Ever since Maria posted about her espadrilles a few months ago, I’ve been wanting to give shoemaking a proper go. I bought some soles and vowed to make them a part of my #2017makenine. I knew the time was right when it was announced that Wardrobe Sudoku would be incorporating footwear into the matrix. Here’s my bleached sage Dritz espadrilles!
Bleached Sage Dritz Espadrilles
It’s a little misleading to call the kit a kit as not all of the parts needed for the espadrilles are included. You get a pair of soles and the basic pattern for the shoes. For a pair of shoes, you’ll still need fabric, interfacing, yarn and other things you’d already have for sewing–an upholstery needle and pins. Dritz also recommends some little rubber finger tips that they sell to help you pull the needle through the jute. I did not get these and I’ll get to why a little further down.
Modifying the pattern
The basic shoe has kind of full coverage on your foot. It’s not unlike the fit of a Toms shoe. There’s nothing wrong with that look per se, but I was going for more of a ballet style flat.
To get the shoe I was looking for, I did a couple of mockups. Dritz suggests that you do this for fitting purposes anyhow. Just make up your test shoe, pin it down and cautiously slip in your foot. I found I still had to do some further fitting once I got to the real shoe, but this gave me a good idea.
The first one above is really cute, but I was a little too severe with my curve on the sides. The second one worked out better.
Using a French curve and my rather technical method of eyeballing, I altered the curve on the top of the foot. The heel piece I also altered to fit into my smaller, narrower curve of the toe piece. I later added straps for some interest and for a better fit. The straps fasten with velcro, though I think I will substitute snaps in the future for a more secure strap.
Here’s my modified pieces vs. the original pattern pieces. The weird slant at CB on the heel is there to remind myself to take out a dart at CB for the next pair.
Fabric: adding texture with a bleach pen
For the fabric, I chose a sage canvas I’ve had scraps of in my stash for some time. I introduced some color change with a bleach pen. The bleach turned the canvas a pretty cream color. I had already washed the fabric when I originally used it, but I washed it a second time to get out all the bleach. The lining is a lightweight denim. The two fabrics together plus a little Pellon Shir Tailor felt rather “shoe-like” to me. Any kind of home decor fabric or canvas or denim would do well here.
So, to put the shoes together, you sew the toe sections, turn and topstitch, then the heel sections (turn and topstitch). Then you pin them in place as you can see in the mockup pics, then it’s hand sewing time. For this you need an upholstery needle and yarn. I did not use the Dritz espadrilles yarn. Instead, I found a cream cotton yarn of similar weight at the craft store. I think it was originally intended for making bracelets. I liked the gold threads that are running through it. Here’s a picture of the Dritz yarn vs. the yarn I chose. You can see they’re of similar weight. I’ll throw out there that there was enough yarn in the yarn I chose to make 2 separate pairs of shoes vs. just 1 for the Dritz yarn.
Dritz recommends all kinds of little doodads to help with the actual sewing of the uppers to the soles which is far and away the hardest part. I did not use the rubber fingers or their needles they suggest to help you pull the needle through. I have a friend whose husband does a lot of leatherwork professionally and he suggested using flat-nosed pliers when I had a pair of boots last year that had a zipper that needed to be replaced. Using an upholstery needle, the cotton thread was easy to pull through the soles.
Why use flat-nosed pliers vs. regular needle-nose?
If the blades of the pliers have any texture on them, they will weaken the needle and cause more needle breakage than the smooth blades of a flat-nose will. Sewing the soles to the uppers is rather physical. Pulling the stitches taut and keeping everything even requires a lot of muscle. I kept my stitches even by following the topstitching on the bottoms of my uppers. Every other machine stitch got a hand stitch down into the soles.
These soles are big they are!
I’m guessing that because they only come in whole sizes, they’re a little bigger for those who wear half sizes. I am not in the half-sizing wearing camp. I wear a straight size 6, and occasionally a 5 1/2. Better to be bigger than too small I suppose. My suspicion is furthered by the recommendations for making the shoes smaller on the Dritz blog. I did indeed have to move the point where my toe hit the heel at the sides, and I had to add elastic.
You can think about your foot being a little like your waist. What kinds of things would you do for a loose fit on a waistband?–take out a dart(s), add elastic etc. You want to make the same (albeit much smaller) alterations for your feet for a good fit.
Changes for next time!
Next time I’ll take out a dart at the CB of the heel to start with so I can get a better fit without the aid of elastic.
Overall, this was a really fun project, and it was really gratifying to make shoes that are wearable! And all without fancy shoemaking gear like lasts or glues! I’m fascinated with Marilla Walker’s latest no-glue options she’s been exploring lately in her shoes. It’s interesting to think that this used to be a craft and there weren’t all these big industrial tools or glues to help you out. Just muscle power and expertise.
I’ll leave you with a couple of shots of the shoes in context:
Have you ever tried shoemaking?