Level up: Making Sandals

A couple of weekends ago I had an awesomely fun two days at Shoe School, which has recently moved to Wellington from down south. I’ve been looking at their classes for over a year, so I was so excited to see that Lou was relocating her business up here! 



I attended the two day sandal making course, which was timely as we’re having a beautiful hot summer this year! There were four of us in the class, all making fairly different styles of sandals. There were patterns we could use, but I decided to go rogue and copy a pair of sandals I saw on Pinterest. They’re just straight straps, so it wasn’t too tricky for my first attempt!


This was my inspiration image, though I knew I would be making some changes. I hate things between my toes, so I knew I’d be changing the toe loop to a strap right across my toes, and I wanted something a bit more padded than just a hard leather sole. Happily those requests were met! I had planned to make two tone brown sandals, as I thought that would be a nice neutral look for summer, but when I was confronted with all of the gorgeous leather at Shoe School I threw out that idea…




I found a tiny piece of gold patent leather, and decided I might as well try to get my main straps out of it, even if it did mean I would be copying the Kate Spade sandals a bit more literally than I had intended. I chose a soft cream leather for the narrow straps, and picked out some beautiful chestnut leather to use if I couldn’t fit my pattern pieces on the gold. 


We drafted our pattern pieces and an insole piece, and then used the insole (cut out of a thin board) to build our sandals on. That involved standing on a table as Lou fitted the sandal pieces to each foot, ensuring they were tight enough and they were in the right place before marking everything on the pattern and insole. Then we got to move on to the fun stuff, the leatherwork!


As you can see, I managed to squeeze my straps out of the gold. I’m really happy about that, I would have liked the dark brown but I really love the gold with the cream! I lined each strap with the same super thin cream leather that I used to cover my insole, it adds a bit of strength to those thin straps and makes everything look lovely and tidy on the inside. 


Making the insoles and soles was more complicated than making the uppers for my sandals. The others all used the industrial sewing machines in the workshop as well as glue, but mine only needed glueing as they’re a pretty basic design. I would have loved to try out the industrials, but it was definitely quicker only using glue! The insoles were cut out of insole foam using the pattern from earlier in the class, and that was then covered in a thin piece of leather. A slightly larger pair of soles were cut out of  more insole board, and an edging of rand glued on (that’s the border of thick tan leather in the picture above). I then punched holes and cut slots in the insole board for the straps to fit through, and glued them down before sticking the insole in. 


Then it was time for the soles! I wrestled a pair of shears through a piece of heavy veg tanned leather to make a rough sole and heel piece for each sandal, and glued them on. Then Lou trimmed them down to size with a craft knife, which she made look easy but I imagine takes a lot of skill and effort! The final piece was cutting and glueing on a set of rubber soles, to add a bit of padding and to make me (hopefully) less likely to slip over on our brick footpaths.

And then they were done! And now you get to look at a hundred photos of the finished thing, because I am so damn proud of them…









…and some modelled shots…


Seriously, I am so stoked with these! I’ve become a bit blazé about sewing clothes, because I do it so often, but making shoes just seems like another level up. It was so much fun learning a new skill as well, I feel like I haven’t tried anything really new for a while. I’m all enthusiastic about it now, I’ve just bought a big piece of veg tanned leather to have a go at making some more sandals at home! I don’t have any insole board or rand (yet), so they’ll be simpler than these, but hopefully they’ll work out ok. I’d love to take some more classes at Shoe School, I’ll need to save my pennies (and my annual leave) and see if I can take the week-long shoe making course that Lou offers. I have visions of beautiful, perfectly fitted brogues dancing through my mind…

Here are a couple more photos of the lovely workspace at Shoe School, just in case this post isn’t image heavy enough! If you’re in Wellington (or fancy a long weekend here, which you should, it’s an awesome place!) and want to try something new and fun then I would definitely recommend this. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just really loved doing it and admire what Lou has built with Shoe School. I hope it’s in Wellington for good!


18 thoughts on “Level up: Making Sandals

  1. I cannot tell you how envious I am. those sandals are exactly what I would love….and then getting to make them yourself wow, – gorgeous make

  2. I have followed shoe school on Facebook for years too, it looks so cool! Loved reading your post and your sandals look great. I am definitely going to try to fly down for a weekend workshop some time and I totally understand how you are planning to do the brogues one, they are just so awesome!

  3. Your finished shoes are incredible! I love learning new skills but I’m scared that this course would take me down a rabbit hole. I’m really excited to follow your shoemaking journey.

    1. Thanks Emma! You’d love it… there are a few barriers to making lots of shoes, the tools and materials are a bit harder to get than clothes making ones, so it might not be such a realistic goal to make lots of shoes!

  4. Oh my! That is amazing! I didn’t know this type of thing existed! I’m going to have to look into this as I have child’s size feet so don’t get a lot of choice in shoes and would love to make my own!

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