Monday, February 18, 2013

Shoe Shortage! Making Soles for House Shoes

Finally, here comes my next post about learning how to make shoes! In case you have missed my previous ones, I am using this great old booklet from around the time of the first world war, it's German and called "Die Schuhnot", which can be translated to "Shoe Shortage".

Upon great request from my YouTube subscribers, it can now be downloaded as a pdf file from the side bar on my blog!

The booklet is in German, but I am going through everything, step by step, so you can also just follow my blog and you won't miss a thing, I promise!
I am also going by a second booklet, from around the same time, which is almost identical, except for a few extra things, which I am also including in my posts.

If you haven't seen it, you might want to check out my post (with a video tutorial) about how-to make braided soles HERE. It is one of the versions for soles from the booklet.

Today, I am covering the rest of the first two pages, which deals with other options for making soles for your house shoes.

On the first page, they talk about how almost anything can be used, old coats, hats, bags, as long as the fabric/leather is quite sturdy (on top of the second page they show how to best cut out the soles out of an old felt hat). On the second page, they show and discuss a bunch of different techniques for soles, which I have made up and will discuss in detail.

Some shoe-making basics:

  • Shoes can be divided into two groups: House shoes and street shoes. The main differences are in the materials used (waterproof isn't important in house shoes, except if you are really clumsy :-)), and in the durability of the soles. However, even in house shoes, the soles need to be given special attention.
  • A shoe is made up of two main components: The soles and the upper
  • The soles are always made up of two layers at least: an outer sole and an insole. Sometimes, there is another layer - or more - between those two. The outer sole is what will be touching the floor/street, the insole is what your foot will be touching.
  • Just as in sewing garments, there are two ways to make the upper: From a flat (paper) pattern, which is simply sewn together, or it can be made using a last, just as you would drape a dress over a dress form. We'll get to that later.
  • The patterns can either by symmetrical, so you use the exact same pattern for the left and the right foot, or you have a left one and a right one. You might know the symmetrical ones from espadrilles, but did you know they used to make symmetrical street shoes especially for kids? It isn't done much anymore luckily, as a growing foot needs anatomically correct shoes of course. However, for certain types of house shoes, or soft fabric shoes like espadrilles, it is still done.

I am now making the simplest type of shoe: House shoes made from paper patterns, using the same pattern for the left and the right foot (yes, I can't wait to continue on to the more complex ones, but let's go step by step...). And today, we are only looking at different versions of soles.

I have decided to make a bunch of guest slippers from these patterns, so I'm basically making them in all different sizes, as the patterns come.

Version 1:
A very basic outer and inner sole version:

In the simplest of all soles, you glue and then sew together two soles. I used a red denim and a black wool. The glueing is very important, as it gives extra stability and durability to the sole. After glueing, I stitched them together with an awl. I could have done it by machine, but I needed to practice using the awl, so there you go. It didn't take that long and I was able to use a thick thread that way. In the film below, I am giving a little glueing tip and showing you how to sew with an awl...

 Version 2: 
A fabric-wrapped outer sole with a padded insole:

This one is a pretty basic version too, consisting of two parts, the outer sole, which is made up of three layers of card board, which are first glued together. Then you cut out some fabric, bigger than the sole, glue it, wrap the edges around and hold it in place with stitches. For the insole, you use the same technique, though one layer of cardboard is enough, and you cover it with some sort of padding (I had some quilting padding in my stock). The insole needs to be cut a bit narrower than the outer, so that it will fit in your shoe!

Here is a little video where I am showing you this type of sole as well as the loop-crocheted version, which I am describing next:

Version 3:
A loop-crocheted insole!
I found a tutorial for loop crochet online and had to try this out! I used a nice lambswool and I am so sad that this isn't going to be my size!
I first sewed the bias tape around the wool fabric sole, then glued a cardboard sole to it. Next I put the crocheted sole on top of that (sandwiching the cardboard sole) and stitching the bias tape to the crocheted insole by hand. It is so cozy!

Version 4:
Fabric braids for the outer sole!
This one is very similar to the very first braided sole I made. First you glue two fabric soles toghether, then sew around the edge. Now you make braids from fabric (in my case denim, the strips were about 3.5 cm wide) and sew it to the sole. It creates not only a very durable sole, but is also nicely padded and insulated! Lovely! There will be another layer for the insole needed, since the stitches are showing on the other side now. I guess I could have sewn the braids to only one of the fabric soles, and then glued and stitched those together. But you can actually never have too many layers of soles...

I might even add a little heel with a second layer of braids... This sole is in the video together with the following version of soles below.

Version 5:
Rope sewn to the soles.
Very similar in technique as the above sole, in this one you don't braid the rope, but sew it to the soles directly. I used rope that is meant to be used to hang laundry. It is very durable and should last a while. In this one, I also put bias tape around the two fabric soles after glueing them together, to make a smoother edge.

Version 6:
Rope braids turned into a espadrilles-type sole!
We are getting more and more professional now. In this version, the braids are used with their narrow side to the sole, standing upright so to say. Again, two fabric soles glued together first, sewn together with bias tape first. I am showing you in the video below how I made that sole. It feels super sturdy and I am happy that this one will be in my own size, so I can find out how durable it will be.

Here is a video showing you the end product and the step-by-step how-to:

I hope you are having fun with this! I know it is all still pretty basic, but I promise we are getting to more "professional" shoes very soon! Next I will be making the uppers and add them to my soles...
But of course, more garment sewing is coming up, too.

Best to all of you, and thank you in advance for any input you might have,


  1. This is really interesting! Thanks for sharing the info. I have been making slippers, but my faux-leather soles wear out pretty fast. I will have to try one of these methods. Thanks again!

  2. A great gift for your girl friend - designer shoes in unique style, she must be so happy.

  3. If you would like to make rubber soles, go to a local tire store and ask for used truck inner tubes. If you tell them why you want them, they WILL look at you strangely, but they are more likely to give them to you at no or low cost. Wash the tubes in a degreasing dish soap, cut them to shape, and attach with RTV or shoe goo.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial. I would like to try this. What type of glue do you use?

  5. You are welcome! It's a glue I bought at a regular DIY supply store, it just has to be pretty heavy-duty and stay elastic when dry - the glues have little symbols, study them and you'll end up with a perfect one (water proof, heat proof, flexible etc...). Use it at an open window or outside, the fumes aren't exactly healthy for you... All the best with it!

  6. Thanks for sharing your ideas. It is very helpful. Do u have a crochet slipper or sandle tutorial?

  7. thanks so much for sharing all these interesting information,you're very talented!