First, a shiny picture of the end result:
Second, an apology: Even when I think, "Hey, this could end up pretty cool, I should take step-by-step photos!" I get distracted in the middle and forget. So there will be some unillustrated explanation. Sorry. Also, this isn't so much a tutorial as a "how I did what I did." See the difference? My techniques might not work with your thrift store boots.
And now the backstory: I was a historical preenactor for halloween (see: Dresden Codak http://dresdencodak.com/2008/01/07/machine-messiah/
), which was great because my historical REenactment society gets together on halloween to go trick-or-treating for the food bank. So finally, I'd have a halloween costume that I wouldn't have to spend half the night explaining over and over!
Alas, there are no photos of the awesomeness that was the result. But the costume required kick ass boots, and that's what this post is really about.
Begin with one $3 pair of thrift store boots.
I knew I wanted the boots to lace up the front, because I had this idea involving strips of metal that the eyelets would go through. So I marked where I would cut the boot, leaving a reasonable piece left over to serve as a tongue.
It's worth mentioning that I have skinny legs and the boots were a little loose on me, which made this seem a little more possible than it would have if they'd been skin tight. More on that, later.
Note that the construction of the boot means that I couldn't easily cut the tongue down below the ankle; I'd planned on zipping up the zipper and making that permanent, but I can't disable the zipper completely, I'm going to need it to actually get my foot past the narrowest point of the boot.
Anyway, I cut the boot:
(here's where the photos start to peter out)
I knew that most of the zipper was going to be unusable, because of the strapping that I planned on adding to the boot, but I needed the bottom of the zipper to function so I could actually get the darn things on. I ended up unzipping the boot all the way, and then, starting from the top, working the edges of the zipper together by hand until I'd gone as far down as the first steel strap was going to be. When I got to the end, I sewed the zipper together at that point so that it wouldn't come apart again. (I used blue thread to do it, so it's visible in the photo below.)
Now I've got a boot with uncomfortable and ugly raw edges along the sides of the front opening. I cut some thin vinyl into strips to use as a binding. I rounded the corners of the top of the tongue and the top of the front opening of the boot. I sewed the vinyl to the boot, right sides together, all the way around the edges. I thought I was going to fold the vinyl strip around and top stitch it down, like I would with fabric bias tape, but that proved problematic. Not only was the shiny side of the vinyl sticking to the sewing machine as I sewed, but I also didn't cut the strip *quite* wide enough. So instead, I used Barge cement (a contact cement, like heavy-duty rubber cement) to seal it down. This involved painting the back of the vinyl and the edge of the boot it was going to be attached to, letting the cement dry a bit, and then clamping it down with binder clips padded with fabric scraps (to avoid leaving marks). It was fiddly and annoying, but it worked pretty well.
Now for the fun part.
I bought very thin stainless steel strips from the hardware store, worked out where they would be placed, and how long they would need to be to wrap around the boot.
I cut them with bolt cutters (Not easy, and watch for sharp edges!), and then drilled holes in the ends for the grommets using a drill press, and one smaller hole in the middle for some rivets I'd picked up in the leather section of Hobby Lobby.
Each steel strip is held in place by the grommet going through it and the boot on both ends, and by one rivet on the back of the calf.
This was not enough eyelets to lace the boot up, so I added another eyelet between each steel strap. In the photo above, you can see that the zipper above (to the left) of the bottom strap is closed, but below the strap the zipper is open. My little sewn tack is hidden under the strap.
So, finally, once again, the finished boot:
I did run into some problems. Cosmetically, the thin shiny vinyl I used as a binding is really fragile, and flaked off a bit on the upper, inner edges (where my legs brushed together) and under the lacing.
Structurally, though, I didn't take into consideration the amount of stretch the vinyl had, and the fact that stainless steel has none at all. So my calves had a bit of a tendency to bulge out between the straps; it wasn't too unsightly, and it wasn't too uncomfortable, but it was not ideal. Fine for halloween. Not so much for street wear.
I also wish I'd rounded, or at least smoothed the edges of the steel strips. They're *very* sharp, and because of how they were cut, occasionally have the tendency to stick out a bit. Ow.
This is my first attempt at a tutorialish thing, feedback, comments, criticism, questions are all welcome.