Saturday, March 12, 2022

Altering boots for wide calfs-- the Belenka Sierra

I love knee high boots, but as an avid cyclist, skiier, and joggger, I have always had trouble fitting my calves into them. Boots marketed as "wide calf" are often of lesser quality, have unsightly giant elastic gussets, or are just too huge for me. This problem has only intensified now that I've transitioned to minimal/barefoot footwear-- there just aren't a lot of choices in knee high boots. 

This fall I purchased the Belenka Sierra, and after getting them professionally stretched, I could zip them, with difficulty. But then, ski season started, and when I tried them on in mid-January, there was absolutely no way I was going to zip them. 

I considered zip in gussets, and they seem like a good idea for some people. However, I can't see how they won't be sort of fussy and leave unsightly gaps, and having volume added only on the inside seems like it would be pretty lopsided. And they are quite expensive. 

So I decided that I would be bold and alter my boots to fit. I bought a piece of red leather on Etsy, then used dark red dye to get the color even closer to my boots. 

Then, using the measurements of my calf, I designed a pattern for an insert that followed the shape of my calf. I decided to put the insert in the back of the boot where I needed the most volume and where it would be the least disruptive to the shape of the boot. 

The boot is lined with wool, so I cut the gusset out of leather and wool, and glued the two together. Then I cut out a strip from the back of the boot and inserted the new gusset in between the leather and the lining. I played around with using various kinds of clips and adhesives (but I lack a true leather adhesive). In the end I just held it in place, and sewed it first across the bottom of the gusset, then up each side. 

My first try was not perfect-- the gusset was actually too large. I unpicked it adjusted the size, and resewed it. When I was happy with it, I sewed a second line of stitching to secure it (also, the boot is double-stitched in most seams, so it is in keeping with the aesthetic). 

I used a leather needle in my regular sewing machine, and matching gutterman thread. Fortunately the leather fed easily without sticking. 

Having boots that actually fit my calves is amazing! I've never owned boots that I can actually zip up without effort, over socks or leggings. I will totally do this again if I purchase another pair of knee high boots. 

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