Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Shoe Biz: SNEAKING Around With Him

After the menswear report I did recently, the guys in the house pointed to their very slim selection of footwear available to them. Moreover, they don't want just any type of shoe. They want...SNEAKERS. While there are LOTS of tutorials and patterns online--folks much more capable than me-- I decided to try my hand at making a pair. But there was one small problem..... I'm not a sneaker girl. The proportions, the designs, and all those teeny weeny details all escape me! But after watching me master the girls' shoes last summer, my dude dolls insisted I give their footwear a shot. So here goes...

Arriving at a pattern that yields a decent pair of sneakers was not as it easy for me as it seemed. Sure you can follow those YouTube videos, but often the end result looks more like a pair of felt socks with ribbon laces that only a toddler doll would wear! I wanted something cool, something a little more "grown-up." So after attempting to create my own pattern from scratch, I looked at what was already available, made a few tweaks and then transformed those modest craft projects into something "real." The challenge was trying to make a pair of men's shoes that had a tiny bit of volume over the toes. Ordinarily, you need a foot form, otherwise known as a "last" which is the exact size and shape of the finished shoe. I made a set out of oven baked clay. The challenge is creating one that also mimics the exact proportions of the doll's foot in the shoe. In terms of a tutorial, this complicate things immensely. So, instead, I am showing you how to put this together on the doll's foot and you can cheat by 1) taping on cotton to pad the doll's foot before gluing the upper to the sole or 2) taking a tiny wad of cotton and stuffing it into the finished shoe.

In any case, I begin with the "Converse" (hi-top) sneaker as well as the ankle grazing sneakers and then simplify the process with an easy-to-make 1-piece and another 2-piece pattern which can be "embellished" to resemble most modern sneakers. For each style, I show the corresponding pattern, however if you scroll down to the bottom of this page, I have the patterns--drawn against 1/4-inch graph paper-- so that you can simply copy or trace off and make whatever modifications are needed to fit your own doll.

The Converse Shoe

The iconic Converse sneaker, here realized in black cotton broadcloth with white leather trim. Don't be put off by all of the steps. This is simply my way of handholding you through the complete process of putting this (and the other) shoe together.

1. For this shoe, here are the pattern pieces needed. Note there are two soles, one for the FR Hommes doll, the other for Ken. The sole should be a little bigger than the doll's foot. For best results, trace each pattern piece off onto the wrong side of your material, then carefully cut. Though I have drawn the cuts which fall over the shoe sole, you can cut in a straight line then cut the notches afterwards.

2. For each shoe: There is the back quarter (cut from black fabric), the heel (cut from white leather), an insole (white) cut from card stock, the outer sole (black) from a sheet of craft foam, and a white rubber band. glue on the leather bits to the toe and the heel while the pattern pieces are still flat. 

3. Place the insole on the doll's foot. Begin with the "vamp" (the toe) and after cutting in the notches, glue the bottom edge around insole. Line up the center back of your back quarter so that it lines up with the back of the heel. If necessary, you can add a few stitches to secure the upper to the insole.

4. Add a layer of strong glue to the bottom of the shoe.

5. Firmly press on the outer sole to the rest of the shoe.

6. Use a dowel or a pencil as a rolling pin over the bottom of the shoe

7. Put a layer of rubber cement around the outer edge of the outer sole.

8. Cut the rubber band in half and fit it around the shoe to get the exact fit. Cut away the excess. Next, put a layer of rubber cement around the inside of the rubber band. Allow the glue on both edges to dry. The surfaces will be tacky.

9. Very carefully, line up the middle of the rubber band to the center front of the shoe.

10. Carefully line up the rubber so that it is flush against the top and bottom of the shoe as you wrap it completely around.

11. The back of the band should meet flush together. If the edges won't stay down, you can use a tiny bit of tape to hold the two sides together.

12. With everything in place, feel free to customized. Use a pencil to lightly draw a line around the center of this band. This will serve as a guide. Place the shoe on the table.Take a fine tipped permanent marker and very carefully draw in the line.

For the shoe laces, I cut a very thin strip of the leather. I used the needle end of a circular compass to punch a hole on either side of the back quarter. If you have trouble threading the shoe lace, use a toothpick to help push it through the hole.

Here's my finished pair of sneakers!

The photo below shows the bottom view of these shoes.

We're going to make the same shoes again. This time I've added more details, more structure to the shoe.

1.  Here are my cut pieces for the entire pair of shoes. I have used a red broadcloth for the body of the shoe and red leather toes and heels. I have also used an interfacing to add structure to the top of the shoe and the tongue.

2. Here I have used an iron-on interfacing. Note that it is centered in the middle of the vamp, free of the seam allowance. 

3. If you use iron-on interfacing, be sure the smooth side is up and the grainy side is down. You can also use a sturdy sheet of paper instead. Glue this directly to the vamp and press.

4. Next, glue the toe to the vamp. Press, using an iron  on low setting. Use a sheet of transparent paper to protect the iron while you are pressing this in place.

5. Using a toothpick, apply fray check (modge podge or clear drying craft glue) around the edges of the tongue on the vamp.
6. Because my fabric frays, I have decided to turn the edges down and glue in place. Begin on either side of the back quarter. The pattern piece normally used for the decorative heel at the back of the shoe can also be used, instead, as an interfacing if your fabric is anything less than sturdy. This will give more structure to the back of the shoe. Line the center back of the interfacing with that of the back quarter as shown. Press.

7. Turn down the top edge

8. If you are using leather for your heel, you don't have to use the interfacing. The leather will add structure to the back of the shoe.
9. For each edge that will be turned under and glued to the bottom of the inner sole, cut in notches. Notching the edges helps to eliminate bulk. under the foot of the shoe.

10. Though I winged it on the first shoe, it is really best to plan everything ahead while the shoe is still flat. Now is the time when you can punch the holes, add top stitching or any other embellishments.

11. For this shoe, I decided to add tiny metal eyelets. After punching the holes, I place an eyelet on the (compass) needle. I placed the needle back in the hole and remove it without removing the eyelet. Make sure the eyelet is completely passed through to the other side. Then, using a small pair of flat nosed jewelry pliers, quickly press the pliers to flatten the eyelet in place. 
Note: if you are going to use machine top stitching, you should do that before installing the eyelets!

12. Now it's time to glue.Turn the pieces over, wrong side up.  Add rubber cement to the bottom of the insoles and to the bottom, notched edges of the quarter back.

13. Add glue around the front, notched edge of the vamp.
Place the inner sole on the doll's foot (dry side down to the doll, glue side up facing you). 

14. Place the vamp over the foot then quickly fold the side edges down onto the bottom of the insole. If you need to, you can secure the edges in place with a needle and thread.

15. Because I am going to use an air dry clay for the sole, I am gluing on a middle sole because it improves the clay's adherence to the shoe. You can skip this step if you find your clay adheres well enough or if you decide to use foam board as your sole instead. 

16. Using a pencil or a wooden dowel as a rolling pin, press to make sure everything is glued in place 
17. You have the option of creating your sole by cutting a shape out of thick foam sheet or you can fashion it out of air dried clay. Craft foam is quick and easy. Clay allows you to custom shape the sole and even press in patterns on the bottom of the shoe. To start, take a small ball of clay and shape it into a rectangular shape.

18. Place that onto the bottom of the she and press it into the shape you want. You might want to look at an actual shoe to get an idea of what shape you should be shooting for. 

19. Don't rush it. Keep working until the shape is just what you want. Cut away the excess. Smooth the sides and bottom when you are finished. Don't worry about the imperfections. They will be hidden with a band.

20. Again, this is a step you really don't need. You could simply paint the sole you just created out of clay once it has dried. Or, you can cut a strip of leather and encircle the sole as I have done in this photo. Be sure to butt the edges at the back of the shoe. Apply rubber cement to both surfaces and then press in place. 

Yes, I know, this is a little bit of work. But the end result is so much better than those molded plastic shoes they sell out of China!

Here's the same shoe but in a monochrome light blue denim with light blue leather accents. 

The Sports Shoe

The ankle grazing sneaker is really the same with a slightly different pattern. Here, I've made it pretty simple. There is the vamp which doesn't have a toe or a tongue and the back quarter. My sue is made of blue denim. Instead of laces, I poked holes and used white twist ties (to simulate velcro closures). The edging around the top and where the heel would be, is all done with a fine brush and white paint. The sole is done with air-dried clay. Simple!

This is the same shoe but using leather instead of fabric. The black leather with white sole has become a modern classic in mens footwear fashion.

Another leather shoe where I added metal eyelets and leather shoe laces. Instead of craft foam or clay, I cut the soles and heels out of a course leather. Since the entire shoe is made of leather, you don't need interfacing. But we can do something even more simple!

Les Booties

I wanted to make a hot pair of Rock 'N Roll shoes for my very trendy Ken, so I traced his foot and ankles to create a 2-piece shoe. 

1. There is only one pattern plus the soles. For this shoe I used a stretch fabric. You could also use a faux leather which also stretches.

2. Stitch both sides. Turn down the top and tack down.

3. Place the insole on the doll's foot. Add a line of rubber cement to the undersides of the shoe upper's edges and to the bottom of the insole. When dry, bend down the edges onto the bottom of the insole. 

4. Since this is shoe is entirely out of fabric, I add a few stitches to secure the upper in place.

5. Add your sole. Here, I have used an air dry clay. This is because I will customize it in a very special way. You can fake the lacing with a few stitches over the top of the shoe.

6. Once the soles are dry and hard, I repeat the pattern of the uppers using matching paint.

Using the same pattern, I decided I would make another pair of Pop Rock shoes with "steel" toes.

1. Putting this shoe together is really no different than the other shoes we've made already. The difference is, the pattern is pretty simple to make. Lay the doll's foot on its side and trace around. Allow for seam allowance all around. 

2. Stitch down the center front of the pattern. Turn the top down and glue or stitch down. If you are cutting this from leather or another non-woven material, you may not need to hem. 

3. Stitch the back seam and turn right side up.

4. Notch the bottom side of the upper, then glue the upper to the bottom of the insole.

5. What you don't want especially for a male doll, is a flat shoe. I cheat by taking a tiny piece of cotton to stuff in the toes. Start out with a small amount, adding more if needed.

6. Take a small stick and stuff it towards the toes.

7. For the metal toe, I used a tiny strip of aluminum self adhesive tape. Wrap the toes once, leaving the tip of the toe on the shoe exposed.

8. Wrap a second time, making sure it overlaps the tip of the toe. Hit the toe to square it off. Tuck everything under the foot and glue down

9. For this shoe, I will be using craft foam. But in this instance I wait until after the upper is finished. Place the shoe upper on the sheet of craft foam and trace around. If it is a little too big, that is okay because you can always cut it down later.

10. Using a strong glue, attach the upper to the black foam sole. When it has set. put a thin line of rubber cement around the perimeter of the sole.

11. You can use a black rubber band or a thin piece of black leather. Put a layer of rubber cement on the band. When both surfaces have dried, carefully press the band to the shoe beginning at center front. Again, but the edges end to end at the center back. If necessary you can use a tiny bit of tape to keep the edges together.
We can even go more simple by reducing the pattern to a single piece. The characteristics of the average sports shoe, is one that has a rather intricate set of patterns and inserts. By itself, this basic shoe pattern resembles a leather sock. However, you can use this as a canvas and add as many embellishments as desired to create a thoroughly modern looking shoe. The above photo shoes the basic shoe in suede. It has a leather sole and heel, but you can use any of the other materials we used throughout this project. For this the last shoe I made for this project, I decided to return to a faux leather with tiny scraps of leather.

1. There is only one pattern piece for this shoe plus the sole.

2. On the wrong side, stitch the shoe down the center back seam.

3.Turn right side up and put it on the doll's foot. Place the insole on the doll's foot. Notch the edges, add the glue and turn under onto the bottom of the insole.

4. Cut out a sole from a thick piece of craft foam. Glue to the bottom of the shoe.

5. Cut a white rubber band in half. Add a line of rubber cement to the side edges as well as to the underside of the rubber band. Wrap around the shoe with it, butting the edges at the back. Use a bit of tape, if necessary, to hold the rubber band in place.

6. Add embellishments. Here, I've added a tiny rectangle of leather then drew tiny lines to represent lacing.

7. Using all of those tiny little scraps that have fallen on the floor, I used them to create the embellishments that typify this type of sports shoe.

This pattern is on 1/4" graph paper.

Oh my, oh my....anything HE can wear, so can she! Coming up next: a short tutorial on making sneakers for her, even if she has high heeled feet!

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  1. Oh my goodness April, you've done a MARVELOUS job!!! These sneakers and shoes are amazing, all that work and such a beautiful result! Bravo! I admire your patience and skills. The boys look very happy with their new footwear. :) The steel tip shoes rock, I bet my husband would wear these if they were available in human size! Hugs!

    1. Thank you so much Linda, for your very kind words. This was a really difficult project for me. I think had it not been for this quarantine, I might have given up on it because in the beginning, I wasn't getting the results I wanted. As to be expected, I learned a few things---keep things simple, less is better, and of course, I learned the limitations of each material. For a 16" doll, this may be easier. But for a 11 1/2 Ken or a 13" FR Hommes, trying to work this size was a challenge. The steel tip shoes came to me as I recalled something similar in a Jean-Paul Gaultier menswear show, ages ago.

  2. WOW! The guys really got what they asked for, great job.

    1. Thank you Chris. Oh yes, I'm trying hard to keep everybody in the house happy!!!

  3. April, very good tutorial. And fantastic shoes for men. I am delighted.

    1. So happy you enjoyed this post Dlubaniny and thank you for your very kind words. It's not often I give the guys some attention. But this time it was well worth it.

  4. Amazing! Where do you get the tiny eyelets from? Fabric store? Hardware store?

    1. Hello Ikijibiki and welcome to my blog. I did buy these eyelets from a fabric store but most don't carry them. On the other hand---go to the craft store and look in the aisle that carries materials for...scrapbooking!!! These eyelets are about 4mm or so. You can also find them online at Amazon! Thank you so much for your visit.

  5. Wow, April....IF we have another shutdown, I will certainly give these a try...still waiting on sewing Colette's wardrobe and you and your gorgeous work are my inspiration. Thanks, Sandi

    1. I will tell you that I had a hard time at first trying to achieve the results I was hoping for. But once I got the hang of things, it got better. (That's why I made 10 pairs of shoes. LOL!!) Though the pattern doesn't go too far from everything else that's online, I've tweaked it by adding the interfacing and figuring out some of the finishing.

  6. I love this post! I feel like a have had a real life size version of half of these at some point. I love the leather ones. Years ago I had a pair of converse style shoes made of synthetic leather that were really cool.
    I like the "converse style" and "sport shoes" design the most. That Fashionista boy's outfit (the one wearing the converse) reminds me of David Rose, from "Schitt's Creek". The character usually dresses in black and white and is often wearing sneakers.

    The pair with the silver tape remind me of a Balmain shoe that Antoni Porowski wore on a red carpet. I'm not sure if the shoes were Balmain, but the outfit was. If you Google it I'm sure you'll find photos.

    I really enjoyed this post. I know you've put a lot of work on this creations. Take care.

    1. Thank you soooo much for such a wonderful comment, Monstercrafts. I am very grateful for your assessment. As you know, this did not come easy for me. I nearly gave up many times, but something in me (and my male dolls) keep pushing me until I was able to finally create a fairly decent shoe. The Fashionista in the black and white outfit was inspired by something originally created by a young menswear designer, Alexander Wang. In fact, here's a tutorial on this blog for that garment (New Boyz on the Block 7/17/2013). I don't remember seeing the Balmain shoes. However, the "steel toe" shoes were inspired by an old Jean Paul Gaultier shoe he did many years ago that set off a world wide trend of putting metal tips on both men's and women's shoes. What this post has also taught me is that I should start looking more closely at sneaker and sports shoe trends as these are practically the only types of shoes men, in particular, wear today.
      I am so very happy you enjoyed this post.

  7. Is there anything you can't make??? I am so jelly! These shoes are awesome. I have still been afraid to try and make shoes. Thanks for sharing the process. I just got my hands on a product called Worbla after seeing the Poppen Atelier / Doll Art Studio on YouTube use this product many times to make shoes and other things. I am hoping to try to make some shoes from it!

    1. Hi Phyllis. Thank you so much for your very kind words. If I were still gainfully employed or socially active, I probably wouldn't have taken the time to figure all of this out. And I will admit, I did seriously think to myself how it would have been so easy to order shoes from China. But..being the practical person I am along with a little key chain sneaker made from canvas and rubber that someone gave me as a gift...was enough to prod me into trying my luck at creating a decent shoe for my guys. I'm always interested in new techniques for making shoes, in particular. So I did pop by that YouTube channel to take a look. I didn't see Worbla but I did see her technique for using the 3D pen (unless it's the same thing). It's interesting, though I think the epoxy clay I work with seems to be a little faster. Still, I'd like to play with that pen to see what possibilities it yield. A lot depends on your own expectations and the result you're going for. What I have learned with both this post and the series of high heel shoe making tutorials I did last year is that you really have to have time, patience and discipline to make a decent shoe. You also have to set up and respect a certain protocol. No matter what technique or type of materials you use, my advice would be to start out simple with a pair of sandals then go from there. Make a bunch of them until you are really happy with the results. (Your dolls will be delighted.) And then gradually move onto something more advance. I will tell you that, now that I am making all my own shoes and boots, I have saved a fortune and the girls (and now guys), have enough footwear to fill a store!!!

  8. Wspaniałe buty! Jestem pod ogromnym wrażeniem! Tyle par doskonałego obuwia! Dokonałaś niezwykłego wyczynu! Masz wielki talent, wykonałaś ogromną pracę!
    Podziwiam, że mają tyle detali: sznurowadła, metalowe kółeczka, kontrastowe podeszwy! Super!
    Twoi chłopcy są teraz bardzo zadowoleni, bo mogą dopasowywać buty do stroju!
    Ja nie mam zupełnie do tego cierpliwości! Próbowałam kiedyś zrobić buty dla Barbie, ale to dla mnie zbyt mały rozmiar!

    1. Olla wrote: Great shoes! I'm very impressed! So many pairs of perfect footwear! You've done an amazing feat! You have great talent, you have done a lot of work! I admire that they have so much detail: laces, metal circles, contrasting soles! Cool! Your boys are very happy now because they can match the shoes to the outfit! I don't have patience at all! I tried to make shoes for Barbie, but it's too small for me!

      Thank you so much Olla. But I am really shocked to see you say that you don't have patience! You do so much detailed work in those beautiful crochet outfits you make for your Barbies! I don't have the patience to do what you do so well! Well, this is what makes the doll community so interesting. Everyone has their own special talent! Big hugs.

  9. Thanks for persevering until you got these sneakers "right."

    My favorites are the Converse, the denim sports shoe, and the leopard print booties. Using a rubber band to convey the look and texture of rubber soles - that tip alone was priceless. And I love the idea of mini dudes channeling their inner "divas" via animal print booties. You go, guys!

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words D7ana. As you can see, once I was able to make a decent shoe, I had some fun with this. Getting there was not simple since the proportions are so different than those for the girls. But in the end, I'm pretty happy with the result so, much to their delight the guys will be getting more shoes!

  10. I'm speechless. WOW. You are amazing!

    1. Thank you Kamelia. You know, this took a LOT of time, effort and tears to pull this off. But, as usual, it was well worth it!!!!

  11. Wow! You are making shoes too! It’s funny because I have been thinking of embarking on something in this direction too but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I’ve done bags but shoes seem even more challenging to me! I actually wanted to make something for my flat foot Colette so I’d better check out your post on making shoes for the girls. Thanks for another wonderful detailed tutorial dear April! Dolly hugs! Joc xxx (Dolldiva67 on Flickr and W Club forum)

    1. So happy to see you here, Dolldiva and welcome to my blog. Here you get a full picture as to what I've been up to with my dolls!!! Having lots of fun. My guys needed footwear, so I took the time to figure out how to make shoes for them they wouldn't mind wearing. And then I saw something on the W Club forum asking where they could find flat shoes for their ladies....and that gave me the idea to attempt sneakers for them. Last summer I did a whole series on creating footwear: shoes, boots, stocking boots with stiletto heels. I did that after I got a tip about the epoxy clay and everything fell into place. You do such beautiful work, I encourage you to give it a go. I'm sure you will make some incredible footwear. Look on the side bar at the top of this page. Under Tutorials, you will see "Shoe Biz," click on the link to bring up a list. Then click on whatever you want to bring up the tutorial. I've done most of the hard work of figuring things out. Enjoy!!!


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