I have a thing about high-top and low-top sneakers. I really like to wear them — they make me feel like a kid again — and they are great to paint and embellish. The Lumiere paints I recommend for use on leather work beautifully on fabric.
Also, you can often find great deals on Converse lookalikes at Payless. That’s where these gray plaid low tops came from. I bought them for myself (as opposed to buying them to use as a sample shoe for Sassy Feet techniques) and wanted to do fabric collage on them. As it ended up, they became a combination of painted and collaged.
I started with packet of 12 different purple and blue cotton prints from my local quilt store. There was an 11″x7″ piece of each print, more than enough to do a pair of sneakers, high or low top. I started by using my pinking shears to cut out narrow 7″-long strips. Then I arranged these so there was good contrast between each strip. Here’s what that arrangement looked like, shown with a measuring tape to illustrate that the strips are slightly different widths.
Then I got out my Fabri-Tac glue, which I prefer for gluing fabric to fabric and which I squeeze into an 89-cent glue applicator so I can get a finer line of glue and not kill my hand gripping and squeezing a big bottle. Next I started snipping pieces to fit the height of the shoe.
No measuring, I just glued one end of the strip to the place where the rubber sole met the fabric upper, then glued my way up the strip until I reached the top of the shoe and snipped off the excess (which I saved to use on another part of the shoe) with sharp little sewing scissors. I worked from the back forward, overlapping the strips and being sure I had glue on the entire back of the strip I was gluing.
I worked my way all around the sneaker like this. When the main part of the sneaker was done, I then fabric-collaged the Velcro straps, the tongue, and the part of the sneaker they were fastened to. And guess what? It looked terrible! There was too much collage, too confusing to the eye. So I pulled off the fabric, wiped off the glue, and when the shoe was dry, simply painted that area with Lumiere Pearlescent Violet., which created a wonderful contrast in texture to the fabric.
There were two more steps to this project. First was to cover the raw edges of the cotton strips so they would be protected from the friction caused by slipping my foot in and out of the shoe. For this I used fold-over elastic, which can be purchased very cheaply from a few online stores, including www.sewzannesfabrics.com and www.faysfabrics.com. It comes in quite a variety of colors. I attach the elastic by stitching it down at the beginning, gluing the middle and stitching down the end.
The last element in this design is the toe. I decided not to leave the original white rubber toe. However, all but the most expensive specialty paint will peel right off of rubber, so I had to think of something else. That something else was… more fabric collage! You can use either E6000 or Flip Flop Glue by Beacon to attach fabric to the rubber toe — I think I used Flip Flop Glue, since it was less sticky and therefore easier to work with.
I have to say, I love how these low-tops turned out! They look great with jeans and go with all the blues and purples I love so much to wear. Plus, they are absolutely one of a kind. If you like the fabric-collage look, drop in to your local quilt store and see if they have any pre-cut packs of color-coordinated prints. Or rummage through your stash. It’s really fun to mix and match prints. If you’re ambitious, you could even use this technique on a purse. Hmmm….. Maybe I’ll try that next. Stay tuned!