all my own work by ann

Sewing and textiles with Ann

Cotton espadrilles


These were so hard to sew!

I had to draft in two lots of leather related products to help – a leather needle or two, as I broke one pulling it through two lots of fabric, and a pair of leather gloves.

The tale starts way back in September 2014 when I thought that a set of espadrille soles would make a rather different present for Mum’s birthday. I recall my brother asking me what I had bought for Mum, and when I told him, he absolutely could not understand!

Then I decided that, rather than leave Mum to fathom it out for herself, I would buy some soles as well, and try out the idea too. So this project has been sitting waiting for 18 months, and I know that Mum hasn’t started hers yet either.

I thought that now trendy espadrilles might go well with a trendy shirt dress, and the cotton fabric is high quality, so would hopefully do a good job. There are three layers: the blue striped fabric, some solid interfacing, and a lining, for which I used the left-over shirting from turning my Merchant and Mills dress into a tunic.

Making up the fabric parts is quite easy, and didn’t take long. I did that several weeks ago.

However, I wasn’t sure about the best approach to attaching the fabric to the soles, being aware that Prym have a special thread for the purpose, and then finding that Guthrie and Ghani, which is where I bought the soles, don’t stock it. But Minerva Crafts do (of course). Although top stitching thread would have been much easier, I sent for the specialist thread and have used that. And that’s what has made them so hard to sew!

I basically found that getting the needle and thread through the sole was usually easy, but getting the point where the thread bends round the eye of the needle, through the fabric, was very difficult.

Shoe - wip

Needed a break from stitching, so I took a photo!

At one point, each stitch was taking about a minute, and it got harder the nearer that I got to completing the work, as there was less access to the shoe to pull in all directions. My hand hurt so much when I finished the left shoe, that I was slightly doubtful that I would ever complete the other one, and left it about 4 weeks before having another go.

Left shoe - alone in the shoe world for 4 weeks

Left shoe – alone in the shoe world for 4 weeks

Having said that, the left shoe is actually a slightly better fit than the right one, although I think I know why that might be……. I sewed the right one twice in the end, so the top of the heel section will be a bit weaker.

So what did I change to make the second (right) shoe, and where does leather come into it?

So, I apologised to my Mum that I had bought her such an unfriendly present, and described the problem. Firstly, I think she intends to use some strong thread that she already has, rather than the Prym recommended, and secondly, she suggested using a leather needle. So I bought a pack of three, which is lucky, given that I broke one of them. Also, I have quite slippery hands, and I was having a lot of trouble grasping the needle sufficiently tightly and strongly to get it through the fabric. Hence about 1 minute per stitch. But I have a pair of leather gloves, so I put on the right glove and used that hand to grip the needle and pull. Needless to say I was wearing the leather glove when the needle broke. This set up made the stitching much easier, although I would still not describe it as ‘easy’ – just well under a minute per stitch!

Am I putting you off this project?

That would be a pity, as there are so many lovely espadrilles in the shops, some of which are quite expensive, and to be able to make your own is great. I have another idea for some flip flops to match this outfit, but right now, I am not inclined to follow up this idea.

If you do decide to make your own espadrilles, don’t do what I did with the second one, which was to sew the heel section the wrong way round. I sewed the whole thing, leather glove and leather needle in operation, and then they didn’t come together very well. So I unpicked the whole lot, found I had indeed, made a a mistake, and stitched them all over again, with the heel the right way round.

Shoe - right

Right shoe – pinned and ready to sew the right way round!

And that’s why I think the right one is a tiny bit looser than the left one, as it has been stitched twice, and the back of the heel is a bit weaker. Check that before you start!

Conclusion: First, public apologies to my Mum. Maybe she will have a better experience with her own thread. I do hope so, and I will report back as appropriate.

My shoes fit quite well, and I hardly know that I am wearing them. I have yet to prove how robust they are, and I doubt I will wear them outside unless it is a perfectly dry day. But actually, they would be great for pottering round Mum’s apartment. If I blog about another pair (with less sewing required) you will know they have been a success. Otherwise…………


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This entry was posted on May 10, 2016 by in Espadrilles, Fashion, Handmade, Prym espadrilles, Sewing and tagged , , , .
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