I haven’t worn sneakers for a very long time. I do like them but I stopped buying shoes once I learned how to make my own. Sneakers, I thought, aren’t the kind of shoes I could make at home.
I know they now sell sneaker making kits but I’d prefer a plastic-free version. So I’m glad I finally figured out how to make all-natural sneakers out of things I have in my craft room.
I used raffia for the soles and denim scraps from my ever-growing fabric stash for the uppers (it hasn’t shrunk much after completing this project, sigh), pigskin lining and leather soles.
Out came these sneaker style espadrilles. I’m so happy how they turned out, they are super comfy and so soft to walk on. So here is how I made them.
What I used to make the sneaker style espadrilles
- Raffia, the kind that comes in units it’s tougher than the raffia used for crocheting.
- Some fabric scraps
- Pigskin for lining or any other strongish material, to make them not too flimsy and also longer lasting
- Veg tan leather (1-2mm thick) for top soles
- Leather soles for underneath the raffia, leather soles are made from tough leather, they can be found as units
- Utility knife and good craft scissors to cut the leather and soles
- Renia 315, a solvent-free, water-based glue
- Eyelets for canvas, they usually come with setting tools
- Strong thread, I used espadrille thread from Prym
- A long needle for making the soles (mine is 13cm long) and not quite such a long needle for stitching the uppers onto the sole
Making The Soles
I made a longish plait (about 230 cm) from lots of strands of raffia, that I divided into three bundles.
After watching a youtube video of a master espadrille maker in Spain, I shaped the plait into a sole using a sole pattern as a guide.
With the long needle, I formed and compressed the braid into a sole shape, stitching through the sole from side to side until it started looking like one.
It wasn’t so easy to give both soles exactly the same shape, one turned out a bit slimmer than the other. Luckily once the uppers were sewn on this wasn’t noticeable anymore.
To make the soles more durable I glued a leather sole onto the raffia soles.
I used my daughter’s old fabric sneakers as a guide for the pattern. For this I used masking tape, to create a removable mould.
I overlapped the strips by half and stuck them first horizontally and then in a second layer vertically onto the fabric.
Then I made a mock-up just to be sure the pattern is ok. I used felt and stitched the vamp (front part) and quarters (sides) together and then pinned the upper to the soles. Of course, you can just slip your feet in to see if they fit, lasts are not necessary for these kinds of shoes.
Once I had the pattern I cut the pieces out of denim scraps sewed the uppers together and lined them with thin pigskin. Next, I set the eyelets.
For stitching, I used a blanket stitch, a sturdy needle and a needle grabber, they really helped with getting the needles in and out of the sole and material.
Finally, I glued a leather sole underneath the raffia soles, again using Renia 315.
It took me a weekend to put the espadrilles together, the figuring out how to make them took a bit longer though.
I used raffia from Nutscene, I don’t know exactly how many bundles I used as mines were leftovers from another project and all mixed up in a box. I’m guessing you will needle a couple.
I bought thread sold for espadrilles making from Prym, normal embroidery thread is not strong enough. Prym also sells a small espadrille tool kit, which comes with the needles, grabbers and wooden shaping tool.
You can buy leather sole units on eBay or at Leather Grindery (check under repair material in the menu). You can cut them to the shape you need with a utility knife.
Here is the video I watched showing the master espadrilles maker from Spain.