Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ruby Slippers Version III (Character Shoes) - Sequins

I started the sequin process as I had on the other pairs in the past.  I marked the center front so I could line up the sequins properly and tested the layout.  I decided to try for making the upper and lower edges flat and even so I wouldn't have to add an extra strip of sequins over the top, meaning I had to be extra sure about how the sequins would fit across the shoe.

Against what should have been my better judgement, I tried a new sequin layout.  I'm really not sure where the idea came from or why it popped into my head just then or why I even thought to go ahead with it.  Instead of gluing all the sequins in one continuous strand, switching directions from top to bottom on each loop, I thought I would cut each strand to the length of the side of the shoe in each particular spot, and then all the sequins would lay in the same direction.  This looks a lot more like the layout on the originals themselves, and I think generally looks prettier.

Gratuitous workspace photo.
First disastrous layout - disastrous, but pretty.
Calling it disastrous is a bit overkill.  The technique did work, and it did look really good.  But gluing down the strings along the top edge was a bit messy and needed more experimentation to be neat and effective, and the whole process took way too long, probably close to twice as long as usual.  It was also completely untested - I'd never made or worn a pair like this so I had no idea how they would hold up to normal wear, not to mention dancing, and I was already worried about how the surface of these shoes differed from the other pairs and if that would affect its durability.  That was all adding up too much doubt for a commission on a tight deadline. 
And yet, despite the obvious problems, I inexplicably kept going.
This was the point at which I stopped doing sequins for a while to give me time to think about it, and in the meantime cut down and sealed - effectively finishing - the bows.  After that was done and I couldn't stall anymore, I pulled off the sequins I had done already and stripped as much of the glue as possible and started over with the old tried-and-true sequining process.  Despite the wasted materials and loss of time, I had to decide in the end that familiarity and the guarantee (not to mention a little peace of mind) it brought was the best course of action this time.  From there on, things were a bit more simple.

I followed the layout from Version II almost exactly.  The straps were a really simple added step: a single strip of sequins was glued down to the strap up to the point where the holes for the buckle began.  The only real difference came down to the heels, which on these shoes were shaped quite differently.  Wrapping them across the heel as usual didn't fit right, so I did the usual layout from the bottom up to a certain point, then cut that strand and glued it down.  From there, I measured separate strips to cover the rest of the heel, as well as a final strip to cover the gap between the heel and the rest of the shoe.  The separate strips were glued on over each other in alternating directions to mimic the rest of the layout, and the final strip laid down over the top.
Prepping for the few final strands of sequins on the heels.
Once all the sequins were (finally) done on both shoes and heels, I colored in the gaps where the tan of the shoe showed through with a red Sharpie of all things.  This was mostly along the bottom edge along the sole, along the inside of the top edge where the outer material meets the lining, on the end of the strap not covered with sequins (where the holes are), and on the areas around the strap and buckle.  I then used the Tacky Glue along the upper and lower edges of the shoes where the edges of the sequins stuck out.  I filled in almost the entire gap area between the shoe and sequins with the Tacky Glue, pressing down slightly now and then as the glue dried to hold the sequins in place and really make sure the glue was getting into all the nooks.  This allowed everything to be sealed better and protected those edges, which were most exposed and most susceptible to damage.  I did this along the entire lower edge against the sole, the entire upper edge, under the sequin strands on the strap and covering the shoe-heel gap, and along the edges of the heel sequins.
Sealing down the edges with Tacky Glue - dry glue on the top, wet glue on the bottom.
At this point once a lot of the handling was done, I went in and touched up the color on the faded sequins with - you guessed it - the same red Sharpie.  Because of these touch-ups, I also had to use a fixative to seal in the ink I added and hopefully prevent the rest of the sequins from fading so quickly.  My roommate has a matte fixative for a variety of mediums that looked okay on the sequins, but because the fading and Sharpie had stripped some of the shine, I wanted a glossy fixative to bring some of that shine back.  I struggled with the local art store, which claimed to not carry glossy fixative but have a variety of other fixatives, including a glossy "spray" which wasn't "really" a fixative but they supposed kind of worked like one (they were also hard pressed to give me any other information, and rather than walk a few feet from the counter to the shelf to look, they advised me I'd have to come in and see for myself what they had and what the price ran - I think I'll find myself hard pressed to do any more business with them).  I went in and looked at what they had and it turned out what they had been trying to describe was a __, which is what I bought given it was my only real choice for something glossy.
Spraying the glossy "fixative."
And yet of course, in the end the glossy didn't look much different from the matte fixative, and maybe it was just my stress and cynicism at that point, but the matte may have even looked better in the tests than the glossy looked on the shoes.  It still did the job okay on a basic level, but it turns out I could have used the matte fixative to begin with and saved myself the money, time, and trouble.  Alas.  After the two coats of spray dried, I roughly stitched down the bows and then used hot glue on the underside.  I don't have any photos of this because I was moving quickly (a little too quickly - I was rewarded with the blunt end of the needle gouged under my thumbnail) but I'll try to take some photos of that step on the second pair to make up for it.

Because things really came down to the wire after the set backs with the sequin-gluing and the extra steps of touching up the sequin color, I ended up spraying the shoes and attaching the bows the morning of the postal service pick-up.  I cut things so close with the fixative spray, that I wasn't sure there was enough time for the necessary two coats to dry before the shoes had to be boxed up and I almost cancelled the pick-up.  But this was a Saturday and Monday was a holiday and I was already shipping the package a few days late, so I went ahead and packaged them and let them be sent off, just two hours after I had finished attaching the bows.
Up next: the finished product (finally!).

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*My use and opinion of the products listed is by personal choice and availability.  I am not paid to use or endorse them. 

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