Or vinyl, or faux leather.
It all works.
For Project Run and Play I made several pairs of baby shoes and it was one of my favorite things to make!
I didn’t make the up the pattern however. You need to purchase one first. This one here is a great one:
Itty Bitty Shoes e-Book
Most baby shoe patterns should work fine with this tutorial.
(If you saw this post when I first posted it, and are looking for the link to the free shoe pattern. I discovered that the pattern was directly copied from another designer who sells the pattern. Please use ethically obtained shoe patterns. :))
I had to alter the pattern I used and custom fit it to Natalie’s feet. She has really slim feet, so the original pattern was a bit wide on her. Custom fitting the shoes and using leather/vinyl really made them look great. So that is what I am going to show you how to do today.
** I am sharing steps for using vinyl and leather and making a custom fit. I am only sharing steps because they deviate a bit from fabric shoe patterns. You need to purchase a pattern to use this tutorial.
leather, vinyl, or faux leather
felt in a coordinating color
matching or contrasting thread
a heavy duty needle leather needle
velcro or metals snaps
Notes before we begin:
*About shopping for leather. I use upcycled leather from old jackets, purses, etc. To make baby shoes, you only need a little bit but bring pattern pieces to make sure it will all fit before you buy a thrifted item. Most thrift stores have a no return policy. I prefer using a thicker leather for the sole, because it is flexible, yet holds it shape fairly well (and is good for new walkers). Vinyl is not ideal for the sole. It would be better to use layers of thicker fabric for the sole if you cannot find some good thick, genuine leather (in my opinion).
*A leather needle is ideal but to tell you the truth, I used a universal needle for all of my shoes. You have to have patience and sew VERY slow, but it’s doable. You might break one along the way…or not. I recently bought a leather needle, because I sew with leather so often now, but if you know you won’t, a universal needle should work for a small project or two.
*One last note about leather. It stretches. So does felt if provoked by leather. Be mindful of that, lift your presser foot often and sew slow.
1. Trace your child’s foot, while they are standing, with pencil. Trace that outline with a sharpie or dark marker.
2. Place the outline underneath your pattern, and trace around it adding a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You can see that it closely matches the original shoe pattern but with some slight changes.
* I am using a 3-6 month size for my 9 month old daughter. She has small feet. Choose the size closest to your outline.
If you get a close match you will not have to adjust the upper pattern, so it’s wise to find the pattern that is the closest to your child’s foot outline. If you don’t get a close match you may need to shorten or lengthen the ends of the upper pattern. You don’t want to do it too much though, because it will change the whole shape of the shoes.
3. Cut out your pieces. You need:
2 upper leather pieces
2 leather strap pieces
2 thick leather soles
2 felt soles (optional)
2 felt upper liner pieces
2 felt strap pieces
4. Sew your upper liner pieces to your upper leather pieces at the inside and outside curve with a very close seam allowance. Sew SLOWLY being careful to not let the leather shift and stretch too much. I can’t emphasize the slow part enough. There will still be some shifting no matter what. Just trim off the extra stretched felt as needed.
optional: Sew the felt and leather soles to each other as well. You can do a close straight stitch or zig zag the pieces together on the edge. Or you can leave the felt lining off and just leave the leather sole plain.
5. Sew a square of velcro to your felt strap piece. Then sew the felt piece to the leather piece. You can also omit the velcro and add metal snaps later.
6. Bring the ends of the upper pieces together (right sides together) and sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Make sure to back stitch the beginning and end very well. Open up the seam allowance and sew the sides down with a straight stitch.
7. Carefully, sew the upper piece to the sole piece. I like to start 3/4 of the way up from the bottom on the right side and sew down and around. I don’t do any pinning. I simply line the back up at the heel of the sole and use that as a guide for keeping everything lined up how it should be. I hold it in place and adjust the pieces to match up as I sew.
8. When you’re done, trim off about 1/8 inch of the seam allowance and turn the shoe right side out. Pinch and roll the seams between your fingers to get them to turn right side out all the way.
9. Sew on the strap and the matching velcro piece, or you can add snaps at this step with a tool like this:
And you’re done!
These were steps for a basic shoe.
You can dress them up a bit by adding metal eyelets with a punch tool, adding laces (for leather laces: make sure to make them long enough to wrap around their ankles or they won’t stay tied),
you can get creative with different straps, and you can add caps of leather to the toe.
There are a lot of possibilities and it’s so fun! Baby shoes are some of my most favorite things to sew.
It can take some time to get the hang of sewing with leather, but once you do it is so rewarding and creates such an impressive looking end product.
If you have any questions, please ask! I will try to answer in the comments in case someone else has the same question.
Hope you’re having a nice day! 🙂
P.P.S. I have plans later this year to make my own shoe pattern like the teal ones with the ankle strap. Disclaimer: I will be making my own sole, upper and strap pattern from scratch so it will look a little different and won’t be out for a while. 🙂 UPDATED: You get purchase the pattern now! Go HERE to read more.