our new studio

A few days ago, my landlord - who, by the way, I haven't actually seen in over a year - sent me a lovely email informing me that rent was going up. Substantially and immediately. Blarg. [seriously, fellow, are you not aware of all the "for rent" signs around town?]

So I had to look for a new place, fast. And I found one! I now have about three times the space I had in my old studio, so there's room for us to grow, yay!

I've been packing my old studio and cleaning the new one all week, so things have been extra crazy. The new place is kind of a mess, but the price was right - it's just going to be a lot of work to get it to the point of being my super cute dream workshop.

It has lots of amenities that shoemakers dream of, such as three (3!) walk-in freezers and four shiny chili cauldrons:

This is the 'before' shot of the main space. The windows have a nice Chicago skyline-ish view - I can see the Hancock and Trump, but the Sears is blocked by Circuit City.

Here's the exterior shot. I have basically the entire second floor of this white building. This is the view from the Circuit City/Midtown Tennis Club parking lot on Elston.

I met my new next door neighbors today. They're awfully sweet, except for the part where they mentioned that my space reminds them of the Saw movies. Yeah, I have a lot of work ahead of me.

new shoes! 12th pair

Oops, it's been a week since I last posted a new pair. This is supposed to be Fresh Shoes Daily, not Fresh Shoes Whenever I Get Around To It. So I'll get back on the ball.

However, I do have a good excuse. I'm moving to a new studio, yay! More on that in the next post. More importantly, it's time for new shoes!

I love this shot. It was taken by the spectacularly talented TS Harrington. We have the sandals tied in the basic ankle tie, then wrapped UP the leg, goddess-style. This look uses about 5 yards of lemon satin ribbon per leg - that's 10 yards in all, or 30 feet of ribbon. It's not always easy to find spools of that much ribbon in the fabric shops, so I'm hoping to carry similar ribbon in the next couple of months.

The secret to making sure the ribbons stay up is to wrap them all the way to the top of your calf as shown. That way, they're secured where your leg tapers right under your knee, and gravity can't do its dirty work and drag them down as you walk. If you'd rather have the ribbons go up to your mid-calf or so, I recommend double-sided tape to keep them up. Otherwise, you'd have to tie them really super tight, and that would be uncomfortable and give you muffin calves.


do the ribbons really stay tied?

A few people have asked me lately whether the ribbons really stay tied. If you're anything like me, your tennis shoes come untied every 10 minutes unless you make a kindergarden double knot, so I understand the concern.

However, the ribbons really don't come untied on their own. Most of our ribbons have enough 'tooth', and the surface area of the knot is great enough, that it just does not happen. However, I do often tie a knot before I make a bow when using satin ribbons because they are a little slicker. So there you go.

new shoes! 11th pair

Here we have the basic ankle tie again, shown with our 5/8" black and silver metallic ribbons. We laced the first and fourth loops, then wrapped the rest around the ankle. For a streamlined look, the ribbons were tied in a knot with the ends tucked in. The ribbons were used in the length they come in, 66" per shoe.


new shoes! 10th pair

Oh man, I love these ribbons so much. I wish I could find a source for them, but I just found a few yard of it online, and have no idea who the manufacturer is.

A variation on the basic ankle tie for a sophisticated look. The first three loops are laced, then the ribbon is simply wrapped over the top of the foot and tied behind the ankle in a knot or bow. Depending how big you'd like the bow or loose ends in back, as well as your shoe size, this look uses about 56"-72" of ribbon per shoe - about 3 1/8 to 4 yards total. This is another style that works great on lower heels as well.


new shoes! 9th pair

Continuing with the basic ankle tie theme:

These ribbons are so cute, with their red scalloped edge on one side. Unfortunately, I have no idea where I found these ribbons. This is another look that works really well on the lower heels as well. We've laced the first and third loops, crossed the ribbons over the front of the foot, around the ankle, and finished with a bow toward the side, easy-squeesy. We're using about 60" of ribbon per shoe, or 3 1/3 yards total, for a size 9.


the cpsia

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is a new law that requires manufacturers to test all components of any products for use by children 12 and under for dangerous substances such as lead and pthalates. Sounds great, huh?

The problem is, testing is required for each component of each item produced and will cost thousands of dollars for every different product (including each colorway, and each size). Clearly, small and micro businesses can't afford that, and the penalties for non-compliance are steep, up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have lots of friends who make children's products by hand, and this law, as written, will put them out of business. These are great businesses that make their products in the US, with materials that are obviously safe.

It would make more sense if each manufacter of children's products needed to get some sort of certification from the manufacturer of their components... say, for example, someone who makes onsies would need the manufacturer of the snaps and the manufacturer of the fabric to forward something that says the materials are compliant. But to have every component tested on every size and color of onsies made is just silly. The properties of the snaps do not magically change between a size small and a size medium, sheesh. I could go on, but suffice it to say that the law was written very quickly as a reaction to tainted toys from China, and did not take into account the realies that small, handmade manufacturers face.

I believe an amendment to the law is necessary. To help push this along, please take a second to vote for this at Change.org. I would love to make sandals for tweens, and doing so would be breaking the law (it becomes effective in early February) - please help us small manufacturers out!

new shoes! 8th pair

Another variation on the basic ankle tie:

This is very similar to the 6th pair, also using 66" gold lame ribbons in each shoe. We've laced the first and third loops, crossed the ribbons over the top of the foot, and wrapped around the ankles. For a sleek look, you can tuck the ribbons in, ballerina style. We no longer carry these gold lame ribbons because they really don't hold up very well after a couple of wearings, but you can probably find something very similar at your local fabric/craft store. These are blinding in the sunlight.


christine haynes

Super talented indie fashion designer Christine Haynes is having a birthday sale this week! So exciting!!! Her prices are already extremely reasonable - and she designs and makes her clothing herself. It feels so good to buy well-made, unique clothing directly from designers. This is why I'm smiling all the time ;) I have a couple of her dresses already. They're super comfy, flattering, and look awesome with Mohops! Her dresses are great for layering as well - I like to wear them with a long sleeved tee (or two) and tights underneath in the colder months, and it looks sooooo cute while being ultra-cozy.

new shoes! 7th pair

This is a great look with our lower heel styles. It will work with any of our styles, of course, but this is particularly good for our flats and low heels because the back half of your foot can move more freely.

This is a variation on the basic ankle tie. We laced the first three loops, then crossed the ribbons over the top of the foot and around the ankle a couple of times. You'll need at least 66" for this style, more if you'd like more wraps around the ankle or a larger bow. The pretty vintage ribbon in the photo was found on eBay or something, sorry we don't have a source for it!


new shoes! 6th pair

Today's new pair of shoes are pretty similar to the basic tie - the only difference is that we're wrapping the extra ribbon length around the ankle. The ribbons we sell on our site are all 66" long, so for those ribbons to be long enough to wrap around your ankle, you will skip some of the loops as you lace them up.

In this illustration, we laced the first two sets of loops, then skipped to the 5th set of loops. From there, you can wrap the ribbons behind your foot and around your ankle as shown above and in the photo. The ribbon at the back of your ankle, where your Achilles tendon is, may tend to fall down if your ankle doesn't taper a lot there. No worries, there's a solution:
  • at the back of the ankle, just before tying your knot/bow, tuck one end of the ribbon under and around the ribbons circling your ankle.

It's so simple to do, not as simple to describe. One of these days, I'm going to make little videos showing these different ways to tie... But anyway, here's a photo showing 5/8" wide gold lame ribbon. Each ribbon is 66" long, shown on a size 7 foot:

We really don't recommend Mohops for rock climbing, by the way.


what to do with scratches

Due to the natural properties of wood, solid wood Mohops will eventually get scratched as you wear them. You can minimize the appearance of any scrapes by applying a tiny dab (really, just a drop or two) of oil on the affected area with a paper towel or rag. Mineral oil, olive oil, or pretty much any oil you have around the house will do the trick.


new shoes! 5th pair

We'll finish off the week with this final look showing the basic tie:

This is a really neat double-sided ribbon we found at a fabric store - I can't remember if it was Soutache or Vogue... Anyway, about 66" of ribbon is used per shoe. I recommend starting with 3 3/4 to 4 yards of ribbon depending on your shoe size (the bigger your foot, the more ribbon you'd need, of course).

Next week, we're going to go nuts and start wrapping ribbons around the ankle, so be sure and come back! Happy Friday!!!


new shoes! 4th pair

These are very similar to yesterday's shoes, but you can see with a slightly different ribbon and the addition of tights (or socks), you can easily have an entirely new look:

We're using 1 1/2" wide solid black grosgrain ribbon laced in the first two loops, with a nice big bow tied at the side (sorry the bows are kind of dark in this photo). You'll need about 44" of ribbon per shoe - close to 2 1/2 yards total.


lara miller

One of my favorite clothing designers is Lara Miller. Her dresses are like the clothing version of my shoes. Or rather, my shoes are the footwear version of her designs - she's been super succesful way longer than Mohop's been around (yet, she's somehow several years younger, grrr...) Her designs are so cool, there's lots of different ways to wear them by flipping them upside down, inside out, or wrapping and twisting them in different ways. I have a couple of her dresses as well as a little sweater, and I can't wear them without someone complimenting me. Then I'm all like, "hey! what about my shoes!?! they're cool too!" ha.

Her clothing is also eco-friendly and animal-friendly, so we have lots in common - she's like my fashion soulmate.

Lara's Long Mitri Dress (the shorter version is above) will worn by the presentation models during the first half of the People's Choice Awards which airs tonight, January 7 on CBS! I'll be sure to tune to see her gorgeous gowns.

new shoes! 3rd pair

Another variation on the basic tie:

We have 1 1/2" wide black and white grosgrain ribbon laced in the first two loops and finished with a knot at the side of the foot. Only about 30" of ribbon for each shoe are needed for this look, so you'll need approximately 1 2/3 yards (60") of ribbon total. This makes a nice slip-on sandal, great for airports and places where you have to take your shoes on and off quickly. Due to the weight of solid wood, this look works better with lower heeled sandals, as opposed to the high wedges shown here.


new shoes! 2nd pair

Our second pair of shoes also is tied with the basic tie:

The ribbons shown are about 50" long for each foot - the exact length varies depending on your foot size. To get a similar look, buy about 3 yards of a double-sided jaquard ribbon, cut that length in half, and seal if desired. Unfortunately, I can't provide a source for the ribbon shown - I found it online ages ago, and can't find a link.

These shoes are made extra cute by tying the ribbon slightly off-center, to the outer side of the foot.


how to keep your ribbons from fraying

If you trim your ribbons, they will most likely fray without using some method to seal the ends. Here are my favorite things to do with the ribbon ends:
  • let them fray - this is great when you're going for more of a casual, bohemenian sort of look
  • fray check, available at fabric and craft stores
  • my favorite method: run the cut end of the ribbon quickly through a flame. Do this in a well-ventilated area!!! I'm serious! This only works on man-made materials that melt in heat, so it won't work for natural fibers such as cotton or linen.

new shoes! 1st pair

Tying Mohops is easy as lacing your trainers/sneakers/gym shoes/whatever you want to call them. The best way to start is by lacing them in what I call "the basic tie" (I'm really good at coming up with catchy names).

  • before you put the shoe on, lace it up like a tennis shoe [illustrations A, B, C]
  • loosen the ribbon so you can easily slip your foot into the shoe, with all ribbons on top of your foot
  • tighten the ribbons on your foot, starting at the loops near your toes. work your way back, pulling the ribbons firmly against your foot to achieve even tension. the sandal should feel slightly tighter than you may be used to with other shoes; the elastic will allow the ribbons to move with your foot [illustration D]
  • tie a knot or a bow [illustration E]

KEEP IN MIND: you can use as many or as few of the loops you’d like - try lacing all of them for a Grecian-inspired look [illustration F]. try using just the first couple loops for an easy, simple slide - or try skipping or alternating loops... it’s up to you!

The above picture shows our 3/8" fuschia stitch grosgrain ribbons at 66" long (the length they come), laced in the first four loops on a size 7 foot - I mention the foot size because the ribbons would look shorter on a larger foot, or longer on a smaller foot. If the bow is a bit large for your taste, you could trim the ribbon, or lace through another set of loops - whatever you're in the mood for.

Tune in tomorrow for a new pair of shoes! xoxox


handmade nation

The holidays are behind us, but if you're in the mood to buy a gift for yourself or a friend, I recommend Handmade Nation by Faythe Levine + Cortney Heimerl. A companion book to the forthcoming film by the same name, Handmade Nation features the work of 24 artists and 5 essayists. There's a 6 page spread about yours truly, with extraordinarily bad orange hair (mostly hidden under a cute hat by Squasht by Les), our messy studio, and some screen printing at our neighbor Screwball Press.


i make shoes.

I'm a shoemaker. There are lots of reasons why I love making shoes, and the fact that I can make a living while avoiding having to write anything coherent is one of those reasons.

Generally, I'm a slow writer, and have to read and edit everything five times before sending anything to anyone... that's my perfectionist side that also drives me to make awesome shoes. ha. But anyway, I'm going to ignore that tendency, and write my posts as fast as possible. Which means, there's going to be lots of spelling errors and poor grammar and bad etiquitte and stuff - but this is the only way I'll be able to squeeze a blog in while trying to keep up with my business duties. So there it is.

The goal of this blog is to illustrate a new pair of shoes every day - well, every week day. There's, like, gazillions of ways to tie Mohops, and I thought it would be fun to show some of the different styles anyone could come up with.

I'll also be talking about my effort to maintain and expand my little factory here in Chicago. At this moment, the factory consists of me (the shoemaker), my husband (the part-time researcher and bookkeeper), a bandsaw, an oscillating sander, several drillpresses, a pile of wood, and a 725 square foot studio in the St. Bens/North Center neighborhood. We also have some assistants now and again. It's all quite modest, but I hope someday to grow it into something a bit more... it's been an adventure so far!

Here's my digs:
Yes, we fashion designers lead very glamorous lives.