size? captures: Creators Series – How to customise Air Force 1s with Esme Whitelam

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For this edition of our Creators Series, we’re sticking with De Montfort University’s Footwear Design students and looking at how to customise a Nike Air Force 1 with Esme Whitelam.

Bright zip-up lace covers and double lacing, Esme’s effort is a real head-turner. But, before you get started, head down to the bottom of this post for a list of everything Esme used to create her custom AF1.

How to customise your Air Force 1s

Use masking tape to tape over the front panel of the shoe. Then use a biro to draw around the edge of the panel.

Peel the tape off the shoe and stick down onto thick paper or card. Then use your scissors or paper knife to cut around the biro line – don’t forget to use your cutting mat.

Repeat the above step on the tongue, then draw around the tongue pattern onto thick paper or card.

Use dividers or a measuring tape to add a 5mm allowance around the two sides and top of the tongue. Then add a 10 mm allowance to the bottom of the tongue. Cut out the patterns.

Sit the zip down the centre of the tongue pattern. Use your awl to make a mark at the top and bottom of the zip onto the pattern, then use a ruler to draw a line between the two marks. Then cut a slit along the line.

Stick double-sided tape down on the back of either side of the zip then tape down to the right side of the tongue piece. Machine down either side of the zip with a sewing machine (Esme used a zigzag stitch) or hand stitch with a needle and thread.

Machine the tongue pieces right sides together and turn back through the right way. Then stick the underlay edge of the tongue to the underside of the top panel with double-sided tape. Machine the two pieces together with a zigzag stitch. Place the tongue cover over the tongue and top panel to make sure it fits.

Hold your second set of laces in place using masking tape.

Use an awl or sharp tool to poke two holes in each side of the shoe and one in the front.

Then using a needle and thread create a loop through each hole for the extra shoelace.

Fasten the thread into the lining of the shoe and knot. Repeat this for the three other side loops.

For the front loop, fasten into the bottom of the tongue lining. And thread the lace through the loops. Then lace the shoe back up with the original laces.

Use your chosen glue to stick the top panel onto the shoe.

Place elastic bands around the shoe whilst drying to hold it in place.

Add masking tape to the areas of the midsole you wish to keep white.

Finally, add colour to the sole unit using a range of colourful permanent markers.

What you need

  • Masking tape
  • Double-sided tape
  • A sewing machine (if you haven’t got a sewing machine, a needle and thread will work)
  • A hand sewing needle
  • Scissors
  • A paper-knife or scalpel (if you haven’t got one, scissors work the same) – n.b. if you’re using a paper-knife or scalpel, you will need a cutting mat
  • Dividers or a measuring tape/ruler
  • A biro
  • Felt tip pen 
  • Silver pen
  • An awl (or the sharp end of a compass/ sharp ended tweezers/ thumbtacks)
  • Colourful threads (or white/black, use what you have)
  • A selection of materials (I use neoprene, but you could use old jeans/clothing)
  • Two 4-inch zips (you can get these from any haberdashery shop or eBay)
  • Two colourful shoelaces (I used two different colours)
  • Fabric glue or a contact adhesive (I used UniBond contact adhesive, but this needs to be used in a well-ventilated space)
  • An assortment of coloured permanent markers

Keep checking on the size? blog for more size? captures: Creators Series instalments and head over to the Creators Series Hub for previous editions.

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