Starting my first pair of lasted shoes

My foot is 8¼” long by 4″ wide.  For a 5’3″ tall woman weighing ~200 lbs, that’s not much foot and the relation of length to width makes it an EEEEEE.  Yup, that was six Es.  My sister’s foot is the same, though she’s quite a bit finer boned than I am and probably weighs just a bit less.  She has mom’s bone structure, I have dad’s.  Her face is oval, mine is square.  She has long oval fingernails and I have short square fingernails.  Why our feet are the same size . . . <shrug> . . . it’s genetics.

Because there is no company on this earth that I am aware of that makes shoes that are designed to fit my feet, I’ve taken to making my own footwear, for better or worse.  And because, as I’m sure you’re aware if you’ve spent any time on this site at all, I do things my own way, the methods and steps I used to create my first pair of shoes differ from those who seriously embrace classic cordwaining.   I’m sure by now I’ve got the folks on the cordwaining forum mentally throwing stones at me.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least gently stir the pot a little.

So here we go, my first pair of lasted shoes.

My last

Because I cannot purchase a last that will produce a shoe that will fit my feet, I have to start with a last.  I made boxes to use as containers for molding my feet.  I mixed alginate, poured it in the boxes and stepped in.  For small feet like mine I used a total of three 1lb bags of alginate which I got from my wonderful dentist.

Once the alginate set I wiggled my feet free, mixed plaster of paris and filled the molds to the brim.

Once the plaster of paris had set I tore the alginate apart to release the plaster feet therein.

I built up the plaster foot form with more plaster to give myself a toe box shape.  As you can see I didn’t add enough to the length and ended up having to add more length after I got the resin last.  I also shaped and filled in rough spots.

After the plaster was dry I cleaned up the plaster feet and sent them to my son for casting in a two part resin.  The result is what you see.  The screws allow the last to be taken apart for easy removal from the shoe.

Leather molded to the bottom of the last

To make sure the last would give me the right shape for my foot I molded a piece of leather to the bottom.  When I stepped into this form with my sock-clad foot, I could tell I was on the right track.

Let’s get leafy

Lovely fall colors

I’ve gotten a good start on the tree top for Lorr’s quilt.  I think it’s going to be lovely.  The quilt isn’t as complex as the sunset quilt so, when I have time to work on it, it’s going together pretty fast.  I still need dark browns, charcoal/ink navy/midnight green fabric for the border and silvery pale blues for the background behind the tree.

This is going to be a simple yet striking quilt that Lorr and Patty should be able to use without fear of ruining something of heirloom quality.

Glorious color

The glorious tree-top color

I sorted fabric two days ago and started cutting the treetop yesterday.  I mumbled something to Wadly about scaffolding so I could walk back and forth while applying color to the top of my design wall.  I think he’s a bit aghast at the concept of  having more construction like stuff in the house.  I have a step stool to use for now . . . wholly inadequate but it’s what I’ve got.

Maybe I should give him a choice . . . 8 foot step ladder or scaffolding . . . <evil grin>

Lorr’s Quilt

Line drawing of Lorr's quilt
Dance template will be used for grass section
Blunt pinwheel for tree truck blocks
Oriental pinwheel for the leaves.


My next big quilt is going to be for my son and his SO.  He and Patty both like fall colors, so I’m doing a tree in glorious fall oranges and reds using the watercolor technique I used for the sunset.

This time I want to use a variety of blocks and not set them in columns and rows.  I want the application of the color to be less organized so I’ll set some of the parts askew and join the blocks of like colors in a running bond pattern where I can.

I have designed four different types of the pinwheel blocks.  One produces a triangular block which, when assembled produces six pointed nested pinwheels when the color is organized.  The pinwheel element is the sharpest of the blocks and I’ll use this one as grass.

I have a blunt pinwheel block that I’ll use for the tree trunk and a rounded pinwheel I’ll use for the leaves.

I’ll use the square dance block (same as the sunset quilt) for the backgound.

I’m having trouble finding pale silvery blues for the background.  I’ve got lots of yellow/orange/red/burgundy for the leaves and lots of green for the grass but I could use more dark grayish brownish for the tree trunk and more charcoal darks for the 8″ border.

Lots going on

I’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now.  Lorr has lasts ready for me.  I need boots for a clinic I’m doing in January (  The comfy slip-ons I have are SO not going to work for that activity.  Getting boots made is a priority.

I’m in the middle of building a sawdust stove ( so we stay warmer when the cold weather hits in February.  Hopefully that will be done by this weekend.

All cut and ready to go

I have a mariner’s compass to finish for LouAnn, a border to put on my confetti stars quilt and two bog coats to make, a simple reversible one for LouAnn and two-color one requiring quite a bit of applique/prep for my friend Mickey.

I’ve promised another bog coat in purple and black to Mindy with her farm logo, but it’s not going to happen right away.

I need an escape from all the complicated stuff, something I can mindlessly sit and sew while admiring the pretty colors without thinking too hard.

I’ve been planning a square dance quilt for my bed for a while.   When I cut fabric for square dance blocks for borders I’d cut extra and add to my collection of fabrics for this quilt.  It takes 106 to make a queen sized quilt and I’ve got 120+.  This block is super easy to sew, pretty and just what I need to give me some busy work.

Bog Coat Finish

Lips of the camo seam sewn together from the paisley side. You can see the soluble stabilizer in the seams.
Running stitch from the camo side

The paisley side closed up. Here I'm using a series of running stitches followed by a whip stitch, repeat.

I’m pecking away at getting the pink paisley/camo bog coat seams closed up.  I’m using a running stitch to close up the seams.  For one set of seams I’m leaving the soluble stabilizer untouched.  The other set I will dissolve the stabilizer before sewing.  This will help me establish which method produces a better result.

This coat is so girly cute I’m temped to add lace in the front bodice seam.  I won’t, but I’m tempted.

LouAnn has offered to finish stitching down the binding on the nested stars quilt and, bless her, I’m going to let her.

Tangled Stars

All quilted and looking beautiful

Here’s the Tangled Stars quilt back from quilting.  It looks beautiful!  Karen did such a nice job!   It’s quilted in variegated thread which beautifully compliments the colors of the big pinwheels.
The variety of color in both the big multi-color AND small yellow pinwheels really adds to the quilt’s appeal.

I’ve got the binding sewn on but it will take a while to hand stitch it down.  I can do about two feet per sitting/day.  I don’t need the quilt finished until the next Guild quilt show (July 2011) so I’ve got lots of time to peck away at it.

Compass Update

Quarters pinned together with "will not work" center pinned behind

Well, this center certainly isn’t going to work.  Ugh.

I talked with Mindy.  Our next test will use the final points fabric (looks like ocean waves) as the center background and a smaller (2/3 to 3/4 height/width) star in the two shades of green.  I’ll set it off with a small 1/4″ border between the center and the compass points.

I’ll get it put together and we’ll see what it looks like. Just about anything would be an improvement over my first attempt.

Project for family

Mariner's Compass

Years and years ago (in the 70’s) Mindy (LouAnn’s daughter) bought fabric for a quilt of ocean waves around a mariner’s compass center.  In the last half-year, LouAnn has been diligently working on getting the ocean waves blocks done.  The construction of the compass portion of the quilt top falls to me.  I want to finish this up today.  So far, so good.

Skimpy Border

Stopper border attached

I’ve got a Guild Board meeting tonight.  If Karen’s there I’ll pass this quilt top on to her.  It really needs one more border, maybe a 3″ or a bit wider.  I don’t have anything in my stash that will work.  The quilt came out really nice.  I love working with batik and the pattern looks complicated but is actually a quick sew.

Last bits

Precise cutting, sewing and ironing produce perfect pinwheels

I’m down to the final bits on this sampler.  I’ve got all the partial blocks cut for squaring up the top.  I still don’t have a plan for the border.  Once I get all the assembly done I’ll dig through my fabric to see what I can find that appeals.

This pattern only work with batiks.  The long narrow points will get lost in a heavier fabric.



It’s rainy and dismal today, so the colors in the photo are muted.  This is a decent sized test of the Starfish” block.  I’ll have to come up with a more representative name, maybe “confetti stars”.

There are enough blocks to make a small comfort quilt, depending on what I add as a border.  The finished size of the blocks is ~38″x~40″.  I may have enough background fabric scraps to make the necessary half-blocks to fill in the outside edge.  The three blocks on the right end will have to be used as filler blocks.

The blocks for this quilt go together amazingly quickly because the fabric is strip pieced before the blocks are cut.

I think I would like this pattern better with a dark background, but then we all know I prefer dark background quilts where the bright colors can really pop.  One of the dark fabric I used as pinwheel fabric is a blue/black that would be perfect.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for more of that fabric.

Wood quilts

Carved wood quilt

Fraser Smith carves beautiful wood things, including quilts.  I love his stuff.  I’m so intrigued by his stuff I have to try to replicate a few.

This quilt pattern is one I’ve been working on for a while.   I’ve figured out a way to strip piece it.  It goes together amazingly fast but is definitely an advanced pattern as Y seams are a must.

Starfish quilt test

The is a test of the strip piecing method of constructing this pattern.  The background for this test is leftover backing from the Ichthy bog coat.  The pinwheels are scraps from my stash.

Quiltable Bog

Layered and trimmed
Mark and cut the sleeve
Soluble stabilizer cut into ~3
Stitching and trimming - note the layer of stabilizer between the fabrics
Clip the inside corners
Press. Isn't that a luscious paisley?

This is what the sleeve cut will look like after the stabilizer is stitched together. This gives the quilter a visual break for the quilting.

This is the step by step of preparing the bog coat for long-arm quilting.  If you don’t know the basics of bog coat construction, you’ll need to bone up for this post to make any sense at all.  Because this post has a lot of pictures, they are thumbnail size.  You’ll need to click to see the enlarged version of the image.

Because the fabrics and batting I purchased were all pretty close to the same size, layering and trimming was pretty simple.  Press all three layers, stack them with the fabrics right sides together and the batting against the fabric that will be the main outside fabric.  Trim the selvages and square up the cut edges.  Once you have the stack of fabric and batting trimmed, pin the edges to keep everything aligned while you’re cutting and sewing.

Using 45″ width fabric , the 45″ will be the vertical measure.  Purchase the amount of fabric you need to go around your body or to go from wrist to wrist over your shoulder, whichever is longer.

For determining how deep to make the sleeve cut, I do not follow the standard bog coat construction.  Physically, I have more real estate in the front than in the back.  It’s a girl thing.  Instead, I measure from underarm seam to underarm seam across my back at underarm level and add 2 inches.  That’s the amount I leave intact across for the back of the coat.  The extra in the part that has been cut to make the sleeve I will put to good use in the front covering said real estate.

Insert stabilizer between the fabric layers on both sides of the sleeve cut and between the fabric layers at the front edges, matching the edge of the stabilizer to the edge of the fabric and extending the stabilizer ½” beyond the end of the sleeve cut.  Pin in place.  When the garment is turned right side out for quilting, the soluble stabilizer will be sticking out of those seams.

The goal isn’t so much giving the quilter something to grab as it is to prepare the seams for construction after the quilting is complete.  The bottom, front and neck can be bound.  Binding the yoke and under arm seams would create bulk and the result wouldn’t be reversible.  I’m hoping this technique will allow the fabric seam lips to be slip stitched together inside and out  to create a completely reversible quilted garment.

For the sleeve cut I’ve stitched from the outside edge in, then across ¼” from the end of the slit and back out the other side, as if sewing the box for a welt pocket.

The batting in the seam allowance needs to be trimmed away to reduce bulk.  I didn’t grade the seam allowance.  There’s only a scant ¼” of fabric in the seam allowance, not enough to trim and expect the seam to hold together.

Clip the inside corners of the sleeve cut almost to the stitching so the fabric lays smooth once the garment is turned right side out.  This is the same thing you’d do for a welted pocket.

Remove all the pins holding the layers together and turn the coat right side out.  Make sure your iron is set to no steam and press the seams.  Don’t touch the stabilizer with the iron, it can melt and distort.

And finally, before it goes off to the quilter, the pieces of stabilizer sewn into the sleeve cut need to be sewn together ¼” from the seam allowance.  This “repairs” the cut making the cloth entire and allows it to lay flat for quilting.  Sew these pieces together so the excess stabilizer sticks up on the side the quilter sees while working.  This gives a visual guide so no quilting is done beyond the seam.

When the bog coat comes back from Karen I will trim the sleeves to the right length, trim the front to match the yoke and hand sew the under arm and yoke seams before adding binding.  Because this coat is reversible I want to sew the seams to allow a button hole in the seam allowance to allow the bottom edge of the sleeve to be turned up into an accent cuff.

For the next bog coat using this technique I will trim the sleeves to ¾ length and the front to the proper length before sewing in the stabilizer.  Once the coat is turned right side out and pressed, I will baste stabilizer to the remaining raw edges using soluble thread to give the quilter something to grab.  No trimming should need to occur after I get the coat back from the quilter.  I want the next coat to have a cheetah pattern quilted in a border around the edges which can only be done if the garment is trimmed to size and completely stabilized.  I’ll have to mark the front and neck openings so the border continue around those edges.

It’s the turns that make life interesting

ComeQuiltWithMe's coffin quilt pattern, a very large version (3"x4½") of the block I'm contemplating using

I’m working on a new quilt idea.  I’ve discussed it before, the koi pond repeat in some sort of watercolor technique similar to the sunset quilt.

I originally flirted with using the 2″ square dance block but have since veered toward a stretched hex (coffin, not honeycomb).  I’ve ordered some coffin shaped English paper pieces. They’re gonna take a while to get here because the shape isn’t a standard one for so they’ll have to draft it before sending it to the laser cutter computer.  Hopefully it’s not going to cost an arm and a leg.

This morning I had a flash . . . what if I created a stamp the size and shape I want.  I could stamp the image on the back of the material, do some pin matching and sew the seams by machine.  Y seams don’t bother me and I think I can pin and sew accurately enough to do the job by machine.  I wouldn’t have to trim super accurately, wouldn’t have to use a template, wouldn’t have to sew the blocks together by hand (English paper piecing).  Hmmm . . . You KNOW I’m gonna have to try . . .

So, ever the research queen, I’ve been looking at rubber stamps.  I found this really plain Jane website with rubber stamp construction info.  Next time I head into town I’ll pick up a blank stamp and see if I can carve what I need.  Before I do that I’ll draw a couple and try sewing and see what I get.

Moving on

Everything I need . . .

I sent my Ichthy bog coat off today to the NW Quilting Expo.  I was going to drive it down but the drop off locations were both on the south end of Portland.  It just wasn’t worth it.  With insurance the shipping was $14.  I can’t drive there for that.

I swung through WalMart and got 4 lengths of inexpensive yardage for two quickie bog coats, one in pinks and greens and the other in fall colors.  I’m working on a technique by which the bog coat sandwich can be held in place in the longarm frame for quilting and can be easily assembled when the quilting is complete.  The resulting bog coat should be completely reversible.  We’ll see how well I do.

When I got the Ichthy bog coat back after the quilting I spent quite a bit of time picking quilting out of the seam allowances, then trimming out batting, basting down the seam allowances and appliquéing a strip of lining to cover the seam allowances.  My poor planning really bit me in the butt.  Yuck.  The finished coat is very smooth and a pro job, but I know I can make the quilting easier for Karen and the assembly easier for me by spending a small amount of time preparing ahead.  I want people who examine the construction to scratch their heads about how it was done.  <evil grin>

The picture shows the pink and green paisley and matching camo.  Also shown are the batting (rayon), water soluble stabilizer and water soluble thread.  I’m hoping the rayon batting will provide a better drape than my normal Warm and Natural quilt fav.  Warm and Natural softens with washing and use, but I’m hoping the rayon provides that softness right from the start.

And, in case you didn’t know, WalMart has batting in bolts.  Our local store has 45″ wide Warm and Natural as well as the 45″ wide rayon.  For this app, 45″ wide is perfect and being able to buy off a bolt lets me get only what I need.

The construction technique I’ve got floating around in my mind is a little complicated, so I’ll take pictures as I go and write a good description.

The beauty of Karen

Click to see the detail

I love Karen’s quilting.  She is so creative.  I never would have thought to add a quilted in fish for the appliquéd fish to chase.  That creativity is one of the things I love about Karen.

Update: LouAnn tells me my coat got a blue ribbon and an Honorable Mention, which I take to mean it’s the runner up for best of class.  That’s nice!  It wouldn’t have happened without Karen’s quilting.

The traveling fish

The traveling fish

My bog coat is off and traveling.  Karen did a beautiful job on the quilting giving a quite spectacular result.  The coat is being judged at the local fair today and slated <fingers crossed> to go to the NW Quilt Expo next.

I learned a lot building this bog coat. I will construct the next one differently.  It won’t effect the look, just the ease of final construction.  The goal on the next is to be able to put the seams together with a slip stitch.  In this one I sewed the seams, picked out the quilting in the seam allowance, clipped away the batting, fastened the seam allowance open/flat with a basting stitch and covered the open seam with a strip of the coat lining.  It was tidy, but very work intensive.  I am WAY too lazy to go that route again.

No closure, but the binding's done

I wanted to make this one with no binding on the center front so there was no disturbance of the row of pinwheels. I didn’t make that happen. I will next time.

I need to purchase two things before starting the next bog coat.  I need soluble thread and wash away stabilizer.  I will pre-assemble the sandwich with exposed grippers of soluble stabilizer so Karen can quilt right to the edge of the front and the yoke and underarm seams.  I think I can make this happen . . .