Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I got compliments on my homemade shoes

My homemade shoesI wore my homemade shoes today. It cooled enough (after that 109 degree Monday) to be able to wear them.

I actually got compliments. Someone asked me about them, said they looked really fun and cute. When I told people I made them myself they were surprised. When I told them they were based on a shoe pattern from a man found in a bog in Europe and made of an old skirt from the thrift store and an old placemat (hence the crazy colors) they thought that was brilliant and made them even better. They liked the orange trim. Several people wanted to know how to make them.

I have been trying to make another pair. I made a pair that was really cute but I made them too big so I had to start over. In the process I got a feel for the durability of the hot glue. That stuff really sticks. I don't have to worry about my shoes falling apart.

Today I bought a wool sweater in hopes of felting it in the washing machine to make another pair of shoes. Not sure if it turned to felt exactly, but I could get some of that iron-on facing fabric to stiffen it. I also ordered a book of patterns for sandals and shoes. I will try to use one of those patterns with the wool to make some low boots.

Making your own shoes is liberating. Every time you find a good shoe they discontinue it to make a new style that doesn't fit. By making my own shoes I can get free of that kind of planned obsolescence.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's very hot

It's really hot. We go from a summer of sub-65 degree temperatures into a sudden hot spell with temperatures over 100 degrees and single-digit humidity. It just can't be a nice 75 degrees around here.

What makes 100+ degree temps really awful for Santa Barbara is most houses here have no air-conditioning and many of them have poor insulation. Ours is like that. By the afternoon, it was as hot as outside. By evening it was hotter than outside. Only in Santa Barbara do people rush out to find air-conditioning to sit in like the olden days. Only in Santa Barbara do people sleep outside or on the floor or in their bathtubs.

I couldn't sleep outside because I was afraid of being walked all over by raccoons and skunks. I slept part of the night on the floor in the living room. Once it finally cooled off, with the front and back doors open, I was able to move into the bedroom.

Some people reported from their backyard thermometers that it was as much as 109 degrees. It was 113 in downtown Los Angeles. It's supposed to be another hot one today. Too bad I have to go take a mid-term in my Java class at 1:00 pm in a windowless room that has no air-conditioning today.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Homemade Bocksten shoes

Homemade Bocksten ShoesI decided to try to make my own shoes. In some ways, I think shoes are easier than sandals. I can't seem to make sandals that don't slip around or chafe.

I decided instead of leather, I would use fabric. I got the idea to use fabric from Simple Shoemaking.

I got the pattern from a web site that has shoe patterns from medieval periods. I used the pattern for the Front Laced Shoe, which they said was based on the shoes worn by the Bocksten Man who was found in a bog in Europe.

I made my best guestimate of a tracing of their pattern, then cut it out a little larger and trimmed to fit. I cut it out on a piece of fabric, actually a burned cloth napkin I got at Art From Scrap for 10 cents. I pinned it to my foot and to the sole from a pair of flip-flops. I kept pinning and trimming until it seemed I got a decent fit. Then I used the cloth napkin as a pattern for the fabric I really wanted to use.

For materials I used a green nylon skirt I bought from the thrift shop and some orange placemats the lady at Art From Scrap gave to me. I also used flip-flops from Rite-Aid. I added the orange trim to make the shoe stronger and give me a finished edge around the bottom. I sewed the green fabric (two layers) to the placemat fabric and glued the placemat fabric to the flip-flop sole. Inside where my toe is I sewed additional fabric so my toenail doesn't cut through the nylon too quickly.

I didn't cut the little notch at the lacings deep enough so they are a bit of a struggle to put on. Also, it turns out my right foot is bigger than my left so the right shoe feels shorter.

Still, for a pair of homemade shoes, I think they turned out great. I have some other fabric and will try another pair. But for now, I think I'll take a walk in these.

Update: I went for a walk and I am in a state of disbelief. I actually made a pair of shoes. They fit, they don't feel weird, they don't chafe or slip, they didn't fall apart. They feel completely normal and they are super comfortable. I'm totally stoked! I can't wait to make another pair.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I tested my hiking sandals

I tested my new hiking sandals today. I walked to work and home wearing them. Then I did a short hike on Rattlesnake Trail wearing them. They are very comfortable and have great traction.

It feels like my feet slip backwards in them a little bit when I walk uphill. They are definitely too long. One thing I have to keep in mind is that the heel will be set flush with the edge. When you try on flip-flops, your heel isn't flush with the back edge. But in these shoes they will be. So that means they were about two inches too long in front.

I didn't glue the front of the sole on one foot very well and it started coming loose. I remember when I was gluing them together I went out to check and it looked like one of them wasn't sticking in front. I thought by putting heavier things on top I fixed it, but apparently I didn't. I will have to reglue them. No big deal.

They are all dusty now so I washed them and will have to wait for them to dry before I can glue them.

I would like to try and make another pair. Use smaller and thinner flip-flops and see if I could make them out of something other than leather. It is fun to make your own shoes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homemade hiking sandals

homemade hiking sandalI've been wearing my modified tire sandals around and they seem secure and comfortable. After such a success, I decided to make some new hiking sandals from other materials.

I sent away for a pair of Vibram boot soles, a pair that did not include a raised heel. The smallest size they had was a mens 8. They were awful big but I thought they might work out okay in the end. I also ordered some Barge cement to glue them together.

My original plan was to glue some leather tops to the soles. But the soles were very thin. So I went to Rite-Aid and bought some cheap flip-flops. I wanted cheap flip-flops because I didn't want a raised heel or any fancy shaping. Just a flat piece of foam and hopefully a sole without any ridges. I found a pair of sandals that met these criteria. There was a very light pattern on the sole, but I thought I should be able to glue it to the boot soles without a problem.

I cut off the flip-flop straps and glued the flip-flop soles to the boot soles. I put heavy things on top and waited a few hours for the glue to harden. Then I cut away the excess boot sole from around the edge of the flip-flops.

Then I cut leather for the side tabs and the back heel area. I decided I would try a two-tab sandal first, rather than a four-tab like my tire sandals. Instead of holes cut through the tabs like my tire sandals, I cut slits. Two slits so that I could thread the lacing through. Hopefully this would rub less against my skin.

Once the glue was dry, I nailed the tabs to the soles. I tried them on and moved some of the placement around until they seemed to fit right. Then I loosened the nails and applied glue. After letting the glue dry for 20 minutes, I pressed the pieces together and put in all the rest of the nails to hold the glue together.

You might wonder why I nail the pieces to the edges rather than cut holes and thread them through, or glue the tabs between the foam and the sole. There are three reasons. One is that hammering the pieces to the sides turned out to be the easiest way. The other is that my feet are wide and this gives me a lot more room for my toes. Gluing the leather between the foam and the sole leaves little raised areas and honestly I couldn't figure out how to do the heel. Nailing the heel on was much easier.

Why have that big heel thing? I tried all kinds of different lacing methods and my feel would always slide out the back. The big heel area holds my foot in securely and feels the most comfortable.

The only problem I can foresee with these sandals is they are a little long in front. I might have to cut off some of the front. I hope I don't have to because it might ruin the (relative) perfection of the boot sole on the bottom.

The sandals turned out really comfortable even if they aren't the prettiest. I have to try them on some trails to see if I can actually hike in them. I'll try them out walking around town first.

It is relatively easy to make clothes. Making shoes is a lot more difficult. I feel pretty good that I was able to make shoes even if I had to use shoes to make them. It was relatively inexpensive (if you don't count all my trial and error), compared to buying new hiking sandals. The boot soles were about $10, the flip-flops $2.50, the leather was about $6, the laces were $12, the glue was about $5. I could have found cheaper laces but I didn't know where to find them at first.

Maybe someday I will get better at this and my homemade shoes won't look so obviously homemade. But for now, it's kind of cool that they look homemade because it's fun when people ask me if I made my own sandals. I was asked that about the tire sandals and the person who asked me thought that was really great to make your own sandals. Making stuff is fun so I like to inspire people to do things like that if I can.

I can't wait to fully test these. Hopefully I'll have a good contribution for the Make Your Own Gear forum on

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fog monster

The evil demon fog is rolling in. It just won't quit. No sunny mornings yet. We're wrapping up the final days of summer and now it's too late to hope for a warm sunny summer day.

I admitted to The Man that I'm holding out on trying to find a "real" job until he's finally fired or retired from his job. I hate the weather here in Santa Barbara. I don't want to get myself tied down until I know I can leave. So I'm taking Java programming, working part-time doing a lot of really great web development (learning tons and tons) and soon my whale job will start up again. Just hanging in there, waiting.

Waiting for summer, waiting for The Man's situation to change, waiting for better days ahead.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The saga of my custom-made shoes continues

new bootsSo I ordered some custom-made shoes way back in July. I sent in my foot tracing and measurements. I was very excited that I might be on my way to getting some shoes that actually fit my feet because they would be made specially for me. I have since learned a lot about what custom-fit shoes really means.

My feet are not shoe-shaped. Shoes tend to taper at the toe end as if your big toe were longer than the others. My feet don't do that. They are more like duck feet. They widen outward toward the toe end. I have rarely had shoes that really fit the shape of my foot. I've either been in pain from the taper of the shoe hurting my outer toes or I have worn shoes many sizes too big to accommodate my feet or I have just worn sandals. So I had high hopes for custom-made shoes. They'd see my foot and have to make shoes to fit.

What I learned is that custom shoes are the same as shoes off the rack. They take the foot tracing and pick the shoe on the rack that is the length of your foot. If there isn't one, then they'll make a shoe the same length of your foot. Whether they make a shoe specially for your foot or choose one for you already made, the result is the same. They will use a last and materials that are shaped a certain way. No matter what, your foot will be expected to fit the shape of the shoe.

Worse, yet, if you send in a foot-tracing and then are sent a shoe that supposedly fits, it is very hard to convince them that it does not fit. They have your tracing! They have proof it fits.

I received my shoes. They were not custom-made. They insisted that their ready-made shoes would fit me and sent back the extra money I sent for a custom fit. I received very tiny shoes. I could not even put them on. I sent them back.

They stretched them on a machine and sent them back to me. The left shoe feels okay but the right shoe is too short. They said I could send them back again and they would make a custom shoe for me.

I thought about this for a while. I don't believe sending them back for a custom shoe would actually result in a better fit. Since this is what they consider a good fit, having my foot tracing and everything to go from, I do not believe I can get a better fit with a custom-made shoe. They will send me another short shoe that is too narrow for my toes, but this time they will have made them from scratch. They will have picked the materials and the last or pattern or whatever it is from their stock that matches my measurements best. It'll be the same shoe.

The shoes are beautiful leather boots. They are extremely comfortable as far as cushioning and flexibility. They are so nice-looking I could wear them with pants or skirts. They're probably the nicest-looking shoes I've ever owned. I will probably just keep them and wear them only to work. With some luck perhaps they will stretch out a little more over time. I had hoped I could hike in them but it's pretty obvious that I will not be able to. If the shoes do stretch out over time, perhaps months down the line I could hike in them.

It's disappointing, but a good learning lesson.

homemade tire sandalMeanwhile, I've revamped my tire sandals. I remade them from leather with laces. They actually look pretty good and are quite comfortable for walking around, as long as I wear socks anyway. I plan to try and make another pair with a hiking boot sole and maybe I can hike in those instead of these new boots. Or, I will look forward to a new shoe coming out from a company called Altera. They've been talking about these shoes for at least a year, maybe two. It looks like they're getting close to coming out with them. If they turn out like the pictures I have seen, they will truly be foot-shaped like my duck feet. I will be very happy to try a pair.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I repaired my own tire sandals

I bought some Vietnamese tire sandals a while back. They did not fit. The straps went through slits that went through the sole. Little ends of the straps stuck out through the bottom. It felt strange to walk on them. And because the straps went through the sole, the sandals were narrower than the sole and they cut into my wide feet.

I attempted to loosen the straps so that the sandals would fit better but I accidentally broke one. Every attempt to try and slide the strap back into the slit failed. I thought I ruined the sandals. They've been sitting in my closet for close to a year now, broken.

I browsed around google images for pictures of homemade sandals, handmade sandals and similar searches and stumbled on an African person wearing tire sandals. Their sandals had the straps nailed to the outside edge. I decided I would try that. I had just enough little nails in the garage to put all the straps back on. They feel pretty secure and fit well.

I may add more nails so that they are more secure. Or I may buy some leather scraps from Art from Scrap and make the sandals more stylish.

I kind of have this obsession lately to learn how to make my own shoes. Or at least to make my own sandals. I ordered a pair of real hiking boot soles and plan to make some hiking sandals. I like hiking in Chacos except the sole has very little traction. I fell down about 5 times on my hikes this summer. A couple of times I fell very badly. I'm going to make my own hiking sandals.

These tire sandals have no real tread. I think they made them from motorcycle tires and then just cut phony cross-hatches to simulate a tread. It doesn't even look like they tried to make the tread look real. So they won't work for hiking. But I am glad I fixed them. I almost threw them in the trash.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Still foggy

Yet another freezing cold foggy day. What are you supposed to do when you really don't want to live in a place anymore but you are in a relationship with someone who will be hanging on to their job to the bitter end, probably for years to come? I guess you just have to freeze to death every "summer" in the fog or run away and go hiking on the PCT.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The saga of my custom shoes continues

I returned my custom-made shoes but never heard back from the company that built them. I finally managed to reach them and they are going to send them to me again with some adjustments that might make them fit. I hope they do fit because they were beautiful shoes. If they fit well enough to wear them around town but not well enough for hiking, I will keep them. They might be too pretty to hike in anyway.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

It's now Weptember, when we weep that we missed summer

In case anyone is wondering, it is still foggy here in Santa Barbara. No summer at all this year.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Hiking gear from the thrift store

I scored at the thrift store today. I found a North Face hiking skirt. It had all the features I want in a hiking skirt: Wide skirt so you can actually hike, pockets and belt loops. I also found a pair of Patagonia hiking pants without zip-offs. They, too, have belt-loops and decent pockets. I have to have belt loops because if it's a long hike, I might lose weight. Also, too many clothing items are made so your butt crack shows when you sit down. A belt helps prevent that.

Both of these items appeared to be brand new, never worn. Unfortunately, both items were too big. The skirt was a size 14 and the pants a size 12. I bought them anyway and used my sewing machine on them to make the waist bands fit better. The big pants are nice because I have big thighs so at least they are generous enough to hike in.

I have been searching for these two items for about a year. I'm glad I found them even if they weren't the right size.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

I have an herb garden

I pulled out all the dead and dying plants from my little roof-top garden and planted herbs. I planted cilantro, basil, oregeno, thyme, chives and rosemary. I also planted some rainbow peppers which look ornamental in purple and red, and some Anaheim chiles. I'm looking forward to a winter full of delicious Mediterranean and Mexican food.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

How to cancel service when the company provides almost no contact info

Just as I suspected, my snail mail request to cancel my internet hosting has gone unheeded and I continue to get billing notices by email. They provide only a telephone number and nobody ever answers or returns your call. They also provide a mailing address but naturally mail sent to a mailing address doesn't get a response.

I put in a fake credit card number anticipating such an outcome. I've called them twice asking them to stop billing me. They are either very evil or they are completely on autopilot.

Any information on their legal requirements to me in my efforts to cancel my service would be appreciated.