Friday, October 8, 2010

Homemade closed-toe leather sewing required!

So...I made some shoes today.

"Why" (you may be asking) "in the world" (you may be adding) "would you make your own shoes when there are zillions of places selling shoes within a few minutes' drive?"

And that is a very good question.

First reason--it's just fun. If you like doing crafts, you'll understand that one.

Second reason--I've "gotten to know my feet" better since I started running barefoot. I've realized some things. First, I think my feet widened a bit through my pregnancies. My size 7 shoes tend to be squeezing my pinky toes. Problem is, my whole foot isn't wide, just the forefoot. My toes are pretty "square" and don't fit well into shoes that have narrow and/or too-tapered toe areas. Homemade shoes can fit my skinny ankles and my wide toes! Also, I've realized just how much I love minimalist shoes, with no raised heel, and very flexible, thin soles. Those can be hard to find.'s fun. It's a big enough reason to warrant mentioning it twice.

And they turned out cute and comfy!


Here's how you do it. (No sewing required!!)

Gather your materials.

1. Thicker leather for soles. I used a bag of leather scraps that I bought at Hobby Lobby in the leathercraft section. It's about 1/8 of an inch thick, nice and sturdy.

2. Thinner leather for the uppers. I used an old leather skirt that I got as a hand-me-down and haven't ever worn. It's pretty, but just didn't work for me, so I decided it was time to repurpose it. Before buying new leather, check thrift stores for old leather clothing! It can be stained or ripped as long as there's enough usable leather for your project!


3. Really strong glue. I used this industrial-strength "E-6000" glue with about 700 warnings on it about using it in a well-ventilated area. (I think there are probably much more environmentally-sensitive choices out there....)


Then cut out foot-shaped pieces of the scrap leather. (Trace your foot and round the edges, making sure there's a little extra room for your toes to relax and wiggle in there.) For the outsole, I used two pieces of tan-colored leather, which goes smooth-side down. For the insole, I used two pieces of non-matching leather, which goes suede-side up. I labeled them all "L" and "R" so I'd remember which was which!


Then I was excited and "in the groove," and I didn't get photos of these next steps.

Cut good-sized rectangles of the thin leather from the skirt, for the tops of the shoes. Put your foot on an insole and stretched the leather across it, then cut a curved part so it won't be stretched straight across your foot. Here's the curved parts on the finished shoes:


I did the curved part for one shoe, then traced it on the back of the second piece of leather for the other shoe so they'd be fairly symmetrical. You can always go back and cut more later if you need to adjust.

Now pull the leather across one foot and figure out where it needs to be glued onto the bottom of the insole. Glue it. Mark the other shoe to make sure you're gluing it in the same place, and glue it too.

Now you'll need to carefully glue the rest of the piece around the top of the shoe. This is going to take a lot of trial and error to get it smooth. Mine wasn't very smooth, and I ended up pulling it up, trimming it close, and re-gluing. It got a lot smoother then. This part is the hardest part of making the shoes, but taking plenty of time leaves you with a more professional-looking result.

It doesn't need to look pretty on bottom!



Now cut more rectangles for the back part of the shoe. Put one foot in the insole and figure out where you need to glue the top part of the back leather, overlapping the bottom part of the front so:


Repeat on second shoe, making it as symmetrical as you can.

Now trim and glue, getting the rest of the back part glued to the insole. Be sure to put your foot in there to fit it before gluing. I wasn't nearly as much of a perfectionist on the back of the shoe as I was on the front.


You're almost done!

Glue the outsoles onto the bottom, making sure to use plenty of glue. Remember, the smooth side of the leather points down; it will be what strikes the ground. Weigh the shoes down with plenty of books or whatever works for you so that the glue can fully cure.

When the glue has set...enjoy your flexible, custom-made shoes!






Melinda said...

Those are actually really cute flats. I am very impressed!

~Abbey~ said...

cute! I am also impressed!! does look like fun too!

emmarrrr. said...

seriously adorable. x

nopinkhere said...

They're like Robeez, but for adults. I guess now you need a flower or a kitty cat?

caryn said...

great job! so talented.

Sandra said...

Those look really comfortable. I may have to try those!

InspiredDreamer said...

That is pretty cool. I can see that as a fun way to make shoes for kids too--use some funky colors and a bedazzler... :)

My Year Without said...

I just came home with one and a half pounds of leather scraps today, from the saddle shop. How cool to post your shoe pattern! Thank you! I aim to make a bag.....but now some homemade shoes, too!