Digimon Adventure 02
Years ago when I first made my cosplay for Daisuke Motomiya from 02, I knew absolutely nothing about how to make shoes. The end result was... passible - if you didn't look too close, but I was never happy with them. Having made my first pair of boots (for Neku from TWEWY - Part 1, Part 2), I now know maybe 5-10% of what goes into making a pair of shoes - just enough to be dangerous and just the right time to give it another go.
Daisuke's shoes are basically orange and white high-top sneakers, with straps instead of laces. My first attempt was more like a boot cover over an existing pair of shoes. I did a semi-decent job of attaching them to the shoes, but I knew nothing about how to pattern a shoe and it was pretty much just random guessing. The straps never sat right, and the only Velcro I had on hand has an adhesive back. I still sewed them in place, but the glue melted first time it got warm and they're a little...sticky. I used some foam to help support the shoe and make it look a little "chunky", which I liked in concept but the foam I used was in reality too thick.
All things to correct!
So first step is having some of the right tools for the job and that would mean proper outsoles and even more importantly - lasts. I discovered the Shoemaker's Academy website and found they sell a matching last and outsole kit. Available in white and perfect for what I'm looking for. They also sell a couple books on the subject, which I may pick up the next time I want to go down this rabbit hole. Having gone through the process now, I'd probably get more out of them now that I've got a little more experience.
Anyway, with the lasts in hand in it was time to draft an actual pattern. I basically covered the last with masking tape. Next, I roughly drew some markings where things look like they should go (where the orange top layer would attach to the white toe/tongue, the heel). Then I carefully cut the tape off the last and laid it flat onto a pice of poster-board to trace out the pattern. Having just made some boots, I used that pattern to guide how the high-top might extend, and mark where the straps look like they should go.
Fabric wise, for that first attempt I found some marine vinyl that was the perfect color orange and white. Now, probably not the ideal material for making a shoe out of, but I didn't know anything about working with leather (and wasn't looking to spend that kind of money). Besides, these are cosplay shoes. They're only going to see occasional wear. So while I wasn't expecting much, the vinyl actually held up surprising well. Well enough that I didn't see the need to use something different at this point.
So, rough guess for a pattern in place, went ahead and cut out pieces for a left shoe:
- Main body (high top collar and quarter panel) - orange vinyl
- Toe and Tongue - white vinyl
- Heel - white vinyl
- Straps (front and back) - orange vinyl
- Lining (main body and toe/tongue) - a white canvas-y material with some stretch to it (something I had laying around)
- Interfacing (main body and top of tongue) - 1/4" Flex-Foam Stabilizer
- Sole - Leather
I attached the white heel cap to the orange upper, placing the right sides together at one bottom corner of the curve, and slowly guiding it through the machine, stopping every few stitches to keep things straight, lifting the presser foot if needed. I clipped little V's out of the edge of the seam so it would lay flat and used a little contact cement to hold it flat in place.
For the straps, I eyeballed where I though the velcro should go, stiched them onto the back pieces (using the right kind and size of sew-in velcro this time!). Next, placed the right sides of the straps together and sew around three of the edges, leaving the edge that would attach to the shoe open. Since this vinyl is not very stretchy, they were a pain to turn right-sides out, but eventually was able to so, and lined them up where they should attach to the uppers, basting them into place with the velcro sides down.
Next, I sewed the liner, outer and foam layers together, placing the wrong sides of the upper and liners together, then the foam on top of that, and sewing around the edge leaving the bottom edge (where the shoe would attach to the sole) open. Turn right-side out so the foam is now in the middle. Then repeated for the toe/tongue piece.
Finding a grommet or something to stabilize a hole for a where a 2" wide strap to go through was next to impossible. I thought about trying to 3d print something, but ultimately just went with sewing a really big button hole. My sewing machine has a fancy button hole foot, where you place your button in the foot and a little sensor arm swings down to get the button hole sized to the exact size of the button. But it doesn't hold a 2" button, so I just "tricked" the machine and bumped the sensor with my finger when it looked like the size was right. It worked surprisingly well and got my some side-eye looks from the wife thinking I was crazy.
Next, it was time to attach the upper to the toe/tongue. I lined things up roughly where I had marked them from the pattern, trying to keep the bottom (sole) edge of the pieces in-line. I did a stitch-in-the-ditch along the upper starting from where the upper attaches to the back of the toe, up to where the first strap starts. It's not a lot, but any further would get in the way of the straps. This stitch would mean the liner would show through a little, but it's white and the toe is white and I think it looks just fine.
For the first time, it's staring to look like a shoe!
Tweaks and Adjustments
At this point, even without a midsole, just putting the "shoe" over my foot I could see some issues with the pattern. Some parts of the tongue and toe areas needed extending, the straps we much better than the first revision, but their placement, angles and lengths I could already tell needed adjustment. Also I had the collar of the high-top angled a little too far forward.
So I called this attempt Draft #1 and made adjustments to the patterns for Draft #2 and repeated everything.
Then Draft #3 was even closer. This time, it looked close enough I traced the bottom of the last and cut out a midsole from some leather I had used for midsoles on the Neku boots. I attached the midsole to the bottom of the last with a few nails, then placed the assembled upper over the last. I trimmed the foam so it would not go past the bottom of the last. Stretching (at least as much as the vinyl will allow for) the fabric over the last, I glued the upper to the midsole and held it in place with more nails and let the glue dry/cure overnight.
At this point, things looked even more like a shoe. Enough to slip on the foot and dry-fit into the sole so see how things looked.
Things were pretty close, but still a few little tweaks I could see to make it even better (mostly adding more fabric to stretch/glue over the midsole). When I made Neku's boots, that was a totally different sole and you only needed about 1/2" to stitch to the midsole. Since I was stretching and glueing these, the extra fabric was helpful. Now, with leather you'd be able to use a hammer to flatten things out, but the vinyl not so much, so it was a bit lumpy which will make glueing to the sold a little more challenging. But again, these are cosplay shoes and just need a hold up for occasional use.
So after all that, I still wanted to make some more adjustments to the patter, so Draft #4 would be the final go. This time I cut out both left and right shoes and repeated the whole assembly process up to this point.
Had a made a "proper" pattern, I would have marks where the upper attaches to the midsole. And I started out with some from the initial pattern from the last. But after 4 revisions things moved around too much, so I placing the upper over the last I took my time to make sure everything was positioned correct, the straps were all straight and lined up, before attaching the midsoles.
After the glue dried on the midsoles, with a thick wax thread and a leather punch tool with a little hook on the edge, I trimmed any excess fabric and did a lock-stitch (by hand) all around the bottom of the midsole where the upper attached.
This time, I was happy with everything, and had both a left and right shoe. Time to attach the soles.
I placed the lasts into each shoe and placed the shoes into the soles doing a dry-fit. I placed painters tape around the upper right where it comes in contact with the sole. This is it prevent getting glue on areas you might see.
Next, I applied a layer of contact cement (tanners bond) to all the contact parts of the upper and well as the sole and allowed it to fully dry (unassembled). Apparently, having a few layers of glue improves the strength/durability of the bond, so when you finally attach the soles, the glue is bonding to another layer of glue and not just the rubber sole. Sure, these are cosplay shoes and occasional wear, but I still don't want my sole falling off, so worth the time to do the extra layers and wait for them to dry.
Time to attach, so another layer of glue. This time, wait for the glue to become tacky without being "wet" before even thinking about attaching. This stuff is super sticky and will attach as soon as it touches. You can't really move things around if it's not placed right the first time. So very carefully, started by placing the toe side into the sole, while stretching the middle part of the sole as much as possible while slowly bringing it down into place along with the heel. The heel was tricky to get placed just right, but eventually got it.
I pushed very firmly down on the lasts and with a hammer hit around the edges. This is contact cement, it bonds by making a strong contact. Then I wrapped the shoe in tape, trying to apply as much pressure on that upper/last on the sole as I could. Then I let it cure for 48 hours.
After 48 hours I removed the tape and discovered I goofed a bit with the tape.
I did test beforehand that the tape I was using would not leave any residue on the shoe's upper material. However, I didn't test it on the soles! So they were really sticky when the tape was removed and I needed to scrub them with some Goo Gone quite a bit. Maybe if I had used an actual "3M" branded painters tape the results might have been different? Or maybe next time just put a piece of paper or something on the bottom of the sole to protect it. Oh well, lessons learned for next time.
Apart from that I'm super happy with the results. As I said at the start, I know almost nothing about the "right" way to do this, and wanted to document some of my discovery and learning along the way. I'm sure there's lots I could have done different/better, but that's the learning process.
The glue seemed to have attached to the soles quite well. There were a couple spots where the glue didn't fully contact and I could pull back the edge of the sole a bit, so I went back and added a little more glue.
For the extra peace of mind I did take some white waxed thread and went around the sole with a lock-stitch by hand, just like I had done to attach the upper to the midsole. With all the glue, and two sets of stitching (upper to midsole and sole), it should be very firmly held together. I would expect the vinyl to tear before the sole would start to come off!
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