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Boot Repair for my Best Friend

Happy Max

In winter of 2018, my then 15-year old dog Max tested a set of dog booties that had been sent to his rehab therapist. Originally we were protecting his paws from the rock salt that many people in my neighborhood use to melt ice in the winter. They did the trick, but Max was pretty hard on them. He does some intermittent scuffing with his back feet due to arthritis in his lower back.

As his arthritis has progressed, I’ve used the boots to help stabilize his back legs on slippery steps and protect his pad from unusually hot and cold asphalt and cement. Most recently, I discovered that his back paws are splaying wider than before. His toenails are filing down to the quick on our daily walks. His poor toenails need protection.

NO PROBLEM – I’m a shoe maker, I’ve got skills. I’ve got supplies. AND my best friend needs his boots.

Here’s the repair process

In the first photo above, you can see the wear, the tear and splitting after a few months of hard wear. They were in need of some serious repair.

First, I made a pattern for the new sole by tracing a boot onto a file folder. Fit the pattern to both boots. Make minor adjustments. Note- there is a right and left boot. You only need one pattern. You just turn it from one side to the other get the right or left boot.

To control the splits and the possibility of Max’s paws getting pinched if I didn’t secure them, I added a light leather liner to cover the splits and help maintain the original shape.

Trace and cut the right and left shoe pattern on the leather and soling materials. Next, I cut them with a utility knife. The key to success is to change your blade often. (See top right photo.)

Check the cut pieces against the boots a final time.Apply 2 coats of glue. Wait for the first coat to dry completely. Apply the second coat.

The Next Day…

After the second glue had dried for several hours, I reactivated the glue with a heat gun and glued the new liner and new sole over the damaged sole. I used a roller to make sure I got the sole completely covered. I use neoprene contact cement for my shoes.

Pressure is applied by wrapping each boot with elastic banding and securing it with masking tape.

The next morning I unwrapped the boots and finished the repair by grinding the edges of the soles with my dremel tool.

The repair works. My best friend is happy. The repair is starting to wear already. They will need to be repaired again and I’ll continue to do it. My Max is worth it!

You can do this too! Follow the steps above.

 To make the pattern you will need:
•1 file folder or light weight cardboard (empty cereal box weight)
•A pair of scissors
•A pen

To make the repair you will need:
•One utility knife
•A small piece of light weight leather
•A sheet of soling rubber
•Contact Cement – Barge or even shoe goo
•Elastic banding or elastic first aid wrap
•A rolling pin
•Masking tape
•Sand paper to finish the edge

These supplies are readily available online at or Tandy Leather online or in store.

If you don’t want to take it on, you can send the boots to me and I’ll do it for you. OR Host a workshop for you and your dog loving friends. Let’s talk about how that could work for you and your dog. Email me for details.

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Behind the Doors of a South Philly Row House

the doors of south philly row houses
Row Houses, South Philadelphia

I’ve lived on the 9th-10th Street corridor from Lombard to Ritner Streets since the mid 1980’s and for me South Philly is home. From Department Store ready windows, well-kept stoops and nicely appointed exteriors, these houses are home to the residents who create the neighborhood fiber that welcome each wave of immigrants.

Historically this area began as several small Native American townships, including Moyamensing and SouthWark. Further Native American influence is seen in the names Passyunk and Schuylkill. The area grew as wave after wave of laborers, immigrants and refugees arrived looking for industrial and dock work, creating a vibrant cultural mix of old world ways and new world traditions that exist to this day.

In the late 19th early 20th centuries, Philadelphia was known as the “workshop of the world,” producing luxury goods for the likes of John Wanamaker and Strawbridge & Clothier Department stores. Many skilled craftsmen and women immigrated to Philadelphia in search of a better life and South Philly absorbed this wave into the mix. Many of them performed their craft in the home where they first roomed to pay their landlord. This resulted in fascinating finds in working class homes. I’ve lived in 2 and on my tours of many houses for sale, I’ve seen marble window-sills, stained glass windows, even hand-painted wall paper, found in my own humble home.

The Fleischer Art Memorial founded in 1898 had a mission to bring art to the masses and the creative community lives on today with many artists and crafts people living and working in the area at home or in converted studio space. I for one have worked in both my South Philly homes and outside studios in the area. Over my years in South Philly I have pursued millenery, paper-making, fine art, textile design, knitting and currently shoe making in these spaces – all behind closed doors.

In 2016 I launched my hand-made to order shoe-making business, RoxAnneLava. In 2017, I did some customer research and created a series of prototypes and participated in local fairs. I needed a system that would carry and display my product easily.

I settled on a vintage suitcase listed on eBay, a vintage Belber Neolite travel suitcase priced at only $10.50. It looked to be in very good condition, but as I generally do with eBay, I wanted to research the brand before I hit “Buy It Now”.

Belber is a heritage American leather good company founded in Philadelphia in 1891. School age brothers Aaron and Henry Belber (ages 14 and 17) immigrants from Romania via Hamburg and Glasgow pulled together $200 and started making luggage in their South Philadelphia basement. They worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week handcrafting luggage – behind closed doors.

The brothers, joined by their two other brothers, opened their first factory in Philadelphia in 1903. Using lightweight fabrics, quality leather and hardware and the first of many of their patented state of the art locking mechanisms, they produced stylish and elegant luggage and travel accessories at an affordable price. “As Modern As Tomorrow” was their slogan!

Innovators in marketing and advertising, Belber created a market for their products using inspirational and aspirational advertising in magazines and newspapers. They were one of the first Brands to pursue product tie-ins with celebrities and films.

A group of entrepreneurs acquired the brand in 2013 and launched their first new collection in 2016. It’s not a bad history for some teenage immigrants starting in a basement in South Philly – behind closed doors.

RoxAnneLava shoes on display
Vintage Belber Suitcase – featuring RoxAnneLava Shoes

I bought the suitcase. I use it for display. I like to think that just maybe the Belber brothers started their business in MY basement! Even if they didn’t, their suitcase and story are a constant inspiration to me as I build my brand and business.

Behind so many “closed” doors, there is innovation, creativity and new products being born – that’s Philadelphia!

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Your itchy, and maybe moth-eaten, sweater can yield a bunch of comfy new items that will keep you cozy in the coldest of conditions.  FELTING is a process using used wool that becomes a new fabric…or a new wool! Amazing and an ultimate recycling approach. [NOTE: If you are allergic to wool, this will NOT work.]

Wool is a wonderful fiber. It’s natural and replenishable. It holds air, retains heat making it a great insulator and it’s water resistant. This makes it a great choice for socks, mittens, gloves, hats, totes, etc. But how do you get past that itch? 

FELT IT! Felting is a super easy process that will soften the fibers, making them much less itchy. All that is required is 100% wool fabric, woven or knitted, hot water, soap and agitation. You can do small pieces by hand and it’s a great project for kids. TIP – Medium weight wools work best. For me, the best results come from 100% Lambswool and Merino.

The Felting Process:

Soak – Soap – Agitate – Dry

Soaking in hot water opens the fibers. Soap acts as a lubricant. Agitation allows the fibers to interconnect, creating fabric. Drying compacts the fibers, shrinking the sweater further into fabric.

I like to use my washer/dryer.  First I spray or soak each item using hot water and squirt on dishwashing soap. Next, I fill the washer with Hot water and place the items in. I let them soak for a further 10 minutes in the Hot Water to allow the fibers to fully open. Then I run them through the regular wash cycle providing agitation. And finally I dry them in my dryer. It may take several cycles to get the items to felt into fabric.

Is It FELT yet?

Here you can see the sweaters before felting and the same sweaters after 1 full felting cycle. Note the maroon and green sweaters are still showing their knitted loops quite prominently after the first cycle. Your sweaters have NOT become fabric until these loops are gone. I put all 4 through a second felting cycle, but I still need to put the green and maroon through a third cycle to get rid of those subtle loops. ENERGY SAVING TIP – Do your felting with your regular wash. I generally throw mine in with my sheets and towels.

You’ve Got Your Felt, Now What?

Felt is fabric, so you can do any cut and sew project with felt. My favorite quick idea is to use the sleeves as leg warmers. Simple cut the sleeve, pull over your foot with the wrist side at your ankle, Pull up to the knee, or slouch to complete the look.

Looking for a great snow day project? Make some felt slippers!

Your sweater will yield a few pairs of felted slide on slippers. With a few supplies you can create an indoor pair. Cozy toes! It’s a relatively simple project that can be finished in a couple of hours. For a FREE supply sheet and directions, or to purchase pre-made kits, visit the shop.

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Hand Made – Hand Woven – Harris Tweed – Highland Mules

This summer I visited the Isle of Harris – the home of Harris tweed where I saw an excellent example of an established creative economy that is a driver for the overall economy. Harris Tweed is woven on foot peddal looms in the homes or studios of weavers on the Isle of Harris. Many weave traditional designs expressly for the bureau. Several are independent designers and are able to also weave their own designs. These independent designs are sanctioned by the bureau before they are ready for Prime Time.

machair tweed
machair inspired tweed

Each tweed is certified and the fabric comes with a number of authentic labels. I selected one tweed from independent designer, Rebecca Hutton of Taobh Tuath Tweeds that is inspired by the “machair”, the undergrowth on the Island plain. The colors in the tweed change as it moves through various lights.

all tweeds
machair and traditional tweeds raw, felted

I also selected 2 traditional tweeds, pictured here next to the machair. I elected to felt these two. The images on the bottom are the raw tweeds. Images on the top are felted. I began the felting by hand and then did finish in the washer dryer. These two tweeds have a lovely hand.

Limited pairs of mules are available in each of the 3 tweeds. Order between October 1 -10 for delivery by November 15th.