belonged. I worked from top to bottom: ears, eyes, then nose. (I’ll get to the whiskers in a moment.) When I had each piece where I wanted it, I outlined it with tailor’s chalk. This is because the leather glue I wanted to use, Tanner’s Bond Leathercraft Cement, requires that you apply the glue to both pieces of leather and let the glue get tacky before you press the pieces together. So by chalking an outline of each piece, I knew where on the blank kitty face to daub the glue. (Use a cotton swab for the daubing.)
Now, the beauty of this particular design is that the kitty faces are supposed to look sort of cartoon-like, so you don’t need to try to get everything to line up perfectly. The only tip I have for you is to NOT put the little black irises smack in the center of the whites of the eyes. Unless, of course, you want to have Zombie Kitty shoes.
Now we come to the whiskers. I used a metal ruler and an X-acto knife to cut 12 whiskers, each one 1/8″ by 1-1/8″. Then I glued them down (I put glue only on the whiskers this time, not on the face and the whiskers). Now we come to a confession. I tried making these kitty shoes last spring and they came out looking great but the whiskers (and some other pieces…) fell off nearly right away! Disaster!
So I did more tests of leather glue, discovered Tanner’s Bond, learned how to use it properly, and realized the kitty whiskers provided an awfully small surface for gluing. So I glued them temporarily, then stitched over them with the white thread and leather needle in my machine. I also took a couple of hand-stitches to hold down the irises.
Last step, glue the kitty face to the shoe. I had chosen shoes with a fairly round toe, which made things fairly easy. I started by lining up the sides of the face with the edge of my shoe, found a position I liked and chalk-marked around it. Then I applied glue to the shoe and the back of the kitty face, except for the areas around the toe.
Once the glue dried, I used my fingers to press the bottom curve of the kitty face down around the toe of the shoe and trimmed the edge of the face so it ended right where the sole of the shoe began. This takes a little tugging and pulling and maybe even the willingness to glue tiny folds into place.
Then do the final gluing of that rounded edge. It doesn’t need to be perfect because any mistakes will either be hidden because you are gluing black leather onto a black shoe, or you can use black paint to touch up any place your colored shoe shows below the face.
I am very happy with my black kitty shoes (see below), but if your obsession runs to marmalade kitties or tabbies or Russian Blues, you could change the color of the kitty face, or the color of your shoes, or enlarge the image and put it on a purse…. There are lots of possibilities! And I hope you’ll email me photos of whatever you do! My address is firstname.lastname@example.org.