Hi Sewists, before I start, let me just say that this is not an ad, I just really love this product!
As we know, for many of us obsessive sewists the big thrill comes from being clad from head to toe in ‘me-mades’ – the sticking point for me is socks and shoes. I managed to overcome this in the summer by making espadrilles and not wearing socks – but that’s not a look you can rely on with the British summers being the way they are. So when I heard about SneakerKit from Alex of Sewrendipity (you can read her post on them Here) it was music to my ears; now I could have a pair of me-made shoes to wear all year round!
Now, depending on your budget, it isn’t necessarily cheap (around €90 for a full kit) but if you have some of the bits already you can save some money… and you do need quite a few bits…!
- You’ll need a 2mm and 3mm hole punch (I already had one, but you can add a punch/plier to your order for €25)
- You may want some 3mm eyelets and eyelet pliers (I had some 4mm eyelets and a cheap plier I’d bought online).
- An awl or nail/drawing pin for marking holes (already in the arsenal – but I found marking the wrong side with a pen easier to see)
- Sharp blade and cutting mat (or really good scissors!)
- A strong needle with a big eye and some strong waxed thread is included when you buy the soles.
- The leather is €25 for a 37 x 55 cm piece, and I was a little disappointed that all the colours shown were not available (I expect to see a lot of blue leather hand made sneakers in a size 42 out there!) but this got me out of my comfort zone of buying colours that I know I’ll wear and into the zone of buying colours that I really like… like this ‘Olive Green’ suede.
- Oh, and shoelaces! I was kind of surprised to see that I needed shoelaces, it hadn’t crossed my mind until I sat with the pack spread out before me, but, there they weren’t!!
I’d decided when I ordered it that I was not gong to rush into it, I would check all the tools and components, the instruction video and everything before I got started; I was only going to get one shot at this and if I screwed it up it was going to be an expensive mistake!
… The first thing I did when it arrived was get it all out, print off the pattern and start tracing onto my leather… That was when I remembered my own advice to take it slow, I checked the video again… and realised that by marking the back of the leather, I’d just marked out the pattern exactly opposite to how I was supposed to – if I carried on like this I would be sewing a left shoe onto a right sole and vice versa. Not a good start!
So let me be clear, the pattern is printed to mark on the right side of your fabric. If you are marking your pattern pieces on the wrong side of your leather (which I highly recommend), you need the pattern plain side up for the right shoe and the printed side up for the left shoe. Of course this was easily rectified for me as I just had to swap my markings; what I’d marked R became L and L became R… Phew!
Cutting out was tricky to start with. I practised on the edges of the leather first and discounted the craft knife (too flimsy), the rotary blade (too easy to veer off course), and scissors (clearly not good for them unless you have specific leather scissors!) and I ended up using the razor blade cutter I had from when I was laying Lino in my kitchen – you’ve probably got one in your shed/ toolbox/ garage/… handbag…?!
The main points to keep in mind when cutting out are;
- Cut inside the markings for accurate sizing.
- Press hard, you want to get all the way through in one pass.
- Keep the blade at 90° to the leather to maintain a sharp edge.
- Try to do curves all in one go to avoid nicks where you stop and start.
- Remember to breathe!
Once you’ve cut out it’s time to mark and punch all your sewing and lacing holes. Yes, all 130 or so of them! Some people might see this as a chore, and to be honest, it was! Marking the holes with an awl didn’t work, because I was using suede, the marks disappeared immediately, so I went back over and marked them with a pen. Just a tiny dot in the centre, on the inside, which would be punched out anyway, so it didn’t have to be any special kind of pen – I used a biro… I know, right… tsk. But it worked.
Punching the holes out and attaching the rivets was what took pretty much most of the effort in this make. In hindsight, maybe I should have stumped up the €25 for pliers and the €4 for rivets and they might have been a little easier to apply than my cheaper alternatives. But I gritted my teeth (not too hard – I’m still doing Invisalign!) and got through it.
… And by the time you get to this stage, all the hard work is done! I treated the pattern pieces with a weatherproofing spritz and left them to dry.
The next bit went by in a flash: I’d planned to take them into work and stitch them up here and there in a few precious moments of down time (… it’s going really well, the freelancing, by the way 🙏) but I sat up until midnight after a busy day and just couldn’t stop myself! I had one sewn up in no time, but I still didn’t have any laces, so I saved the second shoe and took it to work with me (…& I could pick up some laces on the way in!)
The sewing instructions are straightforward, you start at the inside notch working your way around with a running stitch, then reverse back to complete the full stitch, you can watch the video Here – pay attention though, there is only a little text and no voice over but all the information is there if you look closely!
One piece of advice I would give you is to keep your hands clean – the thread is waxy to the point of sticky and if your hands are dirty it will transfer to the thread. Considering they’re going to be worn outside in all sorts of conditions I don’t suppose it matters much in the long run, but it’s nice to at least start ‘box-fresh’!
Before you know it, you have yourself a pair of handmade sneakers – it only took about an hour to sew the right shoe together. I stopped and started a bit and ended up doing them in about four separate sessions all in all. I bet you could get the whole thing done in 4 or 5 hours if you wanted them in hurry – or just take your time, which is much more enjoyable.
I know suede isn’t a great option as we move into winter here in the UK but I have treated them with a weatherproof protector and I have vowed to look after them with much greater care than any pair of shoes before them, so fingers crossed for a long and exciting life for them!
I’ve ordered my next pair already. The leather choices are still a bit limited, but I’m going for a more practical mud-grey, and maybe the high-top version… I’ve googled around a bit and haven’t had much luck finding other leather suppliers to get a wider choice of finish, let me know if you have any recommendations or non leather alternatives to look for. Maybe I’m looking in all the wrong places…?
I’m nervous of wearing them to work as I don’t want to drop hair colour on them, but so far they have been shopping on Oxford st, to lunch, a gig and two dinners and I can verify that they are really comfortable.
Now, if I can just stop myself from running up to perfect strangers and announcing “LOOK AT MY TRAINERS! CAN YOU BELIEVE I MADE THEM!!!’ then things can start getting back to normal around here!
Notes to self;
- This still doesn’t resolve the sock issue – I’m just going to have to go on a sock-knitting course sometime!
- For the next pair I’m definitely investing in the recommended pliers and rivets.
- Get some sewing done, you’ve got projects to finish!