February 25, 2011

Boot Cover Tutorial Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of Bootcover Land! Todays topics include, finding your materials, preparing your mockup, and sewing your bootcover. All the steps inbetween creating and attaching to your shoes!

For those just joining us, I'm making Vyse's boots from the videogame Skies of Arcadia (which is good. GO PLAY IT)

1.) Finding the Right Materials

Now that we have our chosen shoes in place, next up comes one of the more particular tasks: finding your materials. Once again, we go back to our reference pictures (I'm only posting one, cause it's easier):

Arrrr we be makin' my boots!

Bootcovers can be made of many types of materials. I VERY strongly suggest using a thicker material over a thin one - like canvas vs broadcloth. You need something heavy, sturdy, and something that can definitely take a beating. You're going to be walking around in these, most likely at convention spaces larger than say, your living room.

So taking a look at my picture here, we can see that Vyse is a pirate. Pirates tended to wear leather boots, as he's got that "adventurer" sort of feel. That and if you look at the reflections on the darker part of his boots, it looks a little shiny, so it's made of a slickish material.

For my shoes which I am choosing "leather" I don't plan on using real leather. You can, but it seems like a waste of money to me. I'd much rather just pick up a nice upholstery pleather and call it good.

NOTE: Upholstery pleather tends to be pricey. Either wait for a sale or a coupon for your local craft/fabric stores, or go searching their redtag/bargain bin areas.

I can usually estimate how much fabric I'll need visually (smaller pairs of shoes/boots will usually take up to maybe 1 yard of 60" upholstery pleather. And that's with room for extra bits and things allotted), but if you can't, I highly suggest making your mockup first THEN shopping.

Speaking of mockups...

2.) Preparing Your Mockup

A mockup is the "rough draft" of your sewing project. It's something that you can write all over, cut to pieces, and not worry about screwing up because it's made with some fabric you really don't care about. I try to use thicker fabric for mockups like boots - it'll act similar to the pleather I'll be using.

Unfortunately, I was bad and didn't take a lot (read: any) of my mockup process, but I will be drawing some pictures for you ASAP (once my arm stops being fail), and posting them here.

Also, everybody's shoes will be different than mine. Play around with the fabric until you get it to be the shape you want.


For mockups, I will usually start with putting the shoe/boot/footwear on, and then sandwiching it between two  layers of mockup fabric. I pin down my leg at the seams I desire. Often times, this will lead to a seam going down the front of the boot, and the back. This is not usually much of a problem for rounded toe boots, or the like.

Vyse was a little different. The toe shape of his boots was a little bit more square than I have to work with, so I needed to pad it out. Used some "car top liner" to create the padding. because the shoes have a square toe, I added two "darts" at the toe edge to give it that rectangular shape.

Yes. Make sure to label ALL your pieces R & L.
You WILL get confused if you don't.
Trust me.

Looking at the shoes, I also realized, that having the seam down the center wasn't going to work out so well. I created a mockup piece to match the front cover of the boot (it'll get covered up by his other details later). After copious amounts of finagling and swearing at my machine, I had pattern pieces to work with.

NOTE: ALWAYS write on your mockup fabric - front, back, sides, what foot (R or L) you were working on. The pieces will NEED to be reversed for the other foot.

3.) Sewing Your Bootcover

Before you can sew, you need to cut out your fabric.

Don't waste good pleather!
Put your pieces as close as possible.

Carefully lay out your pieces on your pleather (or fabric of choice.) If you use pleather, make sure to pin the fabric in your seam allowances (that part that is the flappy bits on the inside of your piece). Pleather does NOT give, and if you puncture holes all in it, there is a healthy chance they'll STAY there and you'll have a garish looking hole in your costume piece.

NOTE: I keep labeling everying R or L!

Before sewing, always make sure your pieces are prepared. I did not want to have to sew an edge on this pleather, so I managed to find a copic/alcohol based marker (NOT a permanent marker, they do weird things) and I colored in the edges that will most likely be seen by people. This also helps with that "looks like actual leather" thing too.

Sew each cover, part by part, so as not to confuse the two. I recommend setting your stitch length to the longest it can be (mine says "4"). Otherwise, you could risk 'perforating' your pleather, and it falls apart in your hands. And it's easier to take apart if you mess something up. I'd also suggest keeping a stock of machine needles nearby. There is a STRONG chance you'll bend a needle or two, depending on the quality/durability of your machine. (Mine somehow can sew through just about everything)

This was Bootcover Try #4,685.
Okay, actually it was about Try #4.
Lots of swearing was involved.

The bootcuffs were something of an entirely different beast, and it took me at least 4 SEPARATE tries to finally get them to "not fail" quality and "good enough for jazz". Seeing as how in both the pictures and the game, they are INCREDIBLY thick, I needed to use padding. I chose "car top liner", and realized after a few failed attempts at math, that I just needed to do separate strips and layer them. 

I went through a lot of this crap for these cuffs.
Thank goodness JoAnn's had a sale on upholstery stuff.

I covered the cuffs in an upholstery suede to get that "soft/inside of leather" look. It took me lots of tries to get this right (and a lot of swearing). things I learned:

1.) Math late at night = FAIL.
2.) Cartop liner only goes through your machine with the fabric sides out. Otherwise, it bunches, and gets eaten by your machine.
3.) Many layers of cartop liner does not go through your machine as well as one would like.
4.) Take it slow when sewing all the pieces together. Otherwise your machine makes weird sounds.

NEXT UP: Attaching your bootcover to your boot (and how not to get get high off the fumes), and then finishing your boot!

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