Look at these precious shoes, from the Japanese site You will definitely enjoy looking at its blog, there are so many beautiful leather creations.

There is a pattern for this little girl’s sandals in my book, “How to Make the Simplest Sandals”, although the heel piece is different. The patterns are for making sandals in all sizes, from small child to big adult:

These sandals from fungus workshop are particularly appealing to me–the way the straps are made is hard to figure out, they’re magical. Fortunately I have a pattern for them from Tim Skyrme’s Simple Sandalmaking book: love the stitching that anchors each strap, and the name of the maker that is embossed on the strap. And, the colors! These could be made with beautiful vegetable-tanned leather from:, or natural vegetable-tanned leather could be dyed. Sandal straps and topsoles are best made from “veg” leather since it has the stiffness needed so the straps don’t pull out of them.

Enjoy fungus!

Muck Shoes for Syrian refugee children

Imagine my surprise at reading the following article in the local Amherst Bulletin! It describes a woman who lives not ten miles from me who is making shoes for refugee children – exactly what I would love to be doing. We got together a few days ago, and I brought some of her patterns home so I can cut out pieces for her “muck” shoes. Muck shoes have thin rubber soles, and the rubber continues up the side of the shoes so children can wear them to play in muddy situations.

Since my children’s shoes can be made without machinery, I think there will be a place for them in this project as well  – hands being much more available in a refugee camp than stitching machines. Of course holes need to be punched to assemble my shoes, but as Andrea said to me, “If they have a nail and a rock to pound it with, they can make the stitching holes!”

I have been wondering why there were no mountain bike tire inner tubes available at local bike shops, that I use for soles for my all-recycled kit shoes, and now I know why – she is using the same material for soles on her shoes!

A step up: Belchertown business owner forgoes a month off to make ‘muck shoes’ for Syrian refugees

 BELCHERTOWN — Taped to the wall behind Andrea Boyko’s industrial Singer sewing machine is a picture of a refugee child without shoes.

The picture is one not unlike the countless others seen across television and computer screens, newspapers and magazines around the country as the Syrian refugee crisis continues.

“It’s easy to look away when there is a crisis that seems so big that there is nothing that you can to do help. This crisis in Syria, there is nothing I can do to stop it or help all these people leaving their homes,” Boyko said. “There is one small thing that I knew how to do, which is make shoes, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Since 2011, millions of Syrians have fled the country’s civil war hoping to find safety and new homes. Others have evacuated from major cities after their homes were destroyed but have been unable to get out of the country.

Formerly a teacher, Boyko has spent the last few years working full time on her business Bula Jean’s Boutique which sells handmade, recycled shoes and clothing items.

 Sitting in her basement workshop in her family’s Belchertown home the morning of Jan. 13, Boyko reflected on her decision to forego some well-earned rest so she could make shoes for the refugees in need.

“The families who are in these camps had to leave their homes,” Boyko said. “They didn’t have much time. They have just what they can carry on their backs. Kids grow, they grow out of their shoes, there are not as many resources as there should to be help them. This is just one small way I thought that I could help the kids there.”

Following the holiday order rush, Boyko normally takes the month of January off from her business.

This year, though, she is spending the time making her “muck shoes” for children halfway around the globe.

With an experienced hand at the scissors, Boyko said it takes about 15 minutes for her shop worker to cut the shoe materials. At the sewing machine, it takes Boyko about another 15 minutes to sew it all together.

To make the shoes, Boyko uses repurposed rubber from inner tubes from bike tires as the outer soles and a mixture of recycled and new fabrics and textiles.

Old shirts and sweaters in a rainbow of colors fill the shelves in the small workshop. The industrial sewing machine came into Boyko’s possession after the passing of a Springfield tailor who used the machine for decades.

Moisture-wicking wool serves as the sole liner for the shoes and T-shirts are transformed into a soft inner lining. On the outside, durable fabric from old sweaters and jeans or new water-resistant duck cloth form the outside.

“They should work well in the camps. If they get muddy, you just rinse them off and they dry really quick,” Boyko said.

“Because of the elastic, they stay on the feet even if they are all little big so they can wear them a lot longer than typical shoes,” she said.

Boyko has pledged 50 pairs of children’s shoes but is going to make as many as she can. Already she is nearing her goal.

In June, instead of the planned family vacation to Costa Rica, the Boykos will head to Greek island of Lesbos.

“I feel like the world has pulled us in another direction,” Boyko said.

The island, once a popular tourist destination, has become home to thousands of refugees who traveled by raft from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the International Rescue Committee, over 1 million people have traveled through Greece since 2015.

The plan is to spend an entire month in Greece.

“I have a feeling once I’m there, I’m not going to want to leave,” Boyko said.

While in Greece, Boyko said she will run sewing workshops in the refugee camps. In addition to teaching basic sewing skills, she’ll also share here secrets on how the shoes are made.

The benefits, she said, will be twofold — the sewing will give the refugees something to do during the day as well as give them a life skill that may be used to earn an income one day.

Once the first batch of shoes is completed at the end of the month, they will be sent to a woman who lives in Turkey, according to Boyko. The woman will then bring them to the Syrian border and deliver them to somebody who will then bring them to the refugee camps there.

A second batch of shoes will go along with Boyko to Greece in June.

Told of her work, Michael Kane, a member of the Valley Syrian Relief Committee, called Boyko’s efforts impressive.

He said work like hers and that of the committee are part of larger effort that is making a statement to the Syrian people that there are people in America who care very deeply for their lives.

“It’s sending that larger scale message — we haven’t abandoned you and we’re really trying to help in ways that we can,” Kane said.

Having exhausted her local bike shops supply of discarded inner tubes, Boyko said people have been helping her gather more.

“I had a friend who went to Boston last weekend and went to a couple of shops (to collect inner tubes),” Boyko said.

For those interested in helping, Boyko is still looking for more bike inner tubes as well as thick wool blankets that get used as shoe inserts. The blankets can be any size or color.

She is also accepting financial donations to cover the cost of shipping a box of shoes to Turkey as well as purchasing two or three industrial sewing machines for the refugee camp.

In the case of the sewing machines, Boyko is also looking for somebody in Europe to help get the machines as they would be hard to transport to Greece. She said the closer to the camps the machines already are, the better.

Boyko can be reached through Bula Jean’s Boutique Facebook page at facebook .com/Bula-Jeans-Boutique-183782958307742/ or by email at


This is your lucky day!

harem pants noeMy lucky day occurred a week ago, when Neda Hussain put a photo of a shoe she made for her son on It is beautiful, especially because the colors were so nuanced. I went to her web page,, and was quite stiff when I eventually got up off of my chair, because I had been “riveted” to her website for hours, until I had read all of her posts. I even read the ones on clothing, although I don’t sew much clothing – but I do “reverse applique” on recycled T-shirts. I learned the technique, as did Neda,  from books from I am going to make my little grandson Solomon a pair of harem pants for sure. This photo of Neda’s son in his harem pants, stenciled T-shirt (with silk neckline) and chunky hand-made sandals has set a standard for hand-made style.

So I ordered Neda’s e-book, How to Make Unique Leather Sandals, and was again enchanted. Even though I have made many styles of sandals, I have not decorated them with punches, stamps, or paint, as she does. I have been missing out on a lot! At this point I don’t want to invest in stamps, but I’ve got the punches and paint, it’s time to experiment. She can take a simple sandal shape, and add so much interest with her artistic eye. I am thinking of my two sandal-making books, I still feel really good about the instruction that they provide, and I now see how the sandals could be enhanced, using some of her techniques. I’m pleased that I have found a way to stitch soles to sandals and shoes, avoiding the toxic shoe cements.

I enjoy it so much when ideas are shared between people who are doing something similar, yet different. Thank you, Neda!


New tutorial: How to make warm boots for little cold feet

My one-year-old grandson needed a pair of warm boots. Out came the wool coat I had felted, the polar fleece from a thrift shop XX large pullover, and a wide bicycle tire inner tube. Since I decided to create a tutorial as I went along making his pair, I made the boots all by hand so people everywhere would know that, with just a few materials and a pattern, little feet could be warmed.

The boots needed to be cinched and I had some paracord (ties could be made from the wool coat if cord isn’t available) but didn’t want to purchase a plastic gizmo to cinch it. I googled “cord locks” and found a youtube video that showed how to make a “cobra knot” that would do the trick, but I couldn’t figure out what the heck the person in the video was doing. So i googled “cobra knot” and found a nice clear paracord bracelet-making video. Just two pairs of knots and a delightful little cincher was made. I’ll never use plastic again!

If there are any little feet in your life needing boots, please take a look at the tutorial under the “tutorial” tab.


I scored a triple today!


I visited with precious in-laws, viewed the magnificent exhibition “Shoes: Pain and Pleasure” at the Peabody Museum in Salem, Ma., then visited EXTRAS for creative reuse in nearby Peabody Ma. for the first time.

I enjoyed the presentation of the 300 pairs of shoes almost as much as I enjoyed seeing the shoes. (See some beautiful shoe photos at the link above). Visitors were welcomed by a massive shoe made from black shoe boxes – and inside the exhibit, the most memorable feature for me was the kraft-paper shoe boxes that were stacked everywhere on which shoes were displayed..I imagine this show will go to another museum, but if not I’d love to be around when the disassemblers try to figure out what to do with all those gorgeous shoeboxes–. And while I’m thinking of it, another highlight for me were the round shoeboxes holding shoes for sale in the gift shop – I recall the shoes were labeled “U” and the designer was Japanese..

Shoe-wise, I loved the way that modern shoes were frequently juxtaposed with an ancient shoe that may have inspired it.. There was the continual marvel that women’s feet were so small and narrow in centuries past.

Jocelyn at EXTRAS has done an amazing job of offering all kinds of waste, headed to the landfill, to members to use creatively. I met her at the life-and-product-transforming REUSE convention last fall. There she had a table filled with imaginative objects made from materials from her enterprise. She gave me a portfolio full of lovely leather scraps and a little last – on the side was imbedded “Robeez, size 4”.

If you have had children or grandchildren in the last decade, you know that Robeez are very popular soft footwear. And size 4 is the size I offer in my “First Footsteps” shoemaking kits. What a gift, to make future patterns over! And I found a few more lasts at EXTRAS today, that I will offer for sale in my store.

I left there with an ample bag of felt, that I will use for making shoe mock-ups. I also found so many interesting leather samples from nearby shoe manufacturers. They will definitely add color and texture to shoes made in my workshops.  And, I grabbed paint sample cards for my granddaughter to play with – I’ve included a photo of one of the hundreds of paint chip projects listed on Pinterest.

If you are within reach of this part of the world, the “Shoe: Pain and Pleasure” exhibition will be up until March 12, and EXTRAS is not far from the museum. If you don’t have relatives in the area, at least you’ll score a double!



Christmas tree from paint colour sample card. Could be fun kid craft.:

Have you seen any boots more beautiful than these?!


This url takes you to an amazing site. There, you’ll see the magnificent footwear Martin Moser has recreated from choice specimens from the 14th century BC to the 18th century AD.

The original Castelford boot was found at the site of a Roman fort – it is listed as being a boot from the late first century.

I’m surprised Trippen hasn’t duplicated the snazzy lacing tabs seen on this shoe, although I’m not surprised that they haven’t duplicated the soling, since it is decorated with hefty nails.

Note that this is a one-piece upper: the only seam is found on the inside of the boot. It would be enjoyable to re-create this pattern, the only problem being that you’d need big pieces of leather to make the one-piece boots from. And, I think I’d make each tab folded and double-layered, so not so much stitching would be required. After all, I wouldn’t have any reason for painstakingly re-creating the exact boot, as this maker has.

And the color! an early Timberland?

You’ll find more information on Mr. Moser and his processes on his facebook page:

Tonight I scored on Pinterest by finding this website and accompanying facebook page:

Although Martin Moser claims he is not a shoemaker, you will see some of the most extraordinary and beautiful recreations of historical footwear on his pages. I love this shoe (unfortunately he does not take square photos so getting a whole shoe into one of his photos doesn’t happen very often), it’s a half “nomoc”, if you’ve been following my terminology.. Another unfortunate thing is that he does not supply directions for recreating the shoes that he makes, but many of them are sufficiently simple, such as this one, that I could make up a tutorial for it eventually…

I realize this photo is tiny, but if you go to this page on his website you will see large exquisite photos of this – and many other – shoes.

And, the bit of carving or embossing on the vamp is sublime. I have much gratitude for your work, Martin!

dscn0607A friend discovered this hole punch at Michael’s craft store. It punches a tiny hole, smaller than the 00 punch I have been using. I recommend it for punching holes in leather, just put your thumb over the the end with the punch tube on it while pressing to give a little extra “oomph”. First, you need to remove the metal spring inside it with pliers.

Since my simple shoemaking techniques involve punching lots of holes before hand-stitching, this punch really comes in handy. Admittedly the punching tube is quite short, so it’s a little hard to see exactly where you’re punching – but it can be done.

The best part of this punch is that the little round pieces of leather are captured in a compartment on the other end of the punch – no more tiny leather circles all over the workroom!


“I’m on a roll”

I love to look up the etymology of phrases that enter my head such as “I’m on a roll” – I found that it’s basically the notion that “an object in motion tends to stay in motion”. I have indeed been experiencing “a prolonged spell of good fortune” that being “on a roll” implies.

img_0472First I went to the life-changing-Reuse Convention, then had a lovely shoemaking workshop in Maine. This weekend I taught at NewVestures, a new Makers’ Space in Lowell, MA. Makers’ Spaces provide all the equipment needed for people to start small businesses, as well as many other services. NewVestures is focusing on sewing, but it’s easy to see that the Director and Founder Diana Coluntino is open to supporting the making of most anything, that will contribute to the well-being of the community of Lowell.

I was so excited by Diana’s creative energy. img_0483Her in-process canvas pieces were first striped with masking tape, then painted, then the tape came off, then paint was applied with abandon, so much freedom–

I know I was observing freedom because I don’t really have it with paint – but I think she’s going to release me from paint inhibition.. I dream of offering a canvas scuff-making workshop, with her teaching the participants and me what is possible with paint – then we’ll do it! Afterwards, I’ll teach them how to transform their masterpiece into a pair of “bad-ass” scuffs!

Here are First Footsteps shoes made by workshop participants, everyone likes two-tone.