Shoe photo from Sierra Leone

shoessierraleoneThis photo sent from the top of a hill in Sierra Leone shows the well-worn shoes of a young man who made them when he was a shoemaking student of mine.  He wrote that the shoes had served him well on his journey there, where he was volunteering with an aid organization.

When you make footwear from 4-5-ounce leather as he did, and use no more than three pieces to make a shoe – the vamp, heel quarters and sole – they are rugged and last a long time. There is minimal stitching to come undone, and if soles are stitched on there is no cement to come un-cemented. If stitching wears, the shoes can be re-stitched. A repairable shoe seems like a good type to wear in such a remote location.

How to make a pattern from a favorite boot or shoe

Do you have some shoes that fit just right, that you would love to duplicate? If so, here’s how to do it. Use two layers of masking tape that exactly copies each piece of the shoe. Just as you do when making a pattern over a last, have one layer of tape going in one direction and the second layer going in the opposite direction.


Peel off the layers and flatten them onto pieces of paper. Be sure to add seam allowances wherever needed. If you have trouble flattening your pattern pieces, you can see the process in the video “How to Make a Custom Last” on this blog.


I would make a felt mock-up using your new boot pattern, then modify the pattern as needed.

boot and copy

How to make simple stitch-down shoes for people with swollen feet

My own mother had problems finding shoes to fit her swollen ankles, so I had wanted to make her a pair. However, before I was able to, she moved into a nursing home and was not getting out of bed. So, I had some ideas in mind when I recently received a call from a daughter frantically trying to find someone to make a pair of shoes that her mother with swollen feet could wear.

duct tape mockup of mother's swollen foot
duct tape mockup of mother’s swollen foot

I suggested that she follow the directions in “How to Make a Custom Last”, a three-part video on my blog, to make duct tape “molds” of her mother’s feet. She sent me the duct tape molds, and I used them to make mock-ups in polyester felt. I sent them for her to try, and – I was a little surprised – no alterations were needed! She then sent the mock-ups back.. Her mother wanted a slip-on, so she marked where the topline of the “clog”  would be.

felt adjusted copy of mock-up
felt adjusted copy of mock-up

To make a shoe with such height at the toe, I decided to use a center seam style.

I had asked what color her mother wanted – brown, black – red, purple?! She wanted purple! I had a nice “dignified” purple, so purple slip-ons she will have.

I used the felt mock-ups as lasts, so I stuffed them with wool batting. They gave me the shape and height I needed to drape the upper over, while cementing the upper to the sole.

using felt mock-up as last
using felt mock-up as last


completed pair
completed pair

Once cemented, the shoes were stitched together, and I have my fingers crossed that they will provide the spaciousness and comfort her mother needs so she can soon walk outside – in her new purple shoes!

Local Children’s Shoemaking Workshop! (near Amherst, MA)

I’ll be hanging up this flyer on local telephone poles! Wish you could attend!

Learn to Make “First Walkers”!


shoes for finley

Why make your children’s shoes? Well, they’d be locally-made, not in some distant and possibly unhealthy factory. You can select the materials – recycled leather, cloth, non-petroleum-based soling… You can express your individuality and that of your child by the design and embellishment choices you make. You can assure your child has healthy footwear – with flexible soling, no heel and a wide toe area, as close to being barefoot as possible. And, they are sure to cost a lot less!

Saturday, July 13

10:00 – 2:00


price includes pdf book How to Make Simple Shoes for Children and children’s shoemaking online video

for further information contact:

Sharon Raymond

145 Baker Road (location for workshop)

Shutesbury, Ma. 01072



Rhode Island School of Design Shoe Show

A few cold months ago, I had the pleasure of teaching a one-day shoemaking workshop to Rhode Island School of Design students who had just the previous day returned from a shoe-design trip to Italy. Kathleen Grevers, Senior Critic, Apparel Design, and Khipra Nichols, Associate Professor, Industrial Design, shepherded twenty design students from a variety of media on the shoe-design trip. They each created a shoe as a culmination of all they had learned.

I was so eager to see their creations, but unfortunately on the day of the showing New England had a major snowstorm. All was cancelled. So,I had not seen the student creations until a DVD of photos recently was sent to me.

What a delightful collection! I especially appreciated so many media being represented – you can guess who came from an apparel, metal-work, or industrial design background.

The album of shoes can be seen on my Simple Shoemaking facebook page:

So, which is your favorite, and why?

Which would you actually like to wear? (apparently wearability wasn’t a requirement!)

One more “First Walker” shoes for children post

Here’s a photo of a couple of  pairs of “First Walker” shoes that my daughter made for members of her “birth board”. (In case you don’t know about this phenomenon, it’s a way for pregnant women to communicate on the WEB with others around the country who are expecting babies around the same time). first walker shoes

Baby shoes made from T-shirts!

There was a recent request on a forum I’m on for prom dresses for girls who need them, and my mind went to the “T-shirt wedding dress” I had seen in a book I frequently consult, “Generation T – 108 ways to transform a T-shirt”. Making things from T-shirts is my second most-favorite thing to do. When working with T-shirts I like to incorporate stitching techniques that I learned from the books of

Visiting the facebook page of the author, Megan Nicolay,, inspired me to make a T-shirt baby shoe that I could post on her site. I had not made any “T-shirt baby shoes”, so, using the tutorial for the “First Walker” baby shoes that was recently posted on my blog,  I tackled this assignment and was pleased with the results, seen here.

Using Natalie Chanin’s stitching technique, the threads are knotted on the outside, and the running stitch is used by the miles.

I used three layers of T-shirts, from scraps left over from a dress I am making for my 4-month-old granddaughter Millie. Now she’ll be “matchy-matchy”! If I had some double-sided sticky interfacing I would have used it to give the shoe a little more “body”.

Here’s my creation! As usual with shoemakers, now I have to make another one. (And yes, those are spring bulbs breaking through the earth under the shoe – yay!)


Shoemaking supplies online

vibram gumlite sole

Do you want shoelaces? A horse-hair shoe polish applicator? A solid-stick wart remover? Use the above url for these products and hundreds more; it’s an ebay store that has 17 pages of shoe repair shop supplies for sale; however, many of the products are useful for shoemaking as well. There are many types of petroleum-based rubber soles available; I stopped looking at the store’s offering after about 8 pages, but the list goes on and on. The gumlite soling shown above is a type that I used to use, it has a nice light weight with good grip. I cut it with a bandsaw after cementing it to the shoe. This type of sole can only be adhered by using Barge or other potentially-toxic shoe cements.