How to Make Homemade Shoes

Sharon Raymond shares a step-by-step guide on how to make homemade shoes using a piece of leather, soling, synthetic heavy-duty thread and Barge or rubber cement.


| February/March 2000



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How to make homemade shoes: A step-by-step guide to becoming self-shod.

I would guess there are more people who know how to build themselves a house than know how to make themselves a pair of shoes, yet shoes must be right up there with shelter on Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. The production of shoes has been so entirely relegated to little shops of dubious distinction in distant countries that we have lost all inclination to be self- shod. It may surprise you to learn just how simple it is to reverse this situation and learn how to make homemade shoes that are customized for yourself. (See the shoe diagrams in the image gallery.)

The shoes I make are of soft leather, low-heeled and "outstitched," meaning that the leather forming the upper bait of the shoe turns out upon meeting the edge of the midsole and the stitches joining these two pieces are visible around the perimeter of the shoe (figure 1). I make a variety of styles, including the one described here — a simple slip-on, with a thong that's laced through a channel around the foot opening to keep the shoe snug.

Materials needed include a piece of leather, some sort of soling, synthetic heavy-duty thread and Barge or rubber cement. If you can find a pocketbook or other article made of leather at least 1/6 inches (4-5 iron) thick and large enough to accommodate the pattern pieces, it can be reused to make your shoes. If you need to buy leather, you'll have to purchase half a cowhide, as leather is sold by the side (be sure to get chrome-tanned).

You can purchase natural rubber soles (they can be cut with scissors); make soling from a nonradial-belted tire (cut tire into sections slightly longer than your shoe sole with a utility knife, then cut your sole out on a band saw); use vegetable-tanned leather for your sole; or purchase synthetic rubber soling from your local shoe repair person and consider having him or her apply it as well.

You'll also need leather-cutting scissors, a stitching awl or two big-eye needles, a chisel and a hammer or rubber mallet. If you choose thick leather, you may want to use a skiver (a knife which uses disposable razor blades) to thin the thong channel as well as the insides of the vamp and heel sections where they overlap.





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