Happy Feet

I remember back in 2012 when So, Zo (aka Zoe) made sandals.  She took the whole sewing blogger community by storm with that post and floored us all, yea?!  I know I was floored and immediately said “Wow I wish I could make my own sandals, too.  But that’ll never happen.”

Well… you can now call me a liar b/c guess what I did?!  I made a pair of sandals!  Wooot.


You may have spotted my footwear in this post the other day, but thought nothing of it.  heh


Myself,  Meg the Grand and Tres Bien Michelle joined forces (with the Chicago School of Shoemaking) and made something wonderful together (along with 2 other gals as the class accommodates up to 6 peeps.)

Group Shot

As of now, I haven’t worn them out and about.  I will…  I’m just nervous since I don’t want to wreck them in any way.  But they are fully functional, wearable sandals made by me.  :D

Construction & Thoughts:

Well… oh boy.  Where do I start?!  This was 8 hrs of steps and they gradually came together in that time.

First things first for me was inspiration.  I created a pinterest board of all the sandals I found so far and loved.  Many were not suitable for sandal making for beginners so I settled on a design – pending leather color availability of course.

Inspiration & Template

We traced out our foot twice to create a template.  Once was our foot outline and the second, inner line was where our foot actually touches the ground (think instep, etc.)  I have very high arches and very small feet.  I had to modify my design so that it would fit my toe box adequately.  The challenge I had is that one of the toe straps ended at the same place my ankle strap had to begin – due to angles and such.  Tricky business this shoemaking.  heh I was glad to have a teacher there to help me through this process.

Having such small feet, I never realized that certain styles just will never work for me.  I don’t have enough real estate on my foot to pull it off.  Makes sense… just never had to think about it like that before.

From there we traced our base onto the actual leather footbed and marked where our straps will go into the upper sole.  (Michelle has the pics for these steps).  I got very busy to take photos during, like always.

Basically we were making a unique pattern/design for our feet and coping that onto our leather shoe base.

Somewhere around here, we dyed our bases to the color we wanted. You can also stamp in some emblems on your base if you want.  I didn’t plan to… but why not?

Stars at Heels

All the other little dots are the lines where the straps will go.

We cut our soles out also (so there’s the leather upper sole, then the lower rubber sole).

Sole cutting

Michelle, cutting out her sole.  Lighting by Meg.

After this, things get serious.  We had to cut 1/2″ length holes in our leather base to accommodate the straps.  One wrong move and you’d be starting all over again.  Eeek.  I was a bit nervous at this point.

Somewhere after this step, I got behind from the other gals.  I happened to be the last one to get my straps fitted from the instructor – as we were all waiting in line to get inspected.  Instead of letting me catch up, she kept moving the group farther and farther ahead of me.  This only resulted in me getting further behind since I’d then miss all of the ‘next steps’ after what I was currently working on.  This is when I got flustered & it was the low point in the class for me.  I was not happy.  I had to keep asking all of my classmates what the next step was.  (This whole unpleasantness went on for like 2 hrs of the afternoon.)

Michelle was right next to me, and I know she sensed I was off and having some difficulty.  She was quite sweet and was offering to assist as was the other gal, Deborah, to my right.

Then somehow… I got caught up.  It felt like I was running through some of the steps though.

Steps I flew through with little-to-no photos:

Skiving the ends of the straps – basically you thin the leather at the ends with a fatty blade so it can curve around the sole of the shoe.

The straps get glued to the underside of the shoe with some leather glue.

Once glued down, they get nailed in place for more security:

Nailing Straps down

Image courtesy of Michelle.

The bases get glued then placed in an exhaust fan so we don’t get headaches:

Gluing Bases

Gluing Vent Hood

The two soles get joined together & hammered to ensure a tight join.

Then came all of the finishing steps – trimming the exterior soles to our feet, adjusting straps, adding buckles, rivets & such, and dying the outer soles at the end.

Rivets Hammering

Classmate Deborah creating a hole in her side strap for a rivet.

We were extremely pooped at this point as we’d been hard at work for 8 hrs now.  But look at those fab shoes!

Pooped Buddies

Michelle’s were nearly exactly the look she wanted and had some fancy strapwork on the sides of hers.  Meg chose to vary her initial design after seeing a sandal sample.  We saw some samples at the beginning of the class.  Seeing them (not on feet) I was underwhelmed since they were so ‘basic’.  But once I saw them on a foot I thought “ooo pretty”.   Meg I think kept hers nice and simple (with some pizazz) and they’re quite lovely as a result. (Whomp Whomp, Meg.)  LOL

Mine ended up as a slight variation on my original, and I think they’re great and very me.


Kinda mehh looking when they’re not on feet.

Much better on my feet, no?!  :D


I’m so proud of these buckles – don’t they look so professional and like “real” sandals.


So… besides my total frustration in the afternoon portion of the class, I’m still really happy with them and how they turned out.  The teacher was very nice and you can tell she was very skilled with her 40+ years of experience.  And it wasn’t so bad in the end… since I’ve signed up to take another course.  heh  (Leather) Purse making will be in my future!  :D  I can’t wait.  Plus, I doubt I’ll be left behind in that once since I already do know the basics of sewing and garment construction.  heh


Happy Feet.

I think the other 4 gals in the course had a great experience and I can recommend the class to others – just don’t fall behind.

What’s really exciting is that the Chicago School of Shoemaking will be opening up a ‘shop’ inside their studio and also offering up lab time (for a fee of course).  You can use all of their tools & space with some intermittent help from the instructor.  Sounds lovely, no?!  I have a hunch, once I make one bag, I’ll want to make more.  And what better than to be able to have a space with all the tools on hand to make it in?!  Can’t wait to learn more about shoes & purses & belts.

In: Miscellaneous

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

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