start date: 19 May 2017
time elapsed: 6 days
Last summer, in a fit of pique, I tried to resign myself to doing shoes for the smalls the conventional way.
I was frustrated with my inability to make a shoe that stayed on Númenor’s foot, and I was out of the natural rubber soling material I use for all-purpose shoes anyway, so I gave in and bought shoes for the smalls. Or at least I tried to.
I went to the websites where I normally buy shoes for Robert and myself. I tried the vendors I’ve been hoping to win a pair from but couldn’t really afford, assuming their kids’ shoes would be cheaper. I tried the brands I’d heard were for hippies. None of them had acceptable shoes for children. Several brands didn’t have kids’ sizes at all, a couple had adult sizes and baby booties but no shoes for children, and the few that had shoes in the right sizes for my kids were so aggressively gendered I couldn’t find anything I would consent to buy, much less anything my funky, post-gender kids were interested in.
So I finally just bought some cheap crap on Zulily. And the smalls loved the way their “storebought shoes” looked, but they were stiff-soled and uncomfortable to wear, and the sneakers took too much work to get on and off, and they couldn’t be laundered, and one of the pairs of shoes I bought after trying my hardest to find things that passed the minimum standard STILL came with a California Prop 65 warning.
And now, 8 months in, the sneakers are worn through in the toes and aglets. The flats still look okay, but they don’t have much time left in the toes, either.
So, to review:
Pros: cheap, recycled/recyclable, easy to mend, washable, biodegradable, uses fabric scraps, custom, ergonomic, unique, sweatshop-free
Cons: time-consuming to make, time-consuming to repair, tend to slip off Númenor’s feet, last 4-10 months
Pros: fast, novelty materials (glitter fabric, etc.), secure on the foot, reusable/recyclable boxes
Cons: non-biodegradable, produced with fossil fuels, assembled by slave labor, MUCH more expensive than homemade, produced by the thousands or millions, difficult for smalls to use without help, stiff soles, narrow footbed, cause cancer or reproductive harm, difficult to clean, nearly impossible to repair, packaged in unnecessary plastic, last about 8-10 months
And so, here I am making new shoes for the smalls at home again.
But in the intervening time, I came to a couple new conclusions: first, I only want shoes for the smalls to last less than a year at this point because they grow so fast, that’s about the lifespan of footwear for them anyway. Second: I have been causing myself unnecessary grief using western-style shoes and a storebought pattern.
This time I’m trying a new approach: breech moccasins from a custom pattern I drafted from a water-resist impression of Númenor’s actual feet. The toebox is nice and wide, and the soles are natural rubber crepe, cushioned with a layer of wool blanket and lined with a scrap of cotton muslin. The uppers are sewn together from the few usable bits of an old pair of Robert’s twill pants and hand embroidered in variegated cotton floss. They are designed to be lightweight on the foot and flexible, while still giving moderate protection from rough terrain and the elements.
So far, I love them. They should stand up well, and be easy to mend and patch for a few months, and then, probably at the end of next fall or in the spring, they’ll be ready for the wadding bin.
The skull-print muslin is Blackbeard Skull in Black from the “Blackbeard’s Pirates” collection by Riley Blake Designs.