Thursday, March 27, 2014

simple animal paw shoes for theater + halloween costumes

I made these shoes for the Cat in the Hat for our preschool's recent production, to match the costume I retrofitted (coming up in a future post). It's funny; I had let the other costume maker borrow my one and only costume shoe pattern and was scrambling to get some shoes made for a dress rehearsal, but this style actually ended up working better than the pattern I'd loaned her.

You'll remember that my computer died? As in DEAD dead. The hard drive and logic board both keeled over at the same time, which means I could only use my phone for internet searches, and my phone won't send anything to my printer. So while I remembered this Martha Stewart felt slippers pattern, I had to improvise and hand-draw rather than printing it. All's well that ends well; these turned out just right.

For the soles, I used two layers of this old rough-backed felt from the stacks of leftover fabric in the theater supplies at school. For the body, I used one layer of the stiff-backed felt and one layer of the hound's tooth flannel I'd used for the Cat's costume. The foot pads are cut from a scrap of red ostrich leather I bought awhile back at a thrift store, zig-zag appliqued into place before assembling the shoes.

To make your own, you can follow Martha's original instructions with the following changes:

1) Instead of a single layer of thick felt, I used one layer of thinner craft felt and one layer of woven fabric, serged together at the edges. Word to the wise: when using thinner felt, using mutiple layers is key. You'll get a lot of stretch and wear-through with single layers.

2) The appliques are used (in addition to the rough-bottomed felt) to make the shoes non-slip, and to add some durability. Highly recommended, whether for Halloween or for theater. In addition to making the shoes less slippery and more sturdy, the pads are an especially nice touch if, at any point, your character shows the bottoms of his or her feet to an audience. This happened in our play, and every time I could feel how much it added to the kids' experience.

3) The original pattern leaves the seams on the outside; I tucked mine inside.

4) As the cuffs are layered with woven fabric + felt, they don't have much stretch, so the wearer will have to spend a minute working them onto his or her feet. It actually makes them fit really securely, and for a seldom-used costume piece it's not too much of an inconvenience.

Like most things, you can adapt these pretty endlessly to a variety of costumes. Switch up the fabric, use faux fur, different color leather, etc.

More to come! Thanks for reading.

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