How I modified a strap that had become too loose

Several years ago I made a pair of sandals for my friend Karen that had a fixed strap across the ball of the foot. As time went on the strap stretched, until her feet slid forward uncomfortably as she walked. I thought a while about how to solve the problem; it might be best to cut the strap, then attach a buckle and  a thinner strap on top of the present one, but I just couldn’t crank out a good way of accomplishing this feat.

So, I decided to simply cut the strap, take out about 1/4″, and stitch it back together. Not exceedingly clever, but all I could come up with at the time. So I cut out a slice on the inner end of the strap, thinking that would be less conspicuous. Then I decided to “couch” the seam, meaning to catch a thin strip of leather under the stitches. I chose something in the purple range, always a good bet for me and my friends. I then went to my stitching thread collection, and am unable to resist braided waxed cord – and there was my multicolor jumping up and down saying “use me! use me!” So I did.

But first I decided to punch a third row of stitching slits, so if it loosens up significantly in the future, we can just take out that thread, snip off more of the leather band, and stitch it back together again even tighter! And, in the future I plan to stitch this all on the outside of the sandal, for all to see.sandal stitched, braided cord, couching, leather sandal

One-strap sandal found from Northern Mexico to Guatemala – at least!

I have greatly enjoyed making and wearing the one-strap sandal, which became known to the Northern Hemisphere through the book Born to Run (highly-recommended!) Checking out websites about the “invisible sandal”, I realized that a mystery had been solved for me: for years I have had a delightful photo from a calendar hanging on my studio wall – it shows three men sitting together (I cropped one out), engaged in their different crafts…one of them has traditional-looking footwear on. I have studied that picture many times, trying to figure out how the sandal was made with only one strap! I have presumed the men were from Central America, now I’m thinking Peru…if anyone has familiarity with this style of dress and these activities, I would love to know where they are from.

Now I know – it’s the same as the Tumahumara (the Northern Mexico indigenous people) sandal, but instead of the strap going through a loop in the sole alongside the ankle, there is a leather heel piece with holes at the top front corners that the strap goes through instead. Then there is the little “keeper” piece of leather over the straps, all very wonderful and I’m so anxious to make a pair – but unfortunately I can say that about a dozen or so shoe styles, so I might not be making them soon. But I’ll always enjoy the photo, these men who appear contented making, and being together.

Fisher sandal variation

I am finishing up a small book on the “fisher” sandal for all lengths of feet from 3 1/2″ to 12″.  I believe it’s a sandal that can be made to fit everyone, providing lots of openings for cooling breezes to waft through, but also providing quite a bit of protection for the foot. I think it can be considered tropical/formal footwear or casual. Here’s a photo of  one of several sandals that a woman made for her family members – in this one, she covered the elastic with a piece of leather.

Tegan’s sandal

sandal inspiration from a teenager

A junior-high student came to visit me with her shoemaking mother; she showed me the sandals she had made with scraps left off from a project of her mothers. I love them! I think we all agreed that a toe-strap extending from the vamp band would be a good idea, which she planned to add, but otherwise, perfect!

Her work partially inspired a small book that I am working on right now, entitled “The Ground’s the Limit” – simple sandals you can make from recycled materials. I finally realized what would make great recycled soling – flip-flops that the straps have popped out of! How many of these are tossed into the trash from the five colleges here in my valley?! Now I’ve got to set up a collection scheme, I am hoping the Eco-club at UMass will help me. But people can find them everywhere, particularly along beaches. So let’s use them again – these soles and a recycled handbag and you’ve got sandals! 

New videos will soon be available, some for free and some for sale

Today I uploaded four videos to youtube, and will then transfer them to this blog; I’ve been visiting my ancient mother, and while she watches television I put my headphones on and edit movies. I made a lot of progress during a recent visit, and have videos on three stitching techniques: how to do the simultaneous running stitch, the X and bar stitch for stitching  “butt seams”, and how to use the stitching awl.

 

I also have five teaching videos to burn, and will be offering them for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/simpleshoemaking. They are: how to make a child’s derby shoe (all processes are the same as those used to making adult footwear); how to make sandals; how to make the chukka moccasin; how to make a stitch-down renaissance-faire boot; and how to make a simple wellington boot. Now I will have more time for blogging which I have been looking forward to for a long time; my folder of shoemaking blogging topics is bursting! (even though it’s digital!)

 

While downloading the videos to Youtube, I caught a glimpse of other shoemaking videos out there; if you watched them all, you’d have quite an eclectic education – and many different opinions on how things are best done. I humbly believe that if you want to make something simple and ecological, mine are a good place to start.

question about vegetable-tanned soling leather

So, I hate to bother you, but I just cannot figure this out:  I wanted to get some veg-tanned leather (as you recommend) for topsoles, but when I went to look for it, there’s a dizzying variety.  There’s bellies, shoulders, double-shoulders, saddle skirting, tooling sides, culatta….

What in the world am I looking for?  I assume they have different properties, based on what part of the beast, but I don’t know what, or if they’re a moot point at this weight/for shoes.  I don’t want to get the wrong thing–leather’s too expensive for that!

answer: well, i don’t have the final word on that – i have purchased veg-tan from hide-house and wickett and craig – hide-house has it in every thickness, which is convenient, but I got the cheaper soling and it has a formaldehyde odor that doesn’t go away – wicket and craig only has thicker soling, it smells fine, which they will thin down but at increased cost. – although they do have “belt leather” that is maybe 4-5 ounce – I get “skirting” from wicket and craig, it’s a cheaper cut for one thing, and works fine… 8 – 10 oz. is what I get – best, sharon

trippen

I am so happy that I have shoemaking students coming to my home to learn – it gives me a great reason to purchase materials – and books! that if they were only for me – well, I have so many design ideas already that I don’t think I have enough years left to experiment with them all. The latest book I purchased – for my students – is a 5″ x 8″ book from Trippen, the German shoemaking company. It shipped from Germany, is printed both in English and in German, has almost 600 pages of – inspiration. There is nothing I love more than taking an advant-garde shoe with all its chunky sole and industrial hardware, and tame it down into a great little “stitch-down”. But early-on in the book, I ran into “meander” – an actual stitch-down, rendered in softest-elk (as most Trippen shoes are) – I would hardly modify it at all. I have an elk hide, will be whipping up myself a “meandering pair” some day. Maybe you will too?

stitch-down from Trippen

 

Now that I look at it — this shoe is a little trickier to make than I had realized – where do all those tabs come from that make up the toe?

must make ishvara sandals!

greetings, I have never been so eager to make a new pair of sandals as I have these: These are “stitch-downs”! Doesn’t it seem that the edges are turned out, then stitched to the sole?! To make the ankle strap, which seems to be about 1/2″ wide, cut a strip of leather 1 3/16″ wide. Cut another piece of leather to act as the “core” of the ankle strap slightly less than !/2″, about 3/8″ wide. Draw a line down the center of one side with a pen. Apply contact cement (Titan DX recommended) to the inside of the strap leather and the core leather. When the cement has dried, adhere the strap leather along the pen line, rotate the strap so you now adhere the strap leather to the outside of the core leather, then finish by turning the strap again and adhering the remaining strap leather. It might be best to make a little sample of the actual leathers you are using, to make sure that the last piece butts up against the pen line.  Press firmly, and your strap is completed. As far as how to anchor the straps, please see my sandalmaking video.

In Hindu philosophy, isIn Hindu philosophy, ishvara is the Sanskrit word for soul. “There must be soul in what you do,” says Jose Marco, the designer of the sandal brand that bears the name. “Whatever it may be — cooking, caring for a plant, choosing a beautiful piece of leather to make sandals — soul is needed.” Having designed and sold Ishvara’s classic tanned-leather Mediterranean sandals from a tiny beach storefront in Formentera, Spain (the brand is based in Ibiza), since 1982, Marco is finally bringing his casual, colorful flats to the states. These python albarcas, modeled after ones commonly worn by fishermen in the Balearic Islands, are a standout. Sole (or should I say soul) searching has never been easier.

Ishvara sandals, $305. At Pamela Robbins, (914) 472-4033

ishvara sandals
make these sandals

www.lunaboots.com

If you’re ever in Tasmania….look up Luna. I had the good fortune to have a 3-day individual workshop with Luna perhaps 15 years ago,when she was in New England visiting her brother. I still find patterns with her name on them that I have not tried to make footwear from – but this one that I just came across will be an exception. I am just finishing up my moccasin-making book, and am adding a design in which the “plug” doesn’t curve up when stitched to the vamp, but instead curves inward. I’ll be making a video to let you know what I’m talking about, but just serendipitously came upon this sketch of hers, that shows how great this look can be.

 

Quotation from Albert Einstein

“If I had known they were going to do this, I would have become a shoemaker”

Albert Einstein, after the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 1945