Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Glitter Ball Purse Straps Tutorial

When I was working on purses for my glitter workshops I kept running into the problem of big floppy straps that are great for keeping an actual purse on your shoulder but don't look as cute/pretty when you're dealing with something intended for artistic display. Not only did I not like the aesthetics of the straps...glittering big floppy straps was like trying to get an even coating of glitter on a snake. I hate to take them off entirely, because a handle makes for such a pretty purse silhouette. I tried cutting them shorter, and that was a little better, but then I opted to try just cutting them off and totally replacing them. I needed something light for the straps so they'd stay up on their own and hold a pretty silhouette (no sagging allowed), so I tried these little glitter foam balls I had in my stash threaded onto pipe cleaner and LOVED the result! I did a little fine-tuning and experimenting and researching sources, but I am finally at long last ready to share details that I hope will be useful. I have two methods for doing foam ball straps, I will discuss both (and where to get the materials) below.

STEP 1 - Get some balls!
(Yeah, sorry...this post is going to be full of unfortunate phrasing/wording...rather than try in vain to avoid the dozens of inevitable double entendre, I'm just going to totally give in. You've been warned)

The toughest part of making these straps is getting the glittered foam balls because they seem to be a seasonal item. I paid closer attention last year and if that's any indication, Michael's will carry them as Halloween decor/vase filler and Christmas decor/vase filler and then they might be gone for the rest of the year. So the next time you're at Michael's check for clearance Halloween vase filler and start keeping an eye out for the Christmas stuff. The last time I was at Michael's I got these half-off, but didn't see any Christmas ones out yet:

This is some of my stash of Christmas/Halloween vase filler from Michael's from last year's clearance sales (with a FDC garland at the top...more on that below). That may give you an idea of what kinds of colors you might be able to find, though seasonal items are always honestly a bit of a crap shoot:

I don't do much craft supply shopping online because I prefer to actually see and feel them in person. However, since these are tough to find even when they're "in season" and damn near impossible to find after Christmas, going online may be your best option. You'll also get a broader range of color and size options. Bear in mind that if you don't like the color you can change it (I'll post on that another day), but it's easier to buy a color you like in the first place. Here are some online options:

Factory Direct Craft
Factory Direct Craft has some pretty excellent options for glittered foam balls, specifically garlands and the somewhat unfortunately named "ball sprays."

The garlands are awesome because they're a good price and already have holes in them, but only come in two colors: platinum and red. The platinum is really pretty - the mix of silver and gold reminds me of vintage mercury glass.

The ball sprays come in more colors (including white which is a great base color if you're planning to layer an iridescent sheer/pastel glitter over it), but at 6 for $1, this is one of the pricier options included here.


I bought a few shades of Christmas Central decoration glitter balls via Walmart,com. These are pretty similar size (diameters range 0.8-1.25") and price-wise (about $6 for a bag of ~60) as the bags from Michael's.  I found the quality a little uneven: the white ones had hardly any glitter on them, but were fine for layering over. Everything else I tried was beautiful and there are a lot of cool color options (I especially love the lake green, gunmetal silver and bright yellow shown here).

The Blushing Iris on Etsy
I had a good experience shopping with The Blushing Iris Etsy Shop. The bags include are a wider range of sizes than the other options I've listed (about 100 little ~0.5" balls and 100 larger ~0.8" balls).

Hobby Lobby (?)
I don't really shop at Hobby Lobby, but they do have glitter ball vase filler and "foam glitter ball confetti" on their website (for example, this Red, White and Blue mix here). Not sure if it's in stores and/or how long it'll be stocked (might be seasonal like Michael's)

The other thing you need is pipe cleaner. You can buy them in packs from craft stores, but I also like to use the garland spools from Factory Direct Craft because I don't have to twist two together to make a longer handle, I can just cut whatever length I need. I would get the metallic ones and try to generally match the color of the balls you're using so if a little peeks out of your handle it's camouflaged.


To string them on to purse handles, the ball will need punched through them to thread the pipe cleaner through. Balls that are strung on garland are ready to go (unless you want the hole bigger). If your balls are on wires (like floral picks), you'll need to pull those off first:

If your balls aren't garland (i.e. vase filler or picks removed from their wires), you make a hole through the middle with a tooth pick. The foam balls are soft, so it should be easy to poke through. Tip: if you're using ball that have been removed from wires, try to line the toothpick up with the spot where the wire was attached, otherwise you'll have a wee ball spot where there's no glitter.


Once you've got your balls prepared, there are two methods for attaching new handles to the purse. The first method is more structurally sound because you actually thread the pipe cleaner through the purse, while the second is a little easier. As usual, there's no "right way" - both methods have pros and cons, try both out and see what works for you (or invent something new that works even better!!)


Step 1. Punch holes in the purse where you'd like your handles to go. If it's like a bucket-shape purse sometimes you only need one hole, but on purses where it's a flap that comes over the top you may need two. I have a tool I inherited for putting wee holes in fabric for setting grommets (grommet pliers, that I would assume were purchased at Joann's) but you probably don't want to buy one just for can also poke holes with little scissors or cut very small incisions with an Exacto knife.

Step 2. Thread the foam ball with the hole in it onto the pipe cleaner, all the way to the end covered the twisted together end. Covering the twisted ends will prevent any untwisting/unraveling and will cover the pipe cleaner.

Step 3. Keep threading on the foam balls in any pattern you like:

Step 4. If you reach the end of the pipe cleaner, but you'd like your purse handle to be longer, twist on another pipe cleaner. When you're close to the end of the first pipe cleaner, twist another one on there and then continue threading balls, pushing them over the spot where you've joined the two pipe cleaners. As with the first ball, covering the twisted join up prevents unraveling

Step 5. Once your purse handle reaches the desired length, it's time to attach the other side of the strap to the other side of the purse.

Feed the pipe cleaner into one hole and out the other, then pull it so the last ball in the handle is flush against the purse (don't pull it too tight yet because you're going to need a little wiggle room in a minute)

Wrap the pipe cleaner around the bottom of other pipe cleaner (between the last ball and the purse). Wrap it a few times to secure it, then cut so only a short piece (maybe a half-inch) remains and then tuck that piece up into the last ball of the handle and (if needed) slide the ball down a little so it's totally covered:

Voila! Super cute new handle on your purse!!


The other way to add a foam ball handle is a little easier, and if you have a purse that doesn't have a good spot for punching holes you can still use this approach.

Step 1. String balls onto a pipe cleaner in your desired pattern

Step 2. When the strap is the desired length, pull off the last ball on either end and trim the pipe cleaner ends so they're just long enough to reach almost all the way through those last balls (I do this by cutting the pipe cleaner just below the last balls, then pulling them off, then snipping off a teeny bit more)

Step 3. Add a little bit of hot glue inside the end balls and slide them back onto the ends of the pipe cleaner. The hot glue should get a really nice grip on the foam and the bristles of the pipe cleaner. Be careful - the hot glue might melt the foam a little, and I wouldn't want anyone to get burned!

Step 4. Hot glue the strap onto the purse. When the hot glue is dry, if there's a lot of it visible where you stuck the handles on, you can cover it with glue and glitter.

So there you have it! Two ways of making new purse straps with glitter foam balls and pipe cleaner! I'm going to do an addendum to this post talking about some other ways you can play with this technique, but for now I wanted to mention just a few more things.

(1) A teeny little bit of marabou trim wrapped around the base of the purse handle looks really cute and can cover up the spots where the handle attached in case you aren't thrilled with how it came out. 
(2) Foam balls also make great "feet" for purses that won't stand up on their own. I like to make sure a purse can stand up for display purposes, so I like to add either foam balls or glass stones for feet.

3. You can mix in other foam embellishments besides balls for cute effects. They need to be that same light kind-of styrofoam density so the strap doesn't sag, but keep an eye out for cute stuff to repurpose. I originally got these stars from, but they don't seem to be in stock right now. However, I know Michael's will have a ton of cool Christmas picks including some foam embellishments soon (if they don't already), so check that aisle out when it goes on clearance. I've seen wee little foam skulls for Halloween at Michael's and there are usually great little glittered foam eggs around Easter (won't help you this year, but if you work year-round like I do you'll be ready to grab them)

If you have questions/ideas, let me know if the comments!! Happy glittering!!

UPDATE 1/25/2017: I've noticed that if you use the second method (where you hot glue the strap onto the purse rather than threading the pipe cleaner through the actual purse on either side), the hot glue can lose it's hold. What's likely happening is that there's enough loose glitter that the whole shebang can peel off. If this happens, I would recommend using a nice generous dollop of E6000 between the purse and the hot glue blob. This is a pretty good strategy in general when you encounter hot glue appearing to "peel up" off one surface - the cooled hot glue blob will have conformed nicely to the surface to give you a good contact area and the E6000 is a little stronger but too runny to hold something big in place. I'll try to add some pictures of that process if I get a chance.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Work in Progress - Popeyes Fried Chicken Shoe

Love that chicken from Popeyes!!

Last year a friend pointed out that there hadn't ever been a Popeyes Fried Chicken shoe and I had to agree that was a shame - what Carnival season is complete without a box? It was too close to the parade last year for me to do anything with it for 2016, but I threw it in my big, groaning folder of ideas to revisit. I recently got the awesome news that I'd be riding as a sub again in 2017 (WOOHOO!) and we're approx. halfway to Carnival 2017, so no time like the present to get cracking.

As luck would have it, my little one caught this sweet light up plastic bone from Krewe D'Etat in 2016. He enjoyed it tremendously until the light wore out, then graciously let mama have it. That's what I've used for the bone:

If you don't have a d'Etat bone in your Carnival haul, I don't think it would be too hard to paper mache one (Google "paper mache bone," there are a ton of tutorials online). If you'd rather use a plastic one, you could keep an eye out once Halloween costumes hit the shelves - I sometimes see them being sold as props for cavemen costume (like this one here). Or if you're already placing an order with an online costume supplier for Halloween or something else (i.e. if you're already paying for shipping), maybe check and see if they have one.

After I hot glued the bone on the heel, I took some scrunched up tissue paper and lightly hot glued that all over the shoe to give it that crinkly chicken skin effect. A coat of mod podge over the whole surface helped sort of decoupage this tissue it onto the shoe wherever the hot glue wasn't holding it down.

Shoe post-tissue, pre-glittering

I mixed up a blend of glitter similar to what I used for the Fried Shrimp Poboy Flip Flop: mostly chunky copper glitter and fine copper glitter, with a little very fine dark red glitter, fine gold glitter, chunky red glitter and just a teeny bit of fine black glitter. If you use any chunky glitter or chunky glitter blends, remember to really aggressively brush off loose glitter after each layer dries because it doesn't adhere as well to the glue and shedding is the enemy.

Here are some pictures of the glittered shoe up close so you can see the effect of blending multiple glitters and layering the blend over scrunched up tissue paper:

I usually do two coats of glitter, but in this case I may either do a third coat or a lot of touch ups because the surface is so craggy, but I'm really happy with the effect. Here it is so far:

Next up: a Popeyes logo and "Muses 2017." Happy glittering everyone!!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Glittering 101 Workshop - Saturday September 24, 2016

Date set for the September Glittering 101 Workshop! I CAN'T WAIT!!

The workshop will be 2.5 hrs long (2-4:30 pm) on Saturday Sept. 12th. We're going to cover the basics of glittering shoes, including covering shoes with glitter, using the transfer technique for "glettering" (glittered lettering) and various types of embellishment. We'll cover the whole process start to finish, but I'll provide shoes at staggered stages of completeness so we don't have to wait for glue to dry between steps. At the end of the workshop, you'll leave with some partially completed shoes, at least one completely finished ready-to-throw shoe, and some extra materials for finishing up your partial shoes at your leisure. The workshop fee also includes a 23 page packet of useful write-ups (including a detailed step-by-step guide to glittering shoes with photos at each step, all the tips and tricks I've picked up in 5 years of shoe glittering, a guide of useful resources, etc.). Everything you need will be provided - you only need to sign up, pay up and show up!!

I originally assumed it would only be useful for beginners, but we've had a range of experience levels attend and enjoy themselves (from total newbies to experts). My primary area of expertise is of course glittering shoes, but I can provide customized workshop materials for ladies who ride in other krewes. Just let me know who you roll with/what your preferred throw is when you email me. If you're not a krewe member but would like to beef up your glittering skills, you are also welcome to join us!

Feedback and pictures from past workshops to give you a little taste of what's in store can be found HERE and HERE.

If you're interested or have any questions, drop me an email at drnoripants at gmail dot com and I can give you more info (including pricing)!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A little more Muses shoe inspiration

The weekend has arrived, and I'm hoping that means a little time to set up my new glitterage here and get to creating! Before my little one wakes up and seizes the day with both hands toddler-style, I thought I'd update here right quick.

So, I don't actually like the Monster High dolls themselves (as this Dad put it: "it's like someone at Mattel held up a market research study and screamed 'our Barbie dolls aren't causing as much body dysmorphia in children as they used to!' and then made Monster High dolls to "fix" that problem). Anyways, while the execution is a little problematic, I do love the concept (a glamorous high-fashion take on Goth/classic Horror tropes), and this Buzzfeed list turned me onto how unbelievably fabulous and creative the shoe design for the dolls is. I've started a Pinterest board of Monster High (and Ever after High) Shoes HERE, so if you're ever looking for wild shoe designs to get your creative juices flowing, have a peak (if you missed it, I shared some designers/artists whose work is great inspiration in this post).

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Moved to NOLA!

We are finally at long last moved to NOLA and I am very very excited, though also very very tired of unpacking boxes.

I am desperate to get back to glittering. Alas setting up my new workspace is somewhat low priority at the moment, but I have a ton of ideas swirling around in my brain and I can't wait to get them into actual 3D shoe form!! I have high hopes for a smidge of sparkle time this weekend. And of course I need to start planning more workshops in the fall when it cools off a bit.

Until I get back up and running, here are a few shots of shoes I was working on before the move that are in varying stages of completeness. If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen these, but I know different people prefer different platforms (I met one fellow glitter addict at a workshop who only follows me on Pinterest and she must think I was hit by a bus or something...)

First up - my first "official" 2017 shoe - Rhinestone Cowgirl! A friend of a friend gifted me a bunch of awesome Cowgirl boots to glitterify, and I've been loving working with a slightly different shoe shape. I did a vintage Mardi Grad color scheme on this first one. The boot had elaborate stitching that I didn't want to lose, so first step I covered the boot with translucent white sheer glitter (Gary's glitter by the pound, HOLLA). Then I did the other areas of the boots (heel, trim, sole, toe, etc.) in solid opaque glitter (all Martha Stewart, but I'd have to double check the exact colors). Then I traced the stitched in design with crystal puff paint and added a gradient of gold to green to purple. The gradient is essentially five colors of glitter: gold, then 50-50 gold and green, then green, then 50-50 green and purple and finally purple. I just shook stripes over the wet puff paint and voila - Carnival fabulousness!! I added some white feathers with gold tinsel up top, and some aurora borealis rhinestones which were added post-pictures.

Y'all know I love a shoe with a Snoball heel (after all, I've made four so far). After drooling over images of the bananas foster topping available as a special Wednesday-only at Hansen's I just had to exorcise my food-lust demons with another shoe. Here she is so far:


Ooooh sexy Instagram filter on this shot

The bananas are baked and painted polymer clay and the snoball itself is a foam ball glittered with Martha Stewart "lemondrop." The gooey caramel loveliness is represented by tons of drippy gold glitter paint (Tulips 3D Scribbles, my go-to for glettering transfers). The cup is a plastic Mardi Gras cup covered first with a layer of opaque teal (I want to say Gary's glitter by the pound), then followed up with a layer of iridescent sheer (Martha Stewart "blueberry slush"). Sidebar: I picked up a bunch of sale Martha Stewart glitter at Michael's a while back and now it seems it's been discontinued there...anyone know what's up? Are they no-longer carrying it, or revamping the line or what? I love the effect of layering iridescent over opaque like this - such a rich depth of color! The interior is the same effect: opaque magenta with iridescent sheer hot pink over it, this time Recollections. Gold trim from Joann's around the edges and criss-crossed "straps" made from faux little white spoons (actually craft foam stiffened with plastic sheets, then glittered with sheer white glitter from Gary's). I will have to blog about using plastic in combination with craft foam another time, but it has been a game changer for me in terms of allowing my to just build whatever I want from scratch.

As usual, there are things I'd do differently on it if I had a time machine, but overall I love how this shoe is turning out. The cup needs a lot of embellishment since I love that color blue but it's pretty plain at the moment - I'm leaning towards a riff on the 75th Anniversary cup design, but replacing the numbers with 17th or 18th because it'll be thrown in 2017 or 2018, Muses 17th or 18th year of rolling.

What else? Experimenting with some fish shoes:

Lots more to come on those, including detailed instructions for making them yourself (it's super easy, you just need the right supplies).

Lastly (for now), I made a Jefferson City Buzzards themed shoe as a gift for the Flamingos (who my sister and I ride with as subs) to present them:

More soon - Happy Glittering!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Morse Code and my Michael Jackson Muses Shoe (I swear, there's a connection)

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink he describes the phenomenon of "fist" in the context of telegraph operators and code-breakers during WWII. I'm no Malcolm Gladwell, but I'll sum up for those who haven't read it: the British women listening in on the German's messages eventually noticed that the way each operator tapped out their dots and dashes was distinctive, like a voice. The unique individualized way of sending a message in Morse code was termed "fist." Eventually, they could tell which operator was sending the coded messages, which gave them information indirectly even if they didn't know what the messages were saying (who was moving where, etc.).

Now, I know I'm pretty obsessed (one might even say *addicted*) when it comes to glittered throws, but more and more I notice that individual glitter artists have their own distinctive styles, their own glue-and-sparkle-covered "fist," if you will. A certain type of trim or color palette, and I immediately have at least a guess whose shoe or purse I'm looking at (though all the marvelous cross-pollination we have going these days makes it a little tougher to trace). There's something to be said for identifying what elements characterize your style, both so you can push outside your comfort zone and, at the other end of the spectrum, so you can embrace your unique take on the throw.

In weak moments I may believe I'm an exception because I'm so super versatile with such eclectic tastes in inspiration that this couldn't possibly be the case for me shoes, but who am I kidding with that? I think my signature style (certainly the shoes of mine that people are most responsive to) is what I tend to term the "structural shoe" which I define as a shoe where something has been built out or replaced, especially the heel/back of the shoe. For example, if the back of the shoe is a popcorn box, or a snoball or a trumpet...that's more likely to be one of my babies (though not always - plenty of other people rock this approach out). I am also most inspired by shoes in this style, like Robert Tabor's Shoe Sculptures and Claudia Lynch's Shoe Stories Prints.

Last year a friend asked if I'd make her a Michael Jackson shoe last year, but Glitter Buzz Nola had recently absolutely crushed it on this fabulous pair of MJ shoes. So I had to really think about it: "What are the unique elements of my shoe style? What can I bring to this concept? What would make it not only an MJ shoe but undeniably one of my shoes?" This was one of the shoes of 2016 that people most gushed over (in person and online), so I feel like that approach paid off in a really satisfying way. I'm also embracing my crazy a little more, so I felt like it was ok to lean into over-the-top construction details - hand placing hundreds of rhinestones is nuts, sure, but the end result was so worth it and that makes me happy.

On to construction details and pics!

Glitter Buzz Nola nailed the color palette, so I didn't deviate much from that: silver, black, red and plenty of clear rhinestones. I used Gary's glitter by the pound for the black and silver, and Martha Stewart "garnet" for the red.

I knew I wanted the rhinestone glove on there, and considered attaching it like it was holding the shoe, very much like what you see here on this weird pair . But no matter how I configured that, it always looked a little creepy, like a disembodied zombie hand reaching out and grabbing onto your shoe. My overactive imagination aside, I needed something to bridge the gap. I decided to go with what I'm best at shoe-wise and put some structural element in place of the heel/back of the shoe. I made the heel into a stylized microphone, then wrapped the glove around that, then bedazzled like a mad women (which I am). Success! I loved the way this looked.

The microphone is a foam ball covered with some netting I spray-painted silver on a cylinder of black craft foam with some silver trim. I stuffed the white glove (my late mother was a costumer, so her stash includes many many pairs of cheap white cotton gloves) with cotton and hot glued it to the microphone, then did several coats of white glitter to stiffen the fabric and add some shimmer between the rhinestone cracks.

Here's the shoe after the microphone and glove were added, before any beddazling. You can also see I used a little black craft foam to add some loafer detail to the shape.
 Once the glove was in place, I started adding the rhinestones one at a time. I used Jewel-It (devoted readers will remember that E6000, though near and dear to my heart, is no beuno for rhinestones and Elmer's wasn't really working out - not thick enough). This was my first foray into serious rhinestone coverage and I learned a lot. I used a wooden dowel and a plain chapstick to dip in glue and transfer rhinestones onto the glove, then buffed off the chapstick from the dried surface. That worked pretty well, but I have since invested in some of these, and they're even better (though I'm hoping Santa brings me a rhinestone katana). I've also started using GemTac instead of Jewel-It, and I might maybe like it a tiny bit better (though both are good).

Rhinestone coverage in process! Please don't judge the mess - it was nuts trying to get shoes done this year

One of the other elements of my style (though just about everyone else who uses this technique does it better than me, including former workshop attendees, which seriously bruises my poor frail ego) are transfers. If you haven't tried transfers yet, check out my write-up here and Glitter Buzz NOLA's excellent blog post here here (including video!!) It's an awesome way to add great detail to your shoes/purses/etc.

I did a couple of black glitter silhouettes of MJ. I tried them on the red, but they popped most over the silver so I stuck them inside the shoe as a little hidden Easter egg type detail.

The one of the far left didn't look as clean once transferred, so I just used the middle and right and made a graffiti lettering red "WHO'S BAD?" transfer to fill the space
After glittering, adding the glove and hand placing hundreds of rhinestones, working out some additional glove embellishment and gluing on transfers (including the silhouettes, an "I <3 MJ" with the heart outlined in rhinestones, and Muses 2016), the shoe was ready to go be loved in it's new home:

Next post I'll share what I'm working on right now for 2017 - pralines, fish shoes, snoballs...