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Making your own sandals is a fun way to add individuality to your look. After teaching sandal-making classes for several years, Skillshare instructor Rachel Corry is confident that anyone can learn to make sandals as long as they have some patience, the right leather, and basic sandal-making tools.
Read on to learn how to make leather sandals yourself.
How Are Sandals Made?
DIY sandals require a few tools and materials, but no advanced skills or techniques. After creating patterns from paper, you’ll cut pieces from leather and rubber and glue them together.
Learning how to make sandals is a good entry-point for learning more about shoe making in general—they’re more straightforward than other shoe designs but still use many of the same techniques. You might be inspired to learn how to make barefoot sandals, how to make rope sandals, or how to make gladiator sandals.
How to Make Your Own Sandals
These instructions for how to make your own sandals are beginner-level, but if you have experience with fashion design or leather working, you’ll be more familiar with the tools and steps required. If you want to learn how to make sandals for babies or kids rather than for yourself, follow the same process on a smaller scale.
How to Make Sandals From Scratch
DIY LeatherCrafting: Make Your Own Leather Sandals
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
To make your own sandals, you’ll need:
- 4-6 feet of vegetable tanned leather in a medium weight (about 4/5oz) for the upper straps
- 3 square feet of vegetable tanned leather in a heavier weight (6/7oz or 8/9oz) for the top soles
- About 3 square feet of foam rubber soling material
- Pencil and fine tip marker pen
- Fabric scissors
- Utility knife
- Scratch awl
- Leather hole punch
- Ball-peen hammer
- Shoe glue
- Cutting mat
- Tape, such as masking tape.
Step 2: Make a Pattern for Your Sandal
Start by figuring out the design of the sandal you’d like to make.
Step 3: Make Paper Patterns
Make some patterns by playing around with paper. Cut the shapes and widths that you like and see how they look against your foot. Trace the sole of a sandal you already own to get the right size.
Step 4: Trace the Patterns Onto Leather and Rubber
Using a marker pen, trace the patterns onto your rubber sole material and the leather. For the sole pieces, draw on both the rubber and the leather, because you’ll be sticking them together later. With the rubber soles, leave about half an inch extra around the edge, which you’ll trim later.
Step 5: Cut the Leather
Placing the leather on the cutting mat, cut around the outlines you’ve drawn. On the thinner leather, you can use sharp fabric scissors.
Step 6: Drape the Leather Pieces on Your Foot
Using your foot as a guide, play around with the template pieces and find the position you like best. Keep in mind how the finished sandal will feel as well as how it will look.
Once you’ve found the right positions for your straps, mark that position on the leather with dots, using the awl tool.
Step 7: Punch Holes in the Leather
Taking the leather hole punch, punch holes in the sole leather in the places you marked.
Step 8: Cut Slots Where the Upper Straps Should Go
Using the utility knife, cut slots between the two holes on the sole nearest the front of the sandal. This will make a space for the straps to be inserted. Repeat this process for the back straps, too.
Step 9: Fit the Straps
Now, fit the straps to the sole of the sandal against your foot. Fix the straps down with tape to make sure everything is in the right place.
Step 10: Glue the Strap Tabs Down
In preparation for gluing the undersides of the straps down, scratch the leather that will be glued with the awl. Creating this texture will make the straps stick better.
When gluing, work outside because leather glue has strong fumes that aren’t healthy to breathe in. Dab glue on both sides of the area that is to be stuck together and then leave it for 5-10 minutes (up to an hour is fine).
Then, press the areas that had glue applied to them together—they should adhere together quite easily—then tap with a curved hammer to reinforce the bond.
Step 11: Skive the Underside of the Sole
Place the sandal on your foot and feel for any uncomfortable bumps under your sole. In this step you’ll be trimming the tabs that you’ve just glued down so that you don’t feel them when you’re wearing the sandal. This process is called skiving.
Take your utility knife and push the blade out by about four tabs and secure. Bend the sandal and then shave off the edges that you’ve identified. The best test of whether you’ve removed enough from the right places is to try the sandal on and see how it feels.
Step 12: Glue and Join the Soles
As in step 10, scratch the sole with cross-hatched marks to create texture for the gluing process.
Again working outside, spread glue on the rubber soles and on the underside of your leather uppers. Don’t forget to glue right up to the edges so your finished sandals don’t come apart when you’re wearing them.
After you’ve left the glued pieces for up to an hour, fix them together. Press down firmly or hammer around the edges to really secure them together well.
Step 13: Trim the Edges of the Rubber Soles
As the rubber soles were cut a bit larger than you need them, trim them with the utility knife so they align with the edges of the leather upper.
Step 14: Add Laces
The final step in making your sandals wearable is adding laces. Punch holes for the laces, thread them through, and you’re done!
After mastering how to make leather sandals, you might be inspired to learn how to make barefoot sandals, how to make rope sandals, or how to make gladiator sandals, which all use different but related techniques. Have fun!
How to Make Sandals for Babies
DIY Leather Crafting: How to Make Leather Baby Shoes By Hand