Introduction: Ghillie Shoes for Your Renaissance Faire Costume

About: After spending 2 years traveling my wife and I have lived in 8 different cities across the United States. Among other things we've had the privileged of visiting nearly half of the national parks in the US. …

So I've spent several months sewing renaissance faire costumes for myself and my husband.  I was nearly done when I realized that my husband's highland costume was lacking in footwear.  Short on funds and time I settled on making a cheap pair of improvised ghillie shoes.

Note that these are not intended to be overly authentic (which I've heard should have no soles and be made of very expensive hide) or of retail quality.  However, they are meant to be cheap, fast, and easy to make for anyone with rudimentary sewing skills.  I think I spent about $20 and maybe 8 hours putting them together.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Materials you probably already have on hand:
-Sewing Machine (hopefully yours is newer than mine)
-Sewing Pins (with classic tomato pincushion)
-Sewing Scissors (still nice and sharp because my husband knows never to use them)
-Seam Ripper (for pulling out crooked seems)
-Staple Gun (with standard size staples)
-Hammer (for driving in stubborn staples)
-Flat Head Screwdriver (for pulling out really stubborn staples)

Materials you will probably need to buy:
-Pair of sandals (bought at thrift store and properly sized to wearer)
-1/2 yard of your preferred shoe making material (3/4 of a yard if you plan to make mistakes)
-1/2 yard of cheap template material or scrap
-Thread (colored to match your shoe material)
-3 yards of leather lacing (for laces)
-Multi-surface glue (for creating a quick and easy hem)
-3/4 inch wide elastic band (to hold the wearer's foot in place if your victim is fussy)

Step 2: Prepare Your Sole

Cut the straps off of your sandals, all you're after is the soles.

With your marker draw dots on the sole on either side of the toe and heel to indicate how far the toe section will cover the foot and how far the leg section will wrap around the heel.

Step 3: Toe Template

Place your template material over the toe of your sole and copy the two marks from the previous step onto the fabric.  As you do this, keep in mind that your toes are three-dimensional, so pull up on the fabric and bunch it slightly to make sure you will have room to insert your foot under it. The flatter the fabric is to the sandle while tracing, the less toe room you will have when finished.  Trace the toe of the sole between the two dots.  

Set the sole aside and trace two larger arcs around the first.  The second arc should  be larger than the original by 3/4 of the thickness of the sole.  This is the part that will overlap the sole and be tacked down.  The third arc should be 1/4 inch wider than the first.  This section will be folded under to create a hem.

Add two tabs to the straight side of the toe template as a seam allowance.  The tabs should be 5/8 inch wide and about 1/3 of the width of the entire toe template (see picture).

Now is also a good time to create a reusable template for the lace loops.  All you need is a rectangle about 1.5 inches by 3/4 inch, or you could use my slightly more stylized spindle shape.  One loop should be traced onto the middle of the straight side of the toe template.

Once all of these lines have been drawn, cut out the completed toe template. 

Step 4: Leg Template

This one gets a bit complicated and some of my pictures aren't the best, but stick with me.

Measure and record  the distance around the heel of the sole between the two marks added earlier.  This will be the width of the leg template.

Using the leg of the person who will be wearing the shoe, measure and record the distance from the floor to the point on their leg where you would like the shoe to stop.  Add the width of the sole to this measurement.  This will be the height of the entire leg template.  Also make a note of the distance from the floor to just below the bony protrusion of their ankle.  Add the width of the sole to this to get the height of the foot portion of the leg template.

Using the heel measurement and the leg + sole measurement, draw a rectangle on your template material to form the basis of the leg template.  At one end of the template add seam allowance tabs on both sides.  The tabs should be 5/8 inch wide and ankle + sole measurement tall.

On one side of the leg template trace lace loops at regular intervals above the seam allowance tabs.  I placed mine about 1 inch apart.  These will eventually be the lace loops that run up the front of the shin.  I carefully made both sides of the pattern, then realized that I could make the shoe look much better by folding this template in half and cutting on the fold (which you will see later), so save yourself some pain and only put lace loops on one half of the template!

Cut out the leg template.  To fit the template to your wearer's leg, have them stand on the sole, wrap the template around the back of their leg with the the lace loops over their shin and the bottom of the template touching the floor, making sure that it is tight to the heel of the sole and their calf (this may require some tape).  Gather the excess fabric behind the wearer's heel and pin it together until the template fits properly.  Remove the template from the leg, pin the template in half carfully, then roughly trace the pinned area with your pen (due to repinning this may not be precise, but after you pull the laces tight no one will know anyway).  Cut this area out to form a roughly tear-drop shaped hole in the template.

Step 5: Side-of-the-Foot Template

Measure and record the distance between the toe dot and heel dot on the outside edge of the sole.  This will be the length of the template for the panels that cover the sides of the feet.

Draw a straight line on your template material using the distance you just measured.  Align one of the seam allowance tabs from the toe template with one end of the line and a seam allowance tab from the the leg template to the oposite end of the line as shown in the picture.  Trace the length of both tabs to start to form the new template (this eliminates additonal measuring and turns it into tracing, weren't you getting sick of that anyway?).

Close the shape with a smooth curve.  Add 5/8 inch tabs to both ends and add lace loops along the curved side of the template.  Cut out the completed side-of-the-foot template.

Step 6: Template Transfer

Take the 1/2 yard of your shoe fabric and fold it in half so that the good side is on the inside (commonly called "the right sides together" in sewing jargon).  Lay the templates on the folded fabric.  The leg piece should already be folded in half with a "dart" cut out of it, lay the folded edge of the leg piece on the folded edge of the fabric to cut (do NOT cut the fold, leave the fabric folded).  This will create the symetrical leg shape with fewer cuts.  Securely pin the templates to the fabric, making sure that the pins pass through all of the layers.

Trace onto the fabric (you should be drawing on the not-pretty side of the fabric as the pretty sides are folded in) the dart you will need to sew later for the back of the leg.

Cut out all three templates (do not cut out the dart from the leg piece).  This will produce one leg piece, a right and a left toe piece, and two side-of-the-foot pieces.  Repeat the procedure with just the leg and side-of-the-foot templates to create all of the pieces you will need.

Step 7: Sew Time

From here on out each step will have to be done twice, once for each shoe.

Using one leg piece, one toe piece, and two side-of-the-foot pieces, pin the lace loops closed and sew them down.

Using the same four pieces, pin the corresponding seam allowance tabs together, pinning the pretty sides together (the result should be an inside out looking shoe).  Sew the pinned sections together with 5/8 inch seam allowance.  If you are not familiar with how to operate your sewing machine, ask a female for assistance.  I can guarantee that mom will be pissed if you break grandma's sewing machine that she hasn't used in 15 years.

Flip everything right side out and it should look like a shoe.

Step 8: Adding Some Sole

Add a small amount of glue to the bottom quarter inch of the inside (not pretty side) of the fabric and fold it over to create a hem. 

Pin the fabric to the sole, making sure that everything looks straight and properly aligned.  You will have to do some folding around the toe to make it fit.  The seams should match up with the dots you made in the beginning, both at the toe and heal (this should help you know how much fabric belongs in front to be gathered/folded).

Using the staple gun, staple the fabric to the sole.  If some staples do not go in all the way, apply the hammer.  If some staples become too problematic, apply the flat head screwdriver and try again.  Ultimately the fabric should be securly attached to the sole.

Step 9: Laces and Legs

Lace up the shoes and try them on.  My husband said his heel was too loose in the shoes, so I added a band of elastic from the inside of the heel around his ankle.

And there you have it, quick and cheap ghillie shoes.  Tie them on and you're on your way to the highland games weekend at the ren faire.