Make This:

DIY Shoes – Part 7 – Ballet Flat Upper

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After six parts of this project that explained how to make a pattern and every basic part of shoe construction we’ve finally gotten to the part where you can make a real, wearable shoe. This is more or less a replica of where we started – a basic ballet style flat shoe. The kind of shoe you can keep in a dozen colors and prints in you closet to kick on whenever you’re going to the grocery store, out with friends or anywhere that you want to look nice but don’t want to wear high heels. Once you’ve made a pair or two to work out the technique you really can make a stack of these uppers all at once. They’re also a great canvas for all sorts of decoration from quirky prints to hand painting to rhinestone collage!

This series includes:

Part 1 – Intro & Supplies
Part 2 – Making a Pattern
Part 3 – Making a Test Shoe
Part 4 – Making an Insole
Part 5 – Gluing an Upper to an Insole
Part 6 – Making a Shoe Sole
Part 7 – Making a Minimalist Style Upper


– Outer Fabric
– Lining Fabric
– Fusible Interfacing
– Spray Adhesive
– Fray Check
– E-6000
– 1/8 inch satin or grosgrain ribbon – about 1 yard – a matched color is smart but not necessary
– 5/8 to 7/8 inch satin or grosgrain ribbon – a few inches – a matched color is smart but not necessary
– Basic Sewing Supplies


Use your basic pattern, including any modifications you’ve made for an improved fit.


1. Make sure your pattern has a 1/4 inch seam allowance at the heel seam.


2. Cut out 4 pieces – 2 pairs – of the upper pattern from fusible interfacing.  Take the time to be super accurate, it will save you time later.


3. Iron the fabric for the outer and lining.  You want it very smooth, and ironing will help to shrink it.  You’ll be ironing these several times during the process, so pre-shrinking will help you later.


4. Fuse one pair of interfacing pieces to the outer fabric and one pair to the lining.  Make sure that one pair is fused on grain and one on the bias – this will help prevent stretching and warping when you wear them.  I used a plaid for this pair so I placed the outer fabric on the bias.


5. Cut out the fabric leaving a large margin around the pieces – 1/2 inch isn’t too much.  You’ll appreciate this later if your fabric shrinks.


6. Attach any trim pieces that will cross the upper edge of the shoe and into that seam at this time.  None are shown in this project, but this would include ribbons, rows of trim, etc.


7. Pair up the outers and linings.

8. Align one pair, right sides together.  Pin carefully.


9. Thread a needle and tie the thread ends into a small, neat knot.

10. Stitch the outer and lining together along the top edge using a back stitch.  Run the stitches just above the edge of the interfacing and be sure to keep the pieces aligned well.  Small stitches will result in the strongest finish.  You can use a sewing machine for this step, but I prefer the accuracy of hand stitching.


11. When you’ve stitched all the way around, tie off the end neatly.


12. Put a drop of Fray Check on a scrap of the fabric and the lining.  Make sure that it dries invisibly.  If it doesn’t, test other fabric glues until you find something that does.


13. Run a line of Fray Check over the stitching line you just finished.


14. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4 inch on the straight edges, and 1/8 inch around the curves.  Do not clip the curves.


15. Run a line of Fray Check over the edge of the seam allowance.  Allow to dry.

16. Turn the fabric so the wrong sides are together.  Press the seam so that the outer extends over the lining at the fold.  The way this looks when you’re done pressing it is how the finished shoe will look so ensure that the lining will not peek out.

17. Press this well, and let cool while lying flat.


18. Turn the fabric back to right sides together.

19. Stitch a length of the 1/8 inch ribbon to the seam allowance using a back stitch.  This is to prevent the top edge of the shoe from stretching with use. Fray Check the ends of the ribbon.


20. Turn the shoe back to wrong sides together, press to set the ribbon into position.

21. Place the original paper pattern over the shoe upper.  Cut the shoe down to match the pattern. Add the alignment marks to the outside of the shoe.


22. Add any other trim or decorative pieces at this time (unless they wrap around the heel end.)  After this the shoes will no longer lay flat and it will be difficult to add anything else.


23. Open up the shoe at the heel.  Match the lining to lining and outer to outer, pin in place.

24. Sew up the heel seam at a 1/4 inch seam allowance using a back stitch.


25. Fray Check the seam.

26. Clip the seam allowance.  Clip any excess at the seam between the outer and lining. Press the heel seam open.


27. Glue the seam allowance down with E-6000.  Allow to dry.

28. Glue a strip of narrow ribbon (1/8 or 1/4 inch ribbon) over the seam allowance on the outer shoe.

29. Glue a strip of the wide ribbon over the seam allowance on the lining of the shoe.  You can leave an extra 1/2 inch of tail to glue under the sole if you tend to pull the heel aggressively when you put shoes on.  The tail will give the heel extra stability.


30. Make any last minute additions or changes to the shoe.  This includes any decorations.

31. Turn the shoe so that it is right sides together.


32. Place the shoe upper in a very well masked and ventilated location.  Spray adhesive stays sticky forever, doesn’t smell great and can be toxic.


33. Cover the exposed interfacing in spray adhesive.


34. Carefully turn the fabric and press it together smoothly.  A better glue bond will result in a sturdier shoe.


35. Use a fresh piece of newspaper or other masking material for each piece you are spraying.  The residual spray will come off onto the next piece.


36. At this point you can press the shoe one more time, but some spray adhesives smell unpleasant and may release harmful chemicals when heated, so do this with caution and with lots of ventilation.


Use the basic procedures explained in previous parts to make the insole, attach the upper to the insole, and add the sole.


Part 1 – Intro & Supplies
Part 2 – Making a Pattern
Part 3 – Making a Test Shoe
Part 4 – Making an Insole
Part 5 – Gluing an Upper to an Insole
Part 6 – Making a Shoe Sole