Spruce Up Old Shoes with Micro Glitter: A Creative Idea for Upcycling
Before and After Photographs
I saved a pair of good but worn shoes from the landfill and gave them an upgrade in the process
I was editing my closet the other week and found a pair of shoes that are very comfortable and by a good manufacturer. One of my favorite pairs of shoes, actually! But looking at them objectively, part of each of them was looking really quite tatty—a felt-like swoosh that covered almost half of the shoe, but the felting part was wearing off in uneven patches. They weren't even good enough to donate or garage sale.
Discouraged, I put them in the discard pile. Later, my creative brain started working on the problem and I found a way to not just re-cycle or re-use these shoes, but to UP-cycle them. It was an experiment, to be sure, but it worked with excellent results so far.
The shoe on the right is where I started from in each picture (it looked a lot worse in real life).
And the left one is where I ended up (it shines with understated glamour in real life).
This project would be good for anyone wanting to jazz up their wardrobe a bit, and it's not just for old worn shoes:
• Prom shoes
• Wedding shoes
• Dancing/clubbing shoes
• Radical multi-colored shoes with your distinct tastes
• Shoes that need a change of pace
• Costume shoes and costumes
• Works of art designed to hang on the wall, lamp shades (turn a blah Chinese paper lantern into a dazzling shade!)…
There is no limit to the creative possibilities!
MaterialsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Materials and Advice
Materials needed for a project similar to this one:
• Spray adhesive--get very sturdy adhesive: you don't want to leave a trail of glitter everywhere you walk in these shoes!
• Painter’s tape--I used Scotch-bluetm Painter's Tape for Multi-Surfaces. I'm told that the new green tapes is better in many ways, however, so you might want to research that option for your project
• Extra-fine glitter in your choice of color(s). Note: A little glitter goes a VERY long way!
• Hair spray (probably over-engineered, but that’s what I used)
• Possibly a plastic bag or plastic wrap
• A spray booth where you can leave your project to dry overnight without being moved or disturbed by people or pets. I used a small cardboard box with tall sides to (attempt to) contain the adhesive spray and glitter.
One caution before you begin any project like this: the adhesive glue that I used stays somewhat tacky even after it has “dried”. So, any overspray will not be fun to clean up. Make sure that your work area is appropriately covered with newspaper, a painter's tarp, or something else that's disposable.
One more caution: the glitter will get EVERYWHERE no matter how careful you are. If you can do this project in a corner of the garage or basement (assuming the weather is of the correct temperature for the spray adhesive you are using) that will help to contain the mess. Keeping a vacuum cleaner nearby would be a great idea, too.
Once you have everything you need and a space to work, you are ready to begin.
1. CAREFULLY take the lid off of the extra-fine glitter, making sure not to drop any and making sure that it is away from where you plan to apply the spray adhesive.
2. Cover anything that you don’t want to get sticky and full of glitter with painter’s tape. You might want to use thin disposable gloves, too.
Tip: When I did the second shoe, a few days after the first, I stuffed a plastic bag inside of the shoe and then used painter’s tape to tape it in position. That was easier than trying to mask off the opening with tape alone—quite a bit of glitter had gotten into the first shoe.
3. Mask very carefully to ensure that all and only the parts you want glittery are showing. Don’t forget to tape the bottom of the shoe--this stuff gets everywhere! It took me about an hour to mask off each shoe.
4. Next, I used the spray adhesive per the manufacturer’s instructions, making sure to get some in the small areas.
5. Next, I quickly applied the glitter evenly over all of the un-masked areas of the shoe, making sure to get the small detailed areas as well as the larger areas.
6. Now, the waiting begins. Wait as long as your spray adhesive says to wait before touching your shoe/object.
7. After the glue is dry, shake the object to remove as much loose glitter as possible. Tapping the edge of the shoe on the work surface might help, also.
8. (Probably optional) Out of concern for keeping the glitter in place (shoes take a beating, after all), I sprayed the glittered areas lightly with hair spray, just to further discourage the glitter from falling off. I waited a few seconds for that to dry, then repeated the shaking process: all of the glitter appeared to be fully attached to the shoe.
9. This is the messy step: removing all of the painter’s tape or whatever you used to mask off the non-glittery parts of your shoe/object. Remove the tape carefully and slowly so that you don’t drag along an intentionally glittered area.
10. Shake off any extra glitter again (and use a damp paper towel—or 10—to get the glitter out of the inside of the shoe.
Have you made glitter shoes?
If you made glitter shoes following this procedure, would you do it again?
Variations to Try
There are many different ways that you can spruce up worn but still good shoes.
Rather than glitter, you might try the following over part or all of your shoe:
- Tiny mirrors
- Ribbon--applied flat, looped, or woven
- Metallic charms
- Crystals (for example, Swarovski crystals)
- Antique metal leaf (gold, copper, silver)
- Shredded multi-colored threads (think: embroidery leftovers chopped up fine and then scattered over the shoe at random)
- Flocking (felt-like substance)
- Spray paint (for leather goods)
- Colored sand
- Nail polish--designs made with nail decorating polish/tools
- Use "color changing" shoe polish to make color-block shoes (mask off areas you don't want colored)
Rather than decorating the top of your shoe, decorate the bottom portion of heels (the part that doesn't touch the ground) for flashes of more subtle style:
- Apply felt, cut carefully to size so that it doesn't show from above
- Spray paint the bottoms red (fake "rich" shoes)--or any other color
- Apply any of the techniques listed above for use on the top of your shoe, but use them on the bottom of your shoe instead
Please share your successes/failures here: I would like to hear how your project(s) turn out and I'm sure others would, too. Better yet, write an article about it! Also, if you have any changes to my procedure, please let me know: there may be a much easier way to do this, I’m not Martha Stewart.