So we really hate boot covers right? Yea. I can feel that. Especially when working with odd shapes or making boots that you physically just can't find online, or the version you found might be over $100 or so. It's just a giant pain. Luckily, there is an easier way to make body tight boot covers that includes an easy made pattern and techniques that can be used to make anything that is body tight anywhere. In this tutorial I will be using both photos from my Madam Red and Ming Numara boots to show you different types.
Materials You'll Need
- A pair of base shoes
- Plastic Bag/Saran Wrap
- Masking Tape/Painters Tape/Duct Tape
- Sharpies of any color
- Two-way or four-way stretch fabric (four-way is much easier to work with)
- Optional: Sturdy non-stretch pleather/vinyl fabric
- Machine Needles according to your sewing type:
- Knit/Spandex/Dancewear – Ball Point
- Pleather/PVC/Vinyl – Microtex or Leather
Two-Way vs Four-Way Stretch
First of all, get your mind out of the gutter. Second, stretch fabrics come in two fabric types: two-way and four-way. Two way means that if you tug a piece of square fabric in one direction it will stretch, but not if you pull the other sides. Four-way means it will stretch in both directions. This is important when making stretch boots because you need to ensure it will stretch around your shoe insert as well as your leg properly.
Four-way fabric is the best for stretch boot covers because it ensures it will stretch in all directions, both around your leg.
With two-way, you will need to ensure that fabric stretch is long ways around your leg instead of upward and downward. This means if you tug on the boots from the top they will not stretch, but if you it will if you pull at the back or sides around the thickness of your leg. If you have multiple panels you can play with this and put an opposing stretch around the knee in order to allow that flex if your boots go that high.
Ball Point/Microtex/Leather Needles??
Normally with our machines, newer cosplayers go for the default of 'universal needles.' Its the assumption that it is universal for the machine, but they're actually universal for fabric. It's also as universal for fabric as bike tires are for cars. 'Universal Needles' are generally cheaply made and the points give out really quick and, honestly, aren't the best for all fabric types. This is especially important when working with stretch fabrics. So look at the following:
- Ball Point Needles – These needles are meant for stretch fabrics such as knit, spandex, dancewear, swimwear, ect. They are designed with a less sharp point than other needles in order to weave its way through stretch materials. This means that the needle is not piercing directly through the fibers themselves and instead making way between them to allow stretch.
- Microtex Needles – Possibly my favorite overall, they are the sharp of the sharp needles. They are best for working through almost any fabric type be it cottons, satins, synthetics, ect ect. It is due to the fact that they are extremely sharp and come in a very wide sizes for any fabric type. They are far more durable then universal needles though and are meant for piercing.
- Leather Needles – Akin to their name, leather needles are extremely sharp but also durable for leather work. They are meant to go through thicker fabrics that are not really like cottons. They also are larger than other needles, meaning they are less likely to break while piercing through the fabric. If you're working with a more durable pleather or vinyl, these needles are best. The downside is the fact that they are larger in size, so they will leave visible piercings if you decide later to seam rip something.
༺ Let's get started! ༻
Let's get started!
Don your shoe and wrap your leg up tight
Personally I am a much bigger fan of plastic wrap/saran wrap, but plastic bags also work for this. Slip on your base shoe and make sure to cover every bit you plan on making a cover for: your shoe from base to top, your foot, your leg, your knee if you need to go that high. This base is essentially something for the tape to stick to.
With that done, take your tape tightly wind around your plastic cover. Start with some vertical straight pieces from the bottom to top to add some backbone support before twisting it round and round. With painters/masking tape, you're going to want to make sure you overlay the ends you tape so that they don't easily spread apart. The places you especially want to get is the base of your foot up to the heal, and then up the leg. Add some more vertical straight pieces when you are done to make sure the tape doesn't separate when you start spreading the pattern out.
Stencil your patterns and seam lines
This part is rather important since this is where you'll be marking where the pattern is cut. If your reference already has seam lines in the pattern, use your sharpie to eyeball where that goes on the fabric around your leg. If your reference has some solid pieces that don't make sense because the artist ignored things like how fabric works, then you'll have to play by ear.
A line down the back of your leg is certainly important to get the curve. You may need to add lines around the toe as well to help get the pattern flat, but it is not necessary. If you're unsure about where to put the seam lines, look at boots on google to get an idea of how shoe makers put their seams in in order to get the curved shape. Because you're making it out of stretch fabric, you have a lot more leeway, but you'll still want to be sure to get your pattern as flat as possible.
Be sure to also mark up the base of the front of your foot (where your shoe will hit the ground?) as well as make a marker around the heal on where the hole would be for that needle or base to pierce through. The base is probably one of the most important parts since that is where most of the support for your shoe will be.
Cut yourself free
I wont lie, this is a scary part. Find one of your seams and cut yourself free of the pattern down the line. The back of the boot and the sides are far easier than attempting down the front, due to the curve of the shoe. You have your choice of scissors or a knife of some sort, but remember to take your time, especially if you're going to use something like an exacto knife. Also be sure to be careful around your shoe so you don't knick it as well.
Make your pattern time
Before cutting out your patterns from the tape, put some triangle markers across the seam lines so you know where to line up your fabric from piece to piece. This is especially important around the base of the foot. Take the time as well to solidify the lines with your sharpie and straighten them out a bit so you know where to cut. Then cut the pattern pieces free of each other with your scissors and mark them up so you know which one is which in order.
Although this is purely optional, I personally like to transfer the patterns to poster board as my official pattern piece. Lay the piece as flat as you can and outline it onto the poster board. If you are unable to flatten it out fully (such as a bubble curve around the toe or the heal) give a little cut into the curve to flatten it out. Once you have outlined it, use a ruler to extend that line out to your seam allowance. I like 1/2" or 5/8" seam allowance just because it's easy to read on my machine.
Please note the patterns are more than likely going to be big a bit than your end result. This is due to the fact that you're cutting it as if it was a non-stretch fabric, and you're going to want the fabric to be tighter to your body. Better to be big than small.
Cut your fabric
So this may seem like a 'derp' step, but I assure you its not! You want to make sure when cutting your fabric to check that your pieces are following the proper grain line for stretch. This means that you're going to want to align your pattern pieces either horizontally or vertically on your fabric, but not diagonally because it will make the stretch odd.
For two-way fabric, you'll want to be careful when figuring out which direction you need to the fabric to stretch. Remember: you'll need the fabric to stretch at the sides and not up and down to get your foot into that boot!
Optional: The base of your shoe doesn't need to be made of the same material unless you wish it to be. If you want, a good sturdy plastic material or cotton that doesn't stretch helps give support to the shoe and allows the fabric to stretch around the toe instead. More plastic materials gives your foot more support as well on slippery tile floors and the such. If you have a cotton, but not vinyl or a plastic base material, you can always take the fabric and plastidip it (which you can find in a hardware store.)
Align your markers, pin and sew
When working with stretch material, you're going to want to make sure you have the right stitches for the stretch. If you wish for your fabric to also stretch along the seam direction, then you're going to want to put a stretch stitch. For machines that do not have stretch stitches, have your needle do a somewhat long but thin zig zag pattern back and forth. This allows the seam to stretch a bit along it. If you're using 2way stretch and there is no stretch along the seam, you can use a straight stitch.
Depending on the style of your boot, this may include grommets for ties, another base support like interfacing, or just decorative belts and the such. This is more of the section up to your imagination!
Test your pattern
Put that shoe back on and slip it over your leg! Don't worry- it's probably going to be big, and that's fine. If your shoe is going to be laced up in any way, it is a good idea to pin the pieces in place to ensure how it feels if it were tied. Pleather spandex is much harder to slip on inside out, but you may need to flip it in and out multiple times in order to get the tightness you desire.
Pull and stretch the fabric on the seams to get the right amount of tug and pull around the leg. The best places to pinch are around the ball of the foot, the back seam, and possibly the side seams. Once you have it to the stretch you want, pull the boot off and re-stitch it down to the right size. Do this over and over again until you feel you have it right. This may take multiple times, and trust me, its worth it.
Add your final stuff
Just to be clean and secure, you'll want to lock stretch fabric so that if any seam rips the entire thing doesn't snap free. Cut down the seam to about 1/4” or a little bigger and either overlock it with a stretch stitch, or ad a thin yet wide zig zag stitch down the edge just to lock it in place. Do this on every seam allowance.
You've done it! You've made boot covers! Slip that foot into your boot and your shoe and walk around in style!
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