Question and Answer Marathon Part 3: DIY

Michael Antonio Women's Gunner Wedge Sandal,Black,8.5 M US

Hi! I just stumbled on your blog a few months and I really dig it. I’ve been “diy’ing” my own stuff years, but shoes always get me! Is there any way that you know of to turn a pair of regular heels into platform wedge heels? Or is that for the pro’s only?

Short answer: Sure you can do it yourself, but if you don’t have a lot of time & money for this, aren’t willing to possibly sacrifice your shoes during the learning curve, or are super-picky about the finished product looking like you bought it in a store (and wasn’t cobbled together in your living room), leave it to the pros.

Long answer: If you’re up to the challenge, or want to do this on a regular basis, then go for it.  To turn a pair of regular heels into platform wedges is a three-step process: removing the old heels, building the wedge and platform, and then shaping and finishing the wedge and platform.

Step 1: Rip off the heels on your original shoes.  This is usually accomplished by a lot of pushing and pulling, angling a screwdriver in-between the heel and the sole, and prying the heel off (assuming your heels are nailed on and not glued).  If they have been glued on (which sometimes heels are; and sometimes they are both glued AND nailed), you can pry them off using force (have fun;-) or utilize Barge Cement Thinner to dissolve the shoemaker’s glue, which will make the task a little easier.  I’d recommend testing the thinner in an area of the shoe where it won’t be too obvious before spreading it into the heel seams – some solvents can discolor or melt components, and you don’t want to ruin any visible parts of the shoes by spreading chemicals on them that destroy them, right? 

You may have to also remove the entire soles, depending on the shape of what’s left once you’ve removed the heels.  If the soling leather has not been skivved down too aggressively at the heels (or hasn’t been cut away), then you can leave it in place and build your wedge & platform under the old soles.  (Though your new shoes will look like they’ve just had the wedge + platform glued onto them, which they will be.)  If the sole does not completely cover the heel of your shoes, then you’ll have to remove it entirely, which will collapse the shape of your uppers if you don’t bolster them prior to doing this.  (By putting your lasts in them.  You don’t have lasts?  Uh oh.  You need something that will double for your feet, something hard and heavy that fills out the uppers completely.  Ideas?  Double layers of pantyhose, wrapped in a layer of saran wrap, filled with Plaster of Paris *may* work in a pinch.  Though if plaster gets on your shoes game’s over.)

SO…once you’ve filled out the shoes you’ll need to rip the soles off (again, via dissolving the glue and prizing them off the shoe uppers.)

Step 2: Building the wedges & platform.  For ease of wear and walkability you’ll need to build your wedges out of layers of 1″ foam crepe (also called “cloud foam” – about $36 a sheet at shoemaker’s supply shops) – using a single layer for the platform part of the shoe, and using 2 (or more) smaller pieces in the heel area.  (I’ve seen some how-tos floating around on the internet that advise you making the wedges out of wood – certainly possible, but unless you’re a woodworker I’d recommend going with the foam since it’s softer, more sculptable, and easier to walk on.  But you can always try wood if you enjoy carving it!!)  It’s fun if you enjoy the process, but you do have to be a very exact sculptor when making your wedges – otherwise the finished pieces will become works of art and ultimately unwearable.  Even a 2 mm difference in height or shape to the wedges will throw your balance off and give your back aches.  Once the glue is set up between the layers (secure with long screws), then you need to shave the foam to shape your wedge heels – the curvature on the top has to exactly match the pitch of your original shoes or you will be continually off-balance – and you need to make sure right and left are exactly the same!

Step 3: Attaching the wedge platform & finishing. Use Barge cement to attach the platform wedges. 

Once everything is dry, then trace the wedge bottoms and cut your soles out of soling leather.  Skive the raw edges down.  Glue to the wedge bottom and apply Edge Kote and shoe polish to the sole edges.

And if you’re really lucky, you might find a pair of plastic wedges at a shoemaker’s supply store, that somebody really kind might sell to you.  And if you’re really, really, really lucky, said wedges might actually be in the same shoe size, shape, and heel height as your original shoes.  Then you wouldn’t have to build the wedge from scratch in the foam crepe – which wedges usually aren’t built from (unless they’re single-piece foam sandals)…foam crepe is usually only used for platforms in shoes, and the wedge part is usually a solid plastic piece.

So no, you don’t HAVE to be a professional to convert regular heels to wedge heels, but it’s a very fiddly and time-consuming job, with a large financial investment, and giving results that are not necessarily the same as shoes you’d find on a store shelf.

See Luxirare’s blog for a pair of platform wedges she made entirely from cloud foam to illustrate what I mean.

Good luck!

Miss Me Women's Sid-6 Ankle Boot,Black,7.5 M US 
Miss Me Ankle Boot,

I have a pair of ankle boots that come up to the middle of my shin and I wanted to make them into booties. I looked around online and saw that I should just take them to a shoe repair shop. Can’t I just do it at home?

Sure, if you don’t mind the raw edge on the top that will be left after you cut them down.  (The shoe repair shop *may* be able to re-seal the edge and make it look like the shoes were designed that way in the first place, rather than a pair that looks like you chopped them down.)  It just depends what you can live with or how you can disguise the top edge otherwise.  If they’re manmade leather, you could squeeze a thin strip of vinyl-look puffy paint in a similar color around the cut edge of the boot, so the inside material does not fray.  If they’re leather, they need to be properly burnished, colored, sealed, and stitched for them to look professional.

I want to recreate these Vivienne Westwood shoes in another colorway but I’m not sure how to make the hearts. Any thoughts? I love you blog btw!

Thanks!  Um, do the hearts have to be flexible plastic?  You can try Shrink plastic in black (though it is not flexible once it’s baked) to recreate the shape, thickness, and plastic-y look of these hearts.  (For the warped shape, I’d recommend doing it with your hands the instant you take the pieces out of the oven, while they’re still hot..wear gloves!!)  If you like experimentation, you can also try applying heat (like from a blow dryer or heat-gun) to black plastic from objects that are normally trashed (like take-out containers, plastic molded packaging, or even old vinyl LPs) to see if any shrink and condense into something malleable and similar in look to those hearts.  Then cut out the heart shape, sand the edges, and you might have a good copy.

Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-ShirtGeneration T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-shirtT-Shirt Makeovers: 20 Transformations for Fabulous Fashions

Can you tell some DIY ideas for cut t-shirts or DIY staple things?

If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with a t-shirt simply by cutting it, I’d highly recommend the Generation T books: Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt, and Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-Shirt.  They have projects in them that run the gamut from very basic to more involved, and they have a ton of ideas for cutting up t-shirts.  Also, T-Shirt Makeovers: 20 Transformations for Fabulous Fashions is a little more “fashiony” if that’s what you’re looking for.  As for “DIY staple things” I’m not sure whether you mean basic projects, or must-have tools, or stapled creations (or something else and I’m misunderstanding).  I’m working on a post on a basic DIY toolkit (coming soon) if that’s what you were interested in.

 Victoria’s Secret One-Shouldered Bra-Top Dress

What’s the simplest way to turn an old dress/top into a one shoulder dress/top.

Cut off one of the sleeves?;-)  I’m not sure of the style of your original piece, but I would just put the dress or top on, and looking in the mirror, draw a line in chalk where I wanted to cut.  Then add 3/8″ to the outside of the line you drew, and cut.  Fold the 3/8″ under and sew a 1/4″ seam.  If your piece is made out of knit jersey, you could probably even get away with cutting on the line and not adding any seam allowance.  Or, if you prefer, you could not add the seam allowance and instead zigzag or overcast the raw edge.  But something has to be done about that raw edge unless you want the “I just chopped off one of the arms”-look to your one-shouldered piece, and you should ch
oose the method that fits in with the style of your finished piece best.

Hey Carly, I love your blog! I can’t wait to try the swallow heels and I’ve already tried a few other tutorials. I was wondering- have you ever done a tut on jazzing up a fabric tote bag? The kind you get free from a store, i.e in cream 

Hi HollyMacF!
I’m so sorry it’s taken me awhile to respond.  I feel that there’s so many possibilities for making over a tote bag that the sky’s the limit!  I haven’t shared a tutorial here for doing so, specifically because there are so many options to personalize those natural cotton totes.
You could:

The Non-Self-Important Canvas Tote that I have printed with and sell in my shop on

*get a design printed directly on the bag, like at or
*distress it using a drill, razor blades, and scissors
*add a silk flower and a string of pearls or beads for a ladylike vibe

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 *stud it (maybe studs to the bottom like that A. Wang Coco Duffel bag, but with a tongue-in-cheek take on it?)
*wrap chains around each handle
*drip, splatter, and splash paint onto it
*replace the handles with chain handles, rope handles, or sew contrasting fabric onto them
*sew fabric onto the bag, like an applique, cut-out shape, or do fabric patches in a quilting pattern
*make bows out of satin and add them to the bag
*cut the bag and sew it back together in a different shape (like a wedge-shaped tote? or make the sides shorter and the bag into more of a duffel shape?)
*sew faux “quilted” lines over the outside
*glue deco mirror pieces onto the outside (could be painful?!)
*knit large “chain links” around the bag (like a designer bag that I spotted the other day and for the life of me can’t remember what brand it was)
*spray paint stencils
*use stamps and fabric paint to decorate it

Cooperative Trompe L’oeil bag from Urban Outfitters

*take your favorite designer bag and “draw” its details trompe l’oeil style on the tote
*add scraps of lace and cascading pompons for a feminine feel to it
*roughly paint a saying or phrase onto it
*place it inside a net bag

and, my kitschy favorite…
*buy a lot of tiny stuffed bears and cover the entire bag with them!  (I’ve actually seen a bag like this:-)

Everyone else, weigh in with your ideas!  What do you think would be a great way to make over a boring tote?

Ask me anything

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Leave Comment Question and Answer Marathon Part 2

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to, and there’s been questions piling up.  Here’s a bunch that kind of pertain to me, & my opinions etc.:

hey carly! what do you think about lauren conrad’s book style? thanks!

Well, I haven’t read it (and I have never seen “The Hills” so have only an inkling of her claim to fame), but if there’s even one tip or idea in there that is helpful or new then it’s all worth it!  More power to her!

Socks or bare feet (and why)??

Socks…and legwarmers…and slippers!  My feet and ankles get really cold year-round.  Probably bad circulation or sumpin.’

how did you do the gradual glitter manicure that you have on your nails in the diy challenge tutorials?

Done by a gel nail professional in 3 layers.  She mixed gel with fine glitter, spread it on the nail, then hardened them.  Then she mixed more gel with medium-chunky glitter and spread it on the nail tips, and hardened them.  Then she sealed it all with another layer of clear gel and hardened it.

I love your photos – they look so professional..what type of camera do you use? Does it have a timer where you take your own shots or do you have a photographer?

Thanks for your kind words!  For most of my photos we use a Canon EOS 40D with a removable Speedlite 430EX II Flash and a 77mm (woops, my bad – edited 12/10) 24-105mm f/4 L lens.  The shots were I am visible or both my hands are in the shot (like my tutorials) are taken by my husband.  The rest of them are taken by me.  Sometimes when traveling it isn’t efficient to take this heavy camera and all its equipment, and so then we use a Sony Cybershot DSC-TX7.  The Canon has a self-timer but to our knowledge it will only take one shot at a time, so it’s just easier to wheedle my husband into taking my shots, though I am barking out directions on how to frame me and what details to take every step of the way.:-)

Hi Carly! I was reading you post about you Husband and you anniversary. I know you said you guys were fated for each other and I wanted to know if you believed in soulmates? Thanks for answering!

Sure I believe in soulmates – i.e., two people who feel so deeply connected they feel it’s at their souls.   I also believe that someone could have many soulmates; i.e., a different person who just fits perfectly with them at a certain point in their lives.  However, I don’t think one’s soulmate is necessarily the best person to spend the rest of your life with.  All of us change due to environmental factors, pressure from jobs, family roles, friends, changing situations, and maturity – someone who fits perfectly with you at a specific point in your life may not still fit with you 10 years (or even 5 years!) down the road as you change and mature.  I think the key to finding a successful long-term relationship is not to find the person who fits perfectly with you at the current moment, but to find the person who is a good-enough-fit for you, at present and in the future, and all the changes that you will weather throughout your life.  The median of all the ups and downs, if you will. And if that person happens to be your “soulmate,” then you’ve just won the lottery, lady!:-)

Hi Carly! I love your website and all your DIY’s. I’m an aspiring graphic designer and I wanted to know how did you go about getting/finding jobs like your recent one for Set Theory? I’m really interested into becoming a freelance graphic designer as well

Thanks for your kind words!  I haven’t had an exactly stellar record in the the getting/finding jobs arena, and have only looked in the obvious places (postings on or Craigslist, for example).  The “Set Theory” thing was a fluke, really – I just happened to meet the creator of it, and volunteered my time doing whatever they needed for the shoot. Volunteering your skills or interning could be a great way to get people to vouch for you, to network, and to stay connected to your industry.  You could get involved with your college alumni group in the area to network that way as well, or see if there are professional associations in your field.  You could also check out for informal gatherings and groups that might be of interest. Also, definitely check out if you haven’t already, as she is a freelance graphic designer and has a ton of tips for doing that, as well as advice on branding, portfolio-creation, networking, and marketing yourself.  It’s a must-read.

Part 1: What do you consider to be your personal favorite and least favorite of your own physical features?

I like my face in profile – I can see a number of my female ancestors in its shape.  Least favorite: a tie between my jawline and my knees…neither of which can be remedied by working out, diet, or anything else DIY.

Part 2: What are personal favorite and least favorite character traits about yourself? Emotionally, mentally, etc…. ????

Favorite: I’m really quick at thinking up solutions to problems…except when they’re my own LOL.  Least Favorite: I take everything reaaallly personally.  Comments on my blog, people who stop following my blog, people who don’t return email, family not celebrating a holiday that’s really important to me…  The ideas of “let things slide off your back” or “go with the flow” are difficult for me to master.

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Do you have any fashion/ or just blogs that you love to visit everyday?

I’ll visit daily since I love their witty sense of humor, and I’ll always pop in and check …love, maegan to see what she’s been up to. I’ll visit every couple of days, along with a couple other style blogs.  But those are probably my big fave 3 right there.

Hope that satisfies some of your curiosity!;-)

Next up in Part 3: DIY’ing answers!

Ask me anything


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Leave Comment Question and Answer Marathon Part 1

I know it’s been a couple days since my last post – which is highly unusual for me – basically I’ve been out for the count, what with jetlag and this evil head cold ganging up on me.

But I’m back! (pretty much.)  I’ve been a bad, bad blogger for the last couple months and haven’t been able to answer my questions as regularly as I would have liked recently.  So I thought, why not do one long post with all the answers in them, sort of like a Final Jeopardy format?  Ready….and….GO!


Hi I loooove the double fringed necklace but where can I find a double chain necklace like the one you used? Do you have any already made for purchase?

Hi there!  I actually made the chain necklace, just with two pieces of chain, some jumprings, and a clasp.  You can very easily make your own – but if you want me to make one for you, let me know at admin at carlyjcais dot com!

Carly- I’m am loving all the fur accents for fall, especially the beautiful faux fur neck scarves that are everywhere. Think you could come up with a diy? I would love to but my sewing machine is broken and there’s no cash for a new one. Thanks in adv

See here for my fabric scarf DIY and …love, Maegan has a faux fur neckwarmer DIY that might be right up your alley!  However, both require sewing (though Maegan’s uses hand-sewing).  You could also just glue a piece of faux fur together after folding it over on itself – fabric glue should do the trick.:-)

Hi carly, I love your blog. And i have a dying question. I can’t find this anywhere on the net so i’m gonna ask you. Is it possible to make a high waist shorts into a mid-waist shorts? Like can you sew/do anything around the crotch area? 😀 Thank you! 🙂

No, I’m sorry – not by altering the crotch area.  I assume you mean by sewing the legs together higher so that the crotch area is correspondingly higher?  Pants/shorts are not cut with enough fabric to extend the crotch upwards – you’ll find you can’t just tack them together at a point higher up and closer to the waistband.  The only thing you could possibly do is remove the waistband from your high-waist shorts and re-attach it lower – though you will have to adjust the fly zipper and your pockets may get covered up by doing this.  Good luck!


Have you heard of the controversy behind the MAC Rodarte Collection? If so, what do you think about it? 

Yes – but as someone who is quite an outsider to the controversy, I’m not sure there’s anything I can add that’s of worth.  From what I gather the sisters Mulleavy were struck by the visual beauty of the city of Juarez and from an outsider’s point of view decided (rather naively) to create a makeup collection inspired by that.  They either failed to research or simply ignore the border town’s history of rape, murder, and serial killings, and general violence towards women.  MAC eventually backpedaled,  apologized, and made a $100,000 donation to a charity that works to better the lives of the women in Juarez, and announced they would donate all proceeds of the collection to the charity as well. My thought is simply inadequate research and general naivete definitely allowed this collection to happen in the first place.

I loved seeing all of your pics of your trip to Japan. What are some different things for sale or customs or ways of life that are different than the US?

My haul from the 100-yen shop last year: 1.) 3 dual-direction zippers; 2.) Paint for ceramics; 3.)Super-long-handled sporks and heart-shaped mini foil cups; 4.) Pack of 3 Jewel-print plastic file sleeves; 5.)Eyelash extensions; 6.)2 double-layered snap-lid boxes and a heart-shaped mirror; 7.) Clear fake nails with rhinestone and glitter art; 8.)Mini-notebook and regular notebook; 9.)Highlighters that draw over an already-highlighted area; 10.) Cute little rhinestone rings on a necklace; 11.)Mini sauce squeezy bottles; 12.) White opaque gluesticks; 13.) Puffy black 3D heart stick-ons, rhinestone variety pack, and 3 packs of mini fake food for all my decorating
needs;  14.) 3 erasers: curry-scented, yakisoba [Japanese chow mein]-scented, and beer-scented.

Gee – don’t get me started!  Different things for sale: lots more “cute” things, with a lot of attention given to detail and appealing packaging, delicious sweets and snacks, tons of nail goods, keychains, stuffed animals, “character goods,” a huge range of beauty products (many designed to give Japanese girls a more “Western” or “foreign” look), bento boxes and goods, tons of intricate crafting supplies…I could go on and on.  If you’re interested in more shopping stuff, check out the Tokyo Shopping and Tokyo Style links in my left sidebar.  Different customs….everything!  Well, I exaggerate.  Japanese people in general are very respectful towards elderly people, very observing of manners, and try to maintain the harmony of the group and smooth social relations, so many customs derive from that.

Name one Amazing thing about you that most people “don’t” know! 

I was in Utada Hikaru’s music video “First Love,” (1998) in the background.  You have to pause it to see me, but I’m there. 

(Ignore the obnoxious gamer promo at the beginning…)  So that’s the video  – if you spot me, I’m the girl with the longish red hair, parted in center, wearing grey skater jeans [that I actually sold about 6 months ago on Ebay, LOL!] with a reflective stripe down each leg and a silver velvet wrap top, dancing in the crowd.

(I’m at the beginning, in the far right of the frame when Utada is sitting and singing – you can see a dark shadow with a white stripe down the legs…and again at the chorus where she sings “Anata dake no basho…” I’m right behind her – and again, to the far right of the frame at about 2:46 just before she sings “I thought I had a place in your heart too” – it’s super-quick!)  Like a “Where’s Waldo?” except this is “Where’s Carly?” ;-P


Hope that answers many of your burning questions!

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Softening Faux Leather: Question

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Have you ever worked with faux leather? If so do you know any ways to soften it up so its not so stiff? thank you! love your blog
Yes, I work with faux leather all the time!

There are of course a lot of different thicknesses and “weights” to faux leather and “softening it up” probably depends on how it is backed. Like does it have a fabric backing? A vinyl backing? Or is it non-backed – i.e., with an unfinished “wrong side”?

If it is backed in fabric or unbacked I think you *could* try to spray some water on the wrong side and hang it to see if this makes it more pliable. (Try on an area that won’t be visible first, as this could cause discoloration or even disintegration.) If the piece is vinyl-backed I would say you’re out of luck.:-( You could also try “conditioning” the leather on the right side using Vinyl Conditioner ( or Mink Oil , which may soften up the piece, at least on the outer side.

I’m not sure how much success you’ll have though since man-made leather is chemically-based and if “pliability” is not engineered into the molecular structure of the piece, I doubt there’s much you could do it, short of pouring more chemicals on it, to make its hand more soft. (I would NOT recommend pouring fabric softener, bleach, or Fiber Etch on it!!)

I think when it comes to working with faux leathers selection is critical – unlike real leather, it’s more limited in its applications depending on its structure, weight, and thickness, since it tends to be impervious to conditioning, stretching, softening, and skivving. Does anyone have any ideas to help this reader out?!

Sorry I can’t be of more help!

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My Experience in Japan: Question

how long did you live in japan? was there a reason you were in japan in the first place? why did you move back? i have so many questions, sorry.
Hi there!
I’ve lived in Japan 6 years total. My family moved there when I was 11 (back in 1990) for my father’s work. (He was a research chemist.) We lived there 3 years and then we moved back to the States once my father’s contract was up. I finished high school in the U.S. In college I did a year study abroad in Tokyo, and then after I graduated college I went back to Japan to go to animation school for 2 years. Once I graduated I wanted to work in the U.S. (plus my visa was expiring), so I once again moved back to the States. Hope that answers your questions!:-)
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How to Create White Backgrounds to Your Photos

How do you get such nice white backgrounds in your photographs? Truly curious, ShyShirley 
Hi ShyShirley!

I assume you mean the white backgrounds in my step-by-step tutorials?

Clear, well-lit photos are a MUST when it comes to sharing your craft or DIY tutorials.  And having a background that isn’t white or close to it can be distracting when you’re trying to show a step-by-step process.  (Though for photos of the finished product it’s often better to see them in action or in a stylized set-up, not on a pristine sterilized white background.)

Since I don’t have a photographic studio or anything, I fudge my photos using these things:

Photo taken on posterboard, near window in daytime.  I haven’t Photoshopped this yet; it’s just to show you the board.

1) A large piece of white posterboard from the craft store. I have to replace it every couple months or so because it gets scratched and gunky.

2) Taking the photos inside near a window, but out of direct sunlight. I’ll always take two shots of the same setup: one using the fill flash attachment to my camera; one without.

Photo taken at night using posterboard, Ott-Lite, and fill flash.  The contrast is very stark but colors are super-saturated.

If I absolutely *have* to take photos at nighttime (which I hate doing, but sometimes it’s unavoidable) I’ll use a portable Ott-Lite (which is, FYI a really excellent lighting source; super-bright and gets the colors to show up true – the best light I’ve ever used, hands-down…and I don’t know how I crafted or DIY’ed anything prior to getting it LOL;-)) and the fill flash on my camera. This produces very harsh shadows and I usually can only do this for close-ups and detailed tutorials.

3) Messing around with the Levels in Photoshop until the background goes as white as I can get it without losing detail in the object I’m photographing.

Photo taken against the gray wall.  I was very aggressive with the levels in Photoshop and you can see the wall is no longer gray, but the shadows are still fairly harsh.

I also have a light gray wall in my house that sometimes I photograph things against, using the fill flash and aiming a floor lamp at it.

This is all pretty primitive but it seems to work okay (except when I need to get shots of something that’s bigger than my posterboard!:-(

Hope that helps!

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