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My Judi Dench Coat

buckle up, these pictures are weird as shit lol

WOOHOO! How y’all doin?? If you follow me on instagram, you know how…special…my experience with CATS the movie was. I’m not here to argue with anyone about whether or not CATS was good. I have been around long enough to know that art doesn’t have to be good to be entertaining, and I was NOTHING if not entertained! One of the strong takeaways from the film (and there were MANY takeaways given my state of mind, lol) was Judi Dench’s Cat/God character wearing this gigantic honey blonde colored coat that seemed to be made out of cat fur. Like, she had her own cat fur…and then she wore a coat on top of her own cat fur made out of what looked like…other cat’s cat fur. At the time I couldn’t stop thinking about Silence Of the Lambs, how this was the equivalent of a human wearing a trench coat made of human skin, and how, since she was a Cat/God, the coat was probably made out of all the furs of her enemies. Which is…so weird. But perfectly suited to the rest of the movie which was also…so weird!

Anyways, when I started making this coat, I realized that it drew a fashionably striking resemblance to Judi Dench’s costume in CATS, which tickles me to no end! I originally got the idea for this coat after trying on a jacket at a store in Vancouver last summer.

You can see these fleecy furry coats everywhere now, but at the time they were brand new to me and I absolutely loved how unique it was. I loved the texture of the sporty, wooly fabric paired with a more traditional cut of coat, and I loved the curved hem at the bottom. I would have been happy to buy this RTW jacket since it was such a special piece but it didn’t fit well (see how long it is in the sleeves?), it was too expensive for the quality, and it was made of 100% polyester. I knew I could do better than that- it didn’t seem like a particularly difficult hack to pull off- no lining or surprising design details or anything.

I found the pattern before I found the fabric. I think I asked the IG hive for any pattern ideas they might have based off this photo, and IG totally came through- the Stacker jacket pattern by Papercut seemed like the closest thing to what I was looking for, and hacking would be super easy- I just needed to lengthen it and curve the hem (I also made it a slightly hi-lo hem). It took longer to find the fabric.

All I could find was 100% polyester fleece or sherpa, and the places that did sell organic cotton fleece tended to not have enough fabric for my project or only have it in colors I didn’t want. Eventually I found a place called Simplifi Fabric based in Canada, which is an online fabric store that specializes in organic and sustainable fabric by the yard. I love them! In addition to all kinds of organic cottons and bamboo and denim and ribbing in their online shop, they had a few different colors of a sherpa fabric that was mostly organic cotton with a little polyester in it, and after being indecisive about which shade I wanted, I went with the earthy-gray toned sherpa (I was initially drawn to the ivory shade but I knew it would probably get dirty pretty quickly).

do not know whats going on here but i think im supposed to be acting like a cat? a florist cat? 

The fabric was super soft, softer than I anticipated, and squishy and cozy. The back of it is flat and non-furry, and seems to be more like a knit- it kind of looks like  the inside of french terry on the back, actually. It has a little bit of stretch but not enough to make any big alterations to the sizing. The pattern was straight forward and construction was easy- I serged my inside seams since I knew I didn’t want to line it and they were too bulky to french seam (wasn’t interested in Hong Kong seaming either). I turned up the bottom hem and used my coverstitch to tack it down, not that you can tell- the texture of this fabric eats up any top stitching which means you don’t get much room for detail, but it also hides away any imperfections. The fabric was super easy to work with- the seams were certainly bulky, but it was stable, not too messy (nothing like velvet or sequins) and my machine needles had no problems working through several layers at a time.

I didn’t run into any issues at all except the normal problem solving that comes with hacking a pattern, haha. I constructed my yoke with two pieces instead of one, because even though the fabric isn’t super heavy, I wanted the shoulder area to feel nice and stable with all that coat length pulling down on it. I had a little bit of confusion about the construction of the pockets at the front of the coat- there are two different versions and I didn’t realize I was following the directions for a specific one til I was halfway through it, haha. Turns out, I wasn’t making the pockets I intended to make! In addition to that, the original placement of the pockets was off on this coat- probably something to do with the new length and the fullness and texture of the fabric, but my original choice of breast pockets looked strabnger and bulky. I scooted them down to hit around hip length (which is where my hands would naturally fall if I was using side pockets. Ultimately I think I would like this coat better with regular in-seam side pockets in addition to the patch pockets on the front, but it’s all good!

I found some beautiful buttons from Michael Levines and I think they work so well with the coat- they elevate it a bit from looking like your average athletic-wear fleece jacket into something a little more refined.

And…I guess that’s it! A super simple garment that has a pretty major impact- I got a compliment on this coat by a salesperson in SAKS recently, who, upon finding out that I made it myself, immediately started scrutinizing it and asking to see the insides, lol. I hate when people do that- just appreciate it and move on! Sometimes people are so shocked when you tell them you’ve made something impressive that they start looking for flaws anywhere they can find them, telling themselves that you can’t be THAT good (it happens with men examining my woodworking ALL the time!). Well guess what- we can and we are!!!

Hoping I can get some more good wear out of this thing before LA heats up to the oven setting that global warming has turned it to. Anybody else so ready to be on the other side of this election with an amazing, exciting and inspiring president in office?? I can’t bear to deal with all the upcoming stress and anxiety of it, but I am SO ready to celebrate some good political news!

Keep on keeping on, y’all! And as always, thanks to Claire for this pics!

 

Where In The World Is Sika San Diego?

I actually hate the nickname Sika and I only let a tiny few people in my family use it, but it does have kind of a nice ring to it in this context, lol!

This Vogue 1650 trench coat was a BEAST, but I expected it to be. Occasionally I’ll come across a design that is deceivingly fancy, the kind that looks like you put way more work into it than you actually did, the kind where you feel a little guilty accepting compliments on it because it wasn’t a particularly difficult project even though it looks super amazing. This is not one of those patterns. Every bell and whistle you see on this coat took all my strength to ring and all my breath to blow, but I do think it was worth it in the end!

The green fabric is from The Fabric Store, and I am so tickled that I chose this color even though I hadn’t gone on my color palette journey yet to discover that green is smack dab in the middle of my seasonal palette. One of the reasons I landed on this fabric (aside from the fact that it’s so similar to the version on the envelope, haha) is because it specifically seemed perfect for this project, but green is the only colorway it came in, so the color is just a happy accident! It’s a sturdy nylon and canvas blend, which makes it great for outerwear since it repels water very easily (it’s not treated with anything, that’s just the qualities of the fabric) but it was incredibly difficult to sew because…well, again, it repels water very easily!

Ironing interfacing to these pieces was a journey into madness- it wouldn’t take steam well at all and adding more heat just burned the nylon fibers of the fabric, but I had to press on because, what good is a trench coat without interfacing?? I was afraid that regular sew-in interfacing would alter the fabric’s properties (it is crisp, unwrinkling, and…unfortunately I can’t think of a better word than erect, lol- it just stands straight up at attention!) I worried that sew-in would either make it floppy or make it lose it’s crispness, and I also was lazy and didn’t want to go all the way downtown to buy some sew-in. Eventually I learned that spraying the interfacing lightly with water, then pressing down very hard with a medium-set iron and a press cloth worked 80% of the time. When it didn’t work, I would see little bubbles peeking up from the otherwise smooth canvas, and then I would have to use the strength of ten Serena Williamses to press even harder and push those bubbles out to the edges, which would also work about 80% of the time. In short, I couldn’t get all the interfaced pieces perfectly flat and adhered, but so far I haven’t noticed any bubbles when I am wearing the coat, so let’s just call it even: Trench:1 Jasika:1.

 

Aside from the bizarre properties of the fabric, this sewing pattern has 4,672 pieces. Y’all. Y’ALL. I feel like I might have spent one lifetime tracing and cutting out all the fabric, lining, and interfacing pieces of this damn coat. Then I died and was reborn again in time to actually sew everything together. Half of this coat was made by a ghost. This many pieces of a sewing project isn’t all that unheard of, nor is it that difficult for me to get a hold of under normal circumstances, but I started and finished this entire project in my apartment in Vancouver, which means I didn’t have my trusty cutting table or rotary cutters or the space I’m used to for laying pattern pieces in separate piles around the room for easy organization. And also. I had to cut. my. pieces. out. on. the. floor. I’m fast approaching the age where this kind of activity is a OH NO THE HELL YOU WONT! I was doing cat/cows, back stretches and downward dogs every 10 minutes because my body was SO not okay with being treated so poorly, lol. I think it took me a full two days to cut all these pieces out but I finally got her done. Then I went through the hell of trying to interface everything, which took another half a day. When I was finally ready to sew, I celebrated and hooped and hollered and flew through construction of all the big parts, but I got slowed down again once I finally put the sleeves on the jacket and realized that something was very wrong.

This next part of my sewing project became a dramatic saga detailed in my stories on instagram over the span of a few days, so if you missed seeing them, I’ll get you up to speed. Essentially the sleeves were drafted really weird on me. I made a size that my measurements fit squarely into and I didn’t anticipate there being any issues with fit, but once I tried the jacket on with the sleeeves, it was obvious that something was amiss. Mainly, the armhole felt way too tight at the underarm, and way to shallow around the bicep, so it pulled on the bust area of the coat even when the coat was open. I am not a busty person (32B here!) and I also have a small back, so whenever I have too-tight issues at the bust on a garment that I know for sure I made the correct size in, I know it’s something to do with the drafting and not with me. There were drag lines at the bust as the sleeves tugged around my arms, and that was just with me standing still with my arms at my sides- as soon as I moved my arms away from my body, the whole entire coat lifted up- instead of  being able to move my arms freely, the jacket was moving with them.

Thankfully Grace (wzrdreams for those of you who are unfamiliar, my friend and professional tech designer for RTW who is a virtual wealth of information for so many of us in the sewing community) had some ideas for me on how to fix the sleeves. She also shared lots of helpful information about the drafting of Big 4 patterns and explained why I always seem to have the same issues with their patterns but not any others. With my newfound knowledge from Grace, I unpicked the sleeves, made the armholes deeper by scooping out maybe 3/4″ at the bottom of the armhole grading to nothing about halfway up, and re-drafted my sleeve pieces (back on the floor, I went!). I added length to the top of the sleeve cap to accommodate what I scooped out of the armhole, widened the entire sleeve so I had more ease for wear, and re-cut the little band on the one side so that it would fit around the wider sleeve piece. I was nervous this wouldn’t work at all because I didn’t have any of the TOOLS that you are supposed to do this with, like curved rulers and math, lol. I was pretty much just eyeballing things and guesstimating, but it’s all I had to work with and guess what…it totally worked! I know it is imperfect in some ways, perhaps there is a version of this fix that is much more precise than what I was able to do, but by god, it worked! I could move my arms and wiggle around comfortably, wear a sweater underneath without it feeling like I was suffocating my arms, the bodice has no more weird drag lines, and there was no visual misalignment with any of my seams. So, take THAT, coat! Trench: 1  Jasika: 2, for those of you still keeping score.

The rest of the coat was put together without too much drama. The lining of this coat didn’t require me to birth her, sadly, so I did lots of hand sewing to attach everything at the hems, and a bit more hand sewing when I realized the  coat wasn’t hanging properly and the lining was tugging at the outer shell. That’s pretty much the last hurdle I had to tackle, right at the very end, and again, I attribute it to the wonderfully strange qualities of this nylon canvas- I’ve never sewn with anything quite like it, and it bewildered me as much as it made my heart sing. I think there is still a little tugging and pulling on the hem because of how the fabric wants to lay, but it’s something I can am living with. I’m not a sewfectionist and probably never will be!

I was excited to wear this coat even before it was actually finished- I wrapped the belt super tight around me and wore it without buttons when I went shopping for… buttons! Ha! Which, by the way, I found at Dress Sew, my favorite physical fabric store in Vancouver. The selection of buttons in the basement of Dress Sew is tremendously good but also overwhelming. Thankfully everything is arranged by color which at least gives you a place to start if you are trying to color match.

I am so proud of this jacket, not so much because of how well it turned out, but because of how much I persevered to see it through to the end. It’s so easy sometimes to run into one too many obstacles on a project and decide that your time is better spent starting over from scratch, with something different, something familiar, something easy-ish. That’s what my Butthole Bin has been for. But as I get further along in my sewing career, I have learned to trust my skillset and my ability to think outside the box when it comes to making something work that decidedly does NOT want to work. This doesn’t mean that the same answer applies to every project I work on- sometimes my mental health is way more important than figuring out how to fix that wonky zip fly. But trusting myself enough to at least try to fix things instead of immediately discarding them feels like major growth for me, and I’m very thankful.

Thanks to my babygirl, Claire, for the photos!

Green Silk and Velvet

Hi hi hi hi hiiiiii! It’s been foreverrrrr since I posted here, but not forever since I made anything, hahaha. Here are some excuses: I got a beautiful camera of my own for Christmas last year to replace Claire’s DSLR that I usually used to take blog photos and make audition tapes. Her camera is great, but it’s bulky and a little too professional for someone like me who takes pics and video out of necessity rather than for the fun of it. Claire got me the Sony a6000 mirrorless, which feels a little like using a point-n-shoot (way more my speed) but it took a long time to figure out the best accessories to use with it. We spent months doing research to get the lenses for her Nikon DSLR to work with my new camera, but ultimately there were too many incompatibility issues so we just bought the lens that was originally designed for it and now, at long last, I am finally able to take some great photos for the blog (and by “I”, I mean Claire, lol). Aside from waiting to figure out my picture-taking situation, I spent a lot of time over the past month making things for other people (button up shirts for my Dad for Father’s Day, pants and shirts for Claire) and getting ready for a temporary 6 month relocation to Vancouver. Ah, yes, Vancouver, my old stomping grounds!

Although I am so excited for this new adventure, it’s really hard for me to disrupt my life without my partner in crime, so the relocation feels bittersweet (we just celebrated our thirteenth anniversary this month and I’m feeling sooo emo). Anyways, Claire will hold down the fort in LA while I fly back and forth, so not only did I have to pack a lot of clothes and shoes and all my hair products and my body therapy tools, but I also had to get my travel sewing situation together. I didn’t bring a ton of sewing stuff with me, just fabric, my travel sewing machine, a magnetic pin holder and some scissors- I usually pack a small bag of essentials when I sew away from home but now it makes more sense to just buy a second set of the essentials and keep them up here.

All this is to say that for my flight to Vancouver yesterday, I fought the i’mgonnamisshome blues by wearing something that would feel like a big warm embrace: my recently completed green silk velvet jacket!

Woo doggie, I know I say it all the time but…this thing took me on a journey! The silk velvet is from The Fabric Store and it is ABSOLUTELY. EXQUISITE. The hand feel of this velvet, the drape, the buttery shimmer it gives off when the light hits it just right-my gosh, it is unreal! And for every positive descriptor I can think of to define how gorgeous this fabric feels and looks, I can think of just as many negative ones to describe what it’s like to sew with, haha. But this is not to scare you off! Some people love sewing with velvet because they love a good challenge! I am not one of them!  I’ve sewn with velvet to mixed results a few times in the past (1. 2. 3), and I certainly have gotten better at my technique, but it still requires very careful maneuvering and extra time and patience.

Because velvet is piled, it shifts very easily when the fibers crush into each other (especially if it doesn’t have a stable backing to it), so it can be very hard to keep the edges aligned. I always use a walking foot, but sometimes, like if sewing on the right side of the fabric, the feet can crush the velvet as it rolls over it, and ironing velvet is really tricky for the same reason- it can ruin the pile by flattening it and then it’s seemingly possible to revive. Add to that that this fabric has the additional shiftiness of silk? Like I said, woo doggie!

But look, it wasn’t impossible! Maybe it did take me two tries! But that doesn’t matter- I am in love with this jacket now! And every single fiber of velvet that gave me trouble was well worth what it took for me to get here.

First off, I couldn’t decide between two jacket patterns, this vintage belted one above, or the Artemis jacket from  I Am Artemis Patterns.

I AM ARTEMIS SEWING PATTERN WOMAN JACKET

Both were cute, one with a looser, more boxy look to it and one with a decidedly vintage flare. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I opted for the more fitted vintage one; it seemed right to pair a deep green silk velvet like this with a 70’s silhouette. Welp, guess what, folks? It was the wrong choice! The wrongest wrongly wrong choice. I didn’t take photos of the disaster that was jacket attempt number one so you will just have to trust me on how bad it was (but if you follow me on instagram, you know exactly what a Georgia O’Keef -inspied travesty it ended up being!)

Let’s start off with the pockets on the sides of the vintage jacket. Drapey velvet fabric such as this doesn’t wanna be top stitched. It’s so hard to get the straight stitches perfectly even and nice looking around the edge, because the nap of the velvet shifts around so much that even if you have sewn a completely straight line, it just doesn’t LOOK straight. After failing at attaching the pockets by machine stitch, I unpicked them and decided  instead to hand stitch them to the fronts, which took me approximately 5,000 years to complete, and they still ended up looking terrible. Also, because of the drape of the fabric, the way the pockets were sewed onto the fronts looked wonky- I pinned them on straight but they shifted so much by the handling of the fabric that for some reason they just leaned too far to one side and looked slanted. I decided to take them off again and just forgo the patch pockets on the front, but of course by this time the outline of those seams were were so pock marked on the front that it looked awful. I trudged forward because I had faith in myself and the jacket and because it’s green silk velvet and you just do what you have to do for green silk velvet!

But when I got to attaching the collar, things got worse.

The vintage pattern calls for interfacing the collar to give it a little bit of structure, but my iron on-woven interfacing would not attach to the underside of the silk velvet with the light touch of my iron (I couldn’t press harder or I would ruin the pile on the right side). So I decided to make some sew-in interfacing out of organza instead. I meticulously cut out my collar pieces, basted them to my shifty velvet, and then sewed it all up. It looked horrendous. The light, voluminous body of the organza was not a good match for the drapey velvet, and the collar now poofed out around the neck and refused to lay flat. I looked like a Santa’s elf during the off-season.

I opened all the seams around the collar and cut the organza interfacing out- maybe I didn’t need interfacing at all, maybe the velvet was heavy and stable enough on its own to maintain the shape of the collar without the aid of interfacing. I sewed the seams closed again and took a look in the mirror. I don’t know how, but this looked even worse! The collar wrinkled and draped around my neck, flopping around the shoulders and not holding its shape at all- honestly, each side of the collar looked like a gigantic labia fold, and although labia folds are wonderful, I simply don’t want to be wearing them on my body if I am not in a production of the Vagina Monologues.

Each attempt to fix this jacket was destroying the nap of the velvet more and more and it was starting to look tattered and tired. But that didn’t stop me from making one more attempt to fix it, which, spoiler alert, didn’t work out. I wondered if the wider shape of the collar was keeping the velvet from laying down nicely around the neck, so I tried shaving off the width higher up on the collar to make it thinner and more like a band. Perhaps that would have worked if I had done it before constructing the whole jacket, but as a fully sewn garment being manipulated and hacked to bits, the adjustments couldn’t stand on their own and the whole thing looked a messsssss.

There was no saving it as a jacket anymore, so I picked it apart to make some scrunchies with the leftover fabric pieces and I started the jacket over with fresh green silk velvet. This time I opted for the Artemis jacket, and as you can see, it came out beautifully! It was a very straight forward make and was way less stressful to put together because it behaved so much better with this pattern design. One cool thing about this velvet is that the nap isn’t directional like on other velvets, so I was able to jigsaw my pieces together from my meager yardage- I think I squeezed this jacket out of about a yard and a half of fabric, which is great because this pattern takes up a lot of space due to the unique shape of the pieces. I shaved the sleeves down about 2 inches in order to make the cutting layout work, but I could have shaved them down even more- since this fabric is so drapey and the underside of the velvet isn’t very pretty, I didn’t like how the sleeves looked rolled up once the jacket was finished, so I ended up chopping off an additional couple of inches from the sleeve hems.

As I said, the Artemis is a very easy and straight forward make- only four pattern pieces (front, back, pocket and collar), and it comes together very quickly. Even with this finicky velvet I was able to sew this up in an afternoon. I love the way the pocket is designed- it attaches to the front of the jacket and folds in on itself so there are no visible seams on the outside. In fact, the only top stitching for the jacket is done to tack down the inside fold of the collar to the inside of the jacket, but after trying out topstitching on a few inches and seeing how terrible it looked on this fabric, I carefully unpicked it and just handstitched the inside of the collar to the inside of the jacket so that it was invisible on the outside.

Because the pockets are not attached to any seams of the jacket, they kind of flop around on the inside, which wouldn’t be so much of an issue with a more stable fabric, but in a drapey fabric like this it can feel a little weird. There wasn’t an easy way to tack the pockets down after construction was completed without it showing on the outside, so if I made this again in a drapey fabric, I might elongate the pocket piece, sewing it closed so that it isn’t too deep, and that way it can be caught in the bottom hem of the jacket. Other than that, though, I am really happy with this pattern and how it looks in this velvet. I love the richness of the green and the ease of wearing this jacket with so many things in my wardrobe- I am so in love with it that it feels like a neutral! I’m expecting to get lots of wear out of this jacket in Vancouver with her breezy sunny days and chilly nights, so if you follow my IG, get prepared for an onslaught of silkyyyy greeeeen!

The shorts I am wearing in these photos are the Flint shorts by Megan Nielsen , the top is a crop from a Mimi G Simplicity pattern that I haven’t blogged about (and sorry, I don’t have the pattern number off the top of my head) and the shoes are Sven clogs. Thank you to Claire for taking these photos and gifting me this magnificent camera! You’re the best and I love you!!

Purple Backless Dress and Turquoise Animal Print Heels

This little purple number is made from a fav vintage pattern, Butterick 3867, that I first blogged about here a few years ago, but it was inspired by a pinterest image (below) that kept popping up in my feed over the fall. Apparently it’s a look from the upcoming Spring 2019 Madewell line up, and although I don’t follow their brand all that closely, I do love much of what I see from them.

Madewell Spring '16 Is About to Give You a Denim Obsession

As soon as I saw this dress I knew what a dead ringer my vintage Butterick pattern was for it, with only a couple minor adjustments. Although I love my original make of this pattern, I was excited for the chance to redo it; I made the original dress back in the day when my sewing skills were less advanced, so the old dress has a lot of room for improvement. For one thing, my mint green ladybug covered fabric, as pretty as it is, is a cotton voile, which is pretty sheer on it’s own. To make the bodice more opaque, I added a lining to it but I used a silk organza which was the best thing I had on hand at the time. As you might know, silk organza is pretty transparent, and also a bit of a strange pairing for cotton voile- while it successfully beefed up the body of the bodice, it doesn’t really flow well with the voile since the qualities of the two textiles is so different. I also used a white organza which just soaked up my deodorant marks over the years and turned the pits to a sickly green-ish yellow color (my preferred natural deodorants are made with Bentonite clay, which is a MOTHER to get out of light-colored fabric!)

The main adjustment I needed to make to create the Madewell inspired dress was to simply change the angle of the back bodice pieces so that they overlapped at the very top where the neckline is instead of the center. I basically just eyeballed this part and curved the neckline of the back instead of angling it down, then adjusted the bottom of the back bodice lines to meet up with it- everything else I kept the same.

I used a cut of beefy sandwashed rayon that I purchased at Promenade Fabrics on a trip Claire and I took to NOLA last December (SHOUT TO THE GERIATRATRIC CREW!!!!!), and I sewed this entire dress up while shooting in Vancouver this past February, which makes this dress my first #sewnawayfromhome of 2019!

It was a smart project to sew while out of town- I have learned to choose projects that I am familiar with and know will not need a ton of fitting adjustments. Aside from the hacking of the back bodice and creating a lining (the pattern doesn’t call for the dress to be lined at the bodice, but I prefer it that way since it’s basically a backless garment that I don’t want to wear a bra with- lining it gives my babygirls in the front some extra coverage and protection from the cold!), everything else was sewn according to the instructions.

This dress comes with nice, deep pockets, a button closure in the back that goes all the way down the skirt, and a lot of flexibility in terms of fitting- since the gathered skirt is essentially attached separately to the bodice (they only meet at the waistband), it’s easy to make any adjustments necessary at the very end stages of construction.

Again, I still really love my ladybug version, but this purple remix is a real win! It can obviously be dressed down, but I had no idea how chic it would look when paired with heels! I love the body of the fabric- it feels substantial and weighty, but not heavy- in fact, it’s light enough for the skirt to look really full and airy, and the sheen of the fabric in certain light makes the texture look luxurious! And my dress looks even chicer than the one in the inspo pic, if I do say so myself- the Madewell dress has drag lines and scrunching on the back bodice that looks like it either doesn’t fit well around the arms or is just baggy. Jasika 1 Madewell 0.

Now let’s talk about heels!

Inspo shoe:

Check out www.TheStyleBouquet.com #Gucci

I was very excited to get an invite to NYC in early March to take a 3-day shoe making class with the I Can Make Shoes team which is based out of London. I have been shouting them out on IG for a while now because they carry hard to find supplies and have some great free youtube tutorials available on their channel, and although I have been making heels for a while now, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn something new and continue elevating my skills…which I totally did! I had actually taken a satellite class of theirs several years ago when they came to LA for a one day sandaled heel making class, but the most recent class I took with them was 10 times better- for one thing it was taught by Amanda, founder of the company, who was super knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and patient with each of her 10 students, and the setup was much more efficient- 3 days gave us plenty of time to design, plan out, and implement our shoe makes, and we got to work at Brooklyn Shoe Space, a really fantastic shoe making studio in Brooklyn that offers classes on bag making, shoe making, and more. There were so many amazing machines to use at BKSS and I only knew what like, 4 of them were for- there were belt sanders and special leather sewing machines among them, but my favorite was the vented table in the basement that sucked all of the toxic fumes from the rubber cement glue out of the room so you could glue your shoes without passing out from the smell- brilliant!

I soaked up all the wisdom that Amanda and her assistants had to offer, and among the most helpful techniques I learned/clarification on was covering the heel! I have always had a lot of trouble getting a nice, clean-looking heel for my shoes out of leather, but I was cutting out the shape all wrong- Amanda showed me a way to cut a vaguely mushroom shape out of the leather and then make Y-cuts (god, I hate Y-cuts!) along the allowance edges to fold them in, then how to cover the front with a leaf and another piece of leather to get everything smooth looking. I even used a really thick suede to cover my heels and I didn’t have to skive down the edges- with her technique, everything laid down beautifully! I also learned how to make a sole that tucks underneath the heel of the shoe as opposed to flowing down the front of the heel. I actually prefer a sole that goes from heel tip to toe because I think it gives a skinny heel a little more stability with memade shoes, but it’s definitely a great technique to use for wider, thicker heels, and I am so excited to recreate them. Oh! And I also learned how to do the quick version of “welting” a shoe! It’s not really welting, of course- it’s actually just using randing as a decorative edge around the sole of the shoe but I have always liked how those looked and I never knew how to do it! I liked it so much that I bought like 4 yards of randing from my fav shoe components place in anticipation of actually learning how to do it, and YAY WOO HOO the time has finally come!

 

As you can tell, I am SUPER inspired to make more shoes with everything I have been learning! At this point I still prefer to stalk cool shoe designs on pinterest and use that as a jumping off point- I don’t have enough skills (or perhaps creativity, lol) to design shoes on my own- I mean, I’ve done it in the past, but they are not always successful. I think a lot of that comes from me wanting to make sure I create something that I am going to love and that will be wearable, and there are a lot of rules to shoe design that I am completely ignorant of. It’s much like sewing, where, for instance, you know that a woven dress will need a certain amount of ease in specific places to be wearable, and that’s just a rule of the craft that you learn early on and carry with you in all your makes. There are similar things in shoe design where, like, you don’t want the back of the shoe upper to come up past a certain point of your leg or it will dig into your ankle when walking, or how you can’t pair heel components with a pair of lasts that don’t match the lasts’ toe spring or it will make you walk funny. It’s cool to be absorbing all this information but it’s mostly through trial and error since I am self-taught, so I am slowly gaining more knowledge through copying other designs and figuring out why certain elements work and how.

BKSS has a huge wall full of stunning leathers to choose from, and although I had a good idea of what I wanted my design to look like, I was completely open to color and texture, and I figured I would wait to see what I was drawn to from the available materials. There are countless times on this blog where I have talked about how I don’t like animal prints, so it was hysterical for me to feel myself reaching for yet another animal-print leather, at the same time realizing that the last THREE pairs of shoes I have made have all been with animal print leather, lol! I couldn’t take my eyes off this blue green roll of amphibian-inspired leather, and I liked that it had so many other colors in it: it was blend of turquoise, and blue and even had a tiny hint of black in there, so, although a bold choice, I felt like it would pair well with a variety of garments.

I chose a deep royal blue suede for my straps and heels, and went with a brighter turquoise leather for the insoles and lining. I used some of my black shoe elastic for the buckle, a material I started incorporating into my shoe making after I completed my snakeskin print heels– elastic helps provide some flexible ease to your straps- if you have any strappy heels/shoes in your closet, take a look at the strap that holds the buckle around the ankle and chances are you will see a small fold of elastic doubled over  to connect the strap and buckle together. Not all flat shoes with straps have it but I have found that the majority of modern RTW heels do. It makes the shoe a bit more comfortable when walking and allows the straps to stretch out a bit instead of clinging fixed and tight to your ankle. My favorite thing about my inspiration shoe was the peep toe because it’s so tiny and isn’t big enough for a whole toe to force its way through (something that happens with me and peep toes a lot since I have a long second toe, argh!), and I think that on my next pair I will make the peep even tinier.

I am super happy with how these shoes came out, and construction and design-wise I wouldn’t do anything differently, although the sewing on one of the ankle straps is pretty atrocious- I blame it on the fact that I was using a new-to-me leather sewing machine that I was in love with, but that definitely required some fierce maneuvering that I just wasn’t skilled enough to master. Because my ankle straps were so thin, it was hard to get the edge of the strap under the needle (this machine didn’t have a bed to rest your material on, just a skinny little raised platform, so for thin straps you have to work hard to keep it from slipping off the machine). I might go back over that area on my home sewing machine if the stitches ever start coming out, but for now, it’s totally unseeable to the naked eye since that area of the strap is covered by the buckle and strap end.

Thanks once again to Claire for these glorious photos, and stay tuned for another exciting installment of my adventures in shoemaking in a future blog post…and yes, they are made of animal print!