My Material Life

Let’s Make Shoes!

You’ve always wanted to make your own shoes, right?  No?  Well I have!  So I was super excited to find the following spread in the 2/2014 UK edition of Easy Burda magazine.

mml easy burda espadrille

This is where I learned that the German company, Prym, was going to start selling the rope soles (and everything else you would need) to make your own espadrilles.  How fun is that?

It took some time, but I eventually found the soles for sale on this UK website and immediately ordered two pairs.  Prym has so many creative ideas on their own website and YouTube channel.  I saw a pair in recycled denim and figured I would use the pockets from an old pair of Gap jeans for the front of my shoes, but darn, the pockets weren’t big enough for the pattern piece that came in my box with the shoe soles.  My old jeans were so soft, though, that I decided to use them to line my shoes.  Choosing all of the materials for my espadrilles worked like this – trial and error.

I didn’t have to buy much more than the soles for these espadrilles; this is a great project for fabric scraps.  The front of my espadrilles came from a fabric sample of a favorite Knoll upholstery fabric, Alignment in Paprika.  Upholstery fabrics work well for shoes because they have a lot of body.  You want a fabric that holds its own or else it might mold to your foot and not look attractive or feel quite right when you wear it.  I purchased a lovely linen stripe in similar colors to my Alignment stripe.  I didn’t plan to use them together, just trial and error again.  What I loved about the linen was that it had a blue stripe running through it as though it was made for a denim lining – kismet!

Though the soles come with pattern pieces, they don’t come with instructions.  For that I recommend this video from Prym.  Once you decide on your materials the shoes go together very simply, although I discovered I needed to alter one pattern piece after my first try at stitching the shoe together.

I found it necessary to add an additional 3/4″ at each top corner of the back pattern piece as shown above.  In addition, I used some leftover Knoll Ultrasuede (the best!) to cut pads for the heel and pads of my feet.  I glued these to the soles with Fabri-Tac.  Not necessary, but why not luxe up the comfort level if you can?  All I need now are arch supports.

mml espadrille heel

The tabs on the backs of my shoes were once belt buckles on my old jeans.  They are functional as well as good-looking.


This is the shoe made completely from the linen.  It looks so nice, doesn’t it?  But here’s where I learned my lesson about using fabric with more body.  The front of this linen shoe molded to my foot.  It didn’t look good or feel good.  Perhaps if I’d lined it with interfacing that would have helped.  But the darker shade of the linen didn’t look as good against my skin as the Alignment stripe.  So in the end, I decided to mix the two stripes.  Which I should have thought of sooner.  It’s always more interesting to mix things that are similar, but a little different.

mml final espadrille

Here is the final version above.  And I still have another pair of soles to play with.  But I think I can wait until next summer for that.

p.s. The string I used to sew the front and back pieces to the sole came from Daiso.  It’s a lovely Japanese string sold in the craft section that can also be used for cooking and kite flying.  Do you know Daiso?  It’s like a Japanese dollar store except that most of the items are $1.50.  Some very cool things in there, but you have to be careful not to go crazy.  I sewed the fronts to the backs of the shoes with a linen embroidery thread that I found in my drawer from Sweden.  I love the way these disparate items from all over the world can come together in a project like this.  It makes such a simple thing seem so much more interesting – to me anyway.  I hope you’ll try this; it’s a lot of fun.


  1. Cassandra Wright

    Hi! What did you wind up doing for arch supports? I have very cranky feet. Am thinking about just adding some Spenco inserts into the inside sole, but would like to know of other ideas. Maybe I will finally have a pair of shoes that I can really love, as well as some I can reproduce. Thanks!

    • I didn’t end up adding any arch support and so, they are sitting in my closet (plus one foot is larger than the other, so one of the heels kept slipping out). But have you seen the new kit for espadrilles at Wool and the Gang (a UK knitting site)? The sole is much thicker which I would think would help some. Of course, they keep running out of them! You could certainly try inserts though. Good luck!

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