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The Day I Decided To Make Shoes

So I must forewarn you, this has nothing to do with quilting! Nothing at all :). People sometimes ask me what I do in my “free time”, note the amused tone. I love to read, so that is my go to for downtime, but there are these side projects that seem to usurp any other plans I may have had.

This was one such project…. shoes. Haha! It all started with this picture I saw on Pinterest (trouble central), anyway I just couldn’t get them out of my mind. When I finally looked them up to purchase, they were custom made halfway around the world, took eight weeks to deliver, and you had to send an imprint of your foot before they got started. So I took the photo all over town begging shoe shops to make them for me, and they were all very sweet, but they repair shoes and nobody makes them from scratch anymore. So I made them, and now I have a good list of repair shops to fix them if they wear out ;)

Here is my process just in case you want to make your own custom sandals.

I bought a nice piece of heavy gauge leather. I think it’s 8/9 gauge (whatever that means), the sole is two layers glued together and the straps are a single layer.

I also bought this heavy duty glue and dye that is made for leather. Most of this stuff can be found at a leather place like Tandy Leather Company (they have several stores and a great website). I got mine at a local place called Quilceda Tanning Company. You can also find the grommets and grommet setter tool at these places.

I got a flip flop out of the closet to use as my pattern. I like the shape so I just traced each one twice on the thick leather. Make sure you have a mirror image when you trace, because leather is one sided and you won’t be able to flip it over if you trace only one flip flop. I put a new sharp blade in my box knife and slowly cut out each sole. This stuff cuts like spongy wood so it’s not all that hard, just take it slow so you don’t overcut a spot and have to start over. I cut the straps as two long pieces, because I didn’t know how much length I actually needed (this will depend on the actual size of your foot). The ankle strap is ¾” wide and the toe strap is ⅜” wide.

Once I had everything cut out, I started to mark my strap placement. Using my own foot, I made little dots where I wanted the toe strap to emerge and where I wanted the ankle strap to wrap around. I drilled two small holes in the top layer of the sole where the ankle strap would be grommeted down. I drilled the same two holes in the strap about ½” from the end. The two grommet pieces go through both layers and you pound them to crimp together using the grommet tool.

Now for the toe strap. I cut a slit in the top sole piece right where I had made my toe strap marking, I wanted to bury and grommet the toe strap between the two layers. I tucked the toe strap through the slit and crimped it over to the side. I drilled the hole for the grommet pieces through both the strap and sole. Now inserting the grommet pieces, I pounded them together securing the toe strap.

So far so good! I tried the sandals on at this point to get the marking for where the toe strap would come back and secure down the side of my foot. Repeat the grommet process for this strap just like the ankle strap, only this time with just one hole and one grommet.

I used my dremel tool to hollow out the bottom sole pieces where the straps would be so I wouldn’t feel like I was walking on marbles and the straps could just nest in between the layers. The glueing process was actually super easy and not that messy. Smear a thin layer on both pieces and wait for them to dry tacky (about 15 minutes) Then, carefully line up the two layers starting at the toe and press them together. This is a one time shot, you don’t get a second chance at this step! They will NEVER come apart. Let them set up overnight.

Now, I took my sharp box knife and shaved off the uneven edge (it’s just like whittling or peeling potatoes). Hold it in your hand and work your way around the sole. Then, I used the dremel tool to sand the edges smooth and bevel the top edge a little.

Time to dye! A little dye goes a long way, and I couldn’t believe how fast this went. I ended up doing three light coats to get the color even and rich, especially around the edges.

Once they were dry, I tried them on again to get the ankle strap stud placement (this just pounds together in the same way the grommets do). I ended up cutting the strap a little shorter and drilling a hole about ½” from the end for the stud to go through. I also cut a small slit out from the hole so it would have a little give to get them on and off.

Here they are! I can’t stop wearing them and I’ll probably make more colors now that I know what I’m doing :)

Even if leather work isn’t your thing, I hope this inspires you to try something you never thought you’d try. You may just surprise yourself!


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