Soft baby shoes (or booties) let your little one build proper foot muscles and feel the ground while crawling or walking about. They also provide necessary protection from hot pavement or cold air. But baby feet grow fast and come in many shapes and sizes, so making your own soft shoes is a great way to get a custom fit at almost no cost. And they're quick to make - I can whip these out in under 15 minutes.
This Instructable covers the basic all-fleece version I made for Corvidae as she was starting to walk. It's warm here in the dry season, and while I like for her to go barefoot, the playground surface and sidewalks would simply get too hot in the summer sun for bare feet. I started making these simple booties out of scraps of old fleece blankets, and was incredibly happy with the result for several months, an eternity in baby gear.
As her feet grew and she started putting serious miles on every day, she also started wearing through the fleece in just a few days so I changed up the pattern a bit and added a vinyl or leather bottom to the fleece bootie. That v2 shoe style is still going strong at age 2.5, and is proving even more cost-effective: check out the Instructable here.
Step 1: Pattern
First you'll need a pattern. I've attached a .pdf so you can print out my pattern and modify it for your own use.
You can also build your own pattern from scratch. Here's the theory - check out the photonotes (little yellow mouse-over boxes) on the picture below to help make sense of my words. If you're still not quite clear what's going on, check the build steps to see how it all comes together, then look back at this picture. You can also leave me a comment below, and I'll be happy to help if I can. These shoes are totally forgiving, though - just make sure you're longer and wider than your kid's foot.
- Trace your baby's foot. (Cross-check with other foot to make sure they're roughly the same size.)
- Draw a smooth oval around it. (My oval is perhaps a bit too fat given my kiddo's narrow foot, but it worked out fine.)
- Mark the oval in front of the spot where the front of ankle meets the center of the foot (about halfway along the shoe; this is where the upper will curve up)
- Trace the front half of the bottom pattern piece down to the ankle line, then continue straight down to the back of the shoe.
- Square off the back.
- This is simply a big rectangle, sized from your previous two pieces.
- Measure around the heel side curve of the bottom piece from ankle mark to ankle mark - this is your long side.
- Measure from the ankle mark back to the end of the top piece - this is your short side.
Step 2: Choose & Cut Fleece
Select a nice thick fleece blanket or sweatshirt to donate to the cause. Cut out two of each piece from your pattern, making sure to mark the ankle line at the edge of the top and bottom pieces.
At this age I didn't find it particularly useful to shape the feet separately, so these shoes are interchangeable. You may of course choose to get fancy.
Step 3: Sew Back to Bottom
Match the back up with the right-side ankle line of the bottom piece.
Sew (I used a serger, which makes things super-easy) along the long side of the rectangle as it curves around the heel. The heel fabric should run until you hit the left-side ankle mark.
Note: feece is usually stretchy in one dimension, so be careful that you don't tug either piece too far out of shape. If you do accidentally stretch the back/heel piece, it's easy to cut off extra that extends past the second ankle mark.
Step 4: Add Top
Match the top piece against the bottom/back pieces you've already sewn. Start at the toes and work upwards.
- the toes should be a perfect overlap
- the ankle marks should match against the ankle marks at the bottom/back junction
- the squared-off corners should match up against the remaining free corners of the back piece
You may find it handy to use a couple of pins - I often place one at the toe, one at each ankle mark, and one at each top corner.
Serge or sew around the edge, again making sure not to stretch either piece of fleece too much relative to the other. I usually find it easier to place the flat (top) piece on the bottom so the already-sewn junctions are on top and I can be sure to maneuver them into place properly. Of course, these pictures were taken in the other orientation - both work.
Step 5: Hem Top
Fold the top down to create a pocket for the ankle elastic. I usually figure on 3/4 of an inch or so, but it depends on the size of your elastic and whatever tool you use to thread it in.
Sew (not serge! You're done with serging) all the way around the bottom edge.
Step 6: Snip
Snip a small (vertical) hole in the back of the hemmed top, being sure to cut through only the outside layer.
Start small - you can always make the hole bigger.
Step 7: Add Elastic
Thread the elastic into the hole, and work it all the way around and back out the same hole. I usually store my elastic with a safety pin stuck through the end - this is a great help when you're working elastic through a hem.
Pull it through, then tighten up a bit and tie off. Be sure to test it on the baby's foot so you don't make it too tight.
I usually leave a bit of the elastic tail sticking out so I can modify the knot positioning if necessary; it's also kind of cute. You can tug the knot back in through the hole if you want to be super-tidy, but be sure you don't trim the ends so short the knot comes slips out.
Repeat with other shoe.
Step 8: Optional: Add Tread
If your kid is scooting around on tile, hardwood, linoleum, or any other slippery surface, you'll probably want to add a bit of tread to enhance their grip. (If it's all carpet in your house, or they're not doing any scooting, disregard this one.)
Use a hot glue gun or fabric paint to add lines, dots, or the fun design of your choosing to the bottom of the shoe. Make sure it cools and/or dries before you let your kiddo anywhere near the shoes.
Step 9: Wear!
Scoop your kid up, stick the shoes on his/her feet, and press go! See how the shoes fit, and modify your next pair accordingly. There's nothing like a hardcore usage test to see what needs improvement. Thankfully these are cheap (maybe $0.25 of elastic, plus scraps of fleece) and fast (I can now make them in <15 minutes) so you can iterate rapidly.
Once your kid starts putting serious outdoor miles on the feet, you'll find that fleece just doesn't hold up and you need to add a vinyl or leather sole. It requires a few tweaks to this basic bootie design (namely making the upper wider than the bottom piece of fleece, as the sole keeps everything flatter), but it's still pretty similar. I'll post a more detailed follow-up Instructable shortly.
If you make these, please post pictures in the comments! I'd love to see your versions.