HOW TO RECONSTRUCT A CONVERSE CHUCK TAYLOR HIGH-TOP
This is the first in a series of monthly tutorials begin with the shoe that started it all for me; the Converse Chuck Taylors High-tops.
DISCLAIMER: It’s not easy, and you absolutely WILL up. Probably more than once. You quite possibly won’t be able to wear your first pair or three. DON’T GIVE UP. The first try is all about experimenting to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Take your time and learn the steps so that when you get to your second pair you won’t make those same mistakes and it will be closer to a factory finish. If they can do it, then with patience and practice you can too, and do it better.
Things You Will Need
1. Base shoe (I will be using a pair of chuck taylor high-tops)
2. Acetone, and some cotton swabs
3. Exacto Knife
4. rotary cutter and cutting mat
5. Butter Knife
6. bias tape
7. fabric( for the outer and lining)
8. eyelets and eyelet backs
11. felt (for structure)
12. spray adhesive
13. Rhino Glue
14. contact cement
15. Sewing Machine (currently I use Juki DDL 8700-7 but, when I started, I was stitching on a classic hand crank singer that came in a travel case. It just has to be able to sew a strait line through whatever thickness material you decide on.)
16. Heavy Duty, Upholstery Thread, or topstitch thread
17. Hole Punch
To reconstruct a pair of shoes you first need to deconstruct them. First, you need to take out the laces and grab your cotton swabs, acetone and butter knife. You want to soak the swabs so that they are full but do not drip. Then take the swab press it up to the edge where canvas meets the sole. This should cause the glue to ease and allow, with some effort, to insert the butter knife and separate the rubber from canvas. Go section by section ( no more that a couple inches at a time) till the sole is separated. Go slowly, there is no need to rush and rip the sole. You should be left with three pieces. The insole, outsole, and upper.
Once you have the upper separated from the sole, you are going to want to cut the stitches holding the upper together. That should leave you with an outstep, instep, tongue, heel-strip, heel counter. These panels are going to be used as patterns to cut out the fabric so you don’t have to be too careful (except the heel counter) just make sure you don’t ruin the silhouette. At this stage, I also cut out the logo to be stitched back on the final shoe.
(cut it out reasonably clean because we will be using this hole later to line up where to re-stitch the logo. Also, only take apart the left upper and the heel counter + logo of the right. You only need one pattern since they are just mirror images. This also gives you something to refer back to)
Now you want to lay out your pattern pieces on the fabric. This step is the same for both the tongue, outer, and liner of the shoe. I leave a half of a centimeter ( 1/5 of an inch) seam allowance around the boarder edges I want wrapped. Usually I fold the fabric ( face to face) before I cut it so that I can cut two exact opposite pieces at the same time. This lets me do the outstep and instep of the upper and the outstep and instep of the liner at the same time, making the left and right shoe a mirror image.
Using the same pattern, you have for the outer you want to cut out 4 pieces of felt to its exact dimensions. No seam allowance. This will give strength, comfort, and body to the shoe when you are done (if the material is particularly thin I also like to cut out two pieces to the exact dimensions of the tongue)
Next, you want to cut the heel strip twice as wide as the pattern piece and then fold the edges in so they touch in the middle. If you have an iron, press it. If you don’t, then just hold it with pins when it comes time to stitching.
Finally, I cut a piece to cover the heel counter. Lay you heel counter on the fabric and cut out a square slightly bigger than the heel counter. Spay the back of the fabric, press the heel counter on, and smooth out and ripples. After it’s glued on you can trim right up along the edges of the heel counter.
Now you want to attach the felt to the outer. Pull out your spray glue and glue the felt to the 4 outer pieces leaving a seam allowance on all but the bottom edge. You want the bottom to be flush.
You’re pieces should all be cut and prepared, so I bet you’re real excited to start putting it all back together. This is what it should look like before we start stitching;
First, stitch the support line for the eyelets on the outer. I line it up with the inch mark on my sewing machine for the first line, keeping it an inch away from the edge, then I sew a second line next to it, on the far side, using my presser foot as a guide. At this stage, I also stitch the logo on. Take the pattern piece that you cut the logo out of and line it up flush to the bottom of the outer. where the hole is is where you want to stitch the logo. I prefer to stitch them on the outstep, however stock converse have the logo on the instep.
Now you want to stitch the outstep and instep of the outer together. Line them up, face to face, and stitch along the line where the glued felt meets the fabric, this will leave approximately half a centimeter seam allowance. Do the same for the liner and just leave a half a centimeter seam allowance. You should now have four pieces that look like this.
It is time to stitch on the heel strip. This can be tricky because you’ll be stitching strait, on a curve. What you will want to do is start at the top with the heel strip overhanging the outer by about a half a centimeter and line it up so that the center of the strip goes down the center line. Take your time and make sure that everything under the presser foot stays flat and in line. After you stitch both sides of the strip. Go back in a stitch a second reinforcement stitch next to it using your presser foot as a guide. It should look like this;
Onto the liner. In the original shoe, the heel counter was stitched to the liner. Here we are going to do the same thing. Take your heel counter, and stitch it along the bottom strait edge to the liner, about once centimeter up from the bottom of the liner. Now take your bias tape and rap the curved edge, using the clips to hold it in place for stitching. pull the lining taut so that the heel counter fits snug into the lining and begin stitching along the bias tape from start to finish.
From this point on it is going to begin looking like a shoe. Take the Outer and the liner, line them up face to face, and tack them together placing the felt side up. I use clips, but pins work too. Using the felt as a guide, stitch along where the felt meets the outer fabric it is glued onto. This should leave a half a centimeter seam allowance. When you are done, flip it inside out so the right faces are facing out and then stitch two lines of reinforcement stitching along all the edges except for the bottom. Smooth everything out and then with a little tension I stitch the bottom edge about 1 centimeter up. This keeps it from wrinkling when you go to glue it in.
Do this same process for the tongue
Time for the eyelets. Take you upper and fold it in half, pinning the two halves together. place the pattern piece on top, it should fit perfectly to your upper. Therefore, we can use the original eyelets to line up our eyelets. Take your pins and put them directly in the center of the holes. When you take the pattern piece away, you should be left with a perfect marking for where to punch your eyelets.
Make minor adjustments to center them and punch. Once you have, the eyelets punched place them into the holes and set them in place.
Almost done, all that is left is stitching the tongue to the upper and gluing in the sole.
Using the old stitch lines on pattern pieces as guide, pin the tongue to the upper. As a rule you should see the tongue through the bottom couple of eyelets otherwise it will wrinkle or puff when you glue it in. once it is pinned stitch two reinforcement boxes as seen below.
( All that is left is to glue it back onto the sole. First you need to take the upper and glue it back onto the insole. It should have about a centimeter of overlap. Go section by section. I find it easiest to lace the shoe up as to keep pieces from accidently going in the glue. Start from the back and work your way to the toe. When you are done you should have this. Its kind of like a sock you can just slip right back into the sole;
After you have that complete, place it in the sole. Using tape chalk or a good eyeball, it is about one inch from the bottom, mark the highest point where to apply the contact cement. Apply the contact cement to both the upper and the inside of the outsole and Let sit for approximately 15 minutes, or till it’s dry to the touch, and then gently place it in. Going section by section put pressure to join the upper to the outsole.
Word of warning; Take your time. This is probably the hardest bit to learn and learn well. Once the upper and outsole touch, it’s too late to realign. TAKE YOUR TIME. In the future, I’ll have an in-depth guide joust for the gluing as I currently have built a rig to apply uniform heat and pressure. This is the technique I learned first and works perfect for a basic pair of shoes.
YOU’VE DONE IT.
Let them sit for a day.
Go outside and show off your fresh kicks.
If you have any questions or suggestions to make future tutorials better shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org