I love boots and wear them most of the winter. I basically go from flip-flops all Summer to boots in the Fall/Winter and back to flip-flops in the Spring. There are a couple of weeks in Spring and Fall that I wear shoes with toes and heels but most of the year I’m in boots or flip-flops When I’m not in my house that is – in my house I go from barefoot to fuzzy socks.
I’ve worn the same pair of black boots for years now. I also have a pair of full grain leather UGGs that I wear when it is really really cold. I’ve worn them more this Winter already than ever.
In October when we went on our trip to Wisconsin I wore my black boots. I took one pair of shoes along but never wore them – it was the boots only. Soon after we left home I realized that the heel cap of one boot was loose. Last winter I glued them both on with E6000 glue as they both decided they had done their job long enough. This winter one came back off and I re-glued it. It didn’t last and I repeatedly shoved the heel cap back on when it would work its way off. After arriving home from vacation a new pair of boots was at the top of my list of things to shop for.
And I found a pair I really loved. At Nordstrom Rack. Still pricey but just under the top price I was allowing myself. Full-grain leather. Leather lined. Leather soles. They had to be leather – the sole is negotiable but the lining HAS to be leather. My hubby is a leather snob and he’s pretty much converted me. I rarely buy myself footwear that isn’t leather.
The only problem with the boots was the fact that they were tall boots, made to come almost to the knee. Not really a problem with the boot exactly, but my legs are not long skinny legs – they are actually rather chubby and short. So tall boots never fit. And while these boots did look ok just scrunched down a few inches I really wanted them to be able to come up higher. I had heard that a good boot shop can alter the boots by adding a gusset to make them bigger in the calf so they will fit. So I bought them, prepared to take them to the boot shop in the town I grew up in and have them altered. But after getting them home, I thought, ‘how hard can it be? I bet I can do it myself! So the next trip I took to town I took my boots, and the old black boots too. The black boots got left to have new heel caps put on them. The shop where I left them the guy had no idea what I was talking about when I explained what I wanted to do with the new boots. So I went to the next shop – the Bootery. It’s been there for years and the people who worked in it when I was younger were rather hoity-toity and didn’t act very friendly if you weren’t spending a ton of money in their shop. Since I hadn’t been there for years I was a bit concerned about how my request would be met. I wanted to know if they could do what I wanted but what I really wanted was for them to tell me I was on the right track with how I wanted to fix them myself and I wanted them to sell me the elastic gusset I needed to get the job done.
The gentleman who works in the Bootery now was wonderful. I told him what I wanted and that I thought I could possibly do it myself if I could get the elastic. He looked at me with a small smile and wanted to know how I was going to go about accomplishing my goal. He listened attentively, nodding and smiling slightly. He then went to his work space and pulled out a couple different sizes of elastic to use for gusseting. We decided the wider one would work best, he determined how much length I would need and cut the elastic. He told me he thought I knew what I was doing, charged me $4 for the elastic and sent me on my merry way!
And since I decided to do the job myself I thought I’d show you how to add an elastic gusset to tall boots. You’re welcome.
The first thing I did was make the cut down the inside of the leather boot. If the boots had zippers I would have worked with the zipper, adding some leather or gusseting into the zipper seam. Without a zipper the only option was to cut the leather. When I posted this pic on Instagram I got quite the horrified reaction from some of my friends! I, of course, expected that and laughed heartily at their exclamations of horror! One nice thing about altering the boots myself – I could try them on and make the cut as far down as it needed to be. Custom fit
I cut just a very tiny bit of a strip of leather out, just to even my cut a bit. Basically I just let the leather spread apart and slipped the elastic between the outer leather and the leather lining.
Sewing the first side of the elastic wasn’t too bad. I had to work it a bit and go slowly, and I had to make sure the leather and the lining stayed where they should on the elastic piece as I went because I didn’t want to put pins through the leather.
I found it helpful to use tailor’s chalk (any fabric marking pencil will work) to mark on the elastic where the edge of the leather should be when I laid it out flat. That way when working with the piece in the machine I could tell where the leather was supposed to go as I worked and bunched up the boot sides to make it fit through the machine.
Second side was a bit trickier and is not for the faint of heart or a sewing novice.
As I worked toward the point on the second side I just had to go very slowly and keep working it through.
It wasn’t completely perfect – the first seam I sewed wasn’t exactly straight. But since it is to the inside of my leg I decided it wasn’t worth taking that stitching out. I did have to remove some stitches on one seam because the leather lining on the inside shifted and wasn’t caught in the seam like I wanted it to be.
I sewed a straight line (well, as straight as I could!) down both sides of the elastic then i wanted to sew a small seam across the end of the point made by the two seams. For this I pulled out my old sewing machine – it is smaller and has a detachable part that, when it is removed, makes the arm of the machine much narrower and I was able to slide the boot onto it horizontally to stitch that seam.
You can see that small seam here – it still wasn’t very easy to get to it and make that seam but I managed. It won’t win any beauty awards but it works for me!
And there you have it. You can see that my seams weren’t perfectly straight and the small seam at the bottom of the point is rather a mess. I wanted to stitch it more than once for extra strength and I got the job done even if it’s not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever sewn.
And there they are – my beautiful new boots, altered to fit my chubby legs. I love the color – it’s somewhere between black and brown and grey. They are Coach brand and the color is called Elephant. My husband was very pleased with my purchase of leather boots. And I managed to stay just under the $200 I had said was my top price. I know to a lot of people that is just ridiculous. But we have found that buying quality leather makes them last a long, long time. My black boots that I’ve had for years are leather but not leather lined. I found them at Elder-Beerman at least 5 years ago on sale for $26. I paid less than $20 to get new heal caps put on them this year and I’m still wearing them. These Coach brand boots should last me 10 years or more. And the leather sole means that when it wears out all I have to do is have a new sole put on it. The older I get the more I tend to wear the same boots/shoes, when I find good pairs that fit comfortably. Gone are the days that I bought new, cute, cheap shoes every season. Give me leather that will last for years any day!
What do you think? Would you attempt to add an elastic gusset to a pair of leather boots? Would you hire me to do it for you?
Have a wonderful day and STAY WARM!
Sew a Fine Seam
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