This week I’m not sharing a garment, but instead I am sharing…drumroll, please…my first pair of shoes!! I mean, not my first ever pair of shoes; I haven’t been walking around barefoot. But it is my first pair of me-made shoes! And spoiler alert – I loved everything about making these floral summer espadrilles! (Whelp, I think I just used up my allotment of exclamation marks for this post.)
I’ve always been very intrigued by folks who make their own shoes and have wanted to give it a go myself. However, it seemed like I would need a lot of specialized tools and equipment to even get started. And let’s face it, I already have more projects and hobbies than I would have time for in about ten lifetimes. Buuuut…turns out espadrilles are quite easy to make, and you don’t need any expensive tools to get started. I was turned on to this idea when I saw other sewers making up espadrilles using kits from A Happy Stitch. So, of course, I had to check them out.
A Happy Stitch offers what they call “The Espadrille Kit” through their Etsy shop. They offer the kit in a variety of different colors and prints. Once you decide on a print, which was not an easy task, you just select the size and presto – change-o, you’re ready to make some shoes!
I selected the Canvas Peony Shoe Kit, although the leopard print was also an enticing option. The kit includes your exterior fabric (mine was a print from Rifle Paper Co.), organic cotton lining fabric, shoe soles, medium weight interfacing, specific espadrille needles, espadrille thread, espadrille wax, needle pullers, pins, an instruction booklet, shoe pattern, point turner and the kitchen sink.
The only other things you need are scissors, thread and a sewing machine. Although, I suppose you could hand sew the fabric parts. So technically you don’t really even need a sewing machine.
After taking inventory, I was eager to get started. The pattern comes with all the sizes nested on one pattern, so I traced my size. I figured that once I’m able to actually see friends again, I may be getting some requests and will need to have the full size range intact.
The instructions take you through each step with clear, easy to follow directions. Once you get the fabric portion of your shoes sewed up, the real fun begins. You pin the shoe upper to the sole every 3/8”, so I marked these 3/8” intervals on each shoe first. You then line up the upper and start placing pins on each of those 3/8” intervals. Then, you thread your needle, wax your thread and get to sewing.
The kit comes with two needles, a curved one and straight one. For what it’s worth, I preferred using the straight needle. I felt like I had more control with it. The kit also comes with little rubber grippers – aka needle pullers – for your thumb and first finger. They remind me of those silicone oven mitts – but for your fingers! These are such a life saver and makes pulling the needle through the sole much easier.
I sat on the couch (big mistake) and sewed up my first shoe. When I finished, I took one look at it, and well, it was mess! The instructions explain how to make the stitches, and I assure you it isn’t hard. But for whatever reason, that day my brain was just not comprehending. I didn’t have perfectly even, balanced stitches like in all of the pictures. Mine were wonky and just plain bad. And on top of that, I couldn’t get my foot inside without hearing the dreaded sound of ripping stitches on the fabric upper. I want to note that the sole fit perfectly. The opening of the upper was just a tad too small.
Aside from totally screwing up the stitches, this is not a project for casually sitting on the couch watching a movie. I’ll save the crocheting for that. This is a project that needs a sturdy flat surface, where you can rest the shoe while you’re working. Doing this provides much needed leverage and helps keep the stitches straight and even.
So, I took my first espadrille apart, and I used this opportunity to make some adjustments to the fit. I took the uppers apart and resewed them, giving myself a slightly larger opening for my foot.
Ok…time for attempt number two. This time, I got the stitching right, and sitting at my sewing table, I had it sewed up in probably about 20 minutes. When done correctly, I found the process to be very fun and relaxing.
After making the size adjustment, the shoes were still a little snug. However, after wearing them for a few minutes I could already feel them loosening up. This pair, as with most of the kits, is made from 100% cotton, which will give slightly with wear. I would recommend keeping this in mind and not make the shoes too loose, as they will stretch out.
As soon as these were complete, I was on Etsy sourcing more materials to make more espadrilles. A quick search showed me that you can source just about all of the pieces to make an endless variety of espadrilles – soles, ties, fabric for the toes and heels – it is a rabbit hole. I started thinking about all the cute summer shoes I could make – wedges and espadrilles with ties that wrapped around my ankles. I was poised to become an addict. And then I remembered – where exactly was I going this summer to wear all these shoes? Nowhere. That’s where.
So, I decided to wait until next spring to start making some more espadrilles. While I’ll probably never become a full-blown cobbler, I’m super happy to finally be able to make my own shoes.
Until next time,