I’ll be hanging up this flyer on local telephone poles! Wish you could attend!
Learn to Make “First Walkers”!
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:
145 Baker Road (location for workshop)
Shutesbury, Ma. 01072
I have had the good fortune to collaborate with Renee Canady – an accomplished leather worker – on making a pair of sandals, to show what can be done with carving and tooling on footwear – that isn’t a pair of cowboy boots! She did the carving, tooling, painting and dyeing, and I assembled the sandal.
Aren’t they gorgeous! I hope you’re getting plenty of opportunity to show off your amazing works of art, Renee, now that lilies and daffodils are actually blooming.
Questions for Renee:
Am I right that you first carved the band, then tooled it, then coated the sandal completely with neets foot oil and let it dry over night.
Yes, that was my process.
How did you make such a beautiful edge on the leather sole and band?
This is an edge beveler http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/en-usd/search/searchresults/8076-296.aspx that you run down the edges on top and then on the bottom, then dampen the leather, not soaking wet just damp, then you use http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/en-usd/search/searchresults/8122-00.aspx which is a slicker and they come in different types. There is a wooden one that has multiple sizes in one tool that I like a lot. With the slicker you just rub it back and forth on the damp edges until it kinda smooths the leather together. People also rub beeswax across the finished edge, but if you choose that path be sure your dying is complete because additional dye WILL NOT stick to the beeswax.
If I were making the entire sandal myself I would stitch the sole and upper together, bevel the top edge (which is now the top of the strap) and the bottom of the sole, wet, and use the slicker so both pieces would now look blended as one. I would then cement it to the rubber sole.
On this project I could treat the edges after carving because it wouldn’t matter when I did it, since each piece was being used as a separate piece of leather.
What was the weight of the leather for the soling and the band?
The weight of the sole was 8-9 ounce and the strap is 4-5 ounce. I usually purchase my vegetable-tanned leather from Tandy Leather Factory. I dyed the edges with a product called Edge Kote.
Did you finish the edges with hand tools?
Yes, the beveler and slicker are both done by hand. On the Tandy Leathercraft site there are a few free videos, one of which is the use of an edge beveler. I used a #4 beveler for the sole and a #2 for the strap. The thicker the leather the higher in number you want. The wooden edge slicker is better because it is for many weights of leather. The plastic one will work but since it is only like a $2 difference I would go with the wooden one. It kind of looks like a bobbin from an old spin wheel.
If you use two layers of leather, be sure not to bevel their edges until you have cemented them together. You don’t want to cement two finished edges against each other or you may have a small gap on the very edge. When you use two thicknesses of leather and bevel one side of each, then slick them, you won’t be able to tell there are two leathers there, it will just blend them into one.
What paint did you use on your carving?
I used Fiebing’s acrylic dye which is the colored paint you see. A cheap secret to that acrylic paint from the craft store that are $0.88 will also work. For the sandals I used the Fiebing’s acrylic dye though. So, you paint the colored areas first, let dry completely, then use a resist of some sort over the color like Super Sheen or Resolene. I let it dry for about 30 mins or so and then recoat with the Super Sheen/Resolene. This time dry over night. These products will resist any other dye you use after they have dried well.
How did you dye the leather?
I used a product called medium brown antique gel. I used it as my dye because I love that color of brown. I put a generous amount on sheep’s wool scraps, “mushed” it in a bit and then just went to town with it, covering the entire sandal. You will see areas that are a bit darker/lighter but you can always add more gel to make areas darker or use a soft cloth with a TOUCH of water to blend in the areas that are too dark, it will lift some dye out.
Next, use a soft cloth to buff the sandal. You will notice where you resisted the dye it will look like some is on the colored areas but it will buff off, but will dull your color a tad also.
Now you may or may not want to use another finish on it like a spray finish from Tandy.
Then I used the Edge Kote on the edges. Next I used Aussie conditioner from Tandy and mush it all in there. The leather will absorb what it wants and kind of reject what it doesn’t need. Then next day if it appears greasy-looking just wipe the rest off that the leather has rejected.
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!)
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 www.alabamachanin.com.
Visiting the facebook page of the author, Megan Nicolay, www.generation-t.com, 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!)
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.
Now that I have a grandchild, I will be learning a lot more about what size of shoe a child wears at a certain age, and what fits and what doesn’t – here’s Millie in the smallest-size shoe from How to Make SimpleShoes for Children with your own two hands!, which is for a 3 1/2″ foot. She’s four months old. Of course she’s not walking, so the shoes are not functional, although they may be helping to keep her feet warm. I used the pattern from said book, which is similar to the First Walkers pattern featured in my most recent tutorial.
In fact, the folded-over part of the First Walkers pattern can be eliminated, and holes for a thong or elastic to pass through can be punched along the top edge, as is shown here. Most all the patterns I make can be adapted in many ways.
I am gratified by the number of comments I have received about the tutorial; I belatedly realized that when I copied the tutorial I had written for Living Crafts, I also copied the note about, “free pdfs of the children’s shoemaking book will be sent to five of the readers who comment on the article before sunday midnight”. Oh well, I’m happy to send them to the commenters here, and I learned the value of offering freebies! I’ll do it again soon. In fact, I’ll do it right now..
I WILL SEND OUT FREE PDFS OF THE CHILDREN’S SHOEMAKING BOOK TO ANYONE WHO SENDS ME A PHOTO OF THE FIRST WALKERS THEY MAKE BEFORE MIDNIGHT THURSDAY 3/28!
I consider those who respond to be my experimental team – I want to know what worked for you with regard to the pattern, and what might not have, what kinds of material you used and how it was to work with, and any tips or comments you’d like to share.
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
How many pairs of shoes does a child grow out of before he or she is fully-grown? I don’t know the number, but I do believe if we were making some of those shoes, the cost of raising a child would plummet (a slight exaggeration) and our children’s feet would be healthier. And, if we use recycled materials to make them, our children’s shoes would have a smaller “footprint” on the earth.
Here’s a pattern and directions for making simple children’s shoes in a “first walker” size. The pattern can be reduced or enlarged on a photocopy machine by about 8 percentage points without becoming too distorted to be usable.
I think these shoes make great baby shower gifts. There will, no doubt, come a time when these “first walkers” will fit perfectly.
Consider checking the sizing of this pattern by making a “mock-up” from inexpensive felt to try on your child before cutting into your actual shoemaking material.
Pattern and Materials:
Uppers: Make the upper parts of the shoe from thrift-shop leather goods, leather or fabric upholstery remnants, hand-made felt or felted wool coats, recycled denim or canvas.
Soles: To make children’s footwear as flexible as bare feet, there are a couple of materials I use. For those who want their children’s shoes to be made of all natural materials, natural rubber soling is available on my etsy shop. A child wearing shoes with natural rubber soles can feel the topography of the earth, yet will be protected. This soling must be stitched with a stitching awl as described below, as holes pre-punched in it seal right up.
Another option, readily available and thin enough to provide that barefoot feel, but in no way “natural”, is the grey hall-runner available at home building centers. It has rubberized material on the backside that can serve as soling. If you put a few layers of fabric or felt, or a single layer of leather over the fuzzy side-up, the texture won’t be noticeable underfoot.
A third option is to cut them from thrift store leather goods. If you use leather, I suggest that you use two layers, with the “fuzzy” sides facing out. The fuzzy side on the bottom provides traction and the one on the top absorbs perspiration. This is the option I have used on the sample pair of shoes shown here. If you prefer rubber bottom soles, cut them from bicycle inner tubes.
Thread: I use heavy-duty waxed braided cord from Tandy Leather. Four-ply waxed Irish linen or stitching-awl thread can also be used. It’s best to use a synthetic thread when stitching the upper to the sole, as organic materials deteriorate when in contact with the ground.
Elastic: For this size shoe, I use six inches of 3/8″ elastic for running through the channels. To get the elastic through the channels, make a little tool from a piece of plastic milk carton, about 5″ long and 3/8″ wide. Cut a little slit at one end. Use like a sewing needle or bodkin to pull the elastics through the channels.
To make colored elastic, I use permanent markers to “dye” the elastic in the area where it is exposed, between the toe piece and the heel piece.
The tools for making these shoes are simple – a decent pair of scissors, a “scratch” awl from the hardware store for punching stitching holes, a couple of layers of corrugated cardboard to place below your upper material when punching holes with the awl, a glue stick, a marker appropriate for your material, permanent markers for “dyeing” the elastic and a couple of tapestry needles for stitching leather shoes, or sharp needles for stitching fiber shoes.
If you want to make proper round stitching holes in leather, the 00 round-hole drive punch from Tandy Leather, # 3777-33, is the tool for you. You will need a plastic cutting board to place under the leather piece while punching, and a rubber mallet or other non-metal hammer for pounding on the punch. The little “spring punch”, # 3236-00, from the same source, can punch holes nicely if they aren’t more than 1/2″ or so from the edge.
A stitching awl (Tandy Leather # 1216-00) can be used for stitching the upper to the sole. A video showing its use can be seen atwww.simpleshoemaking.wordpress.com.
left to right: spring punch, stitching awl, 00 drive punch, scratch awl, rubber mallet.
Make the soles: If your material is sturdy and sueded on both sides, you might only need one layer for soling. If your soling is different, cut out the leather or fiber topsole, then use a glue stick to adhere it to the bottom sole material. When the glue has dried, cut out the bottom sole to match the topsole. Mark the stitching holes onto the topsole with silver pen or permanent marker.
Cut out the upper pieces: Draw around the toe piece and the heel piece onto your upper material, then cut the pieces out. Be sure to flip the patterns over when drawing the second shoe.
Punch out the stitching holes: Punch out the stitching holes on the patterns and transfer them to your shoe pieces. Also, mark the center of the heel and the toe, and the location where the heel piece meets the toe piece, indicated on the patterns by a spiral. On fabric or felt, use whatever mark-maker that is suitable for your material, to mark the location where stitches should go through the fiber.
For leather, I like to use a silver gel pen to mark the location of stitching holes, it usually comes off with soap and water applied with a cloth. After marking, punch out the holes. To accomplish this, either place your shoe part on a few pieces of cardboard and punch down with an awl, or use the 00 punch as described above.
Make the channels for the elastic to pass through: if you are using leather, punch out the stitching holes along the two lines shown on the patterns. If you are using felt or fabric, you have made stitching marks. You can turn the channel either to the inside or the outside. Use the “simultaneous running stitch” to stitch the channel.
For the simultaneous running stitch, cut a piece of thread about four times the length of the distance you are going to stitch, and put a needle on each end of the thread.
For stitching fiber shoes, attach a sharp needle to each end of the thread. Stitch into the first mark on one end of the heel piece, then down through the corresponding mark on the sole. Bring that thread back up in the second mark in both sole and heel piece, and tug on your threads so they are the same length. Pass the second needle down into that second mark, while holding the thread that is already there to the side, to protect that first stitch from being split.
Give a good tug on both threads after each stitch to create a nicely-seated seam.
Keep repeating this process.
Hiding knots: Each time you stitch, at the end you have two loose threads. To tie the threads in a hidden knot, put each needle through only one layer of your shoe material so the threads meet inside the area stitched. Tie a tight square knot, then run the ends of the threads under a few stitches before cutting them off.
When working with leather, you will have punched stitching holes. Proceed as described above, and for the neatest appearance, develop a pattern of which thread goes into the hole first (from the top or bottom) and whether the second thread goes to the right or left side of the first. Consistency is the key – and that’s why your work won’t look as neat if you make a running stitch with one thread all along the seam, then fill in the gaps with the other thread; you’re missing that tug on both threads after each step that makes the threads grab each other and settle in.
Embellish: Embellish the shoes if you like – embroider, applique, reverse applique, stamp, paint. Since I made shoes from leather, I punched holes along the decorative lines on my pattern, about 3/16″ apart. I then transferred the marks to my toe piece, punched them out, then stitched with 4-ply waxed Irish linen. It’s fun to add a little touch of embellishment to the heel piece also.
Run elastic through the channels: Use the plastic bodkin to pull the elastic through the channel so it emerges at the other end. Put one end of the elastic through the slit, then pull it all the way through with your plastic strip. Once the elastic is through both channels, check for twisting, then overlap the two ends about 3/8″ and stitch them together. After stitching, pull on the elastic until the stitching is hidden inside a channel.
Stitch toe-piece and heel-piece to the sole: Now that the uppers and soles are complete, stitch the shoes together. I usually start stitching on the inside of the shoe, where the heel piece meets the toe piece. Cut a length of non-degradable thread about four times the distance around the shoe, which is about 12 inches x 4 = 48″.
For fiber or leather soles, use the “simultaneous running stitch” described above to stitch the shoes together, unless you are using a natural rubber sole. As described above, a stitching awl is needed to stitch a natural rubber sole to the shoe.
In the toe area, the distance between stitching holes or marks is greater on the toe piece than on the corresponding holes on the sole; this causes the toe area to “pop-up” and not press down on the child’s toes. I usually wet leather when stitching in this area so it’s moldable, and do my best to gather the leather so it doesn’t overlap on itself.
If you are concerned that stitching through the soling might result in these stitches wearing out sooner than you’d like, remember that the part of the foot that touches the ground is the part you can see when walking barefoot in wet sand. However, if your child does wear through stitches, you have the skills to re-stitch!
When you’ve stitched all around the shoe, hide your knot as described above. Spray water inside the toe piece of a leather shoe, and stuff it hard with fabric or paper bag scraps. Let it dry for a few hours until it keeps a nice, rounded shape.
For twenty five years, Sharon Raymond has had a passion for making simple footwear. She first learned shoemaking when living in England in the early 1990s; since then she has written seven books about shoe making, and taught the craft of shoemaking to hundreds of students. She delights in learning, then sharing, how to make simple footwear, often inspired by ancient and far-away cultures.
Sharon disseminates her joy of shoemaking from her home studio in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.
You can read more about Sharon’s work on her website:
Sharon will send out a PDF of her book, How to Make Simple Shoes for Children with Your Own Two Hands! to five lucky winners! Enter a comment on this post by Sunday March 17th, Midnight PST for a chance to win.