A crash course in shoemaking
Can a craft novice make a wearable pair of shoes, from scratch, in just one day? Rachel Dixon attends an ethical shoemaking workshop in Devon to find out
"It's so stressful!" "I've got a headache from concentrating so hard!" "My hand's cramping up from gripping the knife so tightly!" We might have been a tense team of surgeons, embarked on an all-day operation. In actual fact, we were a group of women learning to make shoes. And it was exhausting.
I am not the crafty type. I admire those who are, and I find their exploits inspirational - but not quite inspirational enough to have a go myself. There always seems to be something better to do (sorry, crafters). But then I was invited on a shoemaking workshop in Devon, and what, I thought, could be better than spending a relaxing day learning a new skill in a converted mill by the river Dart? Little did I know that "relaxing" would not be quite the right word.
The workshops are run by Green Shoes, a Devon-based company that makes all of its shoes, sandals and boots by hand, using traditional methods and sustainable materials. The company was set up in the 1970s, but has since shed its hippy image and moved seamlessly into the design-conscious 21st century. While ethics remain at the forefront of the business, style matters more than ever - a collaboration with designer Lu Flux even led to Green Shoes walking down the catwalk at London fashion week in February.
But back to the workshop. The first job for the novice shoemaker is to pick a style to recreate. This is no easy job for the footwearphile: two of us spent a good hour cooing over the shoes and trying them all on. Then there's the colour, from boring black to daring gold, or even a wacky multicoloured shoe. Then the material: leather, eco-tan leather or vegan faux-leather? Finally, the sole - to wedge, or not to wedge? I was torn between the brogue-like Teasel shoe and the crossed-lace Willow shoe, but eventually I plumped for a dark brown gladiator-style sandal in soft eco-leather. It looked stylish, comfortable and, hopefully, easy to make.
Alison Hastie, the co-founder of Green Shoes, was on hand to guide us through the shoemaking process, as was Becky Marshall, a young designer/maker (all the staff are involved with every aspect of the business, unlike most shoe companies where the workers have been de-skilled). Our first job was draw out the pattern and cut out the leather pieces. This was incredibly nerve-wracking - I didn't want to make a mess and waste the precious leather - but got easier as I grew in confidence. Besides, any lumps and bumps caused by shaky hands could be snipped into shape with sharp scissors later.
Then the shoemaking was underway in earnest, as we lined, glued, stitched and steamed; made holes, soles and buckles. Stamping the holes in the straps was especially satisfying, as was riveting on the buckles and pounding the last into the shoes with a hammer. We paused for lunch and the odd biscuit break, but otherwise worked solidly from 10am-6pm.
And as we worked, we talked. There were a handful of women on the course (no men), from the unskilled - me - to the hardcore crafter. All abilities were catered for, with extra guidance given to those who needed it - also me. I had rather a lot of help with the big, scary sewing machine, while others merrily stitched away without a second thought. We were all there for different reasons: birthday present; charity auction prize; new challenge.
As 6 o'clock struck, we put the finishing touches on our handiwork. Everyone congratulated everyone else and told each other how pleased they must be, while looking pleased as punch themselves. I couldn't believe how well my sandals had turned out. I insisted on wearing them straight away, even rolling my jeans up to better show them off. I stayed that way all evening, during drinks and dinner in Totnes, much to my boyfriend's embarrassment. That night I slept more soundly than I had in weeks, despite being in a tent on rather hard ground. I think it was the exhaustion of a difficult job well done, though it could have been the wine.
In the days that followed, I willed friends to compliment me on my new shoes, so I could smugly inform them that I had made them myself. Several did, and were gratifyingly astonished. The warm glow of achievement stayed with me a long time, and I had an inkling of why so many people are part of the 'make your own' movement. I've even tried a couple of little craft projects myself, such as converting a badly fitting dress into a well-fitting skirt.
But the main thing I took away from the day was a greater appreciation of traditional shoemakers. I now know what a lot of skill and hard work goes into each and every pair.
The next shoemaking workshops will take place at Green Shoes in Buckfastleigh, Devon, on 25 September, 30 October and 20 November. A one-day course costs £175, and a two-day bootmaking course is £350. Visit greenshoes.co.uk, call 01364 644036, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
More traditional British shoemakers
Bill Bird Shoes
Bespoke leather footwear for people with fitting and walking difficulties, handmade in the Cotswolds.
Handmade leather footwear and bags, designed and made to order in Teignmouth, Devon.
Handmade leather shoes made to order in Totnes, Devon.
Vegan shoes, handmade to order in the north-east of England.
Shoes and clogs made by hand in a small, family-run workshop in Scotland.
James Taylor & Son
Handmade shoes from English oak bark-tanned leather.
Made-to-measure, handsewn men's shoes from British and Italian leather.
Traditional British clogs and leatherwork, handmade in Stockport.
Handmade in the north-east by a small family business.
• Additional research by Niamh Griffin
A crash course in shoemaking
Printable Iron-On Transfers
Once upon a time Nick Jr introduced a Wubbzy craft called a No-Iron
Gardening Apron. The design was simple enough and the instructions came
with a printable sheet of iron-on transfers. I haven't been able to
track down the new location of the craft but, thankfully, the iron-on
transfer sheets are still available. The iron-on transfer paper can
be found in stationery shops or bought online and can be used in most
There wasn't any Wubbzy clothing in the UK when the show first started
over here, and my little girl just adored Wubbzy. I decided to use the
transfers to decorate some of her other clothing. The first item to get
a make-over was a pair of rather plain denim dungarees.
Although I'd selected transfer paper designed for use on dark fabrics
the transfer seemed a little thin and you could see the denim through
the transfer. I'm sure it was something I did wrong, but I only had one
pair of dungarees to practice on!
This got me thinking a little bit more. I had been intending to buy my
Little'un some Peppa Pig knickers to try and get this potty deal
finalised, but wouldn't Wow! Wow! knickers be even better !?!?!?
The Second Page of the printable
Tic-Tac-Toe game from Nick Jr, consists of a sheet of counters. 6
identical images of Wubbzy, Walden and Widget, just small enough for the
front of knickers or vests. Just print out page two on iron-on transfer
paper and cut around the images, not right up to the edges but leaving a
very small (1 or 2 mm) white border. You then need to iron the
transfers onto plain knickers - I bought a 10-pack in Debenhams for £4.
Of course, the iron-on transfers need not be limited to clothing. I
printed three other pages from the Wow
Wow Wubbzy Printables page from Nick Jr and ironed them onto white
felt. When they were cool I cut them out carefully and arranged them on
a larger piece of felt in a contrasting colour, they don't stick as well
as proper Fuzzy Felt would but there is enough traction for them to hold
still whilst your youngster makes up their picture.
Iron-on T-Shirt Transfer Instructions
It is very easy to add your own design to cloth using iron-on transfer
paper. The last time I bought t-shirts and transfer paper it cost me £3
for a pack of 5 sheets in Asda, and 75p per t-shirt from their budget
range. As I didn't want A4 designs I printed them two designs to a page
using the windows print picture function. In total it cost only £1.05
for a totally customised toddler t-shirt - lots of possibilities there
for cheap gifts & stocking fillers!
The instructions I am giving are for the ink-jet t-shirt transfer paper
that I have used in the past (several different types, but the
instructions were all the same!)
Firstly you will need to get your t-shirts ready (they must be cotton)
and print off your transfers (don't forget to mirror your image). Nick
Jr is a great place for kids charcter printables, I have a list of Wow!
Wow! Wubbzy! and Dora
The Explorer links on this blog.
Carefully cut out the transfer leaving a small border around the edge of
Then on your ironed t-shirt (or other flat cloth item) place the image
upside down in the correct position.
Use a hot iron (with no steam) and press the transfer into the t-shirt.
Ensure you go around all the edges and corners thoroughly. This usually
takes around 1 minute for an A5 size transfer (longer for larger images,
less for small ones)
When the transfer paper and t-shirt are thoroughly cool, carefully peel
off the backing paper from the transfer. The t-shirt must be cold to do
this otherwise the transfer will lift off the t-shirt.
The transfers can be used on a variety of items as long as they can be
ironed with a hot iron (i.e. cotton setting with no steam). So far we
have decorated jeans, t-shirts, bags, underwear and made felt toys!
Dora The Explorer Iron-On Transfers
The following list of links are designs which are suitable to use for
iron-on transfer sheets. They are all hosted on the Nick Jr website.
Please check the instructions which come with your iron-on transfer
paper as some images may need to be mirrored when printing.
Eco-Friendly Clean-Up Stickers - "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", "Turn Off
The Lights", 2 pages worth featuring Dora & Boots
Flower Stickers - several small designs over 2 pages, mainly flowers
the Big Sister" Iron-On Transfer Design - 1 large design Dora
with the wording "I'm the Big Sister"
the Big Sister" Iron-On Transfer Design (reversed) - 1 large
design Dora with the wording "I'm the Big Sister", this design is
reversed already so it doesn't need to be mirrored
Kingdom Wall Stickers
- 4 pages of large designs, perfect for the fronts of t-shirts
Valentine Heart Mobile Ornaments - 3 pages of designs, which if
carefully cut out (ignoring the hanging loop) can be used for t-shirts /
bags / jeans, etc.
Snow Princess Puppets - 3 pages of medium size designs featuring
Dora and friends
Decorative Stickers - 1 page of small designs which could be used on
The Explorer Christmas Tree Printable Ornaments - 5 pages of
Christmas themed designed, like the other ornament designs, ignore the
How to make a zip-up purse
Turn leftover fabric into a neat little purse. It's quick, easy and
economical, says Perri Lewis
Sometimes I just want to whip something up in half an hour, rather
than slave over a project for weeks on end. So what's the best thing
to make? For me, it's those little fabric purses that you'd pay a
tenner for if you bought one from Accessorize. It puts small and
otherwise useless fabric pieces to good use, and it's a brilliant
stand-by gift for a lovely lady of any age.
You've got plenty of variations on the standard instructions all over
the interweb: this
one on the CRAFT blog has a zip on the side; this
one on Skip To My Lou is lined; and U
Handbag's tutorial has a rather neat travel card pouch on the side.
However, I reckon this method is the quickest and easiest. Using
upholstery fabric means that your purse will be sturdier and more
hardwearing than if you used cotton (although, of course, you can use
whatever non-stretchy fabric you fancy), and cutting it with pinking
shears means you don't have to worry about hemming and neat seams and
all that fiddly stuff. And if you've never had the confidence to sew
in a zip before, this is a cracking little project to start off with.
What it costs
I forked out £30 for my pinking
shears because I wanted to invest in a decent pair, but you can
pick them up for £9.99 in Argos.
A short plastic zip can be bought for about a pound if you go to a
market stall, or around £2.50 from a high-street haberdashery. I used
scraps of upholstery fabric, left over from some bunting
I made for my mum, using one
of my last tutorials. It was originally £7 a metre from John Lewis.
What you need
machine, zipper foot and thread/needle and thread
buttons, sequins etc to decorate (optional)
What to do
1. Buy a zip that is as long as you want your purse
to be wide, or a little longer (you can shorten a zip easily using this
2. Cut your fabric using pinking shears. You need two
pieces that are the same size. The width should be 2cm longer than the
zip, and the height 2cm longer than you want the final purse to be.
3. On one piece of fabric, fold one long side over
1cm and iron the fold in place.
4. Pin one long side of the zip to the edge you just
folded. The fabric should be about 2mm from the zip's teeth.
5. Sew the zip in place (using a zipper foot if you
have a machine, or using a strong needle and thread and a backstitch
if you don't).
6. Repeat steps three, four and five with the other
piece of fabric. When laid flat, your purse will look like a zip with
a piece of fabric sewn on either side.
7. Do the zip up. Position the purse so the right
sides of the fabric are facing. Pin them together. Make sure the tops
of the two pieces of fabric are aligned so the purse is nice and neat
when you sew it up.
8. Sew down each side of the fabric, 1cm from the
edge. Unzip the zip.
9. Sew the long bottom shut, again, 1cm from the edge.
10. Turn the purse the right way round. Use a
chopstick or pencil to poke the corners out (if they don't make a nice
right angle, chop the corner off the inside seam).
11. Decorate if you fancy (and have the time).
• Perri blogs about making stuff at makeanddowithperri.wordpress.com.
to make a zip-up purse
A Memory Rag Bag
My children form very strong attachments to their clothing, I'm not sure
why - I only remember feeling that strongly about the three bears
embroidered on one of my pillowcases when I was little. The pillowcase
wore out and I was devastated, so my Mum cut them out and appliqued them
to a t-shirt for me, I was over the moon when she did.
My daughter just has a huge growth spurt, going from age 10-11 years
clothing to 13-14. She's managed to miss a whole age range in the
middle! However, this meant that her favourite clothing would no longer
fit her. She was really upset by this as some of the clothing had been
given as a gift for her birthday, other jeans she had bought herself
with money she had earned. She had memories of playing in park, my 40th
birthday party and her Grandma, all in what would appear to anybody else
to be a pile of ripped and stained play clothes.
I wanted to do something nice for her, something that would mean that
she wouldn't lose those memories. So I came up with an idea - I'd make
her a tote bag. Tote bags are fashionable at the moment, and a nice size
tote bag would be great for when we go out on day trips, so she can
carry her artists pencils and sketch books, plus other things.
To start with I gathered a selection of clothing who's colours and
textures complimented each other. Then I washed and ironed it all - 4
pairs of trousers, 1 blouse and a t-shirt.
I then sat and cut out all the useful pieces of fabric. Splitting the
trousers up the seams, cutting around the pockets, rescuing the stud
fastening on the front of the blouse and the embroidered sequin motifs.
I knew I wouldn't use all of the fabric up - I kept a large amount of
grey denim back to make her some slippers - but I was still quite frugal
with what was deemed unusable, mainly just the waistband, hems and fly.
I decided that the t-shirt, being very soft, should be used to line the
I looked through the various scraps of fabric and decided that the
central feature of the front of the tote bag would be a large button
fastening pocket (from the back of her jeans) this would give her a
secure place to keep her inhaler, phone and purse. From there I just
kept adding panels of fabric.
Next I started to muck about with a sort of rough patchworking. I didn't
measure anything out, just stitched stips together, cut across them,
turned them around, stitched them back together again. I made some
interesting panels, which I then attached on either side of the pocket
I decided that was the right size for a tote bag and stopped there. I
then made a rough patchwork back panel. Again, no measuring as such,
just stitching bits together, cutting, turning and stithcing again.
I then stitched the two panels together and started work on the handles.
I wanted something soft and strong, so I opted for padded plaits. These
took longer to make than the rest of the bag! First I made 6 long tubes,
placed three of them together and stitched across the end to hold them
together. I then used some reclaimed wadding from an old cushion and
stuffed each tube. The stuffed tubes were then plaited, and stitched
into place on either side of the bag.
Next, I made the lining. I placed the t-shirt over the bag and cut the
lining to the correct size. I stitched the side seam, leaving the bottom
and top of the lining open.
I reinforced the top of the lining with a strip of denim and then
stitched it into place, taking care to stitch the straps in between the
lining and outside of the bag.
I pulled the lining the correct way out and then stitched across the
bottom seam of the bag (which was the hem of the t-shirt)
The final step was to stuff the lining back into the bag, and stitched
across the handles on the outside just to reinforce them.
Voila - one frugal, memory, rag bag - and isn't it beautiful!
Old Jeans Moccasin Slippers
I had a lovely pair of black denim jeans, nice thick fabric, beautifully
soft, and then I accidentally sprayed them with bleach whilst I was
cleaning the bathroom. It seemed such a waste just to throw them away,
so I pondered what I could do with them. After examining them more
closely I realized that the bleach was only from the knees down and as I
needed a pair of summer shorts it seemed an obvious decision to make.
I then had a reasonable amount of soft washed black denim, not enough to
make a large item from but certainly enough to do something with. I
recently read an article in the newspaper about how to make a pair of
mule type slippers from denim offcuts. I don't particularly like mules
but thought the idea had merit, especially as wide-fitting cotton
slippers are so hard to find! I remembered a sewing project I completed
when I was a child, it was a pair of moccasin slipper socks, and thought
that a combination of the two ideas could work.
Firstly I needed to make two pattern pieces, one for the sole and the
other for the top of the slipper. To do this I traced around my foot
onto a piece of cardboard (the inside of an old cereal box is perfect) -
make sure you are standing when you trace around your foot as the shape
of your foot will differ when it has your body weight pressing down on
it. Then draw around the outline smoothing it out to make the shape of
Cut the shape out, and turn it over. Make sure that your other foot fits
inside the cardboard shape you have just cut out. This is the lower
pattern piece for the soles of your slippers. Now trace around the shape
onto another piece of cardboard, and cut it out again. Stand on the
cardboard and mark it at the point where the knuckle of your big toe
meets inside your foot, then mark on the other side of the cardboard the
equivalent place for the knuckle of your little toe. Draw a straight
line across the cardboard joining the two marks together. Cut across
this line, this toe piece is the upper pattern piece for your slippers.
You will now need to measure the circumference of the sole of your
slipper (that is the distance all the way around it). I find that the
easiest way to do this is using a scrap piece of ribbon and placing it
around the outside edge of the pattern piece, the ribbon will need to
overlap by about 2 inches (5 cm). It needs to be a bit generous (as
shown in the picture below) because you will be gathering and stitching
seams into the fabric strips that you will be cutting to this length.
This is effectively your pattern piece for the sides of the slippers.
You will now have three 'pattern pieces', two from cardboard and one
length of ribbon (or whatever you used. A piece of string?)
You will then need to use the pattern pieces as a template and draw
around them onto the fabric you are using. I used triangular tailors
chalk as it brushes off easily and shows up nicely on the dark coloured
denim. The sole will need to be cut out four times in total, twice as
the right foot and then twice (with the pattern piece flipped over) as
the left foot. As I'm not too worried about the looks on the bottom of
the slipper I used the section of fabric that had the bleach stains on
for the underneath of the sole.
When you mark out the top sections of the slippers you need to make sure
you have enough room for two pieces joined together. Draw around the top
pattern piece once and then flip the pattern piece over so that the
straight edges are touching and draw around it again. Repeat this on
another section of fabric so you have two the same.
The next stage is to cut the edge strips for the slippers. Measure a
complete strip, if possible, approximately 2 inches (5 cm) wide by the
length of your piece of ribbon (or string). If you can't make a complete
strip then join two shorter strips together with a simple seam.
There are a few additional pieces that you will need to cut which add
the body to the slippers. These are two sole pieces (one right and one
left) to be cut from both stiff iron on interfacing and fleece (I had
large enough offcuts available, but you could use wadding if you
wanted), and a left and right top piece to be cut from fleece (or
wadding) - the top piece is just a singular piece for each foot not
doubled up like the denim pieces.
Arrange the sole pieces for each foot in the order denim sole (with
right side downwards), iron-on interfacing (adhesive side downwards),
fleece padding and on the top the other piece of denim (right side
upperwards). You should have two piles the same, except one left foot
shaped and one right foot shaped. Iron the interfacing on to the bottom
pieces of denim.
For the top section, lay the piece of fleece on the wrong side of the
denim and fold the denim over, forming a fleece sandwich.
Stitch around the open edges of the sole and top sections, ensuring that
all the fabric layers are held together with the stitches.
The next section that has to be completed is the seam on the fabric
strips that form the sides, front and back of the slippers. If a plain
seam was used it would be rough against the heel, so I used an enclosed
stitched down seam, similar to the sort that are used on jeans, only
The first step is to join the two edges of you fabric strip right sides
together and stitch a quarter inch (half cm) wide seam and press it flat.
With the seam face-up, fold one side of the fabric strip underneath and
press it flat. Then fold the other fabric strip over the top and press
that flat too. (if viewed from the edge, the fabric layers would form a
letter Z shapewise)
Stitch along both folded edges through all layers of fabric (you should
have two rows of stitches). Repeat on the other strip of fabric.
These strips will create the edge of your slippers.
You will now need to figure out which side of your sole pieces is the
bottom of the slipper. You may be able to tell from looking at the
layers of fabric along the edge and spot which piece has the interfacing
attached, or you may be able to tell from touch (the firmer side will be
the side with the interfacing attached). Place the slipper sole with the
firmer bottom (I wish!) facing up towards you. Place the corresponding
toe piece on the sole and mark either side with chalk.
Do the same with the other sole piece whilst you have your chalk handy!
You will now be using the side strip and the sole. Place the heel seam
at the back of the heel on the sole and carefully 'measure' around the
edge of the slipper sole with the fabric strip. When you reach the chalk
mark on the sole, make a corresponding mark on the fabric strip. Working
in the other direction from the heel seam, match the fabric strip up to
the other chalk mark and make another corresponding mark on the fabric
Fold over a quarter ince (half cm) of the top edge of the fabric strip
in between the chalk marks and incorporating the heel seam. Pin, baste
and then stitch in place. With the sole facing firmer side uppermost,
line up the heel seam on the fabric strip with the centre of the heel on
the sole. Make sure that the fabric strip is right side down and that
the raw edges are lined up together. Pin, baste and stitch the edge
strip to the sole of the slipper all along to two edges and heel
section, but not where the curve of the toe is. Leave this bit
open, as shown in the image below.
Take a constrasting colour thread and tack a loose running stitch along
the unstitched edge on the slipper. Gather up the loose fabric until it
is the right length to fit around the toe of the slipper. Pin, baste and
stitch it into position.
Line up the folded edge of the slipper top with the point on the edge
strip where the folded stitched edge ends. Now pin, baste and stitch
both sides of the top of the slipper to the edge strip. Leave the toe
section open again. As you did previously, use a running stitch to
gather up the loose edge of the fabric strip until it is the right
length to stitch to the slipper top. Pin, baste and stitch the toe
section of the edge strip to the top of the slipper.
You should now have a completed inside out slipper, looking similar to
the picture below. Perform the same steps again to create the other
Turn the slippers the right way out. They will look something like this.
You can use ribbons, beads, sequins, buttons, ribbon roses - whatever
you like to decorate them. I used some ribbon offcuts, a couple of beads
from a broken bangle and some sead beads and sequins from one of those
little bags of spares that came with a garment I bought forever ago!
How to embellish an outfit on the cheap.
Embellishment is bang
on trend right now. Work the style on a budget by making your own
bows and roses, with a little help from Perri Lewis
There are some things that I assume everyone can make given a needle
and thread and a spare 15 minutes. Not so, it seems. Simple bows
allude even the most handy of my friends, and as for fabric roses (you
know the ones I mean - a quick rummage around the high street and
you'll find plenty stuck on brooches, hair bands and all manner of
accessories) - I know far too many people who have forked out far too
much for them to spruce up an outfit when they could have just whipped
one up for themselves.
So if you'd rather save a few pennies for ice-creams this summer,
master these two basics and you can play around embellishing
everything from bags to bikinis with just a few scraps of fabric. And
if you're an old hand at all this, what other simple projects would
you suggest for beginners who want to renovate their summer wardrobes?
How to make a basic bow
What you need
Small piece of fabric
A needle and thread
Adhesive (for use on fabric and metal, optional)
What to do
1. Cut a long strip of fabric twice as wide and twice
and tall as you want the final bow to be.
2. With the fabric right side down, fold the long top
edge in to the middle. Pin it in place.
3. Fold the long bottom edge in to the middle. Pin it
4. Fold one of the short edges in to the middle. Pin
it in place.
5. Fold the other short edge in to the middle. Pin in
6. Thread a needle with two strands of thread and sew
two lines of running stitches. If you want a super-large bow, you may
need to use two strands of thread rather than one.
7. Pull one end of the threads to gather.
8. Tie a knot in the end to keep the fabric gathered
9. To make the middle, cut a small strip of fabric.
Fold one long edge in to the middle (as in step two), then fold the
other edge up to meet it. Iron to keep the fold in place. Wrap this
around the centre of your bow and stitch in place.
Optional extra: Rose clip/brooch
I sewed my bow on to a clip, or you could glue it on with an adhesive
that will stick both fabric and metal. You can do the same with a
brooch back to make a brooch.
How to make a simple rose
What you need
Small piece of fabric
A needle and thread
Hair band (optional)
What to do
1. Cut a long strip of fabric - the longer the piece,
the fuller the rose will be.
2. Fold the fabric in half lengthways. Pin in place.
3. Sew a running stitch along the bottom edge of the
strip. As with the bow, for a big rose, use two strands of thread.
4. Gather the fabric up in sections along the strip
(this will make the rose look better in the end).
5. Wrap this strip around and around itself to create
the rose, either stitching the layers together as you go, or once
you're happy with the result.
Optional extra: Rose headband
Before I wrapped the rose up (step five), I cut a piece of netting
that was the same size and sewed it on to the strip. I then wrapped it
up, sewing after I was happy with the shape, and added an extra piece
of netting on the bottom to cover my messy stitches. I sewed this on
to a gold hair band I found in Asda for a rather tasty
• Perri writes about making stuff at makeanddowithperri.wordpress.com
to embellish an outfit on the cheap
How to make slippers from jeans
If your favourite jeans have seen better days, turn them into some
stylish slippers. The doyenne of denim, Nancy Minsky, shows you how
I am the Jean Girl - I patch, mend and refashion denim in all kinds of
special ways. Handcrafting old jeans, with style and imagination, can
give your wardrobe a burst of fresh fashion without the designer
The appealingly soft textures and faded colours of worn denim make it
the perfect fabric to sew into "new" things. So yank those
long-forgotten jeans out from the back of your closet and discover
what you can create!
If you have intermediate sewing skills then you can easily stitch
yourself a pair of proper denim slippers. When you're finished, slip
your feet into these soft, soothing slippers and pad around your home
feeling lovely and comfy. Or just put your feet up and glow with
satisfaction while you gaze at your resourceful - and chic - handiwork.
What you need
Pair of old, cast-off jeans
25cm iron-on fusing
of thin cardboard (not the corrugated type), about 30x30cm
Around 60cm ribbon (I've used pink and white
Blue thread (choose a shade that matches your denim)
Needle and thread/sewing machine
What to do
Step one: Prepare the pattern
out the pattern pieces and enlarge to the right size. To check the
size, stand barefoot on the sole pattern. The edge of the pattern
should extend about 2cm beyond your foot.
Step two: Cut the denim
• Cut the legs off your jeans and cut them open along the inside seam.
Lay them flat on the table.
• Using the pattern, cut one sole
piece and one upper piece from one of the legs. Worn denim has many
colour variations. Use your favorite shades of blue, especially for
the top upper, which will be the most visible. Draw on the stitching
lines using a pencil or tailor's chalk. Turn the paper pattern over,
then cut one more of each piece from the same leg. Mark with pencil or
tailor's chalk as before.
• Repeat this last step using the other jean leg. You'll now have
eight pieces of denim. For a more professional look, cut the pieces so
that your left and right slippers are a good colour match.
Step three: Cut the other pattern pieces
• Using the paper patterns, cut two pieces of the sole and two pieces
of the upper out of the wadding.
• Again, using the paper patterns, cut the same four pieces out of the
• Using just the sole pattern, cut two pieces from the cardboard.
These now need to be trimmed, so they are 1.5cm smaller than the
pattern all the way around.
• Now to get organised: put all your left pieces into one pile and all
the right pieces into another pile.
Step 4: Sew the upper
• Start with the left upper. Place the left denim upper piece on to a
flat surface, right side down. Following instructions on the fusing
packet, iron it to the wrong side of this denim piece.
• Take the wadding and sandwich it between the two denim pieces - the
right side of the denim pieces should face out. Pin these three pieces
• Temporarily sew these pieces together using long, easily-removable
stitches (this is called "basting").
Remove the pins, then stitch all around the perimeter, 1.5cm from the
edge, as marked in figure A.
• Sew a running stitch (red thread in figure A) on the toe, as marked
on the pattern (later it will be pulled to form gathers.)
• Repeat all of this with the right upper.
Step five: Prepare the sole
• Start with the left sole. Place the left denim sole piece on to a
flat surface, right side down. Following instructions on the fusing
packet, iron it to the wrong side of this denim piece.
• Stitch a running stitch on the toes of both denim sole pieces as
marked on the pattern and figure B (later they will be pulled to form
Step six: Sew the upper to the sole
• This step is rather cumbersome, but don't despair - it all works out
and in the end you'll have a durable and comfortable slipper.
• Start with the left slipper. Lay the wadding on the table and align
the denim sole on top (the upper one), right side facing up.
• Align the upper on top, right side facing up, as noted with blue
thread in figure C. Pin and baste together.
• Align the other denim sole on top, with the fusing facing up.
• Pin, baste (those temporary stitches), remove pins and stitch around
the 1.5cm seam allowance, as marked in figure D. Back stitch and knot
• Remove the basting, and clip and trim the seam allowance.
• Turn the sole right-side out, wiggling it through the toe.
• Take something long (I used a chopstick, but the end of a pencil or
even a pair of scissors will also work well), slip it inside, and
nudge the seam into a nice smooth edge.
• Slide the cardboard inside, between the lower sole and the wadding.
If it's a squeeze to slip the cardboard inside, fold it a bit. Don't
worry, it will flatten out and will still be supportive.
• Repeat with the right sole.
Step seven: Finish the toe
• Starting with the left foot, pull the running stitches you added
earlier on the sole so it curls naturally around the cardboard toe.
Knot the ends of the thread so that it stays in place.
• Pull the running stitches on the upper so it matches the shape of
• Tuck the seam allowance inside the toe and hand-stitch the toe
closed with little neat backstitches.
• Repeat with the right foot.
Step eight: Adorn your slippers
• Cut the ribbon into four pieces of equal length.
• Pin two pieces on the left slipper front, about 6.5cm apart with a
1.5cm fold back. Hand-stitch in place along the folded edge, following
• Tie into a snug bow.
• Cut the ribbon ends at a diagonal.
• Repeat with the right slipper.
• Knot all threads securely.
• Alternatively, adorn them with feathers and beads, pretty buttons,
different fabric mixes or fabric flowers. Search through your sewing
basket to find the right combination that reflects your personal style.
Visit Nancy's website
where you can find her blogs, 21centurydressmakers
and jeanrepair; read
about her eco-chic
DIY book filled with denim clothes and accessories; and download
her fabulous monthly fashion screensavers.
to make slippers from jeans
Tea Towel Watch.
Trendy tea towels are wasted on the dishes. Product designer Andy
Murray explains how to turn one into a watch instead
Everyone has tea towels in the kitchen drawer, perhaps from a holiday
in Spain, a wet weekend visit to a castle, or even a stylish
present from a design-conscious friend. Some tea towels are so
quirky, or such good quality, that it's a shame to hide them away.
I've made a collection of handmade, personal items from tea towels,
including bags, wallets and belts. The instructions below explain how
to make a watch - I hope you're inspired to give it a go!
What you need
An old but working watch face
A tea towel with a hem around the
Pen or pencil
A 30cm ruler
Popper studs (from a good craft shop)
Set all the things you are going to need on a large flat surface, such
as the kitchen table. Lay out the tea towel face down, making sure
there are no creases.
• Measure the watch pin.
• Measure the watch face.
Decide how wide you want the strap. It's up to you, as long as it's
the same size or bigger than the pins.
• Mark out on the tea towel
the width of strap you want, three times, adding a 1cm hem around each
• Measure your wrist, then make the strap 5cm longer.
• Draw out the strap on the tea towel. Draw it three times, as it's
going to be folded over three times for strength.
• Add a 1cm hem
to the edges if there are not any on the original tea towel.
• Glue along the long hem on all necessary edges.
• Fold 1cm hems towards the centre.
• Glue along the top edge.
• Fold along line the top dotted
line (see picture, left).
• Glue along the bottom edge, fold along
the lower dotted line, so the top and bottom edge meet.
• Hold in
place with clothes pegs and leave to dry.
• Mark out the watch face holder.
• The width is 4mm smaller
than the watch pins.
• Cut out double this width, as it's going to
be folded over.
• The length is about 10cm, but alter if needed.
• Glue along the edges, folding towards the centre.
sure the width is still smaller than the pins.
• Glue and fold 1cm
of each edge.
• Leave to dry, holding in place with clothes pegs.
• Position the watch face in the place you would like it on the face
holder (with the tea towel pattern facing the same way as the watch
• Attach the face, clipping the pins in place.
• Glue the face holder in the centre of the strap.
• Hold in place with clothes pegs and leave to dry.
• Using pop studs, glue them in a position that fits your wrist.
• To make it more secure, try sewing the studs on, or try different
ways of fixing.
• Leave to dry before wearing.
• Ensure fasteners are
attached before wearing to ensure the watch doesn't fall off.
Why not try ...?
• Using different sections of the tea towels to create interesting
• Finding unique tea towels to make your watch more
• Stitching parts on to add detail.
different fastening methods.
More tea towel projects can be found in Andy's book, Made by,
£8.95 at designedbyandy.com.
Find more of Andy's design work at andymurraydesign.com.