While we sweat through waves of summer heat, fashion need not be forgotten. For this week’s How-Tuesday post, put your best foot forward and learn how to make your own sandals, starting with custom pattern pieces and ending with a waltz out the door with fancy feet. Kaye Blegvad, a.k.a. datter (jewelry) and kayeblegvad (illustration) on Etsy, will be your guide.
Well, hello! I’m Kaye, and I’m an illustrator, jewelry designer, and general crafty thing-maker. I always like to see if I can make something myself before I buy it from a store, so I played around with making sandals until I worked it out, then taught a class on it at the amazing Brooklyn Brainery. And now, here’s a tutorial just for you. It’s quite a simple method, really, though it looks like there are lots of steps. It’s up to you to decide how complex you’ll make your sandals. Here goes!
- A pair of cheap flip-flops (They need to have the foamy kind of sole! I found this pair, which has a woven sole stuck on top of the foamy part, and that works perfectly well, too.)
- A piece of leather or vegetarian leather
- Barge rubber cement (or Shoe Goo), available from shoe repair shops
- A metal ruler
- A sharp cutting knife
- Scrap paper
- An awl for making the holes (a small nail will do just fine too)
- Leather sewing needles
- Strong sewing thread (such as linen)
- Buckles or buttons, as you desire
2. Once you’ve got the bare soles, it’s time to work out the shape of your sandals. I do this using a highly technical method: by cutting strips of paper and taping them to the sole, around my foot. Basically, you’ll make a paper shoe around your foot so you can get the fit right. (I thought I’d spare you shots of the paper actually on my foot, but you get the gist.)
Wider straps work a little better (it’s really fiddly to work with anything less than 3/4″), and the more straps you attach to the sole, the trickier the process becomes. You need to add at least 1/2″ to the end of each strap, which will tuck into the sole.
I made a little drawing of a few simple pattern ideas for your shoes and the rough lengths of strap you’ll need. (You can also download a larger version of these instructions here.)
3. While the straps are still taped to your sole, you’ll need to make marks for later. Mark on the sole where the straps are positioned and mark the straps where they meet the sole. It also helps to label the straps because, once you remove them from the sole, they pretty much just look like strips of paper.
Once you’ve marked everything so you’ll be able to put it back together in leather form, you can take those strips of paper off the shoe. Ta-da! Pattern pieces made!
4. Now it’s time to start cutting your leather. Cutting knives cut through leather really well and make a much neater cut than scissors. Slice the straps using the paper pattern pieces as a template.
5. Bam! All the straps are ready. My leather piece wasn’t long enough for the ankle strap, so I just sewed two strips together. No big deal. Transfer marks to the back of the leather, so you know how far into the sole these bad boys need to go for the shoes to fit you.
6. Okay, the fun and messy part is approaching. Using the guides you’ve drawn on the sole, cut slits into the sides to insert the straps. You need to make these slices pretty deep — aim to get the cutting knife in about 3/4″. I cut between the top sole and the foamy sole, but if you just have pure foamy sole, cut as close to the middle as you can.
7. Now you have to get gluing. I sacrificed a butter knife for this, which wasn’t very smart. If you have a popsicle stick or a plastic takeout knife, I think that would be a lot more sensible. Squeeze glue on the tip of the knife and squish it into the cuts in the sole. Try to get a lot of glue in there. This is inevitably a bit messy, but hey, nobody looks at the soles of shoes anyhow.
Push the straps into the sole, up to the guides you made. Normally they go in about 3/4″, so if you leave excess on your straps, you may want to trim before smushing them into the glue. A popsicle stick would work wonders here. I used a bookbinding tool which, again, wasn’t very smart. What can I say? I don’t have a lot of disposable tools around. The glue needs to dry overnight before it’s secure.
8. Okay! You have got all your straps into the sole. Your shoes are nearly done. And they look like shoes already, right?
For mine, I decided to make an ankle strap, so I needed to do a little sewing to attach it. If you went for a different design, you can skip these steps.
9. Fold the side straps around the ankle strap to figure out where to sew. You need the ankle strap to be able to move through fairly easily. Then, using the awl (or a nail), make holes to sew through. I went for two rows of holes, but you can lay this out however you like. Thread up your leather needle with super tough thread, and sew, sew, sew!
10. Nearly finished! Thread the ankle strap through the sides, and lo and behold, it’s almost a shoe! All that remains is attaching a buckle. I have the good fortune to own a leather hole puncher, but if you don’t, you can use the awl or a nail for this last step.
Make a hole about an inch into the strap. Put the buckle through this hole, like fastening a belt. Now sew the end of the strap back onto itself, to hold the buckle in place. Again, to sew, you’ll probably need to make holes in advance with the awl. Once the buckle is sewn in place, make holes in the other end of your strap too, so you can fasten the shoes.
Done! You have literally made your own sandals. Rejoice. Wear them. (Or, if you’re anything like me, decide they aren’t quite finished.) Add an embellishment. I gave my sandals arrow t-bars, and now my feet live in constant happiness.
If you make your own sandals, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.