Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Made It - Vintage Shoe Stretcher Lady

Hello! A couple of years ago I drove with some excitement to a sale run by some area antique dealers,for they advertised "28 hay wagons" of estate sale treasures. However, when I got there I learned that most of it was too junky even for me! But I did pick up a shoebox full of vintage shoe stretchers. In case you don't know what they look like, here is an example:

These were sold in pairs and would be placed inside shoes to keep the shoes stretched in between wearings. I paid $4.00 for 46; a quick check on eBay showed some sellers listing two pairs (ie, a total of four) for more than what I paid for my pile. One seller described them as metal and wood and as being from the 1950's/1960's. Some of mine still have the original price tag of 49 cents on the back. 

(No, I didn't want that many vintage shoe stretchers, but that's how they were sold.)

The above shoe stretcher is a pastel blue but there are also other shades of blues, pinks, greens and beige in my bundle. With those cute colors, I envisioned some sort of garden decor-type "person", and that is what I made:

I cut the smaller end of the shoe stretcher off with a bolt cutter so that it'd go into the ground easier, but I could have eliminated this step and just have dug a small hole first to accommodate that end before sticking it in the soil. 

I cut out a woman's face from a 1948 Woman's Day magazine and decoupaged it onto the large end. When the decoupage was dry I added a coat of varnish for waterproofing. 

I then found a vintage handkerchief that matched the color of the shoe stretcher, folded it into quarters (folded it on the diagonal to start) and snipped a small piece out of the folded edge. This became the neckline, which allowed me to slip the handkerchief on up to the "head". 

For arms, I used a stick and attached it tightly to the "body"  (the skinny part of the shoe stretcher) with floral wire. 

Then I tied a piece of vintage rickrack around the handkerchief to make a "waist", attached a vintage clip-on earring to the "neckline" and used waterproof glue to add a straw hat. From start to finish this was a quick project.

And here's the lady outside:

I don't know how weatherproof vintage handkerchiefs are, so I  put it in a shaded area of my garden and will bring it inside for the winter. I made my first one a couple of years ago and it's held up pretty well - the colors are faded a bit, but the handkerchief hasn't even frayed. 

I just happened to use what I had on hand - everything had come from estate sales or thrift shops. I also made one a couple of years ago for my sister-in-law using a vintage handkerchief she had given me that had once belonged to her now-deceased mother. But I could have used fabrics, bits of ribbons, etc instead.

I do like the use of the vintage woman's head cut-out. The two earlier versions I mentioned above had faces and hair drawn on with Sharpie markers, but I like the head cut-out better! Adds to the vintage look.

So, if you happen to find some vintages shoe stretchers of your own, you now know one potential use for them (besides the intended purpose, that is)!