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Meet Elba the one-strap clog

Meet Elba
Meet Elba

Elba is my first prototype. She’s with a tester now to see how we she goes. Elba is a one-strap cement construction clog. The clog is a complete component made of wood with a rubber sole from Italy -very chic.

Elba shaped insole
Elba shaped insole

I chose to use a padded insole, again using the cork. My goal was to align the fit of the insole better to the outsole and cover the insole in a cleaner manner than I had done on my recycled shoes. I even tried my hand at shaping the insole to the outsole (note the curve).  I did a better job on the cover. You can see improvement in the edges and skiving.

Sadly I didn’t do too well on the size. In the end my insole is a bit too large. Lesson learned. Trim the insole before covering it. The decision to cut inside, outside or on a line can add or subtract a significant amount of area when several materials and components come together.

Elba Strap Construction
Elba Strap Construction

Next I attacked the weight of the leather. I have a  quantity of lightweight leather that I am using for much of my prototyping. Originally, I was going to secure the strap to the insole, but as my design developed, I decided on clog construction with decorative nails directly attaching the strap to the wood outsole. Either way, I thought the leather was too flimsy, so I backed it with cork to give it enough body. This was imperative for the nail method to work. You can see I glued my edges as if they were sewn. I skived the interior of the edges to try to get a smooth edge against the foot with partial success.

Elba Flower
Elba Flower

I had given up on the flower before I backed my strap, but as you can see, I found a really great resolution. I merely cut the floral shape and balled up the leather to create a distressed and wrinkled effect. I attached the shapes to the strap with thin leather cord that acts as the pistils. In my next pair, this will happen before I back the strap.

IMG_3550 IMG_3551The nails were also a trip. A couple didn’t nail in smoothly and making them symmetrical was a chore. If you look carefully at the side view you will see that I chose to use only 3 nails, my aesthetic preference. That might be a mistake. I’ll have to see what my tester says about how they hold up.


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Recycling experiment = New Shoes

Recycling experiment: What would I get if I took apart a shoe I didn’t like so much and a Betsey Johnson hand bag that didn’t cut it and created a new shoe? This is the question I asked myself in June as the Shoe Symposium grew closer. I hadn’t made any shoes in over year and I was determined to make something so I could get back into making and get some feedback as well.

sandal components
Sandal Components
Betsey Johnson Handbag
Betsey Johnson Handbag

I started by breaking down a very inexpensive pair of sandals. The wedge fit well, but I never liked the upper. No problem. I had a Betsey Johnson hand bag that had great leather and hardware, but I hated the style. So I broke that down as well.

Insole and cork glued up
Insole and cork glued up
Insole covered with Cork
Insole covered with Cork

I knew I wanted to use cork for the insole. I like a slightly textured insole so my feet don’t slip. I used cement to cover the insoles and some clamps to help keep them tight while they dried.



Next, I prepared straps. Some went through vintage buckles. Others had hardware. I explored the potential on forms:

Design Development 1
Design  1
Design Development 2
Design  2
Design Development 3
Design  3
Design Development 4
Design  4
Design Development 5
Design  5





And on feet:

Design on Foot 3
Design on Foot 3
Design on Foot 2
Design on Foot 2
Design on Foot 1
Design on Foot 1





I made my final choice and put it all together:

Completed recycled sandal
Completed recycled sandal

These were entered into competition at the Shoe symposium primarily for feed back. I knew there were quite a few mistakes, but I wanted to pros to tell me what they saw, both good and bad. The critics did NOT know these were recycled.

As with all design critique, I got quite a range. On the craft side, I needed to work on my insole and outsole alignment and getting my straps symmetrical on both feet.  Other comments included a discussion of leather to hardware weight and I had worn them too much for competition (these were recycled soles).

finished recycled sandal
Finished recycled sandal

The critics were split on the cork insole cover. (I used this because I wanted to work with cork.) One critic loved the juxtaposition of cork with the metallic. One critic said the cork was too casual with the metallic. One critic did not comment.

I am thankful for the feedback and continue to work to correct the craft issues with each pair I make. I’m proudof the aesthetics and I’m happy to wear them. This recycling experiment makes me happy. I have the style shoe I like with the leather and hardware that suits me. These are truly greater than the sum of their parts.

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Sealskin Stilettos Oh My!

sealskin pumps
Nicole Camphaug pumps

In keeping with the Inuit tradition of using all of an animal, Nicole Camphaug, an Iqaluit designer, uses sealskin to create shoes with lots of panache and style. Considering a pair of her own worn out boots that she was going to sell, she suddenly got the idea to dress them up with scraps of sealskin. 5 hours later a trend was born. Family and friends asked for their own pair and pretty soon Camphaug was buying pelts.

Sealskin mens shoe
Nicole Camphaug men’s dress shoes


Made by Inuit in Nunavut these babies are popular. Offering Women’s and Men’s styles, Camphaug has had to recruit her husband to help and has even added in some jewelry with Inuit designs.


sealskin bootie
My fave – Camphaug bootie – Fantastic



Even so, at 5 hours of labor per pair, she is still looking for a business model that will lead her to a profitable fashion career. Listen, I’ll help her out. These beauties are to die for. So Anne!

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Feed Your Soul with decorative soles

Everyone knows about Louboutin’s signature red sole, but check out these artful renditions soles that feed your soul. Decorated soles are ephemeral delights for the wearer. When they are gone, they are gone, or maybe not.

morenatom sole
egg and sperm

My first pair of shoes with decorated soles are by Morenatom, a brazilian shoe design company. Aside from the fantastic sustainable colored and textured uppers  and a wooden heel, this sole features several sperm on an egg hunt. This little surprise gives me a giggle everytime I wear them. The bonus? Sometimes others get a peek when I cross my legs.

carved and paniaed sole
carved with patina

Various methods and approaches are used to create the sole – dying, painting, color blocking, etching, carving, patina. Петр Пилипук a hand-made shoe designer carved and added patina to these. These are delightful together and apart. I love the addition of leather to the shoe bag as well. A great package.

worn to reborn
worn to reborn

You can add an interesting sole, or replace one as well. Worn to Reborn is the vision of a young English decorative shoe repairman who will resole your shoes with your personal vision.  Spiderman, Shrek, Bilbo Baggins, no problem. He concentrates his efforts on the waist of the shoe so you can keep most of the design. No website, but you can follow him on instagram if you like.

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Warm Feet

Bear Paw Ankle Boots
Dog walking boot hoarding

In my part of the world we’ve had an early cold snap that’s reminded me I need warm feet. Dipping close to freezing for a few mornings, I had to dig my sheepskin boots out to walk my dog. I’m a fan of the Bear Paw brand. They are good quality and usually available at good prices on the flash sale sites. I generally buy a couple of pairs at the end of season and keep them handy.

Wool Insole
Wool insole after little wear

My end of last season pair of black Bear Paw’s came with a wool insole. It’s the first time I’ve had a wool insole and I HATE them. Under very little wear the insole flattens, pill and fall apart. It’s nasty. I’m a sheepskin insole girl.

Bear Paw Wedge
Good for dressy occasions.

I have always had a problem keeping my extremities warm in the winter. About 10 years ago I gave in to sheepskin boots and while I don’t love the styles, I do love the toasty toes. I have several style of boots so I’m covered for super casual (basic Ugg like styles), casual (moto-boot) and dress (black wedges with fur fold over) occasions. This solution is workable, but not ideal. I need more range in my wardrobe.

Bear Paw Moto
Bear Paw Moto boot

By pure happenstance I found the answer. Several years ago I was perusing the duty-free in the Auckland New Zealand airport and I found sheepskin insoles! These babies are a lifesaver. From that day forward, I was able to wear ANY of my boots or booties ALL winter! The added bonus-you can take them out when you are inside.

sheepskin insole
New Zealand insole-5+ seasons

These insoles are the best investment in winter warmers I’ve ever made. The sheepskin is resilient and easy to care for. Whenever you need a refresh just immerse the insoles in mildly soapy, luke-warm water. Let them soak about 10 minutes. Agitate just a bit. Remove and rinse in cold water. Roll in an absorbent towel and air dry. When the drying is complete fluff the fur and you are ready to go again. I’ve had the same pair for about 5 years.

UGG replacement insole
Foam bottom UGG replacement insole

To my delight, I have found that I can buy new ones in the US. In fact, Amazon has several options. I’m waiting for a pair of Dr. Sheepskin’s in grey today. (These will replace the wool insole.) Make sure you get the real ones with the sheepskin back. There are lots of insoles with the fur on a synthetic back-not nearly as quality as the real thing.

Get yourself a pair and grab some for holiday gifts. Get them now if you are heading into winter. They are hard to find once the cold sets in.