The Sandalmaking Workshop

Make Your Own Mary Janes, Crisscross Sandals, Mules, Fisherman Sandals, Toe Slides, and More


By Rachel Corry

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 13, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Custom-fit for comfort, custom-designed to suit personal taste, and stylish and satisfyingly DIY? Shoemaking checks all the boxes! Making shoes is a surprisingly accessible and increasingly popular craft, and with this photo-rich guide, even a beginner can make a comfortable pair of sandals in the course of a day with just a few simple tools and materials. From setting up a workshop and refining a design to making uppers, attaching soles, and adding finishing touches like buckles or studs, The Sandalmaking Workshop takes readers step by step through the process of creating modern leather sandals that are stylish and comfortable. The book includes traceable patterns for 14 of author Rachel Corry’s original sandal designs—both open- and closed-toe styles, including mules and slides—and covers a range of techniques so readers can build their skills and stretch the creative possibilities with each new pair they make.


Thanks to Jeremy Atkinson, the clogmaker, for giving me my first glimpse into the life of a shoemaker. His dedication to his craft and openness in sharing his knowledge set an example I hope to follow.


Introduction to Sandalmaking

Chapter 1: Setting Up Your Workshop

Basic Tools and Materials

Choosing Leather


Chapter 2: The Sandalmaking Process

Making Sandal Uppers




Draping and Marking

Dots and Slots



Scratching and Gluing

Skiving or Midsoles

Preparing and Attaching Soles

Preparing Rubber Soles

Joining Rubber Soles

Trimming Rubber Soles

Preparing Leather Soles

Shaping Leather Soles

Joining Leather Soles and Heels

Joining Uppers to Leather Soles




Edge Finishing

Laces and Hardware

Closed-Toe Shoes

Making Patterns

Preparing the Uppers

Preparing the Soles


Adjusting the Fit

Scratching and Gluing

Joining the Outsoles

Edge Finishing

Chapter 3: Sandal Projects

Tying Sandals

Toe Slides

X Platforms

Crisscross Sandals

Lace-up Sandals

Modern Sandals

Colorblock Sandals

Sport Slides

Fisherman Sandals

Hippie Sandals

Fabric Sandals

Chapter 4: Shoe Projects

Mary Janes


Country Shoes


Making Sandals and Shoes for Friends



Metric Conversions



About Author

Make Stylish Creations with More Books from Storey


Share Your Experience!

Introduction to Sandalmaking

I came to sandalmaking by accident. In 2009, a small fire in my apartment in San Francisco burned all the shoes and clothes in my closet. As I was sorting through what remained, I noticed that a pair of recently custom-made sandals had fallen apart in layers, revealing their internal structure. The construction of the sandal was suddenly made clear to me. Because I couldn't afford to replace all of the shoes I had lost, I set out to remake some of my favorite sandals myself.

The first pair I made were strappy leather sandals similar to the Hippie Sandals. The finished pair ended up being comfortable and quite beautiful. They aged in that brilliant way that natural leather does — becoming dark and soft with time and use. I was hooked. The feeling of making and wearing my own shoes was one of real pride. At the time, I worked at a bakery and would show my new creations to friends and customers. The enthusiastic responses usually fell into one of two camps: either people wanted me to make them a pair or they wanted to make their own.

Soon enough, friends asked me to teach a workshop at their store. I was concerned that it might be too much work for the average newcomer but decided to give it a try because my friends were so excited. I encouraged the participants to design whatever they wanted and I was delighted (and relieved) to see everyone succeed in making unique, wearable sandals. It was such a gratifying experience that I've continued to teach ever since. The interest in these workshops is strong: people of all ages and professions have a strong desire to make their own shoes. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to travel to new places and share my passion and skills with new groups every month. Although flying with heavy shoe anvils can be challenging!

I came up with my brand name, Rachel Sees Snail Shoes, in part because I've had a lifelong affinity for snails. Also, I knew snails to be the mascot of the slow food movement, and my ethos at the time I started my business was to slow down and do things myself — to create special objects with intention. This sentiment has only strengthened with time; I'm as interested as ever in the benefits and challenges of slow fashion.

When I tell older people that I make sandals for a living, they often report that they made their own sandals once, too. It seems the craft was alive and well in decades past as both a hobby and a way to earn a living. But when manufacturing largely left the United States in the 1980s, the small-scale shoemaking industry was greatly weakened. As someone growing up in the years since, I had always seen shoes, often made in China or Italy, as mysterious objects. The methods of production were inscrutable to me, and the thought of making my own shoes seemed almost impossible.

When I finally set out to learn sandalmaking, resources were scarce. It felt as though shoemaking (at least in the United States) was an endangered art form. I am relieved to report that this is no longer the case: the internet has helped me connect with all sorts of innovative shoemakers. The craft may have gone dormant for a time, but it is being rediscovered by new makers every day. I am eager to see what this generation makes of such an old-world craft.

I Love Sandalmaking for So Many Reasons

1. It's easy enough for beginners. Using only a few simple tools, a person can make a comfortable pair of sandals in the course of a day. A knowledge of sewing isn't necessary, and neither is physical strength. Yet sandalmaking presents plenty of creative challenges for even the most ambitious makers. I'm still dreaming up sandals I want to make, and I've been doing this for 10 years!

2. Feet are unique. When you make your own shoes, you can customize according to your foot shape, heel height, and favorite colors. This is especially helpful for those dealing with hard-to-fit foot sizes, orthopedic issues, high insteps, and the like. Making your own shoes can satisfy the desire to be both original and comfortable.

3. Style is unique. As you may have noticed, people often have very individual ideas about design. Whether you're seeking something ultra-minimal, totally eccentric, or less gender specific, making your own shoes can allow you the space to be original.

4. There's a sense of achievement. The feeling that comes from building two symmetrical, functional, wearable sculptures is really special. I get to watch that pride emerge on a regular basis at my workshops. As their sandals begin to take shape, students often become giddy and start shouting, "I'm making my own shoes!" And from my experience, nothing beats responding to a shoe compliment with a simple "Thank you; I made them."

5. Sandals = history. Thousands of years ago, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Native Americans wore sandals very similar to ones we wear today. Footwear hasn't changed much over the millennia: strappy leather, pointy slippers, woven grass. When I visit museums, I recognize these styles on vases and paintings and feel a kinship with ancient people. Cultures around the world each have their own folk shoe traditions, and nearly all include a type of sandal. I love to consider the stylistic overlaps spanning different cultures and eras, and I take inspiration from these timeless designs. (To learn about handmade shoes from around the world, see here.)

6. Respect for makers. Nearly all of the shoes we buy in the United States are made by people who are out of sight, working in another country. This creates a disconnect, a lack of awareness that has enabled unhealthy consumption. I believe that when you learn what goes into making a shoe, you gain not only a better understanding of the object but also a greater appreciation for the people who make it.

For some people, sandalmaking is something they'll do once or twice. For others, it can become a practice they continue over their lifetime, making pairs for themselves, friends, family, and customers. It's a wonder to me that the craft isn't currently practiced more widely, but I suspect that it's about to have a new wave of interest.

Around 2009, I discovered there were no contemporary books on sandalmaking. I've dreamed of writing a book of my own since then. People are eager to make their own footwear, but it can be hard to know where to begin. I can relate. It took me years of asking the right and wrong people the right and wrong questions before I was able to gather enough useful information to share. I hope this book will help those who are shoe-curious to take their first steps into the craft — and for some, inspire a lifetime of shoemaking.

Chapter 1Setting Up Your Workshop

When I started making my own footwear, I wasn't prepared to invest a lot in tools and materials. I was just dipping a toe in, so to speak, to see if I liked the craft. I discovered that making a pair of shoes — especially sandals — requires only a few tools, none of which cost very much. In this spirit, I've created a basic list of tools and materials and a more extensive list.

Anatomy of a Foot

Before I explain what you'll need to buy to make a pair of shoes, let's step back and get to know the foot and the parts of a shoe.

Admittedly, the term sole can be confusing: it can refer to the bottommost layer of a shoe or to the entire combination of layers under a foot. To avoid confusion, in this book I use the term footbed for the topmost layer underfoot, midsole for the optional middle layer of the sole, and outsole for the bottommost layer of the shoe.

Anatomy of a Sandal

Basic Tools and Materials

You should be able to stock up on the tools and materials you'll need to get started for less than $100. If you want a wider variety of tools, and more material to draw upon for several pairs of sandals, you may end up doubling your initial expenses, depending on the quantities you purchase.

Here's what you need to get started:

Utility knife. I prefer Olfa brand 18 mm utility knives with snap-off blades. I like this brand partly because you can find it everywhere. Smaller, 9 mm blades also work but are more likely to break while cutting through thick material, so I suggest the sturdy kind. Alternatively, a straight shoemaker's blade is great if you're accustomed to working with those. Feel free to use any knife that is sharp — and please use with caution!

Awl. This is a simple tool with a pointy end that you'll use for scratching and marking the leather.

Rotary hole punch. A rotary (or revolving) punch with several settings for different size holes is indispensable. You'll use the smallest setting to create customized slots and the larger settings for rivets, studs, and lace holes.

Scissors. Sharp steel scissors are great for cutting thinner leather, especially on curves, and for cleaning up leather edges. Fabric shears work well, but they can be expensive. I prefer household kitchen scissors with 4-inch blades.

Hammer. Any metal hammer will work, but I prefer using one with a slightly rounded edge, which helps prevent denting the leather when hammering.

Pencil and permanent marker. I use both a pencil and a permanent marker for different purposes as I work. Keep each of these items nearby at all times and use whatever will show up clearly on the leather you are working with. Don't use a ballpoint pen on leather because it will run!

Paper. For pattern making, I use a wide variety of recycled paper. Printer or butcher paper works great — or you can use Swedish tracing paper if you're fancy.

Masking tape. I use strong masking tape to hold sandal parts together while I test the fit.

Ruler or straightedge. You will need something to measure with and to cut against to produce straight lines. I like using a transparent quilting ruler.

Shoe glue. Traditionally cobblers use solvent-based shoe cement; Barge, Renia, Jet Set, and Masters are common brands. Because of its chemical components, I try to reserve using solvent-based glue for securing heels and outsoles, which are more exposed to the elements than shoe uppers are. A solvent-based glue will be essential when you work with a synthetic soling material. Renia makes strong glues without some of the more toxic ingredients, so I recommend looking for their products. Use a water-based leather glue such as EcoWeld, Eco-Flo, Renia Aquilim 315, or any white leathercraft glue when bonding leather to leather, including when you line leathers, glue down tabs, and attach midsoles.

Upper leather. Use medium-weight (3/4, 4/5, or 5/6 ounce) leather of any kind. Alternatively, you can adhere thin 2/3 ounce leather to another 2/3 ounce leather to produce the desired upper thickness. For more information about leather, see Choosing Leather.

Footbed leather. Use the thickest, or heaviest-weight, leather you can find, such as 8/9, 9/10, or 10/11 ounce.

Rubber soles or heavy leather soles. What we usually think of as "rubber" outsoles actually come in many materials, including foam rubber, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), or crepe. Expect something similar to what you'd find on the footbed of a flip-flop, available in a variety of densities and formulations. It's often sold in sheets or half sheets, but it can also be found in large sole-shaped pairs, which you cut down to size.

If you purchase a sheet of soling material, be sure one side has tread or texture so you don't slip. Vibram, Soletech, Birkenstock, and Ultra are common brands, and Soletech's Dogbone or Cloud options are among my favorites. Thicknesses of 12-, 15-, 18-, and 24-iron (equivalent to 14 inch to 12 inch thick) are good for sandal projects; 38-inch thickness is ideal. Gum soling is another option, but it's not a favorite of mine because the edges don't cut or sand to a smooth finish.

For heavy leather outsoles, 7/8 ounce or 9/10 ounce thicknesses are ideal, but 7/8 ounce will be much easier to cut by hand. Leather in these weights is sold in sheets and sometimes in large men's shoe shapes, to be cut down to size. In addition to the term "heavy leather soling," the stiff leather appropriate for outsoles is sometimes called full soles, soling leather, or a soling bend.

Laces. You can use leather lacing, round leather cord, or hand-cut strips for laces. I use 2 mm or 3 mm round leather cord most frequently, but I enjoy a variety of thicknesses and textures.

Buckles. I tend to use brass and nickel buckles that are between 12 inch and 1 inch wide. Be sure to look for buckles with a middle bar so your strap can tuck behind it.

Studs. I recommend using extra-small (14-inch-tall) button-head studs and screw backs that have a sloped base that blends into the leather instead of standing tall. The extra-small size keeps the hardware from sticking out too far from the foot. These button-head studs with a screw back are also called Sam Browne studs. They come in a variety of finishes; brass and nickel are the most common.

Rivets. A rivet is made up of two parts: a post and a cap. Small or extra-small double-cap rivets are the correct size for going through two layers of medium-weight leather. The rivet should just barely exceed the thickness of the layers it is holding together. If the rivet post is much taller than that, it won't set up correctly.

Additional Tools and Materials

Beyond the basic items listed on the previous pages, the following tools and materials will help make some aspects of your sandalmaking go more smoothly.

Self-healing cutting mat. You can use a plastic cutting board instead if you already have one. When I've needed to improvise, I've cut over cardboard or an unfussy worktable. Whatever surface you use for cutting, the larger it is, the better.

Wooden or rawhide mallet. Use this to hit metal punches. In contrast to a metal hammer, the relatively soft mallet will protect your hand from much of the shock, plus you'll avoid that metal-on-metal clanging sound.

Rougher tool. This is a hand tool with lots of metal prongs, like a wool carder or a cat brush. Use it for quickly scratching up leather surfaces.

Oblong punches. These punches vary in the length of narrow rectangular hole they make from 13 inch to more than 1 inch. Use them for punching slots for straps to pass through and when placing a buckle.

Stud hole punch. Sometimes called a buttonhole punch, this punch creates a round hole with a slit to one side; this shape hole fits easily over a screw-back stud. This tool is handy if you use studs frequently, but you can easily get along without it if you have a large hole punch and hand-cut the slit.

Shoe anvil. Use a shoe anvil for setting shoe tacks, making midsoles, and hammering the insides of a shoe without crushing the upper. My favorite kind of shoe anvil sits on a tabletop, is made of cast iron, and includes several foot-size shapes to hammer against. Although it isn't like what we think of as a traditional flat anvil, it serves perfectly well to set rivets and hammer punches over, so if you have a shoe anvil you won't need a traditional anvil. You could also use a tool known as a jack last, which consists of a cast-iron sole shape at the top of a pole that you can mount on the ground or a table. If you don't have access to either a shoe anvil or a jack last, a regular, flat anvil will prove usable as a surface over which to hammer to set rivets, hit punches, and join soles to heels.

Lasts. Shoe-shaped forms made of wood or plastic, used for building closed-toe shoes in order to achieve a desired shape. My technique is flexible, so your lasts can be a whole size smaller or larger than your foot. Some lasts come with hinges to allow you to remove them from your built shoes without damaging them. Any hinge style (or none at all) will work for the projects in this book, since you won't be making fully enclosed shoes.

Strap cutter. This small hand tool is used for pulling long, straight straps from a hide.

Decorative punches, letters, and numbers. Use these for stamping decorative motifs, words, and dates into the leather.

Chain-nose pliers or lasting pliers. Use these for pulling out nails, breaking off knife blades, and pulling leather around a last when making closed-toe shoes. Lasting pliers combine pliers and hammer into one tool so you don't need to switch back and forth, but regular pliers will work fine.

Electric belt sander.


  • "I absolutely love this book and its personal, approachable style. Rachel shares her passion for simple and accessible shoemaking beautifully." 
    — Amanda Overs, Founder of I Can Make Shoes

    “A beautiful and modern take on an ancient craft. Corry's book puts the art of making shoes at your fingertips.”
    — Anna Joyce, Author of Hand Dyed and Stamp Stencil Paint

    “Rachel Corry is gifted, and her playful vision turns the concept of sandalmaking into a reality!”
    — Emily Katz, Author of Modern Macramé

    "A delightful introduction to the world of shoemaking! Rachel's love of the craft shines through each page and her joyful teaching style beckons you to join in on all the fun."
    — Laura Schoorl, Sandalmaker and Founder of

  • "I absolutely love this book and its personal, approachable style. Rachel shares her passion for simple and accessible shoemaking beautifully." 
    — Amanda Overs, Founder of I Can Make Shoes

    “A beautiful and modern take on an ancient craft. Corry's book puts the art of making shoes at your fingertips.”
    — Anna Joyce, Author of Hand Dyed and Stamp Stencil Paint

    “Rachel Corry is gifted, and her playful vision turns the concept of sandalmaking into a reality!”
    — Emily Katz, Author of Modern Macramé

    "A delightful introduction to the world of shoemaking! Rachel's love of the craft shines through each page and her joyful teaching style beckons you to join in on all the fun."
    — Laura Schoorl, Sandalmaker and Founder of

On Sale
Apr 13, 2021
Page Count
208 pages

rachel corry

Rachel Corry

About the Author

Rachel Corry has been making her own footwear since 2010. In addition to selling her own line of custom sandals, she has kits to help people make their own shoes. She teaches shoemaking workshops all along the West Coast. Her studio workshop is in Portland, Oregon, and she can be found online at

Learn more about this author