Friday, December 16, 2011

I am the craft-masta! (in which I glue leather to shoes.)

Fun with craftyness time!
Wednesday morning, much to my frustration, I was shot down at the shoe repair store when I asked if they'd glue leather soles onto my sneakers.  Also I was given funny looks.

So yesterday evening, I took myself over to the craft store to buy:

 1) pretty ribbons to lace my sneakers up with in pretty colors.  :)

 2). Suede and glue to fixie my shoeses.

The process...

Shoes, before. 

Here are the shoes and my workspace, aka kitchen table.  The shoes in question are a pair of cute Converse sneakers that are awesome because the sole is very stable along the short axis (left to right) and very flexible along the long axis. They also lace up very high/close to the ankle, which thus far has kept the shoes ON my feet while I've been dancing, which is a problem I've had with other shoes, particularly Keds-style shoes.

I'd previously covered the bottom of the shoes in moleskin, which is a great quick fix because it is a nice fast surface for the shoes and it comes with adhesive on it, but has a couple of problems. One, the adhesive is just enough to keep it in place but not enough to really resist any insults to its integrity.  The second is the durability of the moleskin itself.

Moleskin covering that was on them. Edges have eroded,
and it doesn't stick well enough without glue, but doesn't
seem durable enough to be worth gluing it.
I had a rather disastrous time with it in a tap class at a dance weekend, right after I first applied the moleskin, where the pulling-back motion of the shuffle-steps really wrecked havoc on the adhesion.  Another time, the edge snagged on something in my bag, and a small area rolled up... and the adhesive was promptly shot.  I had to fix that spot with super glue, at which point I began to question the long term value of the moleskin.

Even assuming I could get it to stay, t seems like it'll wear through at the tread, and then I'd have a hard-to-remove-the-rest-of-it mess on my hands if I did want to put leather them later. That is sort of presumption, since I've never had a pair of shoes covered in moleskin long enough to wear them out.  But I am going to Lindy Focus in a couple of weeks (!!!!), and I don't really want to find out the answer there.

The other durability issue with the moleskin is that it's fabric... and the threads will erode one by one.  You can see it in the picture above, at the heel.  That heel went to the edge when I first put it on.  This is a problem especially in these shoes because the cute white rubber border is very sticky, and catching it in the middle of a spin is, how you say... "teh suck."

Plus, it's nearly as much work to put fresh moleskin on as it is to just put leather on them.  You have to be hyper careful and trace and cut and affix, anyway, so I figured I'd just do the leather now, test it at our local dance Saturday, and have a (small) window to fix problems in before I dance these shoes to death at Focus.

My arsenal.  Two 8"x10" pieces of real sueded leather,
a cutting mat and razor knife,
and a tube of Quick Grip glue that purported to bond
both leather and rubber. ~$30 at Joanne Fabrics.

Common sense warning on the arsenal, kids: razor blades are fucking sharp.  Plenty sharp enough to cut this leather, plenty sharp enough to cut your skin, tendons, right through fingernails, ect. Sharp enough that you're unlikely to notice you've sliced yourself until you have cut very deeply or start bleeding.
Be careful. 

Common sense warning number two: any glue you're likely to use for this project falls under the purvey of "superglue." Superglue is fucking sticky.  Plenty sticky enough to bond your fingers to anything they'd touch, plenty sticky enough to stick gloves to tabletops or paper towels to shoelaces, or shoelaces to soles, or really anything to anything else that's likely to be laying around.  Maybe not glass.
Point being, be careful with the superglue, too. 

Came off disconcertingly
easily, actually. 

So I ripped the moleskin off- came right off no problem. 

Will they both fit?

And then I got to sizing up my leather.  I had bought two 8"x10"  pieces, because I didn't want to come up short, but I suspected that I could put both shoes on one piece and save one for later.  

Because the shoes rock a bit in the tracing, it's hard to see in the picture, but it looked like the shoes were just barely short enough to go side by side on the single piece.  Also, real leather stretches, so I was prepared for there to be some give between the trace and what actually ended up on the shoe.

When tracing, I erred towards being more generous with the FRONT of the shoe, since that's where I dance, and it'd be worse to be either short or off in the front, since I don't want any irregular edges up there to catch anything.

First trace. 
Both shoes traced. And marked! Since they're mirror images,
and the leather has two sides... muy importante.

By the time I got to the second trace, the leather had already stretched some, wasn't perfectly square, and allowed me to almost trace the whole shoe.  It's pretty thin leather (it's craft leather), so that was normal and expected. 

First cutout. 
The slightly interior line on the bottom is where I need to trim it. 

The other to-be-expected thing was that the leather stretches in multiple directions.  Like I said above, I'm erring towards the FRONT being correct, and specifically the inside-front.  So once I had cut out the leather, I lined it up on the shoe to see how it'd fit once I could mold and position the leather, an came up with some extra that needed to be trimmed off.

This I actually repeated a few more times, positioning, tracing, trimming, until I was satisfied that the cutout matched the shoe.  The leather stretches some even as you position it, so you have to be careful where you pull it tight.

Then, I was ready to glue.  I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of the process of glueing, because it was a bit touch-and go.

The first shoe I did, the left shoe, I covered the whole sole of the shoe in my glue, smeared it around with a gloved hand, and then tried to affix the leather.  It stuck to some degree, but it didn't seem to be holding like it should (because of the length of time between applying the glue and putting on the leather was too great, I think, since I was fiddling with smearing the glue around in the meantime). Also, the edges weren't saturated.  So I had to go and manually fill in glue around the edges, squeeze the excess out, and wipe it off, all in a very short time frame because the glue sets so quickly. So yeah, no pics of that.

The right shoe I did slightly differently: when I was done trimming and stuff, I applied COPIOUS amounts of glue to one section of the sole at a time, and lined up the leather, squeezed it down and squeegeed off the excess before moving on to the next section.  I still had to do a bit of touchup on the edges after this, because I really wanted glue all the way to the edges, but I think I did a better job of getting the middle of the sole to adhere on the second shoe.

Basically, I'm not sure I picked a correct glue.  I guess we'll see.  I hope the soles stay on.  I mean, they'll stay "on" as long as the edges stay, but I worry about differential stretching of the leather in the middle if it's not properly adherent.  I repeat myself, but I guess we'll see.

All done! I am the craft masta!

One more pic, from this morning:

The edge look pretty tight, yeah?

Wish my shoes luck!


  1. From the moleskin wear it looks like you dance on your heel and outer forefoot, not the front.

  2. You mean how the moleskin has come off in the back and the outside edge? I think that's actually misleading- because I don't weight those areas as often the moleskin isn't as well stuck down there, and it's been shedding threads.

    If you're curious, though, I can take and post pics after my first dance in the new suede. The initial pattern of dirt is a pretty honest indicator of where the weight is.

  3. I'm pretty sure it is nice to run a mile with a pair of runners like that, Clausti. Anyway, shredding threads are common in moleskin, whether it was glued or otherwise. Anyhow, when you're going to glue a fabric, choose an adhesive that is intended for that specific material. It's because it would affect the texture of the materials being bonded.