Monday, December 27, 2010

Present Project: Kimono House Shoes

I made shoes! I really wanted to tell you about these but I had to wait until after Christmas. This project was so satisfying. I have made a lot of different things in the past, but walking around in your own shoes (even if you can only wear them in the house) is so neat. And I made 6 pairs! One prototype for me and then all these beautiful ones for my best friends and family. Before this project I had no idea how small the difference was between shoe sizes. It works out to only a 1/4" difference, so if you try making multiples, I would recommend storing each size in a separate bag to keep them organized through each step. I accidentally sewed size 7 uppers to size 5 soles and size 5 uppers to size 7 soles and ruined 4 shoes with one mix-up! Actually, there are lots of things to be careful of here, as you have to not only pay attention to wrong/right sides, but also left/right sides. Learn from my fail!

I found the pattern for the kimono shoes at ithinksew. They have lots of other cute patterns including these boots! The directions include sizes 5-10, as well as photos and are easy to follow. For me, the tricky part of this project was fitting the uppers to the sole. If you have ever tried to sew a shirt, it is sort of like setting a shoulder. But with a little clipping and shifting it works out every time. I used a really soft sheepskin for the soles, which makes them nonskid and a little more durable. If you try making these shoes with leather soles, use small binder clips to hold the upper and sole together. Also, as you only sew one layer of thin leather, I don't recommend "leather/vinyl" needles. They don't work as well as a regular "sharps" size 12 needle, which makes smaller holes and sews smoother, with no skipped stitches.

I found the wonderful soft sheepskin leather for my shoes at Leather World, in Victoria, BC. I had never bought a whole hide before (I usually use re-purposed old leather garments). The staff at the store were really friendly and helped me choose the right type of leather. After much searching I settled on a particular hide. Its only flaw was was a small hole in one spot. I mentioned this to my helper, she laughed, and said "Well they all have a hole somewhere". I was looking at bullet holes.

After a lot of experimenting, I found that I liked the soft structure and feel of a single layer of cotton quilt batting to line the uppers, but double layers of a dense poly batting for the insoles, as it seemed to compress less after wearing them around.

The inside of these shoes is lined with a cushy aqua cotton chenille. The print (which I am in love with and even used when I made my blog banner) is from the Modern Meadow line by Joel Dewberry. I have some more in my stash and I may even try to make a quilt from it someday! You might notice that it looks like I used the meadow print the wrong way around on most of my shoes. I considered putting it the other way, but really, when you look down at your own feet, the print looks the right way up; and if you are like me and looking down at your own feet in cute shoes makes you happy, you want to see the print the right way up too. After all, they are really only there to please you.

And because swanning about the Tiny Apartment in my super comfy slipper shoes made me feel like I should head to a spa, I made these little silk eye pillows to go with each pair of slippers. They are made with silk charmeuse, lined with the thinnest fusible interfacing I could find, and filled with flax seeds. I made my very first block print for the pillows using the fabric from the shoes for inspiration. The weight of these little pillows is really relaxing for the muscles around the eyes. You can also put them in the freezer or heat them briefly in the microwave which feels really nice if you have a headache. I could have added lavender to make these scented, but I like them just as they are. I don't think you really need a pattern if you want to make these, all you need are 2 rectangles of fabric, some flax seeds and some paper to use as a makeshift funnel. When sewing the end closed, use a row of pins to hold the flax back from the seam.

Have any of you ever tried sewing your own shoes? I would love to see what you came up with! I am sure to be making more, it was such a fun thing to do.


  1. Those are so cute! I have always wanted to make some sort of soft shoes, but the thought is a little intimidating. :) But now I just might have to try it!


  2. Thanks Kristin! If you do try it, I would love to see how they turn out!

  3. I have a Tilda pattern , but I never did it. Maybe next year!
    Your's are beautiful!

  4. How pretty and sweet! Thanks for posting the links - I might have to try them out!

  5. I was one of the lucky recipients of a pair of these slippers and a little eye pillow from Gabrielle (Ms. Tiny Apartment herself)! I just wanted to come here and confirm that they are, in fact, super comfy and luxurious. ;)

    Thank you, Gabby!

  6. Awww shucks, Jen! I am so happy you like them :)

  7. What a great idea--this is one of those projects with a huge return for the effort you put in...I'm definitely making these--thanks! Maybe if I start now, I'll finish them for next Christmas' presents. : )

  8. I have just stumbled upon your blog and love reading it. Thank you for your comments on making shoes because I intend to start on sewing them too and your tips are very helpful. Greetings from Germany

  9. Gabrielle,

    I bought the same Kimono Shoe pattern several months ago. Made my first pair today. Boy are they easy and quick to make. Found your blog after I made them but, I did take care not to mix up the right foot from the left foot.


  10. Love your shoes! The lining looks like fleece - not chenille, which has a lot more texture - almost like terry cloth. Am I wrong?

  11. Umm... nope, you are wrong. It is a woven fabric, maybe its a very fluffy chenille but its definitely a chenille and not a fleece and its not a terry, both of which would be stretchy.

  12. I made 40 pairs of these last Mothers Day for church, they loved them. Easy pattern great results.

  13. Hi, did you just make these for women? Have you tried making any for men? If so did they fit good?

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