I had a wonderful opportunity last year to create shoes to go with a very classy outfit that was to be worn at an art opening at the Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose. The outfit was a black dupioni silk suit, chic, snug and pencil-skirted. It was to be topped by a stunning neck piece made by my friend Leilani Bennett, a very talented wearable artist and teacher.
My task was to create shoes to compliment the neck piece. The shoes I started with were discovered in a thrift store for $3 by the talented woman who was making the sleek black suit. They were beige ankle-strap sandals with a light blue insole, and were begging for transformation!
I started by clearing the decks, so to speak, and painting the shoes black with a rich gold insole. That enabled me to start considering design ideas without being distracted by the original colors of the shoe.
Then I considered Leilani’s neck piece. She had given me some of the kimono yardage in case I could work it into my shoe design. I began to play with the idea of making kimono-covered cording as Leilani had done on her neck piece. I dragged out some old notes from a sewing class I’d once taken, and gave it a try. It worked! (If you want to try this, I’d recommend looking up directions in a sewing book. I looked online to see if I could give you a link to good instructions, but none of the ones I found were all that clear.)
Once I had a couple lengths of cording to play with, I started arranging them across the toe of the sandal. They created nice clean lines, like the cording in the neck piece. But they weren’t enough to make the shoes really special. So I dug though my stash of embellishments until I found some oversize replicas of Asian coins. I dabbed these with Citrine colored Lumiere paint to match the green cording on Leilani’s neck piece. Technically, Lumiere isn’t formulated to adhere to metal, but it will stick well as long as the metal doesn’t get scratched, so I took the risk. It didn’t seem to me that positioning these coins high on the toe of the shoe would put them at much risk for being scratched.
Next I used one of my favorite design tricks, which is to break up the very predictable shape of a circular embellishment by adding a diagonal line across it. For the cross piece I chose one of Paula Radke‘s rectangular lozenges in dichroic glass.
I also decided to make it look like the kimono-covered cording was coming up through the opening in the coin and looping over the dichroic glass to hold it in place. In reality, I had glued down the glass with E6000 and used a piece of the empty fabric tubing to wrap around the glass piece. (It was empty because I cut out the cording inside, which would have made the fabric too thick to fit through the hole in the coin.)
At this point I set the embellishments aside and played with positioning the cording across the toe of the shoe. When I found an arrangement I liked, I glued the cord in place using The Ultimate. Before I cut off the ends of the cord, however, I squeezed a fine line of Fray Check across the area I would be cutting. Once it was dry, I cut at an angle to follow the line of the sole. This is one of my best embellishment secrets: Apply the Fray Check BEFORE cutting the fabric!
I also took a stitch with twice-doubled upholstery thread to make sure the ends of the covered cording didn’t come loose. I figured if I centered one thick stitch, it would just look like part of the design but provide extra security.
Finally, I secured the embellishment in place by stitching the fabric tubing on the underside of the coin to the cording on the toe of the shoe.
Whew, after all that explanation I bet you’d really, really like to see the finished shoe. Well okay, I guess you’ve earned it….
It may sound like this was a lot of work, but it didn’t seem that way at the time. I got tremendous creative satisfaction from doing these shoes and I felt really proud seeing them in action at the museum show.