The last item to go in the Box before we shut the lid
and wrap it up: ballet slippers!
For little and little-r feet.
In different colors.
In satin and fleece and felt and knit and whatever other
fabrics were left over from earlier projects.
Not difficult to make at all, but takes a little visualizing
in one's head because of the layers involved. The first pair
was slow because it was experimental and because I
drafted my own pattern and had to keep measuring and
adjusting. And I had to sneak one shoe onto Emily's foot
during her nap to check the fit. But after that, each shoe
took about a half hour to make - so an hour for the pair.
Want to make your own? Here's the pattern - one for my
4-year old (size 11-12) and the other for the 2-year old
(size 7). Note: with all my patterns, this one does not
include seam allowances - you just cut around it a little
bigger as you wish. Some folks like 1/2", some 1/4".
Pick what you're used to.
Much as it is a straightforward project, there are many steps,
and I went overboard with the pictures this time to explain.
Also, the secret is in the cutting - and the positioning of the
pattern on the fabric. Unless you are using a stretchy fabric
for every layer, you'll end up with a shoe that is rigid and
uncomfortable. If you make it looser to accommodate for
movement, it might fall right off the foot. Keeping all that in
mind for the slippers I was sewing for my kids, I decided to
use the different fabrics' natural stretch (or not) to advantage.
- If you use fleece (which is nice because it is naturally puffy and helps the shoe hold its shape),lay the pattern along the stretch, meaning the shoe should stretch from toe to heel and not side-to-side. We want the wearer to elongate the shoe when it is worn, which causes the shoe also to hug the sides of the foot.
- If you use satin (which I added to the pink and black pairs above the fleece layer), lay the pattern along the bias so that the shoe can stretch toe-to-heel and side-to-side.
- If you use 4-way knit (which is nice for the lining because it isn't bulky and yet stretches), cut it straight (i.e. not on the bias)
- If you use 2-way knit, cut it like the fleece.
- If you use terrycloth (I tried it for the lining on the larger pink shoe): cut it like the satin.
For ONE shoe, you will need:
- One outer upper (the U-shaped rainbow-colored piece) - I used fleece.
- One inner upper (the U-shaped blue piece) - I used knit.
- One outer sole (the white piece) - I used wool felt.
- One inner sole (the blue piece) - I used fleece.
- One piece of batting cut a little bigger than the sole.
- A length of thick elastic string - the kind that holds a pair of shoes together when you buy them at Target is perfect - about 16" long.
- A small safety pin
- Pinking shears (optional but very useful)
- Open up both pieces.
- Pin both pieces right sides facing, and sew along the foot opening (where you'd insert your foot).
Doesn't matter whether which side faces up, as long as the right sides are together. Here's another angle to show the fleece side:
Turn inside out so the right side of the seam faces out and the raw edges are hidden between the layers:
Pin the outer sole at the toe and heel as shown. The right side of the sole should face the right side of the fleece, but the wool felt has no right or wrong side, so it doesn't matter.
Attach the sole to the upper, being careful to push the lining layer out of the way and
tuck the fleece edge to fit the sole edge as you sew. Sound confusing? This is because the fleece piece is deliberately cut a little bigger than the sole, to accomodate for the 3-dimensional foot that will wear the shoe. This is obvious in the above picture. I found it useful to use an unpicker to move the fleece layer along in tiny gathers as I sewed. Less lazy people would actually baste, which I recommend if you have the time.
So here, in spite of the fleece piece being so much bigger than the felt piece, it has been made to fit.
This step is to sew a little channel for the elastic thread around the opening. So sew about a quarter inch from the edge, leaving about an inch at the heel open to thread the elastic in:
This is really the only annoying part of sewing the slipper. You'll need to decide how snug this opening will be. Use your child's foot to test it out, or find another pair of shoes in the house that fit well. I did the latter, and found that a good final circumference was 11" for the 4-year old and 9.5" for the 2-year old. Tie a knot, trim the excess elastic and tuck the knot into the channel/casing.
The final circumference will not look very puckered at all - which is good because you don't want to cut the circulation off in the poor child's foot when the shoe is worn. It is just a teeny bit stretchy for the hug.
Sew the inner sole (fleece) to the batting. Sew as close to the edge as you can.
Trim away the excess batting.
Pulling apart the two halves of the shoe to avoid stitching on the colorful fleece layer accidentally,
sew the blue lining to the inner sole-and-batting. As in step 6, tuck and tease the slightly-bigger lining piece to fit the slightly-smaller sole.
Pink the edges close to the stitching, except at the opening. Don't trim the opening because you will need some seam allowance for folding in later.
Turn entire shoe right side out through the opening. With the lining on the outside, and pushing away the fleece layer (it will all bunch up inside!) from the opening,
tuck the exposed edges of the opening in and sew the opening shut. Sew only the lining and inner sole-and-batting layers! I used a zig zag stitch but a straight stitch works too.
Turn the shoe right side out and arrange lining neatly around the inside of the shoe, especially in the toe area where it tends to bunch. Done!
Make another side for a pair and put them on little dancing
feet. Jenna, my secret model, asked me, "You turn on some
music, mom?" to which I regretfully explained that she would
get the shoes to keep at Christmas.
I omitted this for the rainbow slippers because they were
already such an assault on the eye, but you could add a
small bow to the fronts of the plain shoes.
So these 6 pairs of ballet slippers will join the
other multicolored inhabitants of the Box.
They are the last hand-made items to go in the Box (for now)
but I have also put in some store-bought accessories like
hair extensions, wigs, boas, a couple of career hats and a
clown nose. Other ideas that didn't make it to the Box for
lack of time included a mermaid tail, some career coats
(firefighter, for instance), fancy hats, animal suits, a
clown costume and boots. Another time, perhaps.
I hope you enjoyed following along with this project.
I thought I would be sad when it was finally over but I
am relieved - not as much fun as I thought, sneaking around
trying to avoid the Small Ones and sewing at nights.
I have just one more project to post before the new year.
This was the original handmade Christmas gift for the girls
and it formed in my mind in the summer before the
Dress-Up Box came along and
all my sane moments.