How to replace high heel insoles and add a hidden platform

I bought a pair of shoes at London Fashion Weekend sometime around 2009. Their shape is lovely, they have ankle straps to stay on, and they are made of funky fish skin dyed nude.

But they are old and a bit too large. The insoles were knackered despite me not wearing them too much. I decided to replace them.

It’s actually very easy, replacing insoles.

All you need is a piece of leather, a scalpel, a pen and UHU glue.

In 2017 I took the shoe making course at Cordwainer’s and I was surprised how easy some parts of making a shoe are. (Also I LOVED that course. My alternative career is definitely shoe maker.)

So I ripped the insoles out.

The nails sticking out over the heel needed something thick to cover them.

I decided to add something thick to the front too a bit like a hidden platform. Just one thick piece of leather.

Then I saw some foam I had lying around… so with the shoes being very roomy, I decided to add some padding in the front.

All you need is glue. No joke. I use UHU.

Foam went first.

Then more glue and the leather front soles.

Then I again used the old insoles as pattern pieces, traced them, then carefully cut new insoles out of baby blue leather using a scalpel.

I prefer putting insoles in suede side up. I find it more comfortable and grippy against the soles of my feet. The shiny leather can give blisters and is slippery so shoes move around. Not a good look, a shoe slipping off and a twisted ankle on a London sidewalk.

Getting the new full length insoles is a bit harder but it’s very doable if you get your hand under it (and covered in glue).

Ta daaaa!!

They are aaaalmost ready to wear. I put them on and stood for maybe ten minutes to put pressure onto the glue and warm it up to help it stick.

All done!!

They are now super comfy. And they hide my favourite colour (blue) in the insoles. Yay!

Watch strap (going nuts here)

I’ve been wanting to try this for ages, and I finally did!! I made a watch strap.

This isn’t a typical watch for me. I have been wearing swatches near-exclusively since 1985.

I got the withings watch to track my activity and sleep during lockdown, because I wanted to have some reason to walk around and some reason to go to bed and get out of it. And an awareness of moving and sleeping “enough”.

It came with a silicone strap that wasn’t breathing. It was really unpleasant. So I bought a leather strap from amazon. That was a lot better. And it motivated me to try making my own.

Well, ok, if I am honest, work motivated me to make my own. I am on a project right now (which is awesome, because there aren’t that many of them for designers), and it has 2-6 hours (HOURS) of calls every day. For most of them, I mainly need to listen. And pure listening is hard for me, I am very visual. So while someone was talking, I thought it might be wise to do something with my hands so I don’t go nuts.

And that’s how the watch strap got started.

One small piece of leather with two lines
Slice it up
Check the width
Thin the leather where you’ll fold & glue it
Glue it all up and let it rest a moment
It’ll need a bit of stitching in a few spots
And it fits like a … watch strap 🤣

End to end it maybe took 2 hours.

It is blatantly imprecise, and rough, cut with a scalpel by hand without instruments, out of plain undyed leather.

It will get darker and tanned with time, as it spends time in the sun, just like my skin.

In a world where there is no reason to get up in the morning, and where the only accomplishment (aside from staying on top of work) is keeping oneself fed every day, and preventing the flat from looking like a tip, it feels good to make something.

So I made a watch strap.

Oyster card holder


So a couple of months ago I made an oyster card holder.

I had a tough commute, and needed to be able to find the oyster card more easily. And hold onto it better, because that little thing is very slippery!

This was made with two pieces of leather, very easily saddle-stitched with gold thread all around. Then I stitched the slightly longer piece back onto the blue one, creating a loop. 

I hadn’t expected to make the loop. It sort of just happened. And it has been very good!

Storing summer shoes

The seasons are changing and I am swapping out summer things for winter things, starting with the hardest things to wear: shoes. Everyone says you should put one pair in one box and stick a photo on it. But those people must have a home printer or a way to take expert photos on white backgrounds. And also, not that many shoes! 
I always consolidate my shoes into IKEA shoe boxes. This year, I added quick illustrations of what is inside so I would find things more easily if I needed them. 

Hand-drawn illustrations are faster to do that photo-print-cut-place. And given they only emphasise the salient detail making the shoe unique, it is easier to recognise the shoe from its illustration than from its photo! 

This is what my boxes looked like last night, before I put them up above the wardrobe. 

    

Beach bag with 50x150cm and 60min

Last week i went on holiday. I’m Greek, and love the greek islands (best sea in the world!), so it’s where i always go for my summer sea & sun fix. This year, it was Crete.

The night before my sparrow-fart flight, at about midnight, i realised i could not find my beach bag. Maybe it’s at my parents’ in Athens. Maybe it’s under my bed. Go figure. I needed to get to bed pronto, because my alarm would go off at 4:30am. So. What to do?

I could not wager on finding a beach bag on holiday. I know the gift shops down there. You can get olive oil soap and wooden salad stirrers easier than a fabric bag. I looked at my collection of generic fabric bags (many thanks to London Fashion Week, IKEA, SPSS, Mathworks, and many others) and thought “no. And where will the towel go?”

My options:
– go on a beach holiday without a beach bag.
– make a beach bag. Quickly.

I had fabric. Cath Kidston’s London landmarks print. Barely 50cm of it, but full width (150cm).

I knew i wanted thick handles, so my sunburnt shoulders wouldn’t be cut into, so i cut out two strips of about 20cm width each (of the 50cm height). I folded them, stitched them into tubes, and flipped them to make handles. I did not stitch them down again, i did not want them flat.

Then i cut a strip of about another 15cm (again 50cm high), and split it in half. This yielded 2 pieces of 15x25cm which i proceeded to turn the edges on so they could become patch pockets. Ah. Yes. A feature of my favourite beach bag of all time were two outer pockets, one of which carried a bottle of water, and the other sun lotion.

The rest of the fabric was my bag. I had about 95cm left (by 50cm height).

Here is a rough sketch of what the “pattern” for slicing up the fabric looked like.

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First, i folded in the top edge and stitched it down.

Second, i applied the patch pockets and also stitched them onto the bag.

Third, i stitched the side seam of the bag, to make it into a nice tube. I did a french seam on that (sew wrong way together, then right way together, to get a tidy and stronger seam).

Fourth, i stitched the bottom. I also made a modification. Instead of sewing a single line bottom, i made a T-seam, so the bottom would be wider. Think of the Longchamp bags. That seam. This was a bit tricky to do on the fly without measuring, but i was aiming for speed, not precision.

Fifth, longest, and last step, was to put on the handles. I wanted a narrower top, so i stitched them folded into the body rather than flat against it. Imagine having the bag pinched around the handle rather than the handle flat against the side of the bag.

This is the bag finished! (I am gutted that i was too rushed, tired and stressed to think of taking more photos of the work in progress!)

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And here it is in use, on the amazing beach of Elafonisi in Crete.

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laptop in a sporran? Going hands-free and backpain-free while carrying tech

(written in February 2014, published in March 2014)

Since portable technology appeared on the market, I have carried it. These days, I carry my own laptop to work every day as well. The joys of contracting… you’ve got to bring your own hammer to most workplaces, as it were. I’ve been doing this every day since September and my back is starting to be seriously damaged by it. Every day, standing on a crammed carriage, swerving around on the tracks, getting bumped, while carrying a laptop and everything else.

Last night, I had enough. TFL has announced two sets of 48-hour strikes, the first to hit from tonight. Transport mayhem! It would make carrying my tech even more painful. So I decided to take action.

I have always hated backpacks. You cannot keep them on your shoulders in public transport. If you put them down, and it has been raining, they get all wet and muddy, so your coat gets dirty when you strap the bag on again. I have a very good coat. Mud is not happening. So I’m constantly lifting the entire weight of my tech.

Messenger bags are ok, but you end up wearing them cross-body, tilting yourself one way or the other, and the whole weight of laptop plus accessories being carried by a single 1-inch (a bit more if you’re lucky) strap. That would often cut into my shoulder very painfully, despite the padded part of the strap and my thick coat.

Holding the laptop in a shopper causes the same problems (thin straps, one-sided lift on spine and lower back muscles).

The last option, the satchel / attache case, would rely on arm strength and would still be pulling at my spine and shoulders.

I needed to find something that could carry my laptop but which would not rely on shoulder and lower back muscles. What else have we got? Gun holsters! Sporrans! Controversial fanny packs! Belts! You might be getting the picture already…

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So far, it works incredibly well. I need to make a better buckle for easier removal, and of course give it better finishings. Some bias tape will take care of that. Taking over the world, one crazy bag idea at a time!

oyster card holder v2.0 (more pocketses!)

After having done it once, and seeing that the two pockets I’d made weren’t enough for the cards I was starting to need to carry (driver’s license, M & S card, oyster card, credit card, some cash and a few business cards), I decided to make a second version with more pockets. I’d especially liked the diagonal pocket, so I made two of them.

I cut out the pieces carefully, even though I didn’t bother measuring them.

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I then pinned the edges of the pockets so I could get nice angles on them.

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This side will have one full-length pocket in which I will hide the oyster. See it never needs to be removed to be used, it can work through the oyster card holder’s fabric, which means I can put it in the nearest-to-the-outside pocket, and hide it completely from view quite safely.

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After stitching all around the flipped “innards” of the holder, I cut the edges closer to the seam with crimping scissors. This means that when I flip it inside-out, the edges will be less poofy. (what do you mean, “poofy” isn’t a technical term?)

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Ta daaaa!

As I was making it, I decided to add a strap. I cut a length of fabric about 5cm wide in the diagonal of the fabric to make sure it will have some extra stretch, and stitched it inside-out along the long edge. This made for a tube, which I trimmed close to the seam and flipped inside-out to get a simple strap. I then anchored the strap between the “innards” (green pockets of the inside) and the blue rip-stop canvas outer, and made sure it stayed put when I stitched around the edge.

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This is the oyster card holder v2.0 in use.

 

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Handbag design: more sketches

Our task for last week was to draw out the handbags we had thought up. These are my simple sketches for the bags in the small range I’m thinking of.

First off, there is a classic design, loosely inspired by the Birkin bag, with two short handles and one long strap to hold from your shoulder or from across the body.

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Then there is a basket-like laptop bag, which I would like to make in neoprene. It’s thick, solid, and protective both against bumps and water. Perfect for a laptop bag. It doesn’t look supremely professional, but it depends if you’re a scuba-diving web designer or a cycling city girl… errr… yeah. I’d have said city boy, but I don’t think men would be attracted to this shape.

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Next up, the holdall. I love going away, and this is what my ideal duffle bag for a weekend getaway would look like.

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Ok, I have no idea what I was thinking when I doodled this. It has pockets though!

 

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Oyster card holder in 30min

A few weeks ago I was handed a cute oyster card holder from some guys advertising specsavers at waterloo station. Having moved back to london more or less that week, i took one and started using it. Yesterday, it split in two and became unusable.

In the few weeks i’ve had it, i’ve discovered that if i add my cafe loyalty cards and a credit card in there (and sometimes my driver’s license for picking up things at the post office) it becomes my “pop to the shops” or “night out with a teenie handbag” wallet. So when it broke, i was left with a bigger problem than i had imagined an oyster card holder could create.

My immediate thought was, of course, “easy, i’ll make one”. So i did. Here are the photos of me making my first ever – and slightly wonky – oyster card holder in about 30min. Complete with sewing machine deployment and re-tidy. Yes, speed was essential. I was going out.

Step one: my big fat canvas backing

I forgot to take a photo of that… I underestimated the length of canvas I would need and cut it way too short! So I had to go back and cut a nice long strip again for the entire back of the oyster holder. One doesn’t realise quite how long two oyster cards can be!

Step two: ok, so i’m not going to iron these into shape… Ah! Let’s sew them on the flip side!

I originally thought I would sew the pieces flat onto the canvas. Then I realised I’d want nicely trimmed / rolled edges, to I tried rolling them under the edge and pinning them down. That didn’t work. I would have needed to iron them. Or have fingers a large as a newborn’s. Neither were going to happen, i’m 34 and was in a rush. So I just sewed them together as you would a little pouch, inside out, guaranteeing myself a nice even finish once I flipped them.

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Step three: i should’ve done it on one big piece…

As an amusing replay of the canvas being too short, I didn’t think of cutting one long piece of the green fabric to make the inner backing of the folding oyster holder. So I had to stitch the two halves together before placing the long piece with flipped pockets onto the canvas for that final stitch around the edges.

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Step four: niiice and easy

This last stitch is the most visible piece of the oyster holder. I also, bravely for someone in such a rush and refusing to use a ruler, decided to do that in yellow thread. I had to be very very very careful when running that last stitch! I also used a longer stitch length, which makes the stitches themselves more visible and more decorative. (they look more like dashes than like a dotted line)

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Step five: ok, it’s a bit wonky, but it works!!

So here it is. Completed and used. I ran out of the house about 5 minutes later and was flashing it to a bus driver’s yellow oyster sensor a couple of minutes after that.

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The one thing I forgot was to add some kind of marker for which side to have facing me, so I would know which side the oyster card is on. It’s important, as that’s the side you want to touch to the oyster NFC sensors (near field communication) in tube stations and buses. But hey, it worked!

And of course the star of the show: my beloved Singer from 1919. Such a joy working on that every time!!

 

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handbag design course: six bags, six scenarios – first sketches

So I’m doing a handbag design course.

Our second task, from week two, was to design six handbags for our client. Like a good User Experience Architect, I started with six usage scenarios…

I’ve also listed each bag with the largest most likely items it needs to contain.

  1. day bag for the office: laptop, A4 pages, iPad, kindle, …
  2. day bag for running around the city: camera, kindle, A5 notebook, …
  3. date night clutch: oyster, keys, credit card, phone, lipstick, …
  4. weekender / overnighter / carry-on bag: shoes, 2 clothes changes, book, magazine, tickets, …
  5. popping out to the corner shop clutch: phone, oyster & credit card, keys. (just the holy trinity, minimised)
  6. emergency carrier bag: the ubiquitous shopper, in parachute silk. For your jacket if the day gets too warm, for the milk on your way home, for that amazon delivery that arrived at work.

And here are the sketches I came up with. I need to spend more time exploring alternatives for each, but our time on the course is very limited, and given my full time job has yet to be replaced with full time blogging and photography (I wish), I am constrained in what I can achieve.

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