Soles with pre-punched stitching holes make shoemaking simpler than ever


“A step in the right direction” soling makes shoemaking SO simple. These soles are available in three material combinations:  all-leather, a leather topsole with natural rubber bottom sole, or 3mm wool felt with a natural rubber sole. The soles are pre-punched with stitching holes that match the upper patterns in The Simple Shoemaking Handbook.

The leather part of the soles is available in either natural or brown.

The soles are to be used for making “stitch-ins”, my new favorite simple shoemaking technique. They can also be used to make “stitch-downs” – shoes in which the uppers flare out on to the sole to be stitched.

“Stitch-ins” are made by turning the bottom edge of uppers in, so they give the appearance of being fully-lasted shoes. However, lasts aren’t needed, although they are helpful for stretching a stitched shoe to its full shape (you can make lasts using directions in The Simple Shoemaking Handbook – upper patterns are in this book also).

You can make flats, chukka boots/vellies, derbies – just about any style of upper using these soles.

To experience this shoemaking process, first order The Simple Shoemaking Handbook for directions and patterns, then make mock-up shoes from felt (two layers preferable, held together by adhesive) for the uppers and corrugated cardboard from a USPS box for the sole. Use either the stitch-down or stitch-in process to make your shoes. Once you are as sure as possible of the sole size you need, decide what materials you’d like your soles made of, and what color you’d like your uppers to be, then you’re ready to order the shoemaking kit. The cost of The Simple Shoemaking Handbook will be deducted from the cost of the shoemaking kit.

If you find that the mock-ups based on the patterns from the Handbook don’t fit as you would like, you can order custom-soles, at additional cost. A description of the process for making customized shoes is in the Handbook, and there’s also a video that demonstrates the process –

And, if you’d like personal assistance during any of these processes, i’m available to consult with via facetime or skype.


Want to learn simple shoemaking via FaceTime or Skype?

If you’d like to make shoes the simple way, you can do so in the comfort of your own home.  You might even gather a small group who want to learn together. Here’s how it works. I send you a shoemaking kit that contains a sole in the size you request – it has a vegetable-tanned topsole and a bottom sole of either natural rubber or vegetable-tanned leather. The uppers are made from leather upholstery remnants.

A 1/4″ wool felt and natural rubber sole is also available, if you’d prefer not to use leather.

You will receive as much FaceTime/Skype-time with me as is needed to guide you through the shoemaking process.

To determine what size kit to order – since the kit size is rarely the same as the size you have been wearing, it’s important to make a mock-up before making your first pair. Use felt to make the upper, and USPS corrugated cardboard for making the sole. Upon payment of the $100.00 fee, you will be sent a pdf of The Simple Shoemaking Handbook, and you can make mock-ups until you get a good fit.

The kit includes a piece of upper leather in the color you choose, lining for the upper and “veg” leather for a toe box, vegetable-tanned topsole, natural rubber or leather bottom sole, two “egg eye” harness needles, sufficient waxed braided thread, and a small bottle of Aqualim 315 non-toxic cement with a brush. You will need to purchase leather-cutting scissors and a 00 punch – either a hand-squeezed “spring” punch or a drive punch that you hit with a hammer (with a suitable surface underneath).

If we see that the mock-up is just not going to work for your feet, you can make custom patterns. I’ll work with you through this – a video of the process is on youtube:

Once you let me know what size, bottom sole material and color of upper leather you’d like, the kit will be prepared and sent out.


I have created the box above as a “stage” for demonstrating simple shoemaking. I place my hands inside the box to demonstrate each step – my iPhone is taped over a hole in the top of the box.  The camera lens peers down onto the action.  Of course I don’t want to apply tape to my phone, so I tear off a piece of duct tape several inches longer than the width of my phone. I adhere another piece of tape to the center of the first piece, so your phone isn’t taped, but there’s sticky stuff on both ends – see photo below.


Windows are cut out of the upside-down box with a utility knife – the windows are needed so there is adequate light on the workspace.

This box needs to be re-created by the student, so I can see what her/his hands are doing.

The workshop instruction happens in spurts: a student may be ready to cut out upper parts, so we’ll disconnect until the student calls back, then we’ll work on the next step. It usually takes most of a six-hour-day to make the shoes, but the project doesn’t need to be done all in one day.

I love to offer the workshop to small groups, so if yourself and a few friends would like to work together, please email me and we can discuss the options.

Please consider taking a workshop, and becoming a shoemaker!



Another opportunity to save money by making your own shoes


I happened upon these shoes in the New York Times article “In Fashion: Flowing, Fanciful white dresses. They are so easy to make using my center-seam patterns. The caption said, “price upon request” so I did call and found that no one actually knows the cost, they are being made in collaboration with Sia and will be released in the spring. Looking at prices for other similar shoes, they will probably sell for around $200.00. There’s another style on Repetto’s website that looks similar, that has a huge bow across the instep. You could do that!

You could make a pair of these in every color! It seems that there are criss-cross black laces across the topline of this white minimalist shoe.

The directions and patterns for center-seam “ballerina-style” shoes are in my book, The Simple Shoemaking Handbook. Here’s a “turn-shoe” done ballet-style with elastic along the topline – it could be cut a little lower above the toes, then eyelets and a criss-cross cord would complete the look. Or, it could be made as a “stitch-in” shoe, with no visible seam. These directions are in the book also.

The biggest Maker Faire on earth

I enjoyed participating in the Maker Faire in Queens, NYC this past weekend – 600 vendors, I believe…I contacted my NYC friend to see if we could get together: she said “not on Saturday night, because my husband and I are going to Paul Simon’s “Farewell Concert” at Corona Park. That’s where the Faire was being held, so, we got tickets too!

Robots, LED lights, “cosplay” and 3-d printing seem to be the big draws at Maker Faires, but fortunately there is a selection of traditional crafts as well.

On Friday night there was a free paella dinner for all Maker Faire vendors – plus an open bar! My conversations were so rich, from a couple using art to show the problem of trash in space, to huge puppets, to a woman about my age (elderly with turquoise hair) who does these Faires all over the country, teaching young people how to knit, crochet, needlepoint etc. So I’ll be teaching them how to make shoes! 

I feel recommitted to the importance of teaching shoemaking, especially ecological shoemaking….



I will be demonstrating simple shoemaking techniques at the NYC Maker Faire in the The New York Hall of Science next weekend – September 22 and 23. I’m especially eager to show how simple shoemaking can be, especially when using my vegetable-tanned soles with pre-punched stitching holes.

I’ll also be demonstrating the stitching of the First Footsteps toddler shoemaking kits – a couple of groups that are in need of financial support are stitching these shoes now for sale – some are refugees from Myanmar living in a camp in Malaysia that a friend regularly visits, and others are Spanish-speaking immigrants here in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.

It would be delightful if any of you simple shoemakers in the NYC area could stop by. It seems that most of the participants are young and deeply into 3-d-printing, LED, and robots, but there will be a section for Traditional Crafts – and so much more!

And, I’ll be vending at the Boston Mini-Faire October 6 and 7, which is at the Children’s Museum on the Harbor. Again, I would love to see anyone who has an interest in simple shoemaking.

More of Marina Meeker’s toddler shoes

The shoes Marina has made using directions and patterns from the First Footsteps shoemaking kit are so inspiring! Whether it’s paint or applique, she adds the perfect touch of fun to each pair.

I believe she’s going to need to stitch around the watering can and drops to keep them in place, but what a delightful applique she has created..

And here are her moccasins, so appealing in two colors of leather – and is that a mint green elastic that I see? Each detail expresses her artistic eye..

Spattered nomoc basic shoe

These shoes looked a bit stodgy with their little bows, and I knew I’d never wear them. I had “spatter-painting” in the back of my mind for a long time, and this became the perfect time for giving it a try. I used acrylic paint mixed with a little water so it can be “spattered”, along with a toothbrush. Of course I experimented a bit first, to get my “flick” just right, but I perfected it pretty fast!

So, on to the spattering. I started with a raspberry color, then to turquoise. The process of “flicking” the paint with a toothbrush was so much fun! I felt like I was arranging (without a master-plan) stars in the universe! It was hard to stop.

I’m pleased with the results, and these are definitely shoes that I will wear. They are nomoc basics with vegetable-tanned soles. Here’s the “before” photo, which do you prefer?

“Stitch-in” shoemaking directions have been added to The Simple Shoemaking Handbook!

Thanks to the serendipity of working with an intern, I dusted off a “stitch-in” shoe to show him that I had made years ago, and realized it could be made by a process similar to – yet different from – other shoemaking techniques in The Simple Shoemaking Handbook.

I have now completed directions for making “stitch-in” shoes, and will send them out to everyone who has already purchased the book and have added them to future copies of the Handbook.

I consider these shoes to be more “elegant” than the funkier nomocs, lomocs and fomocs..the vegetable-tanned leather sole reminds me of Cydwoq shoe soles. And, all the upper edges are turned in, so the shoes have the look of being made over a last. But they’re not!

The book has directions and patterns for making these stitch-in soles, but I also plan to offer them in my website store – they will be made two ways: one will have two layers of vegetable-tanned leather and the other will have a vegetable-tanned topsole with a 1/4″ natural rubber bottom sole. The soles will have stitching holes punched in them using sole patterns from the Handbook, and the edges will be sanded and burnished. They will have my standard sole shape, or they can be customized.

The center-seam and one-piece flats directions and patterns in this book are the best to use for making stitch-ins.



Custom-painted First Footsteps shoes

Marina Meeker painted these little shoes for a friend who is expecting a baby, but who had recently lost her pup.  Wouldn’t you bet that these first walking shoes, with baby’s foot imprint inside, will be treasured forever? She dyed the shoes also – I’ve got to find out more because that is the best dye job ever! Ordering the white  “first walker” kit with no stars punches on the front gives the maker two surfaces for customizing with dye, paint, applique etc – I will be attending a baby shower soon, the father installs solar panels, so a shiny rectangle will be appliqued to the front of the shoes! Thank you for the inspiration, Marina.