Casting for lasts

Instep side

One of the most difficult roadblocks I’ve run into for making my own shoes is good lasts. The better the last matches the foot, the better the fit of the shoe. The better the footbed matches the stabilized foot (vertical support system, forefoot flat on the floor, heel not weight bearing), the less stress put on the leg/ankle.

Because I have both fit issues (3½EEEEEE and 4EEEEE) and support issues (high arch and instep and wrecked left ankle), having a superior fitting last is essential.

Looking down into the heel bed

In the past when I cast my foot I had problems. Part of this is simply learning curve, part of it is technique requiring modification or improvement. When casting your foot in plaster, any movement of the foot changes the final shape of the mold, pushing the mold material and making a loose fitting cast. I’ve wracked my brain on this one and I have the answer to that, finally.  An elastic bandage.

The day before yesterday I cast part of my foot with the intent to build a mold for creating a modified foot bed press for my left foot (bad ankle leg). I bought an Art Minds Plaster Wrap from the craft store and cut half of it into lengths ranging from just over 1′ to just under 1½’.  After collecting all my bits and pieces (plastic to set my foot on while casting, pan of warm water, serrated butter knife, plastic bag, elastic wrap, small bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a 2″ paint brush) together in a convenient spot and protecting the floor, I painted the area of the foot I was casting with olive oil.

I had a reason for not wrapping my foot in plastic before adding the plaster wrap.  No matter what you do, the plastic changes the shape of the foot.  Where there’s only one tiny thin layer it doesn’t make much difference, but every fold and wrinkle adds up to a sloppy fit.  The sloppier the fit the more you have to do to the mold to make it work.  It’s much easier just to paint the foot with olive oil.  Using a paint brush kept it off my hands and gave me a nice thick coat of oil on my foot.

I dipped the pieces of plaster wrap in warm water, squeegeeing off as much of the extra water as I could and proceeded to wrap my foot.

When I finished adding the plaster wrap I covered my foot with a plastic bag and wrapped it with an elastic bandage.  This final bit is the true trick.  It provides tension and keeps the plaster wrap tight against the foot so the end result is a snug fit while the plaster sets.  Before, when casting my foot, I would invariably end up with loose spots in the casting that made the casting less than useful.

With my foot all en-swathed, I sat with a small amount of weight pressing down through my leg into my forefoot with my heel slightly off the ground until the plaster set enough to hold its shape.  I paid particular attention to having my leg properly aligned vertically above my ankle and my ankle flexed to a create a right angle between my foot and my leg.

When the plaster had cured to leather hard, I unwrapped the elastic bandage, removed the plastic wrap and, using a butter knife with a serrated edge, carefully sawed down the front of the casting to almost the edge above the toes.  I pried the edges apart and slid my foot out, wrapping a piece of plastic bag around the casting to close up the front edges before setting it aside to finish curing/drying.

Next time I do this I will be casting the whole foot.  I will fold/roll a piece of plaster wrap lengthwise to create a thicker top edge.  This will help strengthen the casting.  I’ll also get Wadly to help.  This is a much easier job with two people, one to own the foot and hand over the tools and materials, the other to do the wrapping.

New dog!

Border Collie cross puppy

Say hi to Buddy! He’s about 8 months old and is a real character. He’s got Border Collie energy and intelligence but whatever the other half is, it’s not small. He’s about 4″ taller than a BC already and I suspect he’s not quite done growing.

Buddy came to us because he was overly protective of the children in his previous home.  Biting the grandparents when they came over to visit made him just a bit unpopular and no-one in the home was very dog savvy. A new home was a must.

If he’d gone to the animal shelter he would have been put down as a biter and he’s much too nice a dog for that fate.  Plus he’s dead funny!  Watching him harass the girls, tease them and drag his rope around is worth the price of admission.  After the small back yard he lived in before, he loves the extra room to fun.  He spends all the time smiling and having fun.

He leaves the chickens alone and doesn’t bother the cats.  He’s learned to be polite and wait his turn for goodies.  He’s learning not to jump on people.

In the month he’s been here we’ve had one near-bite incident.  While he’s learning to be comfortable with people coming to visit, by the end of summer he should have a firm grasp on bark, DO NOT bite.  Having older dogs to show him how it’s done is helping a lot.  He’s physically tough and supremely self-confident and he’s learning to play gently with Chuck.

A coat for Mindy

Light denim jacket

I bought a jacket pattern and have made a number of jackets from that pattern.  It’s three pattern pieces and it goes together really fast and is very comfortable.

I had some denim in my stash, some stretch, some red pinstriped, and I combined the two into a single garment that turned out really nice.  It’s going to my sister for her to wear at work.  I was really pleased with the jacket but this iteration really needed pockets.  Patching pockets to the outside would have ruined the appearance of the front so I made curved slits bound in red goat leather.  The pockets are stretch denim patched onto the inside and sewn down using navy thread to make then as invisible as I can make them.

Red goat hide bound pocket.

The back and sleeves are solid blue stretch denim which makes the jacket very comfortable while still looking classy/casual.  The red leather to match the pinstripes on the front makes a nice accent and the curved opening makes the pockets easy to use.  I’m altering the pattern one more time for a more fitted sleeve and a fold over shawl collar.  I’ve got some black stretch denim I’ll use for that iteration.

I had gotten one pocket put on and was taking a break to eat lunch when my 35 year old Viking 6750 suddenly started running and billowing smoke.  <wince>  I unplugged it and set it out on the deck to finish smoking where I didn’t have to breathe it.  I figure if it was smoking I wasn’t going to be repairing it anytime soon.