I love planning out fun DIY projects with my teens. A few weeks ago I got the idea to customize Converse Chuck Taylors with fabric. My kids and I planned out the best way to cover the shoes with fabric, bought the supplies then tested out our little DIY Converse experiment. I absolutely love how these custom shoes turned out! I think I’m keeping them for myself. If you’d like to learn how to DIY your shoes as well, just keep reading below!
Recently I was planning out projects for a booth at International Quilt Market showcasing my upcoming fabric line, Let’s Be Mermaids. The fabric is not due to arrive in stores until November, but I just couldn’t wait to share the fun project I came up with, with you.
While I was in the middle of stitching up quilts and bags to display in my booth at market, I kept thinking that I needed just “one more” project for the display. I wanted to make something simple, and maybe a little bit unexpected as a way to show off some of the prints in the fabric line.
I headed to the outlet mall with my daughter and we started brainstorming ideas. We walked into the Converse store and I realized that I could try to cover the tongues of a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors with a bit of my fabric. We searched the sale racks of the store for a pair of shoes to experiment with, and I was thrilled to find this pair of white Converse in my size – plus they were quilted!! BONUS!
After a bit of trial and error, I think I’ve found a fun way to customize Converse Chuck Taylors with fabric.
How to Customize Converse Shoes with Fabric:
I believe that you could try this with other types of shoes. However, I think that the Converse are unique, and well suited for this project since the tongue comes really far out of the shoe (making it easier to work with, and it’s exposed while you’re wearing them. That way you can actually see the fabric you cover the shoes with. Also, Converse shoes have a raw edge around the tongue that is zig zagged, so a zig-zagged finished seam around the top of the shoe doesn’t look out of place.
Supplies for DIY Converse Custom Shoes:
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Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Shoes – you can use other shoes if the tongue is exposed and easy to move away from the shoe
Fat Quarter of Fabric – fabric shown is Let’s Be Mermaids by Riley Blake Designs
Small Sharp Scissors – these Olfa scissors are my favorite. They are very sharp and easy to work with. Whatever scissors you use make sure they are sharp or you won’t get a good edge around the top of the tongue.
How to Cover Shoes with Fabric:
Note: I tried to create a downloadable pattern piece for you to use to cover the shoes. However, there is a lot of difference in the size of the tongue of the shoe in different sizes of the shoe. It was not hard to create the pattern piece, and I decided that would be a simpler way for you to complete the project. Don’t be intimidated by creating your own pattern piece. It’s totally do-able!
Step One: Create the Pattern Piece
Using small scissors or an unpicker, remove the Converse labels from the tongue of the shoes. You can sew it back on later if you wish.
Cut a piece of freezer paper (or parchment paper, you can also use the paper backing of heat and bond lite) 1/2″ wider than the tongue of your shoe and 1″ longer. I tried it with regular paper and it didn’t work well. I liked the freezer paper because it has a coating on it to help it “hold up” during the pattern piece creation process.
Remove the laces from the shoe and place the toe of the shoe onto the end of the sleeve board as far as you can get the top of the sleeve board into the shoe. If you need to you can use a few straight pins to hold the shoe in place as you work.
Place the paper on top of the shoe and using your fingers (waxy side down), work it into the “seam” of the shoe where the rubber part of the shoe meets the tongue.
As you do this, press the paper the best that you can into the corners of the top of the shoe.
Using a pencil, mark the paper to create your pattern piece. Mark the edge where the tongue meets the rubber part of the shoe as well as the curve under the first shoelace hole of the shoe. You don’t need to mark the edges of the tongue or end at this part. Just the part of the tongue that is not rectangular.
Remove the paper from the shoe and cut it out. Place the paper back on the shoe to see how you did. If it’s close, then proceed to the next step.
Step Two: Cut out the Fabric
Cut out two pieces of fabric (with the fabric placed wrong sides facing) using your pattern piece. NOTE: at the top of the pattern piece (where the fabric will meet the rubber of the shoe), add 1/8″.
Being careful not to overwork the fabric, “test” it in the shoe again.
Step 3: Create the finished edge
Fold under the top edge of the fabric 1/8″ and press in place. Use a bit of glue from your glue stick to get the edge to stay in place.
Place a thin line of the Gutterman glue along the folded edge of the wrong side of the fabric and up the curves on both sides.
With the shoe still firmly on the sleeve board, place the fabric on the top of the tongue, lining up the folded edge of the fabric and curves of the shoe and fabric. Use an awl, or straight pin to work the fabric right up to the edge of the rubber part of the shoe. Make sure also that the glue goes all the way to the edge of the fabric. It dries clear, so a bit of it can show, just not too much or it will look sloppy. Use a couple of straight pins to hold the fabric in place.
Leave it to rest at least 30 minutes, so that it can dry completely. DO NOT rush this step.
Step 4: Sew the Fabric
After the glue has dried you can proceed with the rest of the project. With the shoe still on the sleeve board, peel back the unglued portion of the fabric, and cover it well with the glue from the glue stick. Be careful during this step, you don’t want to unglue the fabric you just stuck down. Don’t use the Gutterman glue for this portion, it will not dry evenly and you’ll get bubbles.
Note: The glue is only used to hold the fabric in place while you are sewing and cutting the fabric. It’s not the only way the fabric will adhere to the tongue, so don’t stress if it’s not perfect.
Put the fabric back in place and use a hot iron “set” the glue. Place a couple of pins in the tongue as well to hold the fabric in place.
Using your good sharp scissors, trim around the edge of the fabric so that it exactly flush with the edge of the tongue.
Set your sewing machine to a wide zig-zag stitch. Beginning at one end, zig-zag around the edge of the shoe so that one of the zig zag stops is off the tongue and the other zig-zag stitch is on the tongue. You can use a serger if you like, but I could not get my shoe under my serger presser foot without the shoe being in the way.
Stitch as far as you can. You won’t be able to stitch all the way down. However, it doesn’t matter since that part of the tongue is hidden under the shoelace holes.
I found I could stitch further in one direction than the other, so I stitched as far as I could, then turned the shoe over and stitched again, getting into a portion of the shoe I could not before. Make sure you lock your stitch at the start and stop of your seam.
Step 5: Finishing
When you are finished sewing, cover the raw edge of the fabric all around the tongue with fray check. This will help to get rid of any “stray” fibers and keep the fabric from fraying as you wear the shoes.
If desired, stitch the converse tag back on to the shoes.
Converse Customization Tips:
- I recommend using a small scale print on the shoes. A small floral or small novelty fabric would work well.
- Don’t use fabric that stretches, is slippery or too thick. I recommend a nice quilting cotton.
- If you’re not sure what fabric to pick, find a print that has at least some of the shoe color in it.
- Test the zig zag stitch on a scrap of fabric first to make sure you like how it looks before you sew the shoes.
- Don’t overwork the fabric while you’re making the project. If you do it will fray a lot before you get the chance to put the fray check on.
- A sleeve board is a MUST in my opinion for this project. You need to be able to get the tongue of the shoe as flat as possible.
- Remember, you won’t see all of the tongue of the shoe when the shoes are tied, so you don’t need to stress about the edges that are covered by the shoelace holes. Just do your best.
- I have not tried it yet, but think this process would work well for a pair of Converse High Tops as well.
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