You make the straps, I’ll provide the soles…(or you can make those too!)

1/28/12: A fellow recently emailed me asking for sandal soles that can be used to make “capri” sandals. He provided me with the link

I realized that even though I hadn’t known of these sandals, I do have all the tools and materials to make

denise's sandals

these soles. So, I have decided to offer them for sale. I have a die press to cut out the soles, a Danny Marlin groover to make the groove for the stitches on the bottom sole, and a Cowboy stitcher for stitching the soles together. The fact that the soles are stitched together makes them perfect for me to make, since I don’t use toxic shoe cements. The alternative cement I use will not hold a sole on by itself, so my soles are always stitched in their final stage.

I’m looking forward to putting the soles for sale on my etsy shop.

My book Slow Sandals will teach you how to make the soles for yourself if you’d prefer that approach.

What is unique about these sandal soles is that they have two slits in the big toe and in the instep area, through which the sandal maker can insert straps that her or his customer chooses. Imagine a shop with all kinds of sandal straps on display. Jewelry makers, especially those who create with leather and stones, could create bejeweled straps similar to those made in Capri. Other artisans that I can imagine making straps would be, of course, leather workers and carvers (maybe the purchaser’s name carved into the strap?), weavers of bands, beaders, stitchers…

The designer can create sandals for the customer in just minutes.

loop sandal

These soles will supplement the sandal soles that I already have in the works – these have three loops on them, through which a long tubular piece of cotton or silk – or thin leather – can be threaded, then wound around your leg, just like the sandals I see on the feet of every model on the web (mostly in high-heeled versions) strutting down a runway.

I’m hoping these soles will make many small businesses possible.

Why I love to look at fashion photos and watch project runway

This photo of a dress shown at new york fashion week by richard chai offers an example of where inspiration for shoemaking can come from. This dress has strips of leather sewn onto it, some of it shiny; well, i have so many leather scraps, a lot of it shiny – how cool would a boot look with a few rows of shiny leather stitched around the leg of it?! Or a vamp sandal with strips across – i love to discover ways to use scraps so this dress is an inspiration. And, a belt from this collection had big pockets over each hip; maybe i have some leather that would be perfect for making a facsimile of it for myself!

How to Make Favorite Moccasins – from high boot to low flat in one pattern!

And not a minute too soon; I just saw the moccasin in this photo for sale on ebay for $145.00 – it’s original cost – it was made by Prada – was $400.00! If you’ve got some bugle beads, suede, a piece of vegetable-tanned leather for the sole, and this book, you can make a reasonable facsimile for under twenty bucks.

My moccasin-making book will have the same format as my other books, that is, there will be patterns for making each style of moccasin in women’s sizes 6 – 10. Information on customizing is included. The styles in the book are: skimpy moccasin-flat with “maryjane” and t-strap variations, basic “loafer” moccasin, unique tie moccasin, and low and high-boot moccasin.

By moccasin, I mean that a piece of leather is cut out large enough for you to stand on, (I’ll call is the “body”) and the edges are pulled up around your foot. In the front of your foot the pulled-up edges are gathered around a “U”-shaped piece called the “plug”.

A moccasin can be made without an extra sole, or an extra sole can be cemented and stitched in place before the moccasin is stitched together.

I hope to have this book ready to sell in a month, along with a dvd of the moccasin-making process.

Cool topline


I received a photo of the pair of shoes that was made during the last shoemaking “‘tutorial” (I’ll call it that since I teach one person at a time) I offered, and am sharing it with you. It’s a strange thing, how something like a pleasing line can create such a flow of uplifting brain chemicals – I felt such contentment when I saw the curve of the topline. It seems that the same part of my brain as finds resolution in hearing a beautiful musical chord was stimulated. I have to admit that there was one aspect of these shoes, that the photo doesn’t show, where I wish I had asked Linda to do things differently; we buffed the turned-out edge after cementing the natural rubber sole to the vegetable-tanned leather topsole. The rubber got kind of bunged-up, as we were trying to put a nice shine on the topsole. I wish I had buffed the topsole before attaching the rubber sole, and hopefully will remember to do it that way in the future.

Oh, and she didn’t plan to have little triangular punched holes on her shoes, just the “square spiral”. However, when I was demonstrating the sanding process, I knicked a little surface on the toe. Using the attitude that I was taught in a workshop of “don’t call it a mistake, make it a feature”, we added the triangles, and for me, the error definately transformed into a “feature”!

Well, you might think twice about coming to me for a shoemaking tutorial, as I am always learning (and re-learning) and experimenting right along with the student. If that’s within your comfort zone, I’m the teacher for you!

Ramblings, after books are complete

My shoemaking manuals are complete, and my shoemaking “to do” list has been pared down to a manageable number of projects (transform adult patterns into more patterns for children; make a video of the “Stitch-in” process; get my etsy shop up and running). It’s time to communicate directly with aspiring shoemakers! There are so many different reasons why people are interested in making shoes: I have recently heard from two grandmothers – one has a teen-age granddaughter with feet so wide and short that she can only wear birkenstocks, and the other has a teen-age granddaughter who wears size 15 shoes! She would like to have some party shoes, which don’t come in the men’s sizes that she wears. There are many voices now advising people to buy locally-made products, food being the most obvious, but any form of apparel, certainly footwear, benefits from the same consciousness. Richard Heinberg, who sends out a monthly email from the “Post-carbon Institute”, advised a student who asked what he should do to prepare for an uncertain future, to learn to “butcher meat and make shoes”. And tan the hide while you’re at it, I guess. Being a vegetarian I don’t get the butchering part, but I certainly get the “make shoes” part. There are many people who are able to grow their own food, build themselves a house, and sew or knit everything they need to wear – but don’t know how to make their own shoes. My mission is to complete their empowerment by providing them with the knowledge of how to make those shoes. I started out making simple stitch-down shoes, relying on directions in a book from the 70’s by Christine Lewis-Clark (why is it that I always remember her name?) entitled “”. This book encourages readers to mold shoes over their feet. Trust me, shoes that duplicate the shape of most people’s feet are far from attractive! I still make simple stitch-down shoes. But I’ve gone over to the other side, and instruct that making shoes over lasts is the only way to go. Using standard lasts – and even those that have been customized, allows the maker to proudly declare, “these shoes? I made them myself!” While writing and creating patterns for my children’s shoemaking book, I was stumped because the only children’s lasts that I have or could find only could be used for making shoes for children with feet 5 1/2″ long or longer. I got the idea of extrapolating a bit from the lasts that I have, and making little lasts out of felt stuffed with wool fleece. They were so useful during the process of adhering the upper to the sole that I experimented with using them to make shoes ever larger, all the way up to the size 8 1/2-size shoes that I wear. So, I now advise people to stitch their own lasts, using the center-seam shoe pattern found in both the women’s and the children’s shoemaking books. I do sell resin-casts of the lasts that I have used to make all my women’s patterns, but if you do not want to purchase them as a beginning shoemaker, felt lasts can provide a serviceable alternative. Felt lasts won’t provide two other functions that resin lasts provide; they can be used to make patterns over, and, when jammed in to a completed, then moistened, shoe, they make the shape come to its complete form. And boy, does that look good! Especially with leather shoes, letting them dry over the lasts help them “memorize” and keep that nice shape. If you are using felt lasts, you can stuff the moistened shoe with crumbled-up paper bag to get a good shape, but it won’t be as perfect as a shoe stretched over a solid last. My goal is to make the pursuit of shoemaking an affordable venture, as well as one that is earth-friendly, while providing unlimited creative possibilities. I think I have recently happened upon the missing link in my sustainable shoemaking process – Avoiding the toxic cements used in commercial and most independent shoemaking ventures has been essential; I have achieved that by using my beloved non-toxic contact cement, Titan DX, for all shoemaking processes – except adhering the sole to the upper part of the shoe. I very happily cement the sole in place with Titan DX, but proceed to then stitch the sole to the upper, as the cement alone will not hold it on permanently. I advise aspiring shoemakers to stitch the heels on to their shoes as well, but I’m not too crazy about the look of a stitched-on heel..of course, eliminating the heel all-together might be the healthiest thing to do, why on earth did we come up with the idea that a little – or a lot – of elevation in the heel is a good idea? (I know the answer regarding a lot of elevation, as in stiletto high-heel – it produces a sexy body posture, which many aspire to have, but what’s the point in wearing a shoe with 1/2″ heel? And what about those shoes that advertise their negative-heel advantages? So, whatever, if you decide you want a heel on your shoe, you now may be able to ecologically-reach your goal through the use of awesome glue! I serendipitously-happened upon it on youtube, and a sample is now being sent to me. Apparently all you need to do to make the cement function is to provide high heat during the fusion process, which can be provided by the use of a heat gun or boiling water. I’ll let you know soon which approach works best for me, and how secure the heel feels. Today my thoughts turn to moccasins. There are quite a few “how to make moccasins” sources, reflecting a variety of native people’s styles, so I don’t think I’ll be writing a moccasin-making book. (yet, for the many of you who have a copy of “how to make moccasins”, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have actual patterns for making the styles in that book? Have you ever tried to blow them up on a copy machine, to get something you could actually use? I have, and it doesn’t work. So maybe I will at some point accomplish this mission. or maybe you will..) December 18 I’ve been visiting my mom in indiana and a friend in santa fe, a trip that has provided me with lots of time (especially while visiting my 90-year-old mom) to work on editing my shoemaking dvds. I’ll have two for sale: “How to Hand-Make a Children’s Derby Shoe” (the process is the same when making an adult derby shoe, and most other shoes as well) and “How to Make Strap Sandals”. Other dvds will be posted on my wordpress site, offering visual directions for

You Walk Wrong!

“You Walk Wrong!” is an article from the NY Times magazine ( that I invite you to read. It supports the simple way that I make shoes, with lots of space for your toes and thin flexible soling that comes as close as possible to duplicating the barefoot experience, while still protecting your feet.

Professions making a comeback – shoemaking

James Roberts of Melbourne, Australia makes footwear and leather goods by hand, using methods and tools much the same to those used a hundred years ago. His shoes start at $800 AUD (about $790 USD), with boots and custom work going much higher—and he has a waiting list of six months plus. Numerous other leather-workers ply their trade on’s online marketplace, crafting custom shoes, boots, and bags. There, a pair of custom-made men’s or women’s shoes can command $500 a pair, and bags draw $100 on up.

In this age of mass production, shoes come cheap. Why the interest in bespoke, even in such a down economy? For many, it’s about quality and luxury. “Handmade shoes are now in the realm of luxury goods when they were once the only option,” says James. “So to keep the profession alive, I strive to make the shoes fit that small luxury market and thus raise the quality and craftsmanship of every step in the process that I can.”

James uses all leather for his shoes’ uppers, linings and soles and stiffeners, he hand-sews the shoes, and he dyes his own leather. “A day in the workshop is hard work. I usually have a few different tasks that I aim to get done that day. Sometimes it can take all day hand- stitching the soles on.” He spends anywhere from 40-70 hours making each pair.