Boot Cover Tutorial & Modifications [archive 2010]
 
The following was originally posted on my blog and has been moved here so I can keep everything in one place and answer your questions easily.  Original photos/drawings are used. This post used to be two posts, now combined into one.

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Boot covers are exactly what they sound like - covers for your boots. They are a great option for a costume because they are easier to pack than full-size boots, easier to match to your costume than painting boots,  will typically last longer than costume boots, achieve a certain look, can save you money, and give new life to old shoes.

Here are some of the bootcovers I made in 2010:

pictured:
Blue Beetle boots, covered over old "Superman" style red boots that were terribly scuffed up and creased all over.
Ice booties, covered over suede vintage pumps purchased at local thrift store for $2.
Terra thigh high boots, covered over women's clogs purchased at Target.

Keep reading to find out how to do it yourself!

Here's an example of some of my first-ever boot covers, which only partially covered, and attached with velcro:

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THE TUTORIAL, part 1.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Things you need:

- Shoes that fit you

- 4-way stretch fabric, about twice as much as you think you will need. I recommend Matte Milliskin  from Spandex House . They have a huge selection of colors and you should be able to match your color. 4-way stretch is important to the nature of this project, 2-way may hinder you and no stretch at all is not covered here.

- Hot glue gun

- Sewing supplies/machine (straight pins, sharp scissors, etc)

- Zipper (choose appropriate length & color)

- Pattern paper, or just a large roll of plain paper.

- Marker or chalk pen  or tailor's chalk.

- Microtex needle makes sewing lycra easier.

- Iron On Tear Away is also a great tool if your machine has a hard time with stretch fabrics. It is a paper-like stabilizer that holds your fabric perfectly in place, then tears right off. You can mark on it with a pen or pencil, just be careful with your iron temperature so you do not melt it. I love this stuff, it has so many uses! It's amazing for applique, too.

1.

You need to start with a base shoe. Almost all of my bootcovers are glued to the shoe, so I buy shoes I don't care about "ruining", often at thrift stores. You can modify this method by adding another pattern piece for the bottom of the shoe, using a nonslip fabric, but currently this tutorial only covers the gluing method.
In this image, I have sketched the base shoes I used to Ice, Terra, and Blue Beetle. When purchasing the shoes, I considered:
- the shape of the toe
- the shape & height of the heel
- the closure of the shoe
- flexibility of the sole
You do not want anything that laces or that would show through! Smoothness is the goal.

2.

In the next step, you make modifications you need to the base shoe. This can include cutting & painting.
In this photo, I painted the heel & sole of my Terra shoes white, then clear-coated them, in many many layers. This took several days of painting & fully drying.
You can actually do this AFTER the next step, as long as it gets done before the final steps of attaching.

3.

Drape with the fabric you intend to use - all fabrics can stretch differently so just make this easy on yourself!
Here you can see 2 pieces of fabric (following the same grain) on either side of the leg wearing the shoe.
CAREFULLY pin the fabric in a tight sandwich around the shoe & leg. Stretch as you go, make sure nothing is wrinkling or puckering. This can take a bit of patience and re-pinning to get a smooth, even drape.
When you are satisfied, mark the line of the pins on both sides (also mark which side is inside and which is outside), then remove all the pins and take it off.

Here is fabric I've pre-pinned to prepare for draping:

Here is some draping in progress :


3b.

If you intend to have multiple pieces, drape each piece & take some measurements. You may have to mark your base shoe to keep track of your lines.
For a toe piece, drape that first, then pin the side pieces to the toe piece. This can get tricky, just keep your markings clear and keep your drape smooth. Number your pieces & mark what is inside or outside.
For example, a toe piece can be marked "1: left" with "inside" and "outside" on each side.

[The second half of this boot cover tutorial explains heel modifications and pattern variations.]


4.

Take all the pieces you have draped and trace them over to pattern paper. Cut these rough traces out and lay them over each other so the back edges line up. Smooth out the front, back, and top lines so they are the same. Sorry my drawing is very rough, but you will want to use a ruler & a curve in this step. The only lines that should differ are the bottom lines, mark which one is the inside and outside of the shoe.
Now trace this adjusted shape into two different pieces: inside and outside.


4b.

Before tracing off to your final pieces, you may need to split off your pattern piece into different colors or shapes. Do this, then trace onto different pieces of pattern paper so you can add seam allowance to each piece (1/2" works for me). Keep everything organized by numbering and adding information. Draw yourself a guide for assembling & color coding. Note where your zipper will be.
When cutting out your pattern pieces from your fabric, it is very important to keep track of every piece. I use chalk and write on the reverse side (or use tape): 1 left inside, 1 left outside, 1 right inside, 1 right outside, 2 left inside, 2 left outside, 2 right inside, 2 right outside, etc etc etc.
Because the pieces will all look similar, this saves me seam-ripping and confusion later.

You can use Iron On Tear Away at this point to aid in assembly, as well as a Microtex needle.

USE A STRETCH STITCH. This is important!! Chainstitch, small zigzag, perl merrow, overlock, whatever as long as it stretches!

Depending on your fabric, you may find it appropriate to topstitch on either side of the seams. I do this with vinyl because it helps with the seam allowance bulk and adds a professional finish, but rarely use it on lycra. However, if you want to topstitch, use a chainstitch or another stretch stitch or else there will be problems.

After assembling the panels, you can put in an invisible zipper or a regular zipper.

Now, you should have a left and right boot cover that look like strange sock-like things :) and you're ready for the final step!

Sewn bootcovers with zippers, ready to be attached.

Additionally: my Ice boots have foam sheets in the cuffs. I did this by draping the cuff, cutting two pieces, sewing them into a pocket for the foam (pocket slightly smaller so it smoothly stretches over the foam), then sewing the foam into the cuff, and finally attaching the whole thing to the top of the boot cover and top-stitching down the seam allowance.

5.

THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO DO THIS.
- do it like in the picture, with the boot cover inside out.
- or, pull the boot cover inside out and fold in the seam allowance, then glue it to the shoe.
I use both methods for different projects, based on the materials. Try it out and see what works better for you! Additionally, you could sew on a sole-shaped piece here for bootcovers that pull over shoes instead of attaching them.

First method:
Warning: this method can be nerve wracking.
Flip your boot cover inside out and stretch it over the base of the shoe. Match the front seam with the center front and the back seam with the center back point of the shoe. Go slowly and glue between the boot cover and the seam of where the shoe meets its sole. I use hot glue because it dries quickly and has some amount of precision, and I don't really recommend any glue that doesn't dry quickly. Just try to be neat with it and patient.

When you are done gluing the pieces together and flip it inside out, your seam allowance will be inside the cover and the seam of the shoe will be hidden. However, the flipping step is just as difficult as gluing.. this is where its crucial that your fabric and seams are stretchy and your shoe's sole is flexible. Go slowly and try to stabilize the glued areas with your hands, while stretching areas of fabric as far as they go.

Other way to do it:
Turn bootcovers so they are right-side out. Fold in the seam allowance and glue them to the shoes. Glue the center-back point and the center-front points first, then work through the middle, about an inch at a time, pressing down as you go along. I find this to be trickier because sometimes you mess up the seam allowance and can't clip it, but it saves you the struggle of turning the boot cover right-side out later.
So do whatever works best for you here.

[above example has contrast piping in the seams]

Wipe your forehead sweat off and admire your finished work!!

Tada!
We did it.

Hope this is helpful, please spread it around if you think so!
If not, please ask any questions & tell me how I can improve this.

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>>PART 2<<

For additional methods, such as no center seam & modifying heel shape.

This is part 2 of the boot cover tutorial, as a method of making boots with no seam down the center and to show a technique for modifying the base shoes.

To save money, I am re-purposing old costume shoes that have been in my garage for a while. The heel on those shoes does not look accurate to the character's design. To modify them, I just need a little vinyl, foam, and hot glue.

I traced the heels onto some paper and cut a draft out of foam for the modifications. Then, I placed the foam over the heel to check the fit. The first draft wasn't quite right, so I fixed it and cut two final pieces.

Then I cut out pieces of vinyl slightly larger than the foam pieces, snipped the edges, and glued them over to the back to wrap the foam tightly.
After that, you just glue it onto the shoe.

Here they are.. almost done. I left the edge up at the top so there won't be any gaps when I glue on the bootcovers.

This is a pretty simple thing.. but you can do a lot more with the concept. You could make the shoe into a faux-wedge or do some really crazy shapes or heel cut-outs! It gives you more options to find comfortable shoes rather than looking for a specific style.
Now, to the rest of the boot cover.

Part 1 of the tutorial explains bootcovers with a seam down the front. But you can use the exact same method for making bootcovers with seams down the side instead!

Here are some photos of the process:

You start out draping the same way.
In this case I am pinning two pieces together (front & back) because the character is drawn that way, but you could do this in one piece, with just a seam down the back.

Here is a close up shot at the toe, where I have labeled "Left Inside".


The next step is to unpin and trace this onto pattern paper.

Here I played around with the shape & my own measurements to clean up the pattern and ensure a good fit. I also want the pieces to be symmetrical from the ankle up.
I also marked where the zippers will go on the inside of the ankle.

After that you would cut out the pieces, sew them together, and glue the covers to the shoe exactly like the first method... and you're all done!

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