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.

Concern and response regarding use of chrome-tanned leather

Greetings all, I just received this email, and consider the topic so important that I am answering it in this blog-post. I have removed the name of the sender.


I really appreciate your shoe designs and patterns and your generosity in making them available online.
I’m hoping to get back to experimenting with some Mary Janes for myself soon.
I have some concern, however, about using chrome-tanned leather for baby shoes. It comes out of some reading I’ve done while investigating my own contact allergy to some chrome-tanned leathers. (I’ve reacted to both watchbands and sandals. I’m fine with shoes worn with socks.)
Using chrome-tanned leather for adult shoes is probably rarely a problem (for the wearer, at least—for leather-tanning workers and the environment is another issue…), but my concern (raised in this article) with using it for baby shoes is that babies might suck on the shoes.
I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but felt I should share. You can’t count on the U.S. government or corporations to do this kind of testing.

MY RESPONSE:  I share your concern about using chrome-tanned leather for children’s shoes, especially shoes for those who put their feet in their mouths! The weight of making the “most conscious” decision regarding SO MANY ISSUES in our world lies heavily on my shoulders, and on the shoulders of so many others, I know. The use of recycled and practically-free  materials earns these shoes some “points” from my perspective, but can that ecological advantage be off-set by the fact that most leather goods at the thrift shop are made from chrome-tanned leather!

I have a four-month-old granddaughter, so I am beginning to re-learn the timeline of “when babies do what”. I see there’s no reason for children of this age to have shoes (the mary-janes printed on socks work just fine). If their feet are cold, get out the wool coat you have felted, or felted sweaters, and make some booties! I’ll post a pattern for some soon, but there are many already on the web. (I’ll take this opportunity to insert a photo of said grand-daughter, wearing a simple hat made from a thrift-shop cashmere sweater – it’s stitched “Alabama Chanin”-style, and can be unstitched and enlarged as she grows!)


I think I remember that when children start walking they no longer put their feet in their mouths; if this is true, that can enter into the equation.

HOWEVER, there is some great leather out there for those who can pay the cost of it, and that’s ecopell! It is tanned and dyed with only harmless plant materials. I have some colors – forest green and cream in a weight appropriate for “first walkers” (see photo), and softer (more appropriate for robeez-type shoes)  in blue and purple. I will list pieces of it on my etsy shop. If I get a good  response, I will continue to offer this product. You can order full hides from the distributor, but for those who want it,  I will sell pieces adequate for this project.

With gratitude for your comment, sharon

Home Depot stocks soling for kids’ shoes!

They didn’t stock this for use as soling, of course, but the grey hall runner (sku – 195-339) found on a big roll in the carpet department)

Multy Home Gray 2 ft. 2 in. x Your Choice Length Track Runner

looks like a good material to use as children’s shoe soling.  At $2.27/26″ x 12″, quite a few affordable soles can be cut from a piece just one foot wide.

Use it with the rubbery-side down and the fuzzy-side up; you might want to use a piece of leather or felted fiber over the fuzzy side if your child doesn’t like the feel of it.

It’s totally flexible, so a child can feel as if she or he has bare feet in footwear made with this soling. I am convinced this is so important for growing feet.

This soling has no ecological merit – it’s 100% polypropylene. However, if you are making footwear for your family and friends you are hopefully decreasing the importation of a much bigger quantity of this stuff, which would be used to make a typical child’s shoe sole – and maybe the entire shoe as well (crocs etc). There are so many ethical points-of-view involved that for me, using this would be OK. However, I do sell natural rubber sheets for those of you who would prefer for your footwear to be totally kid and earth-friendly.

And, convenience; how many of you are more than five minutes from Home Depot?!

rug runner from Home Depot for use as soling for children's shoes

rug runner from Home Depot for use as soling for children’s shoes

Interesting leather from Hide House

I don’t plan on ordering a piece as I don’t expect to be making many shoes, but it’s tempting.

M05 Forest Green Moose Sides 5-6oz 12-15 sq ft sides 

is available from It will probably be quite soft leather, not good for most derby-type shoes or flats, but might be great for moccasins or soft boots. Usually leather comes in “half-of-a-cow-hide” which is around 24 square feet. Here we have a moose – 12-15 square foot-sides – I guess that’s half-a-moose-hide. And 5-6 ounce leather is nice and thick, I may change my mind and order a piece, just imagining what great renaissance-faire-style boots I could make for myself – poor me, I don’t have any green boots!

Ask for a swatch if you consider ordering this leather to check its color, degree of softness, thickness, and surface treatments. In my opinion, you don’t want any surface treatment  (leather without surface treatment is called “naked” leather), especially in this sort of supple leather….

You could make maybe 4-5 pairs of shoes or boots from this piece of leather. That is assuming that a good portion of the leather is useable; belly leather and limb leather sometimes is so stretched and flabby that it’s not useable for any part of the shoe  – well, maybe it could be used for a topsole, especially if it were inside a boot and not visible. But for a topsole you want something smooth, not full of ripples and bumps.

So all in all, if you’re thinking of getting yourself some moccasin or soft-shoemaking leather, this smaller size makes it one of the most affordable ways to obtain suitable leather, you could easily spend twice as much on a nice piece of cow leather – especially if you purchase it from a “bricks and mortar retailer”.

I have enjoyed doing business with Most satisfying is the fact that they have a catalogue, so you can re-order and you will know you are getting something very similar to the leather you received in a past shipment – keeping in mind that leather is a natural product, full of unique signs of having lived a life, stretch marks, barbed-wire marks, a brand here and there…

I just checked out the leather on the hidehouse website, it is listed as $54.00/hide, so perhaps I got notice of the wholesale price. If you have a sales tax number, you can get the wholesale price also.

Price: $54.00 per hide
No. of Hides:

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