It’s official: duct tape shoes are in!

Here’s a shoe from the Prada show at Milan Fashion Week spring 13 – and folks, you can make them yourself! The trick to making shoes from duct tape is to wrap the first layer around your foot with the sticky-side out; then apply a neat second layer with sticky-side in – and you’ve got $500.00 per pair shoes! (and don’t forget the bow.)

“Shoes are boring; wear sneakers”

Converse “design it yourself” ads are all over web pages I go to: I say, “shoes somebody else makes are boring, make your own!” Why be stuck with choosing colors and maybe the location of a rivet or two? Start with my book, How to make the simplest sandals for everyone with your own two hands! And out of recycled materials, no less!

I was talking with a fellow recently who wants to make high end shoes for men. As I reflected on our conversation, the idea came to me that a brilliant business move might be to make the “fisher(man)” sandal, and make the heel section and toe-strap out of a neutral, less-expensive leather, then make the cross-straps out of more interesting colors and textures of leathers; perhaps the customer could select the colors and types of leather that he wants for the cross-straps from strips on display.  His customized sandals could be ready in hours.

The fisher sandal that is featured in “simplest sandals” has an elastic instead of a leather strap; great for women’s and children’s sandals, but not sufficiently “upscale” for the man’s sandal I am imagining. I’ll be working on making patterns for the fitted heel section and strap so it can be available for those who are intrigued by this concept. I did create a children’s pattern such as this one several years ago for an organization in Haiti; you can see the sandals in the young Haitian man’s hands, one pair I sent as a sample, the other pair he made himself.

Tweaking the loop sandal

For those of you who have purchased either How to Make Simple Sandals, or How to Make the Simplest Sandals, I just made a pair of loop sandals and offer these improved directions: (1) On the pattern, two holes are shown so the loop can pass up through one and down through the other, I now don’t think that’s necessary, so you can punch one hole in the center of the two holes shown, and pull your loop material up through it. I cut a 1/2″ dowel rod and cut sections of it to put into a loop so it remains the same size while I make the next loop. I used a 3/16″ hand punch to make the holes. To pull the loop material up through the hole, I used a paper clip: one leg extended up, one-half of the “lozenge-shaped” section poked through the hole. Pull the loop through the paper clip, then pull it up and shape it over a dowel rod section.

In memory of Glen Leasure

I received an email today reminding me that it has been two years since the death of Glen Leasure. Frequently during those two years I have deeply lamented the absence of my shoemaking friend.

Glen Leasure and myself both took up shoemaking in the 80’s, inspired by Christine Lewis-Clark’s book The Make-it-Yourself Shoe Book. We met and realized our common pursuit when my husband, daughter and I were visiting “intentional communities”, seeking a place to live that would provide us with an extended family as well as an opportunity to share resources and live simply. We met Glen and Peggy at Common Ground Community in Lexington Va.

In Lewis-Clark’s book, she taught the stitch-down process, and her belief that lasts weren’t needed for shoemaking, that instead one’s own feet can serve as lasts.

(Lasts are standardized molds that shoes are built over that include adequate toe space and the desired toe shape).

Glen stayed with Lewis-Clark’s teachings, and therefore each pair of boots – the footwear he most-often made – he made were custom-made over a customer’s feet or a replica of their feet. For myself, having done a lot of dress-making, I was drawn to making patterns and the using of commercial lasts.

We remained constant in the support we gave each other and there was much shoemaking information that we could share with each other and we did.

I was an admirer of the beauty of the boots Glen made, because he made hundreds of them and constantly worked at improving his process. He has a dvd available on his website, www.healthyhandmadeshoes.com, describing how he made his boots.

Glen aspired to teach shoemaking to those in areas of the world where foot-wear making knowledge was lacking. He spent over a year gathering materials to be used to teach shoemaking in Sierra Leone. His death after exposure to tropical diseases left his goals of helping the children there who were sickened by parasites entering their bodies through their unshod feet, temporarily incomplete.

I use the word “temporary” because his family, friends and others inspired by his dedication are determined that his goals be met, and will find a way. If you’re going to Sierra Leone, please get in touch.

Rest in peace, my generous friend.

more sandal inspiration

here’s two more sandal styles that can easily be made as out-stitched – or even “understitched” – meaning that you punch slits or oblong slots in the sandal sole and thread the ends of sandal tabs through them. Then, either stitch, rivet or nail them in place (this is all explained further in my sandalmaking book and/or dvd) before assembling the sandal.

Sandals you can make by reworking patterns in “Simplest Sandals”

I saw two pairs of shoes on the web recently; they each provided an example of how you can take an idea you see and like, and make something similar for yourself. Here’s the two shoes, which one can you see yourself making? That’s right, the ones on the right, just create some gorgeous fabric through beading, applique etc, construct the pattern using pattern for the avarca sandal from my “Simplest Sandals” book. A leather strap and you’re all set. Re: the high heel, you could take the heel tab and the two leather straps from it and make something similar, but with a low heel.  

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.