Updated: Oct 27
5 tips and resources in making the upper for my sandals
My sandal patterns ready to be placed on the shoe lasts
In case you have not read my previous blog, I am summarizing the first two steps below:
Step 1: Design and create the midsole pattern
Step 2: Wrap midsole with material using renia glue
Below are the next steps in making the uppers after your midsoles are completed.
I think the most challenging part in making the upper is putting them on the lasts and making sure the straps are identical on both sides of the feet. If the upper material does not sit well on the lasts, the shoes are going to look weird on your feet.
Tip 1: So my BIGGEST TIP in this process is to take it slow and really make sure you take the time to outline and cut the patterns as accurate as you can to ensure the materials are shaped identical on the left and right foot, and go back and forth to check that the upper materials are stretched and aligned properly on both lasts before you hold them in place with glue.
Step 3: Design and create the upper pattern
After I completed my midsoles, I repeat the same steps in making my patterns for my upper using one last (it does not matter which foot last you used; I used my right foot last as seen in the picture below).
First, I cover the upper part of the last with masking tape, making sure that each layer of tape overlaps the next layer. Because my sandal design covers only part of the feet, I only cover the masking tape around the area where I am creating the pattern. You will need to cover front and back of the last if you are making closed-toe shoes like ballet flats or heels.
Tip 2: Make sure you draw a line from the top of the last to the center tip to divide the upper into two parts to create symmetry in your design.
Wrapping the front of the last with masking tape
How my upper patterns looks like after I put the
masking tape and draw the pattern with pencil.
The masking tape covers only the top half of the last.
Once I have my design drawn out, I will cut out the pattern with a cutter and lay the pattern flat on a piece of paper. I try to remove as many creases as possible in the sticker with a pencil so that the pattern is as accurate as possible.
Cutting out the patterns using a cutter
Step 4: Create the upper material and lining using the pattern
a. After the pattern is lay flat on the paper, I add at least 2” of allowance on the end of each strap as you need to wrap the strap over the midsoles. Then I cut out the pattern – this is the pattern of your upper material.
b. I then place this pattern on the paper where I add about ½” of allowance around the upper pattern, trace and cut the pattern. This bigger piece of pattern is your lining.
You always want the lining to be bigger than the upper first so you can cut it off in alignment with the upper material together later after glueing/stitching.
I then proceed to repeat the same steps and create the patterns for other straps of the sandals.
Creating patterns for the rest of my sandal straps
I then place these patterns on the upper and lining material and trace out the patterns using a silver pen and cut the patterns for one foot, and then flip the patterns and repeat the same steps.
Step 5: Glue the upper and lining together
Before you glue the upper and lining together, you want to consider if you are going to sew the materials together. You need to put glue on both sides of the materials in order for them to hold together. Stitching the pieces together using a sewing machine will ensure that the materials hold together permanently.
If I choose to stitch my upper and lining together, I use a water-based glue (see resources provided at the end of this blog). If I decide not to, I use Renia glue.
Depending on your designs, it is perfectly ok to not stitch the upper and lining if you do not have access to a sewing machine. But if you do, then the next step is to sew the pieces together. In my design, I decided not to stitch the materials together.
Gluing the upper and lining together
Once this step is completed, I then trim the excess lining material off, making sure that the upper material and lining fit perfectly together.
* Optional step: my sandals involve shoe buckles, so I have to sew the buckle on each side of the upper strap first before I can glue the uppers and lining together.
Step 6: Connect the uppers to the midsole
This is the exciting part of shoemaking where the pieces are slowly coming together. Using your shoe lasts, place the uppers over the last and attach your midsole to the bottom of your shoe lasts and keep them in position using masking tape. Adjust the uppers on both lasts to make sure that they are exactly at the same positions on each side of the feet.
Tip 4: Take your time in slowly adjusting the uppers at this point. The straps on each side have to be the same on each side of the sandal! I was too impatient in making another pair of sandals with crisscross straps and ended up with one sandal having a bigger crisscross strap than the other foot.
Once you are happy with where your straps are positioned on the last, trace the overlapping material that will go underneath the midsole with a silver pen or sharpie. This is where you will put renia glue when you attach the strap to the midsole.
Tip 5: Make sure you stretch the uppers so that it fit really snugly over the lasts that give it the sandals the proper form so they will fit well on your feet later.
Once I am happy with where the straps are sitting on the lasts, and they are in perfect symmetry with each other, then I can apply glue on the underside of the midsoles where I mark out the areas where the straps will be glued, as well as on the sides of the straps that wrap over the midsoles.
After this step is completed, I will use my scissors, safety beveler and rotary tool to remove excess material that are glued underneath the midsole. The purpose is to remove as much excess material as possible so that the bottom of the midsoles are flat. You would not want to feel the bumps of the straps when you are walking as it is going to be uncomfortable. Having too much fabric will also prevent the outsole from adhering to the midsole completely that will leave gaps on the sides of your sandals.
I am ready to move on to the third and final part of making my sandals once this step is completed!
Basic shoemaking materials and where I get them:
* There are so many things you can order from Alibaba and navigating the site can be overwhelming! I usually go about looking for shoe lasts either by 1) type in shoe lasts in the search tab, or you can narrow your search by going to "All product categories" --> "Top categories" --> "Shoes and accessories" --> "Shoe parts and accessories" --> "Other shoe parts and accessories"
2) Renia and water based glue – District Leather Supply
District Leather Supply is a small business based in Georgia where the company teaches shoemaking and sell shoe making supplies. I bought my Renia glue here and they are awesome!
3) Masking tape – Amazon or any stationery supply store such as Michaels
4) Silver fabric and leather markers – Amazon
6) Rotary tool: Amazon