Friday, May 4, 2012

Little Diva in Red DIY Leather Flower Sandals

The theme this week for Project Run & Play was color.  My little swim ensemble consists of a boyshort swimsuit, swim cap and thong/flip-flop sandals.  I've never participated in a sew-along before, and I have no expectation of winning the sew-along challenge, but I'm finding the weekly deadline motivates me to get done today what I could put off until tomorrow.

I hope you are impressed by this outfit, but let me tell you, you shouldn't be.  I'm really just a beginner.  I don't sew with patterns because I am too cheap to buy them.  Or I want to make something for which I can find no pattern.  Or I'm just too lazy to read the directions.  So I make it up.  Sometimes it goes as planned, sometimes (usually) it evolves as we go.  This time (shockingly), it all went pretty much as planned. 

I tell you this business about being a beginner, because I want you to look at this little outfit and know that you can make it too.  No special skills required.  I'm going to share with you how I made each of these pieces, so if you want, you can give it a whirl.

First up, the shoes. Little Diva is always tromping around in all the big people flip flops at our house, so I thought I'd make her some of her own. I'm jumping up and down with excitement, because I think I've found the perfect solution to stabilize diy shoes, while keeping the soles flexible. Vinyl floor tiles! They are sturdy and made for walking on, so why not try them in shoes?

There were several thicknesses of vinyl floor tiles available at Lowes. I purchased one of the thicker tiles but not the thickest. The tile you choose should be fairly sturdy but have some flexibility for comfort when walking. My tile cost 88 cents. The cheapest was around 33 cents, and I think if you doubled it up it might work. My 88 cent tile was enough for a few pair of toddler shoes.  I used real leather, because about 10 years ago at the height of my Ebay obsession I purchased a cow hide.  I don't know why.  I must have just thought I'd use it for something crafty.  And look, I finally have.  It's the perfect time to find discarded leather jackets at the thrift store, or you could cut up an old purse.  But faux leather or another fairly sturdy material would work just fine too.  The beauty of using that floor tile is that you don't have to depend on the stability of the leather.  If you count just the portion of the materials that I used, I probably made these little shoes for around $1.  And that, my friends, is why I DIY!

Okay, are you ready to make some?  Here we go:

Leather (or canvas, faux leather, fabric-covered vinyl, etc.)
Paint (optional)
Square of vinyl flooring tile with self-adhesive backing
Exacto knife or box cutter
Shoes for pattern making (or just trace your little one's foot)
Upholstery Thread

1) I traced the sole of a pair of sandals we already own.  Since they are getting a little small, I cut about a quarter of an inch outside of the line I traced.

2) Use your pattern to cut out two sets of sole shapes from your leather.

3) Now cut two more sets of sole shapes approximately 1/4 inch smaller than your leather soles.  (Sorry I know you can't see the marks.)

4)  Trace your pattern onto the backing of your vinyl tile.

5)  Cut out two sole shapes from the vinyl tile.  I was happy to find that I could cut the vinyl with regular old scissors.  I had thought we might have to use the jigsaw.  Not that you couldn't use a jig saw.  I know that you could.  It's just that not everyone may have one (but you should, oh the things you can build.).  Notice anything about that picture of the vinyl backing?  Yeah, somehow I have my vinyl soles going the same way.  As Dozer, aka Little Diva, would say, whoopsie!  But thankfully they will be hidden, so it doesn't matter which side faces up.

6)  Cut from your leather 4 strips to form your straps. I cut mine approximately 5 1/2 inches by 5/8 inches.

So now you should have everything pictured at left.  Four leather sole pieces, two vinyl sole pieces, and four leather strips.

You see that strap in the lower right corner?  I tapered the strap that goes between the toes, so that it was about half its original width at the end.  I think this makes them lay better, and it is less leather between those little toes.  However, I don't think it is necessary to do that for the project to work out.

7) Find the correct placement for your straps by wrapping them around your little one's foot. You want your outside strap to come fully under your inside strap, so that only one of them ends up between the toes.  If you look at the photo to the left (Yikes, try to ignore the peeling toddler pedicure on that sweet little foot!), you can see that only one of those straps ends up going between her toes.  Allow yourself an extra 1/2 inch on your strap between the toes, so that you can fold it under and attach it to the sole.

8) Once you have them positioned, glue or sew your two straps together.  Or do both to make them extra secure.   I glued the straps, then once the glue dried, I sewed along the entire length of each strap.  My leather was pretty thick, and where I was sewing through two layers, I had to give it a little nudge through the feed dogs and turn the wheel by hand to get the needle through both layers.

9) Cut a slit in the top layer of your sole.

10) Feed that center leather piece down through the slit and fold about a 1/2 inch under where your little one's big toe goes.  Sew the strap in place.  Now catch that wriggly little foot again. Try on the sandal and decide where you want the straps attached at the sides. 

11) Make a sandwich with leather sole on top, vinyl sole in the middle and your other leather sole piece on the bottom.
12)  I held one side in position with a paper clip while I started sewing on the strap on the other side.    Sew around the entire outside of your shoe about an 1/8 of an inch from the edge.   Go slowly, and be careful, because if you end up ripping out stitches, you will see the holes left in the leather from the needle.  Make sure you are only sewing leather and not catching the vinyl in your machine.  Repeat for the other shoe, and that's it.  You're done!

You can embellish by adding a flower, ruffles, bows.  There are so many possibilities.  You could even attach fun buttons, like a car or a boat for little boys.  I did the big red flower by cutting three circles of different sizes (I just traced the stuff you see in the photo at left to make the circles), painting them with acrylic paint and sewing them together by hand.  I think I'm going to try swapping them for different flowers though.  I want to try making some molded leather roses.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

I got the best compliment on these shoes.  My almost nine-year-old asked me to make a pair for her.  I'm not sure about the exposed leather on the bottom with as rough as she is on shoes, but I think with another trip to the hardware store, I can come up with a solution to make these work for big girls too.  I'll let you know.  If  you have any ideas, please let me know.

This post is part of Get Your Craft on at Today's Creative Blog and Penny Pinching Party.

Tip Junkie handmade projects


  1. That's so cool that you made the shoes!!

  2. That is amazing!! You are so talented. :) Megan

  3. Very cute! My daughter would love these!

  4. I'm still trying to get over the fact that you actually sewed the sandals! I didn't know that could be done...they look great!

  5. Brilliant! I am off to make my own for my own little girls who love flip flops......

  6. Wow! I mean Super Wow! These are absolutely fantastic! So very impressive. Now, if I can just figure out how to make them in my size!:-)

  7. This is awesome, you have great talent!

    1. Thank you so much. I have been absent from the blogosphere for a bit, so I hope you'll forgive the delay in response time. I just stopped by your blog and will definitely be spending some more time there. You have so many great ideas!