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Last week, I showed you the first four of the eight black flats I painted and embellished in my self-assigned challenge to see if I had enough oomph in DIY shoe design to try doing a book about it. This week I want to walk you through the other four designs.

Caribbean seas after at 72 dpi

We’ll start with one I called Caribbean Seas. It’s painted with Lumiere’s Pearlescent Turquoise, then trimmed with a beaded fringe that uses real glass beads stitched onto black cotton twill tape. This is one of the favorite colors in the workshops I teach (the others are Metallic Olive and Citrine).

Caribbean seas closeup at 72 dpi It’s also surprisingly versatile. When I taught the amazingly talented women at the Wearable Art Connection in Southern California, one of the students (a silk painter and Bernina designer), got great results when she added Neopaque Black to the Pearlescent Turquoise. It took her a while to get a color dark enough to suit her taste, but every iteration she created was flat-out gorgeous.

I chose this beaded fringe because it perfectly matched the paint, and in doing so I made another cool discovery. The sound of the little glass beads hitting the shoe when you walk is really charming! That’s why I shun plastic beads on my shoes (plus they don’t reflect the light as well). In this case, the twill tape on which the beads were mounted was nice enough to serve as piping around the topline of the shoe, so this was a REALLY easy shoe to do!

Ancient spirals after 2 at 72 dpi After this, I wanted to get more creative. On shoe #6, I decided to try using rubber stamps to put designs on the shoe. (I’m not good at freehand-painting things to look like…uh… things, if you know what I mean. So I come up with a lot of workarounds!)

I had a couple of Purrfectly Clear rubber stamps from and tried those. One was a small spiral (called a “small curly cue”), the other a small triangular “spiral” called a “twangle.” I used a cosmetic sponge to daub the Lumiere onto the stamp, then pressed it onto the shoe. That’s when I discovered that stamping on leather or faux leather is very different from stamping on fabric or paper! The latter will absorb the stamped paint. Shoes won’t!

Ah, I said to myself, Live and learn. I won’t get dramatic and crisp stamped images on shoes. But these two stamps lent themselves to slightly smudgy results. They just looked like petroglyphs! So I named the shoe Ancient Spirals and used Lumiere’s Pearlescent Violet, Super Copper and Sunset Gold for the stamped designs. In the process I discovered that I had to hold something very small and hard (I used a scrap of bathroom tile) inside the shoe to create a firm surface on which to stamp.

The finishing touch was attaching little brass spiral charms I’d found in a scrapbooking store. Since I was new at this embellishing stuff, I simply glued them on with Super Glue. BAD idea! Bad, bad bad! They popped right off the first time that part of the shoe bent. I had to sing another chorus of “Live and learn”….

Later I went out and found tiny gold seed beads and put one on top of each spiral. Then I used FireLine to stitch the spirals down by bringing my needle up from inside the shoe, through the spiral and the bead, then back down through the spiral and into the shoe again. The bead acted as an anchor to hold the spiral in place. (Sorry, I don’t have a photo of the shoe after I did that.)

Cherry blossom closeup at 72 dpi

Now came Shoe #7. On this one I also wanted to paint designs, but I was stuck with the same problem: I can’t paint stuff that looks like stuff. So I decided to let my paintbrush do the work. I started by painting the shoe Burgundy. Then I mixed a little of the Burgundy into a small pool of Pearlescent White to get a sort of cherry-blossom pink.

Cherry blossom after NEW at 72 dpi Next I chose a brush with an interesting shape (a 1/2″ oval wash brush made of Taklon) and let the shape of the brush dictate the shape of the designs. I just dabbed the brush in the paint and dabbed the paint onto the shoe . I didn’t plan where the dabs would go. I didn’t fuss if they overlapped. I just did it!

Finally, I decided to take an oversized Asian coin and brush some of the pink onto it. Now, Lumiere isn’t formulated to stick well to metal, but I figured that as long as no one took a fingernail to the surface, it would probably be just fine. (It was.) First I tried gluing down the coin, which, if successful, would have made it impossible to walk in the shoes because the toe wouldn’t have been able to bend. Then I got smarter. I glued a button back to the back of the coin using E6000, then stitched it down using FireLine. Finally, I stitched on two glass leaf beads that came with metal loops. The name of this one is Cherry Blossom.

Orchid sunset at 72 dpi

The idea for the final shoe of the challenge started with some yummy hand-dyed silk ribbon I’d found online at M&J Trimming. The color is called Cymbidium and it’s still in their store. (Here’s the link to the 1″ wide ribbon, which is what I used.)

I decided to see if I could paint a shoe that would mimic the hand-dyed effect. I started by painting the toe orange (the name of the Lumiere color I used is Halo Pink Gold) and the heel Pearlescent Violet. Then I got out a cosmetic sponge and started dabbing Halo Violet Gold in the middle. I also dabbed some of the toe and heel colors lightly over the places where those colors met the Halo Violet Gold.

Ankle tie example 1A Eventually, the colors began to look like they were morphing from one into the other. I have to tell you that I teach this technique in my classes and even total beginners are successful with it. Give it a try. (Do let the paints dry a bit between coats, though.)

To attach the ribbon, which laces over the instep like on a ballet slipper before wrapping around the ankle, I studied photos of ballet shoes and did some experimenting with the angles at which the ribbon would need to be attached. First I glued the start of each ribbon in place. (Later I had to go back and stitch it to the cushioned-fabric lining of the shoe since glue wasn’t good enough to hold it!) Then I fashioned little loops out of purple Ultrasuede to glue (yes, later I had to go back and stitch them in) at the back of the shoe.

Ankle tie example 1B

I called this shoe Orchid Sunset, and it showed me that adding ankle ties to shoes is a lot of fun — especially with spring coming up — and pretty easy. Ankle ties don’t actually have to be functional. Ditto ankle straps, for the most part. There’s a lot of information in my Sassy Feet! book on how to add these to shoes.

The result of my Black Flat Challenge wasn’t my concluding that I was the world’s greatest shoe designer just waiting to be discovered. But it did prove to me that I LOVED doing shoes, I liked figuring out what worked and what didn’t, and I liked explaining all of it. So I went full steam ahead and Sassy Feet was born!

Just for fun, here’s the shot again of all eight designs and the plain Jane black flat I started out with.

BF Challenge at 72 dpi

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