DIY Espadrilles – finally I can make my own shoes!

I’ve made just about every type of clothing imaginable over the years – dresses, jackets, pants, lingerie, PJs, outerwear, bridal, swimwear, hats, bags (obv) – but short of doing a shoe-making course, and some half hearted attempts at making slippers, I have never been able to make my own shoes, mainly for lack of the key materials ie the soles.  And now Prym has gone and created some really awesome Espadrille soles that has made my shoe-making dream come true lol.

So I promptly ordered one of everything and a few pairs of soles for myself to experiment with and here we are!
A bit of ironing with my dinky little mini iron

The Espadrille making materials that Prym have on offer are as follows – soles, lining fabric, base fabric, cotton yarn.  The soles come in multiple adult sizes, with more adult sizes and some kid’s sizes coming soon.  The lining fabric comes in one colour – a kind of grey/taupe colour and it’s fusible, so it can be ironed on to the back of other fabrics or the top of the soles. Both the yarn and the base fabrics are available in eight colours – white, black, brown, green, navy, red, sand, yellow – or you could use your own fabrics that might be suitable for shoe-wear.  In addition to that, you will also need some good darning needles for all the hand stitching of the shoe uppers to the soles, and anything else that you might want to embellish the shoes with – and this is where you can really let loose and go wild because these are your shoes and no one else in the world is going to have a pair just like them!

Decision making time

This is also the part that causes me the most pain (and that includes the sore fingers from all the hand sewing!) because there are so many options for fabrication available to me that I find it really hard to make a decision, but I have to keep reminding myself that this will be my first pair and I can always make more!  Yay!  So, this is what I narrowed it down to, I have this nice kind of teal coloured brushed cotton which I think I picked up as a curtain remnant sometime ago.  I’ve always loved it, can’t find any more of it and consequently have been hoarding what little I have left, but I figured that I could afford to use some of it on a pair of shoes since the amount of fabric required really isn’t much at all.  To go with this lovely teal, I chose the Prym base fabric in Lime Green, and also the cotton yarn in Lime Green.  I also wanted to use the fusible lining fabric to line the inside of the shoes so I would be ironing it onto the top of the jute soles.

Tracing the pattern onto tissue paper

Adding the seam allowance

Pinning and cutting out the pattern pieces

Cutting out the patterns pieces is easy peasy since you only need two backs and two fronts, and the only thing you have to remember is that there is no seam allowance included on the pattern, so remember to either include it on the pattern piece or draw the seam allowance directly onto the fabric.  I decided to trace the pattern piece that comes with the soles just because I thought it was a good idea in case I made a mistake, so I traced it onto Burda Tracing Paper and Prym carbon paper, with one of these lovely wooden tracing wheels, and then pinned the pattern pieces onto the fabric and then used this nifty little fine line chalk pencil to draw on the seam allowance. You could also use some greaseproof paper and a pencil to trace around the pattern piece.

Also a good idea to consider, is adding a tab on the back of your shoes to make them easier to pull on.  Sew together remembering to leave a gap for turning.  Use something like a bamboo point turner or a blunt pencil to get into the corners, making sure you don’t push too hard and make holes!  You should then have two backs ready for a bit of pressing.

Do the same with the fronts and press them. Now you can see the pull tabs on the centre backs and my brand label which will be on the back right of the shoe when complete.  At this stage you could consider any embellishment you want on the shoes before you hand sew up the gaps, or you might want a bit of top stitching for decoration.

At this point, it’s a good idea to check that your shoe pieces roughly fit around the sole and then start pinning. Pin the backs first, making sure they are in the right place as per the instructions. Start sewing the backs onto the soles using blanket stitch.

Now I appreciate that lime green and teal might not be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to shoe preferences but I love those colours and I wanted to make something unique.  I can guarantee that no one has shoes like these lol.

Here is the trim that I ended up using. This would be easier if it was sewn on BEFORE you sew the outer and the lining together but I couldn’t make my mind up so I sewed it on afterwards by hand.

So after you have sewn the back on, pin the front to the sole, with some overlap with the back – adjust this to fit your foot – this is the beauty of making your own shoes = custom fit! Stitch around using blanket stitch as before and you will have to use some ease at the toes.  You could also at this point consider adding the traditional espadrille toe stitching at this point but I didn’t want that with these shoes.

When I made these shoes, I would probably do both backs and then both fronts.  And then you end up with a very cool, comfortable, custom designed pair of espadrilles like this:

I can’t even begin to tell you how comfortable these are and they fit perfectly!

Some things to consider when making your own espadrilles:

All this hand stitching through layers of fabric and jute soles can make your fingers a bit sore, so take your time, take breaks, and if it still gets too much, take a longer break till your fingers feel less sore.  Some people will have no problems at all but it’s worth mentioning.

It helps to use the right fabrics.  Prym have a range of fabrics specifically designed for this purpose, use those and it will be easier.  Use tough denim-y curtain material like me and expect sore fingers.

Use the right needles.  These are the needles recommended by Prym – 50-10 yarn darners.  Make sure you stitch the jute soles in the “sweet spot” and don’t make it harder than it needs to be.


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