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Creating Patterns for Shoes to Fit Any Doll by Heather Maciak

RobinThis method of making a pattern is a simple one- you wrap a piece of aluminum foil around the foot of a shoeless doll, draw the shoe of your dreams with a marking pen, remove the foil and flatten it out. Voilà- you have a shoe pattern, or at least the beginnings of one!

Step 1- Make sure that the piece of foil is large enough to go around the foot, covering the toes and the heel. If the doll will be wearing a sock, you can create the pattern with a sock on the doll’s foot. Cut the foil with a curved edge where it wraps across the top of the foot, so that you get a smoother fit. Now shape the foil firmly onto the foot, smoothing and flattening the wrinkles as much as possible. Press the foil together at the centre back of the foot, so that the two sides meet at the heel. (photo #1)

Step 2- With a permanent marking pen, draw the shape of the shoe you wish to create, being careful not to get marker on the doll’s foot. First, draw along the bottom edge of the foot where the upper of a shoe would meet the sole. Continue up the centre back of the foot, where the foil pieces are butted together- this is where the seam will be. Then draw along the top of the foot where the line of the shoe would fall. The photograph (photo #2) shows the beginnings of a lace-up shoe.

The beauty of this method is that you don’t have to be a pattern maker to create something wonderful. You simply have to picture where the shoe would be on the foot, and draw it there.


Photo 1.

Step 3- Carefully remove the foil from the foot, flatten it out, distorting it as little as possible, and cut it out with a pair of scissors. Now place it on a piece of paper and trace around it, adding 1/8” around the bottom where the upper will be folded over the cardboard sole, and at the heel where the seam will be. Fold the pattern in half, hold it up to the light, and trim it so it is symmetrical around the bottom edge (the bottom edge of the upper is always symmetrical, with the sole being the determining factor for whether the shoe is a left or a right shoe).


Photo 2.

In the case of the lace-up shoe, the pattern will also be symmetrical along the top, but many shoes, such as shoes with a side strap, are not. Now, stand the doll’s foot on a piece of stiff card so you can trace around it for the sole. Set the foot aside and neaten the tracing, adding a scant 1/16” around the edge and rounding the toe area so it looks shoe-like.

A good way to adjust the pattern before making it up in Ultrasuede or leather is to cut it out in paper towel, which has some flexibility and will not tear easily. Make a cardboard copy of the sole pattern and try it on the doll’s foot with the paper towel. If you are making a lace-up shoe, don’t forget to make a pattern for the tongue as well. Study the fit and make any necessary adjustments. When you are pleased with it, go to step 4 and make it up in Ultrasuede or leather. You will never know how the pattern is really going to fit until you make an actual shoe. The photograph (photo #3) shows the stages of making a pattern.


Photo 3.

Step 4- Once you are happy with your patterns, trace them onto cardboard or mylar, so they will be sturdier when you use them. Cut them out inside the tracing lines, so your new patterns are the same size as the originals. Number each pattern with a ‘1’ on one side and a ‘2’ on the other- this will remind you to always flip your patterns when you are tracing them for a left and a right shoe. Trace the pattern for the sole onto cardboard or Mylar, and then make a second tracing of the sole, trimming this one by 1/8” all the way around. This will give you the pattern for the spacer- a smaller piece of cardboard that levels out the concave space on the sole, which is created by the folded-over Ultrasuede or leather upper.

Step 5- Now you are ready to make your shoes. Trace the pattern for the uppers with a fine marker onto the back of a piece of Ultrasuede or leather, and cut just inside the tracing line. Clip small triangles out around the curves on the lower edge of the upper- this will allow you to ease the toe and heel in, without bulk, as you glue them. Trace the sole and spacer patterns onto the cardboard you will use for the inner sole and the spacer- it should be about the same thickness as the Ultrasuede or leather you are using for the shoes. Using the same pattern as for the cardboard, trace the sole in heavier leather than what you used for the upper. If you would like to add a heel, especially for larger dolls, draw a line across the sole pattern where the heel would be, and line it up along a straight edge of the sole leather to trace the heel. Cut out all sole and spacer pieces. If you like, glue fabric onto the cardboard sole and trim it flush with the edge of the cardboard, thereby lining the shoe to match the costume.


Photo 4.

Now, stitch or overlap and glue the seam allowance at the centre back of the upper- it’s starting to take shape! If you glue the seam, take a small stitch at the top to reinforce the glue. If you stitch it, open up and glue the seam flat. Position the upper over the cardboard sole (lining side up) and fold the 1/8” allowance over the cardboard, gluing it and easing it in around the curves. Glue the spacer in place, then glue the leather sole over the cardboard spacer, hiding the overlapped upper.

The photograph (photo #2) shows the cut out shoe pieces as well as a shoe with the upper glued to the cardboard, with the spacer in place. That’s it in a very small nutshell — I hope this will give you a jumping-off point. Don’t be afraid to try this — it’s easier than you think! The photo (photo #4) shows the finished lace-up shoes, which were created for 7” Robin.
~ Heather Maciak