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Thursday, January 6, 2011

how to make the best baby shoes ever - for big kids too!

So, now that I have a working sewing machine again (YAY!) I can share with you how to make my favorite baby shoes ever. And really, they are so great.

Basically they are Robeez styled shoes, but made of material instead of leather.

I started out making these because, well, dada was in law school when little man was born, and spending $20 on little shoes seemed rather ridiculous. After some searching online I found this pattern which I tinkered with and came up with the below steps for making shoes. I like them better than Robeez actually (when they turn out right!)

(As a note in how mine compare to the above. The above uses another piece to hold the elastic in and then you sew that piece to the inside lining of the shoe. Yes, it is as tedious as it sounds. Especially when working on a tiny baby shoe. The way I do it below just cuts out that step. Also, if you are making your whole shoe from leather you can use an extra piece to secure the elastic on the inside or outside of the shoe, like Robeez shoes, and then have one single piece with no lining for your shoe....OK. If that doesnt make sense just look through all the steps below...better? if not, ask me and I will try to clarify)
So, onto the shoes. They are great for big kids as well as babies. The pair below is for little man. I also have made them for cousins and my 20 year old brother as house slippers! (and yes, they wore them!)

What to use:

So you need several kinds of fabric for these shoes.

For older kids I prefer the following 1) a sturdy canvas, denim or corduroy for the outside of the shoe 2) a suede or leather for the sole and 3) soft flannel or fleece for the lining.

For babies, where the non-slip sole isn’t an issue, you can use any kind of fabric. A regular woven print works well, with a coordinating lining and then you can use just regular fabric or even corduroy for the sole (the corduroy gives a little traction for crawlers)

You also need a length of ¼ inch width elastic, maybe 6-10 inches per shoe (you will need less once the elastic is tightened and sewn but having more helps as you thread it through. See below if you are confused.

And then of course you can decorate the tops of the shoes, ribbon, applique on some kind of cutesy animal etc. I have never done this, aside from the shoes below. Not because it isn’t cute but because I don’t care enough to take the time to do it. HA!

So. Are you ready? Here goes what will undoubtedly be the longest post ever. Not that these are too complicated but that it takes a lot of steps. And also I ALWAYS end up ripping out several seams till I get it just right. Roughly one feature length cartoon video for each shoe. (HA HA HA)

 Step 1 - Cut out your soles and sole lining. Roughly in the shape of a kidney bean. Use your kids biggest shoe as a pattern. Don't forget to leave seam allowances! I got this suede from a suede shirt procured at a thrift store for roughly $4. I have tons of fabric left and have made lots of shoes already from it so it was quite the find!

Step 2 - Next cut out the top of your shoe. You are cutting a semi-circle shape roughly half the length of your sole. I should've made mine even longer, as you will see. Notice the shape you are aiming for in the second picture. If your shoe-ee has a high arch (or fat little feeties) be sure to give extra room. You are cutting four of these, two of your outside fabric and two of your lining fabric. I used the side of an old pair of cords so the seam was already there. Does that make sense?

Step 3 - Next you are cutting out the back part of the shoe. Notice the rough length above? Yep. Should've made it longer, as you will see. You are cutting four of these. Two of your outside fabric and two of yuor lining fabric. I used corduroy for the lining as well.

All of my pieces ready to go. Notice I cut lining AND an insert layer of fleece (green/grey) to go between the lining (dark grey) and the suede sole. I wanted these to be extra warm on our wood floors. I have never tried this before (that is a lot of layers to sew! But it turned out really well.)

Step 4 - Sew little button holes for your elastic to go through. These holes should be reinforced somehow (even if crudely, I have no patience for buttonhold attachments).

Step 5 - Decorate, if you so choose. I put lightning bolts on, hoping to entice little man to keep them on. (It didnt work)

The finished top piece.

Step 5 - Cut out buttonhole. Position piece over sole. We are getting ready to sew! Don't forget RIGHT SIDE AGAINST RIGHT SIDE. It gets confusing with all these layers but just think like this, you will be turning the whole thing inside out, or right side out as it were. Make sense?

Step 6 - Sew top of shoe onto sole. Its tricky. DO IT SLOWLY. You will inevitably rip it out once or twice until you get it in the right position.

Step 7 - Now turn it the right way to check for holes. If you missed the outer layer go back and sew that spot again. I always have to do this. Also, check to see if it fits your shoe-ee at this stage. I made these too small but was too impatient to cut out new pieces. So I had to go back and sew a 1/8th inch seam instead of the 1/4 inch seam I had just done. UGH.

Step 8 - Sew your back pieces together. Your elastic will slide through that hole, once you turn it right side out.

Step 9 - Turn the piece right side out and slide the elastic through. Then sew a little channel, if that makes sense, to secure the elastic in place (DONT sew through the elastic though) This is easier to me than shoving the elastic through after sewing the "channel" espeically when you are doing tiny baby shoes.

Step 10 - Sew piece onto sole, overlapping your front piece a little. Does that make sense? Hopefully it does...I made these too small and the didnt overlap the front piece enough. GRRR.

Here is another view to see what I did wrong. See that back piece should overlap the front piece. My baby boy has big feet! Sniff sniff.

Step 11 - String the elastic through the button holes you made...ALMOST DONE!

Step 12 - Pull elastic tight, but not too tight! Then sew ends of elastic together. I like to sew it twice so that if I get it on my shoe-ee and its too tight you can take it out a little and still have more elastic. I also tucks into the "channel" better. Now tuck it in. Turn the shoe right side out....and....

FINISHED SHOE! Looks cute here but....
...the fit is really bad...SHOOT. The top part isnt high enough and the back part doesnt overlap inside the shoe. It does fit better without socks but still. BOO. I gave up in disgust and finished the second one the next day.

Here is brother and sister modeling shoes made by mama.

SO, that pair didnt turn out well but others have. My favorites have been out of colorful flower print (a baby gift to my sister) and little leather shoes (one blue pair with fleece lining and one suede with the same fabric as the soles ont he above shoes.)

Really fun. Really easy, once you get the hang of it...questions? comments?



  1. Aww...these are super duper cute!!! Love all the photos. Makes me want to sew... :-)

    -m mchristineweber

  2. can i order a pair?


  3. glad you like 'em! really they are pretty easy to make...
    jodie - the thing about me selling these shoes (which i have thought about from time to time, along with wool pants - maybe in my next life as a goat farmer???) is that they never turn out EXACTLY right and i would feel funny selling them unless they were perfect. you know?
    there are several etsy shops that sell these shoes though...

    geez. maybe i ought to just buy a pair...

  4. oh, man the links dont work. i guess cut and paste the urls? can also search "soft sole baby shoes" on etsy. 37 pages come up!
    SO CUTE.

  5. To cute! I love the Spiderman socks! What a great memory you are making with your kiddos. You all can laugh around the Thanksgivin' table when the kids are all grown. :)


  6. thanks georgiann. i am excited/sad to think about those days. my babies will be all growed up then! ha!

  7. i have been sewing old inner tube rubber soles to the bottom of the bottom piece before piecing. it works great for gripping hard floors.


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