This is the eighth blog post in my 2021 Sewing (+Upcycle) blog series. Click here to see the video where I share my inspiration for each month. My August project was to upcycle a pair of shoes.
I was excited for this project because it was a departure from months of sewing and working with textiles. Like all my projects, I underestimated how hard it would actually be. The difficulty had less to do with skill or lack there-of and more to do with making decisions, pushing through fears, and simply forcing myself to finish the project.
Below are images from my Upcycle Shoes Pinterest board. As you can see, I was mostly thinking that I would buy a pair of secondhand shoes and either paint them or glue items to the surface. I’ve included images of heels in this collage simply as inspiration. I actually can’t wear high heels because I broke my right foot when I was a teenager in a bicycle accident. I need to wear shoes that support my arch. Anywho…
As I have done for previous months, I shared my progress in my Instagram stories. Below are glimpses of those stories. View them all in the pinned AUG story highlight.
If you watch my stories, you will see that I had a real tough time settling on a pair of shoes to work on. After many shopping trips I had to force myself to make a choice. I was just about to make a boring choice when I stumbled upon these rubber cowboy boots (below) with the weird horse pattern. I don’t love the cowboy boot aesthetic. It is a classic but it is a classic that I am not really drawn too — BUT I’d much rather wear something weird than something boring and safe.
I knew I wanted to cut the boots because they were too tight around my calves. I asked my friends on Instagram for advice. The winning answer was mule. The second most popular choice was ankle boots, and in last place was the pump. The mule shape is cool, for sure, but it’s almost too cool for me. The ankle boot is cute but it is also a safe choice and I already have ankle boots. I feel like I asked the question but I already knew what I wanted to do — I wanted to make weird rubber pumps.
Another thing that was on my mind while I was working on this project was the concept of true risk-taking. I recently watched season 2 of Making The Cut. One of the designers really stood out to me (Gary Graham) because he really pushed himself to take risks. He was visibly struggling and unsure about some of the decisions he made. [ Watch S02 Episode 6!] Watching Gary Graham caused to me reflect on how much I admire people who take risks. With that in mind, I knew I had to try to cut the boots into something I had never seen before — rubber pumps!
What followed was weeks of me avoiding actually cutting the boots. I was so afraid I’d screw it up! Why? What’s the big deal? In the end I did what I thought I should have done weeks prior. And I’m actually pleasantly surprised with the results. To me, they are weird in a good way. See the results in the video below.
For those of you asking about technique — I cut the rubber with children’s craft scissors. They allowed me to make the cleanest cut and made it easier to maneuver turns. I covered the horse pattern with a Bold Point Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Marker. I’m tempted to add more to these boots, like maybe black glitter paint but I need to stop with this project for now and move forward.
What I learned on this project:
I’m circling the same lessons with each month’s project. The lessons I’m learning are all about the process of making and about learning to trust oneself. The overarching lesson for this project was obviously risk-taking. From the outside, risk-taking can appear fun like an exciting breakthrough but for me it felt really uncomfortable. There was a lot of self-doubt. Maybe with time I will learn to really trust myself and cut down on the time I linger in avoidance.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m skipping my September project for several reasons: my August project took too long, I’ve been busy helping my sons get settled at college, I’m trying to be good about taking time to rest, and…. I’m no longer in love with the idea I had for September which was a big flouncy tiered tulle dress.