How to Make Your Barefoot Leather Sandals in 7 Easy Steps
This tutorial is intended for beginners without any experience in crafts and who have never worked with leather, as well as experienced craftsmen. The steps I will present here are very simple to follow, everyone is able to make these kinds of sandals, even a young teenager can do it. Lougaya has already given workshops to 12 to 15-year-old who have succeeded in making moccasins models that require more techniques than these... These "Sun Sandals" are very simple to make because it’s a single piece of leather with no sewing at all. We'll just cut, make holes and bring them all together with a leather lace.
Where Are These Leather Sandals Coming From?
The most ancient leather shoes archaeologists have found present a similar design. They have been refined with time and became famous around Europe. The Roman army soldiers were wearing them with very thick soles as well as during the Viking/Iron Age. They called this kind of sandals “Caligae”, the singular caliga which means "sandalette" or laced sandals made with leather straps. They used to rise higher than the ankles and were most often open at the front. Likewise, they were made with thick leather sole and sometimes heavily shod with sharp nails to avoid slipping... Most of them, such as the model you see at the top of the article, were made of a single piece of leather. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caligae
Free PDF Tutorial & Patterns for ''Sun'' Sandals
The Sun Sandals is a variation of them. It is an excellent model to start with and also one of the most comfortable shoes we make because it allows the toes to stretch widely and move freely. You may have encountered the same style, but with cut petals in the front. Here I use soft leather to fold the front, which provides better protection for the feet as less sand and stones can enter.
This article is mainly about the explanations of the steps without all the clear images that are in the PDF tutorial.
To be able to download the complete PDF file (which contains many more clear and precise images and the patterns to print). You can fill-up the form here.
So let’s get started with making the Sun Sandals!
These are the tools you'll need :
- a permanent marker (silver, white or golden if on dark leather)
- a pair of sharp scissors
- supple leather of about 1.2 to 2 mm thick (usually chrome tanned leather. It can also be recycled from an old jacket or furniture…)
- a hammer and a hardwood tablet
- a leather punch of 3 or 4 mm diameter or a pliers leather punch.
1) Assembling Your Pattern and Choosing the Right Size for You
Print the patterns in full scale (100%), if possible, on a semi-thick paper.
You will need :
- A ruler and a piece of non-elastic thread or a tape measure
- Paper scissors (grand-ma said: “It’s better to keep your leather scissors ONLY for leather to keep them sharp!”)
- Tape or glue to join parts together.
- The leather punch and tools to go with (board and hammer)
Measure the width of your foot where the shoe will close and compare that measurement with the patterns to find the best fit in terms of width. To do so, measure the distance between the two extreme opposite holes, like in the picture. We will take care of the length after… Once you choose if you are going to use pattern S, S+, M, or L, cut the front, the back, and the heel template. When you cut, follow the black line on the “inside” of the line so that the line will disappear from your patterns.
Glue or tape together the front and the back part of the pattern. Take your heel template and place it on the line that matches your size. Glue or tape it in place. Fold or cut the back of the pattern to hide it behind the heel template.
NB: The pattern can be used directly, without the heel template. This enables us to do a more precise fitting and also to use less leather. It will be explained in the Sun Sandals video tutorial available for purchase on our website.
Your pattern should look like this once you assembled the three parts. You can improve the curve that joins the back part and the heel template. Poke holes on the black dots with your leather punch… Make sure you place your holes at an equal distance from the edge.
2) Tracing on the Leather
Place the pattern on the leather, a draw all around it with a permanent marker. Draw the holes, too. Flip the pattern over to have a left and a right foot.
3) Cutting the Leather
Cut along the line. Follow the inside of the pen mark so that the line will completely disappear from the shoe.
4) Punching the Holes
Place yourself on the wooden tablet and follow the marks to punch the holes. Make sure you keep the same spacing from the edge, try to be as regular as possible.
5) Cutting a Leather Lace From Off-Cuts
Take a piece of leather and round-up the edges to turn it into a “potato shape” Decide on the thickness of your lace, here, 3 to 4 mm is good, and start cutting in a spiraling manner (clockwise if you are right-handed, and anti-clockwise if left-handed) while keeping an eye on the spacing between your scissors and the edge. If the angle gets too narrow, round it up again until only a little nugget is left. Prepare about 60 cm to 75 cm of lace for each shoe.
6) Lacing the Front
Place the outside side in front of you and start lacing, going inside the first hole and outside the next hole. Continue in and out... Once you have finished lacing the front, pull tight and center your lace. This will bring the front part of the shoe together. Make a double knot to secure the front part tightly. Then lace the top 3 pedals in a cross pattern.
7) Lacing the Heel
Like in the picture, lace the heel for the tongue to join the sides. Start from the base of the heel. According to the pattern, Hole 1 will join on top of 1’, 2 matches with 2’, and so on… You can lace it in a cross pattern, going from one side to the other. Finish up as you feel… There is no special technique here…
And here it is! Well done! Let’s finish the second one now….
You'll see in the PDF tutorial the Sun Sandals is the same pattern with cut petals at the front. I have also added a sole (glued) and reinforced the petals where the laces hold on top of the foot to make them less likely to rip out when the leather is thin, which is explained in the Video tutorial for making the sun sandals. You will also learn how to stitch the heel for a more personalized fitting and save leather.