Fingerprint Improv Espadrilles

I truly love the process of making Fingerprint Improv curves. It is my free-form practice, the time when I feel the most like an artist in my sewing. I think of it sometimes like painting in slow motion. Posting closeups of the seams brings me a lot of pride (people often tell me that the pieces are so much smaller than they thought from pictures online). I also enjoy passing this practice on in workshops, but I still haven’t found a preferred method for incorporating my little sketches into a finished form.


Imagine my intrigue then when my friend Melissa of A Happy Stitch asked me to join her Espadrilles Kit Artist Series, specifically requesting that I make a pair using Fingerprint Improv. She sells kits with everything you need to make a pair of espadrilles, and while the fabric collaborations are fabulous, you can also work from your stash and order kits sans fabric. To take that idea even further, makers can piece their fabric before making shoes, creating something individual and fun. She asked me to demonstrate it along with other artists who work in various media— check out this inspiring lineup.


It was a smart request and a wonderful collaboration— my curves are the perfect scale for the project, and I had a springy green palette on hand that would work well for shoes. I made two improv pieces at the same time with the same fabric order for unity, though I let the curves take their own shape. The results were two almond-shaped centers and swirls that translate from one shoe to the other. (They’re sisters, not twins.) After piecing, I fused the fabric to interfacing, cut them into the pattern piece shapes, and finished the shoes according to Melissa’s instructions.

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While the Fingerprint Improv technique isn’t something that I can easily make into a blog tutorial— my students will tell you that it challenges some spatial muscles that aren’t always used in quilt piecing— I can point you in the direction of some improv curve tutorials for your own experimentation. Fingerprint Curves are essentially layered gentle improv curves. If you’re interested in trying them for the first time or refreshing your skills, visit this tutorial by Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl or this Fresh Quilting video by Leslie Tucker Jenisen. Try layering your curves and see what happens. That’s how I found my technique.


Even better, if you choose to make a pair of espadrilles you can piece the fabric with your own favorite technique! Imagine a cool string-pieced pair of espadrilles or a fun wonky star on the toe. How about patchwork mini-charms or improv rectangles? You could even quilt them for extra texture. There are so many possibilities.


If you’re interested in a kit, you can find them in Melissa’s Etsy shop. Quilters especially should check out the I Got It kit. They come in the most gorgeous package with soles, pins, needles, everything you need, even wax for the yarn that attaches the soles.

Thanks to Melissa for inviting me to the Espadrilles Kit Artists Series and for providing the kit that I used to make my pair. It’s the perfect time of year for them. I can’t wait to see what the other artists make.