Learning to make handmade shoes

One would think there is enough to do on a farm, without adding other projects,
but adding projects just happens to be my specialty, so….

I LOVE making shoes!! I’m just getting started, don’t really know anything yet, but I’m very proud of them, and excited to make more, very simple, simple shoes. I was never even a big shoe person, more of a functional shoe person – as long as they were comfortable, and inexpensive… then I sprung for some handmade shoes at the Shutesbury Farmers & Artisans Market (every Saturday morning from 8:30-noon) from Sharon Raymond and my whole outlook changed.ย  They fact that I could BUY shoes, made by someONE, a person, HERE, in Shutesbury, was just amazing, and I was very proud of my shoes.

So now I’m learning from Sharon, and just finished my first pair of adult shoes (mine! both pics above),
after making a pair for my friend’s sweetie son, with moon and stars (below)

My kids jumped right on board and are playing around with shoes made from natural materials like these birchbark shoes.

It’s such an interesting thing, making shoes. When I was little my mother taught me to sew, and I sewed clothes for my mice, and my dolls, and then later for me, and I’ve just started up again making skirts and pants. It’s really pretty easy once you know the basics, and easier if you own a sewing machine. But shoes was always something you HAD to BUY, right? I mean, who could make a pair of leather shoes, as well as the factory in China? ha ha.

I can even buy professional soles to glue on with toxic glue, but I’m not a pro and really am just beginning to learn, and I prefer the natural rubber, sewed on. My daughter is trying a pair mostly on her own, and they are coming out beautifully! She preferred to turn the leather suede-side out, and they look like delicious melted chocolate shoes (below). She’ll have them for her “inside shoes” at school. I told her to wait until I got home to glue them together (before sewing) but came home to find them done, ready to punch holes. Self-motivated creature.

Sharon’s coming out with a new book, or new books soon, and videos to follow, and I really encourage everyone with creative juice to spare to even just think about trying, about what you would make if you made 1 pair of very simple, functional, beautiful shoes or sandals. There are tools to invest in, not many, but some, like punches and a stitching awl. I was lucky to find leather at the flea market. But there’s shoes made of fabric. Wool. Felt. So many options. People could group together and buy tools to share, and come together once a weekย  for potluck and shoemaking – what a great Winter project.

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But the point is, I’m inspired. And excited. This feeds a part of me that I wasn’t taking care of before. A fun night-time project (that sometimes sneaks into my days in between canning tomatoes and freezing peaches).

Did I mention I turned our bedroom into a workshop? ๐Ÿ™‚

PS. We are still farming as well and will be open this and every Saturday 12-4. And Wednesdays 4-6. Call or email if you need anything off-hours or off-days, we’re usually around, somewhere, doing some project….


  1. You are following Abuelita’s footsteps of doing it yourself…long before Cali had decent jellies, she made them herself. She sewed, developped pictures, kept us beautifully clothed and taught us to sew. She is probably using an awl and punch and accompanying you from wherever she is now. These are beautiful!

  2. I just found your blog about shoemaking and I have a few questions. I am currently trying to learn to make my own shoes and I’m stuck! What are you using for your sole? I read tooling leather works for soles but it looks awfully thin! Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Katie, I use natural rubber. I made a pair with 2 layers of leather (the bottom one pretty thick) but the were so uncomfortable I felt like I was wearing dress shoes always, which would be fine for an office job but not on a farm… ask Sharon at Simpleshoemaking.com She’s who I studied with and she’s been making them and teaching forever. I’m just starting. But I LOVE the natural rubber soles. It’s not too thick and your foot supports itself – better for your feet. thanks and good luck, sarah

    1. Your shoes and your wife’s sandals are beautiful! I like the style of her sandals. I would like to be a bit more creative but I really only need 1 or 2 pairs of shoes, so have to wait til another wears out… one of my first is starting to wear thin on the soles, so I may redo those instead of sewing on a new sole. Good luck!

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