Monday, December 10, 2012

Fused Plastic Upcycled Shoes

Upcycled shoe using Lucky shopping bags

While I upcycle a lot of things, for some reason it had never occurred to me to upcycle a shoe, though lord knows I have a plethora of old shoes kicking around the floor of my closet. I find it very difficult to throw away a shoe that was comfortable and served me well. A case in point is this pair of black Rocket Dog shoes. I liked their clunky charm and wore them so much that they cracked and went to rest in the depths of the closet graveyard for a few years.

Original shoe, worn and cracked

Now they are being resurrected through the miracle of fused plastic. There are any number of tutorials on the web regarding how to fuse plastic grocery bags. In brief, cut the bags into rectangular sheets; stack six to eight sheets; fuse together using your iron after experimenting with settings to see which setting works best (on my iron that is just past the wool setting). Put a sheet of paper below and above your plastic stack to protect both your iron and your work surface. Work in a well-ventilated space.

Fusing plastic
In practice, experimentation indicates that while six to eight layers of plastic may be ideal if you are making fused plastic purses or Barbie doll clothes (see Eco Barbie - Experiments in Fused Plastic), just two or three layers are preferable for this shoe project, providing much-needed flexibility.

Decoupaging fused plastic onto a shoe

After trying and testing both silicone sealant and ModgePodge, neither of which worked for reasons I won't go into, I settled on using a good old glue stick to attach the plastic to the shoe. You need to cut pieces into various shapes and test them in a dry run by holding them against the shoe until you've got shapes that work with the curve of the shoe and don't fight back.

Finished shoe, sealed with ModgePodge

After all gluing is complete, the entire shoe can be sealed with one or more coats of ModgePodge. Frankly I don't know if that step really adds anything to the end result, but it seemed like a good idea. Note that this shoe has a ridge running down the front, which is left intact and serves as an accent. The shoe also has a band of elastic at the back. The black cover for the elastic had cracked and fallen away in places, so I touched up using a black permanent marker to cover the white elastic underneath.

Finished pair

Will these hold up to actual use? I've test-worn them around my apartment and so far, so good. I figure I can always travel with a glue stick and a few scraps of plastic in my pocket for on-the-spot repairs. If you live in the vicinity of Oakland, California, keep your eyes open and you may spot these shoes in action some night soon while I'm out dining at Hawker Fare or strolling around during Art Murmur.


  1. Well I love those! Upcycling is cool, isn't it. :)

  2. Very cool. I like this idea, though I don't think I could do it as we'll as you. Hmmmm . . . I'd need to practice.


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