Where do I even start with how much I love sewing? I love the calming feeling of moving fabric through the sewing machine—it's such a tactile and sensory-filled hobby. I revel in piecing all the elements and seeing my creation come together. I enjoy having my precious me-time (even if it's past midnight and I'm exhausted from the baby-filled day) to craft and do something creative. I love that I could make things to my own taste, selecting fabric and designs—making something one-of-a-kind. Also, I love that if I see something I like in a store, I can actually make it at home! Like these leather moccasins, for example. Handmade leather ones easily sell for $65+, so when I remembered I had some leather swatches at home, I got excited to try. Although they were a lot harder than I initially thought (and struggled with a few steps), it was definitely worth it.
I'd like to share with you what I've learned along the way. I got the pattern from Simple Small Wonders where you can download a printable pattern. She also has a clear tutorial, so you can read through hers too! I have to mention, this is my first time sewing leather and using this pattern so it's by no means perfect. You'll see that my stitches are uneven and crooked, but I still want to share with you how fun it can be to make your own baby shoes!
Fringed Baby Leather Moccasinsby Simple Small Wonders for size 6-12 months
What you'll need:
- Print-out of pattern (pattern fits onto one 8x11.5 piece of paper)
- Around 2 square feet of leather: It can be genuine leather, or faux leather - just make sure it's not super stiff
- 2 X 7 inches of 1/4″ elastic
- Paper clip (for clipping pieces together)
- Sewing machine needle for Leather
- Walking foot or zipper foot with tape (I will explain later)
1. Cut all your pieces. You'll need to make TWO of each piece in the pattern (for each foot). I've labeled each piece with a letter - and I'll be referring to them as that. You can write the corresponding letters on to the inside of the piece so that you don't forget.
A. Toe Piece
B. Back fringe piece
C. Sole piece
D. Front fringe piece
E. Heel piece
2. Before sewing all the pieces together, you'll need to make sure that your machine is ready for sewing thick pieces of leather together. Two key points: Adjusting tension on your machine, making sure your pieces glide smoothly. Also, you have to remember at all times that there is no going back, if you make mistakes in your leather. The needle holes will be there foreverrrrrr, so make sure you do lots of trial pieces before sewing your final pieces together.
People suggest using a walking foot when sewing leather because it moves smoothly without getting caught. But I don't have a walking foot for my machine, so I had to use the zipper foot and added tape to the bottom. The tape definitely helps, but I still found that the machine still got caught a few times (and I had a few very frustrating moments).
You'll also need to make sure the thread tension is right for your leather. This concept was new to me and I had to read a bunch of blog posts to understand what it was, but it's basically the tightness of each thread (bottom and top, or bobbin and spool), which effects the way the sewn line looks. I don't think I am using the correct terms, so I urge you to do some research and understand it before you go punching through your leather. You can adjust your tension through the tension dial on the machine and the bobbin piece (by using a screw-driver, tighter or looser). With the thicker pieces of leather, I had to make sure the tension was very low, and had to do plenty of trial runs to make sure it looked even.
Another thing to think about is to keep the stitch length long, since if it's too short and too close together, it could rip the leather. Once you're happy with the tension and stitch length (like above!), you're ready to sew your pieces together.
Last tip is to sew each corresponding step at the same time, like factory-style. You don't wan to complete one foot and then do it again for the second one entirely - you want to keep the two shoes as similar as possible. So make sure you repeat each step for both sides of the foot before moving on to the next step.
Lets get sewing!
3. Lay Piece B down (wrong side up). Place piece E on top, also wrong side up, about 3/4” from the top edge. Fold over the top and use two paper clips to keep it together. Remember you can't use pins where you don't want to leave a hole. Sew along the edge, creating a casting for your elastic.
4. Line up the top of Piece D (right side up) on top of Piece A (right side up), nicely centred. Stitch along the top two seams, leaving about 1/2” between for elastic.
Here are all your pieces ready to be sewn onto the sole - Piece C. Like I mentioned earlier, I struggled big time for a few pieces and it looks so messy... but it still came together!
5. Sew the back heel piece (Piece B&E combined) onto the sole first, around the edge. You can actually use a pin for this step since the hole will be hidden once you turn the shoe inside out. Use paper clips to hold together the sides down. Make sure you go really slowly as you curve around the sole, staying close to the edge (around 1/4").
6. Once that's done, pin the toe piece (Piece A&D) onto the sole. In the same way, sew very carefully around the edge.
Now you're done the hard sewing part! Trim off the extra seam, then flip over, revel at your shoe—which is key!
7. Now you need to add the elastic for both front and back of the elastic casting. Using a safety pin or crochet hook, pull the elastic through. Once both pieces are in, knot together strongly on both sides. Once you move the shoe around, the knot will be hidden in the casting. (I'm sorry I forgot to take the photo for this part. I was struggling with it, since I made the casting too tight and got super frustrated.
8. Now the easy part: Cut your fringes. You can try different styles, but I kept it pretty simple.
And just like that, you made beautiful little leather moccasins for your baby! I have yet to take a good photo with Heidi in them since she's always moving around so much! (Baby's make terrible models) But hopefully I'll get around to do a good photoshoot.
Thanks for reading and good luck!!