I love beading and jewelry-making. My fascination with baubles can be traced to my grandmother, who once gave me the grand tour of her filing cabinet. It was an old-fashioned piece of office equipment that took up part of her bedroom and looked singularly out of place there. Anyway, her filing cabinet turned out to be overflowing with boxes of brooches, rings, and bracelets. She had stringed pearls for women, cufflinks for men, and even loose diamonds! We spent an entire afternoon going through her treasures—I believe she was very bored that day.
To my knowledge, I was the only granddaughter she allowed to poke around her stuff. Alas, when she passed away I inherited nothing but a single gold necklace, a pair of cameo earrings, and a ton of old photos. She did, however, instill in me a wonder for pretty, sparkly things.
Despite my fascination with jewelry I don’t wear a lot of it, especially while commuting. My first job as an editorial assistant had me traveling through some rough neighborhoods in Manila. When there are a lot of pickpockets and snatchers on the prowl, a woman gets used to wearing the simplest accessories. Even now, I cannot get into the habit of wearing any jewelry that can be yanked away by any crazy person loitering around the BART stations.
The urge to repair my favorite pair of ballet shoes, though, overcame my usual love of simplicity. My feet love this particular pair of Naturalizers so it really pissed me off when the chain-link appliqué kept on falling off despite all efforts to superglue it back.
So this is what I did:
1. I took a good look at my ballet flats and my stash of beads and what-not. After some thinking, I selected the following materials:
- two double-drilled oval plastic beads (Bought for fifty pesos from Carolina’s! The cultural equivalent would be a half a dollar from Michael’s)
- a handful of gold cylinder seed beads, recycled from an old necklace
- a handful of assorted cylinder seed beads, recycled from an old friendship bracelet
- bead wire (what I have on hand is Sweet Pea 24-gauge bead wire)
- one perforated plate finding, one-inch in diameter
In terms of equipment, I also brought out:
- my different pairs of pliers
- a ripper from my sewing kit
2. With pliers and a ripper from my sewing kit, I removed all trace of the original chain decor. I took care not to damage the shoe tops. You can see the outline of the stitch holes on the left shoe.
3. Loosely following a pattern for a brooch in an old Japanese magazine, I threaded ten to twelve gold seed beads on the bead wire. (By the by, Japanese craft magazines are awesome! You don’t even need to read the language to follow the instructions). I looped the threaded beads, back to front, to form a petal shape and fastened it to the perforated plate finding. For the next petal I used the cylinder seed beads of mixed colors. I alternated colors until I completed one row of “petals.”
4. For the second row, I threaded twelve to fifteen beads, and adjusted each petal to make sure they would cover, as much as possible, the original stitching on the shoe tops.
5. Once the perforated finding was sufficiently covered with beads, I attached the large plastic bead with the remaining bead wire and secured it in the back. I attached each “shoe clip” to the top of each shoe with superglue. I let it dry for a day before wearing the pair.
I’m not sure if it’s right to call these shoe clips since they are now permanently affixed to my ballet flats. The principle, though, is the same, and if I had shoe clip attachments on hand I might have used them. (When I’m in “crafting mode” I really hate to stop and go to a store. It breaks up my momentum.)
Whatever these things should be called, they haven’t fallen off my flats since I attached them. It’s a ridiculously simple thing but I’m happy to be able to use my favorite shoes again. My grandmother would probably not approve—she’d insist on beads and sequins all over—but I’m really content to wear discreet homemade bling.