Shoe Biz 3: Strap One On!

By now you are probably anxious to make your first pair of shoes. I thought we'd start with high heeled gladiators because nothing could be more simple or stylish. Each pair I've made have come out successfully!

To begin this project you will need the insoles (2 pair) you made using the last tutorial.
We need to cover them, which you can do in one of three ways.

Thin Leather (real or faux)

All tutorials on covering the insole are pretty much standard. 
1. Place your insole in the middle of a bit of leather, cut in the notches. (I anchor it in place with a bit of glue. The margin depends on the size of the actual insole. 
2. Cut notches all around. The idea here is to make it easier to fold it inward without creating bulk or bumps. 
3. Add glue to the insole and fold the edges inward. 
4. When you flip it over, everything should lay flat and smooth--including around the edges. Personally, I have problems keeping the side edges as smooth as I think they should be. Therefore, when cutting in the notches, you want to cut close to the insole but not too close.

Thin Fabric
Most of the time for my sandals where I'm using fabric, ribbon or trim, I will use fabric or a bit of ribbon to line my insoles. You don't want to notch because the fabric will fray.
1. So again, I use a bit of glue to hold the lining in place.
2. Use your fingers to fold everything inward. If this is looking a bit too sloppy, you can make a running stitch around the edge close to the insole and pull the stitches in.
3. There may be lumps and bumps, but you can press them down with a cool iron.

Thicker Leather (real or faux)
This is an easy shortcut that really works. If you have a medium weight swatch of leather, you can use that as your insole. Cut the leather out, using the insole template. Make sure it fits the bottom of the doll's feet AND is the same size as the mid sole and outer sole!
For my black gladiators, I get everything measured, cut out and placed to the side.

Gladiators

1. For sandals, you really don't need to use a last (foot form). You can use your doll's foot as is. I place a tiny piece of tape, sticky side folded onto itself on the bottom of dolly's foot so that I can help hold the insole in place as I work.
2. For this pair of gladiators, I am using embroidery yarn. You can also use ribbon or string. Measure out about 17" (43cm) and place the midpoint of the string at the midpoint of the bottom of the doll's foot. Begin wrapping around the doll's foot.
3. For this shoe I wrapped it three times around. (For the ribbon gladiators, I criss-crossed twice.) Spread the yarn out a bit.
4. This is what the underside of my shoe looks like
5. I criss-cross the foot two more times.
6. I use a bit of tape to hold the yarn.ribbon in place as I work.
7. What I've done here is to construct the upper part of the sandal. When you are happy with the results, remove the shoe from the doll's foot and carefully remove the tape, being careful not to move the yarn/ribbon.
8. Add a generous layer of glue.
9. Add on the mid-sole (it is the same as the insole but used in between the insole and the outer sole. I find that not only does a mid sole provide a smooth, level  surface, but the epoxy clay seems to adhere better to the card stock.

If you have made an pair of out soles in advance, now is the time to pull them out and attached them to the uppers you have just made. If you have not yet made a pair, place the uppers to the side and create a pair of outer soles using the previous tutorial featured in Shoe Biz 2. 
If you are working with polymer (oven bake) clay, it is a simple question of gluing together the uppers onto the top of a pair of finished high heel soles. Be sure to use an extra strength, clear gel glue. Do NOT use rubber cement or all-purpose white glue. They will come apart! 

If you are working with epoxy clay, continue on with step 10.
10. Roll out a layer of epoxy clay and add it onto the top of the outer sole. Use a dowel as a rolling pin to roll out the excess and create a smooth, even layer. Cut away the excess from the sides and smooth.
11. In effect, you have now created a sandwich with the clay. The tin foil frame is covered with a layer of clay on the top and bottom. Be sure you smooth out the edges.
12. Take the sandal upper and press it into the soft clay on the top of the outer sole. I use my curved tool to help me do this. Make sure there are no gaps. The epoxy clay is essential glue so it will adhere to your upper and dry into a nice hard element! Be sure to smooth out the side edges and press in or fill any gaps. While the clay is still soft and pliable, you can use it to spackle any irregular surfaces or fill in (or out) any gaps or holes.
I made two pair: one for Barbie (left) using Polymer clay, the other for my FR girls out of epoxy clay.

In a slight variation of the black sandal, I used gold embroidery yarn and knotted it over the foot in two places.
Again, starting with the lined insole, I wrapped the yarn around the underside of the foot and knotted it over the top of the foot. I wrapped it a second time and knotted it. The rest of the yarn wraps around the back of the ankles and around a couple of times then tied into bow! You can try different systems of knots (even a bi of macrame!) to create your uppers!

Sandals 101
Probably the easiest shoe to make, feel free to make endless pairs of these, just as a way to ensure all your dolls have shoes on their feet in the colors they need! simply wrap the foot with a bit of ribbon or a strip of leather and glue on the sole. Go with one large piece or two "medium" straps.

But you can easily transform it into something a wee bit more interesting. Here are a few ideas:

The choice of materials is the easiest way to make these sandals your own. For my two silver sandals I used aluminum tape I found at a Dollar store. I cut it into two tiny strips and adhered them to a piece of ribbon then wrapped it around the doll's foot. For the outer sole, I used a 1/2" piece of silver wire (18 gauge) for the heels. The rest of the sole was painted using silver acrylic paint.
Here's the same shoe in gold with silver glitter added to the sides of the outer sole!

But you can do more than simply use one solid strip to wrap the foot. Try slashing for different looks.



This pattern is 3/8" long by 1-1/4" wide (1x3cm). Mark the center then cut horizontally into thirds, leaving the middle in tact. As you wrap this around the dolls foot, spread each strip slightly. Attach the upper to the sole. Paint. Tip: when you are painting your soles....listen to me. Leave that bottle of fingernail polish alone and step away. Again. Do not use fingernail polish to paint your shoes. It's thick, it's ugly and it will show up all of the faults! Instead, use light layers of diluted acrylic paint until you arrive at the proper coverage. If you want a shiny finish, you can always use one layer of  "top coat." I am guilty of making this mistake. I know what I'm talking.


Here's a variation.
1. Take a small strip of leather or non woven material. Using a blade, cut it into tiny strips starting at about 1/8" (4mm) from either side.
2. Glue the uncut side to the bottom of the lined insole.
3. Wrap around the foot, spreading the strips so they fan out from the apex point.
4. Tape in place to keep the strips from moving. Cut away the excess. Then carefully remove the take and add a generous layer of glue.
5. Attached the mid sole.
6. Add a layer of epoxy clay to the top of the sole and press the upper sandal in place.

One more.l...

I started out with a small piece of leather 3/8 x 2-1/8" (10 x 55mm), divided into thirds. The first third is cut down to a length of 1" (28mm), the second 1-3/8" (35 mm) and the last left at 2-1/8" (55mm). Again, attached to the underside of the insole and then drape over the foot at a slight diagonal. The last strip wraps over the foot, around the back of the ankle and is then tucked underneath itself on the side of the foot.  The orange shoes have regular sole and the white ones are platforms.

Feeling creative??!!!
With ribbons, trims and scraps, you can create some wonderful footwear for your divas. Just remember, there isn't much to a 1/6 doll's foot. It's best to try different things out directly on the doll's feet before you commit. Here, on the left, this is a 1/2" ribbon I tied into a knot over the foot. On the right, a piece of lace held onto the foot with a ribbon. Like that you can immediately see what does and does not work.

Before I wrap up this session, let me answer a few questions that might be on your minds. Again, this is from my own perspective based on the shoes I've made thus far.

What comes first, the uppers or the outer soles?
Personally, I like to start with the uppers. Over time, I've been able to make a pair a shoes from start to scratch relatively quickly. However, I have prepared the outer soles  for future use. With the polymer clay, you don't really have a choice. You can't really back the uppers onto the outer soles. You really must prepare each element separately and then, using a very strong product, glue the uppers with the soles. The epoxy clay allows you to make the two elements separately and then assemble them together. Unlike the polymer clay, you don't have to use a separate glue for assemblage. You "glue" the two together with a fresh layer of clay. What is most important is to verify that the soles (insole, mid sole and outer sole) are line up and continue to conform to the doll's foot throughout the process.

Can you make the heels separately and add them later (after they have hardened)? 

You can. Personally, I'd rather add them to the soles while the clay on both the soles and heels are still pliable. If you do decide to make the heels separately, letting them dry, be sure the top of the heel has the proper slant and try not to use too much clay.

What happens if the sole is a little too short or too narrow?
The epoxy clay allows you to "patch" after it has dried. So you can fill in gaps or whatever is missing, smooth, sand then paint. It works a little like spackle when you need to cover a hole on your walls.

Are there materials not suitable for making sandals?
In don't recommend elastic or rubber bands. Both degrade in a short period of time and all of your hard work will end up in the trash at some point. Years ago, I bought a few pairs of shoes for my Tonner dolls where they used elastic bands to criss-cross the feet. The elastic is shot and can no longer hold the shoe to the doll! Rubber also degrades pretty quickly. Beware of anything that unravels as well.

Scissors or blades for cutting?
Using a blade will give you a cleaner, more precise line which is particularly crucial when working on such a tiny scale. But for the moment, if you are comfortable with scissors...go for it. As you progress, you'll eventually move over to a blade and memory cutting board.


Have a great time making sandals for your ladies. We'll be back shortly with another installment: Shoe Biz 4 Undercover Toes. Sliders and Mules--our favorite backless shoes.

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