A few months ago, we were shopping in a local baby store in our area, and we came across this basket of adorable sweater baby booties that looked like they had been made from sweaters found at a thrift store. Juniper’s toes are almost always cold (even with socks on), so we thought these little booties would work perfectly as slippers to keep the nugget’s feet warm and toasty while she ran around inside.
And they have! They’ve been wonderful. They are warm and cozy. They are easy to get on and they stay on. And they have a suede sole to keep them non-slip. We love these slippers! Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, the not-so-little-anymore nugget went through a foot growth spurt—not only did she grow out of the winter boots we had just bought for her, but she also grew out of her slippers so quickly, her big toe poked a hole in the front!
I decided instead of buying another pair (they were, admittedly, really expensive—impulse purchases, man), I’d try my hand at making a pair. I was surprised by how easy they were! It took me about an hour one afternoon to whip up a pair using a cashmere sweater I found at a thrift store for a few bucks. I knew immediately this one was going to have to be part of the Handmade Holiday series—this is too good to keep to myself.
Both Melissa (my cohort in Handmade Holiday 2015) and I are lovers of all thing fabric, so it was only a matter of time before some projects involving needle and thread made their appearance. Melissa is showing you how easy it is to make Simple Embroidered Ornaments at home, and I’m diving into a full-on sewing tutorial here. Get out your sewing machines, kids!
I will say that this is a project for folks with some sewing experience—I wouldn’t jump into making these booties if you’ve never touched a sewing machine before (a pillow is a great place to start). It’s definitely not complicated – in fact, as an experienced sewist, I’d consider them easy – but it does take some knowledge of how to assemble garments and how to work a sewing machine. Also, having the right tools of the trade (marking pens, good scissors, etc.) really helps make these go quickly.
So, if you’ve logged a few hours on your sewing machine, and have an adorable baby in your life, then this is the project for you. If you aren’t much of a sewer, then this would be a wonderful project to have someone who is experienced show you the ropes—there are a lot of great skills to learn from this project! Okay, enough of me lecturing, let’s jump right into the tutorial.
Step 1: Gather your supplies.
Here is exactly what you need to get these sweater baby booties made. This supply list will make any size from 0–3 months up to 24 months—obviously, you’ll have extra fabric leftover if you go with a smaller size.
- 1 Thrifted Sweater (natural fabrics are best) OR 1/8 yard heavyweight fabric (fleece, wool, felt, corduroy)
- 1/4 yard coordinating no-fray fabric for the liner (felt or fleece work well)
- 1/8 yard Lightweight Iron-On Adhesive (like Heat ‘n’ Bond Lite)
- 1/8 yard suede or leather (faux is fine) OR 1–8 ½” x 11″ suede or leather sheet (available at some fabric stores)
- Printable Pattern (download for free)
- Leather/heavyweight sewing machine needles
- Heavyweight thread
- 1′ – 1/8″ Elastic Cord
- Marking pen, scissors, straight pens, small safety pins
- Sewing machine (this is mine) and iron
Some notes on the supplies list:
- If the baby isn’t walking yet, you could get by with using another fabric other than suede for the sole since it doesn’t need to be non-slip.
- You can get the iron-on adhesive by the sheet at most discount stores (Target and Walmart both carry it) or by the yard (which is a more affordable way to buy it) at fabric stores. Look by the interfacing. It’s good stuff to have kicking around your sewing room.
The idea behind these sweater baby booties is that they use an upcycled sweater for the outer fabric, so head to your local thrift store and browse the racks for a natural fiber sweater that is in good condition. Why natural fibers? They breathe! And who wants clammy toes? Not me. And certainly not my baby. I was able to nab this beautiful, red, 100% cashmere sweater at my Goodwill for $2. It’s a bummer I’m not a small (never have been, never will be), or I’d totally keep this sucker for myself!
Step 2: Print your pattern and cut your pieces.
I’ve created a pattern than includes sizes 0–3 months through 24 months. I will caution you that I only have one child with one size foot, so I’ve only tested that particular size, but I created the other sizes based on standard foot measurements and shoe sizes. When in doubt, size up (because those adorable baby feet just keep on growing). When you go to print the PDF, make sure that scaling is OFF before printing or the sizing will be skewed.
Go ahead and cut out your pattern pieces in the size of your choice. Each pattern piece lists exactly what needs to be cut from it. Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric, mark around them with a marking pen, and then cut them out. I always get asked where my leaf straight pens came from, so in case you are curious, you can pick some up from Amazon.
When all is said and done, you should have:
- 2 Pieces of Suede Sole (in mirror image)
- 2 Pieces of Liner Sole (in mirror image)
- 2 Pieces of Iron-On Adhesive Sole (in mirror image) <— cut these slightly smaller than the pattern
- 2 Pieces of Liner Back
- 2 Pieces of Outer Back
- 2 Pieces of Liner Top
- 2 Pieces of Outer Top
Step 3: Adhere the soles together.
Take one of your liner sole pieces, and place the iron-on adhesive—sticky side down on the WRONG SIDE of the fabric. Run over it with a warm iron to adhere it.
The the fabric cool completely, then peel off the fabric backing of the adhesive.
Then, place the WRONG SIDE of the matching suede sole piece on top of the adhesive.
Cover the piece with a towel (to protect the suede), and then iron it until the adhesive bonds to the suede.
Voila, the two pieces of sole are stuck together.
Repeat with the second sole. When you are finished, you should have two soles that are mirror images—they should look like a butterfly. If they don’t, no worries, just cover the soles with the towel again, and heat. You can then pull them apart and start all over again.
Step 4: Clip holes for the elastic.
Set aside the soles, and take the liner fabric for the tops. Take the straight edge, and fold it down 1/2″.
Using sharp scissors, clip two small notches into the fold 1/4″ from each other. This is where the elastic will slide through. This is why it was important to use a no-fray fabric for the liner (felt or fleece). If you wanted to, you could finish these edges with a buttonhole, but I’m a fan of skipping that step.
Step 5: Sew together the tops.
Take the piece you just clipped holes in, and pin it RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER with the outer fabric.
Sew along the straight edge using an 1/8″ seam allowance.
Repeat with the second set of top pieces. Open them up, and then iron the seam flat.
This is an optional step, but I like to add a topstitch here to help finish the look of the top. Just stitch right next to the seam with coordinating thread.
Step 6: Sew together the backs.
Take the liner back piece and the outer back piece and pin them RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.
Sew along the narrower, long end with an 1/8″ seam allowance. Repeat with the second set of back pieces. Open them up, and then iron the seam flat. Do NOT topstich these pieces.
Step 7: Sew the elastic casing.
Take one of the back pieces, and sew a straight line 3/8″ away from the top seam you just created. This is to make a tunnel to hold the elastic.
You’ll want to use coordinating (or contrasting) thread here, because it will be seen in the final product. Repeat with the second back piece.
Step 8: Attach the top to the sole.
Now it’s time to put the suckers together! It’s actually remarkably simple. Grab one of your sole pieces, and one of the top pieces. Line up the top center of the sole with the top center of the top pieces OUTER SIDES TOGETHER (so it should be suede against sweater). Pin it there.
Then, working your way around both sides, pin together the top to the shape of the curve of the sole. Make sure all four layers (the two layers of liner fabric, the suede layer, and the one layer of the outer fabric) are all in the “sandwich” when you pin.
Until you are all the way around. The top should start to “stand up” a bit now that it is fitting to the curve of the sole. It’s starting to look like a shoe! Sew this seam together using an 1/8″ seam allowance.
If you haven’t already, now would be a great time to switch to heavyweight sewing machine needles.
Repeat with the second bootie (or is it just booty when it’s singular?).
Step 9: Attach the backs.
Grab one of your half-finished booties, and grab the back, find the center of the back by folding it in half and creasing it slightly.
And then pin that point to the back center of the sole OUTER SIDES TOGETHER (so it should be suede against sweater).
Do the same thing you did with the top, wrap the back around the curve of the sole, pinning frequently to get it to stay.
The last inch or so of the back will overlap the top, this is good! Sew this seam together using an 1/8″ seam allowance. Repeat with the second one.
Turn those beautiful sweater baby booties right side out. Admire your work so far. Pat yourself on the back.
Step 10: Add the elastic.
Last step! Cut a small piece of the elastic cord (4″ is a good place to start—you can always make it smaller later). Attach a small safety pin to one end.
Attach another safety pin to the other end, and clip it to the side of the shoe (this keeps the elastic from slipping into the casing while you’re threading it through).
Thread the safety pin through the casing, and then use it to wiggle through the whole back of the shoe.
Slide the safety pin through the slots you clipped earlier in the lining fabric.
And then bring it back to the other safety pin. Carefully undo both safety pins, and then take the two ends and tie them together in a knot.
Check the size of the elastic. It should be crunching the ankle of the booties smaller, but not so tight that it will be tight on chubby baby ankles. If you need to adjust, you can clip the elastic and start over (it’s easier than untying it—trust me).
Once you are happy with your elastic, wiggle the elastic so the knot goes into the back of the shoe and can’t be seen.
Repeat the elastic with the other one. And boom, you are done like dinner!
Because of the suede and the unfinished edges inside the slippers, my recommendation is to only spot clean them—these are definitely meant to be indoor shoes.
Depending on the suede or leather you used for the sole, it’s possible that they will still be slightly slippery (especially on slick hardwood floors). Real suede and leather are more non-slip than the faux stuff. Some faux suede is really “sticky” like the real stuff and others are slick. If you want to go faux, I’ve had better luck with faux leather than faux suede.
If you find that they are a bit too slippery after you’ve made them, just run a few lines of puffy paint on the bottom to make them super grippy.
And that’s that! I am keeping my sweater packed in with my fabric so I can make Juni another pair when she moves up to the next size. You could get quite a few pairs out of just one sweater (even a size small!).
Tomorrow is the last day of Handmade Holiday, and I have another sewing project lined up for you, and this one is simple enough for almost anyone to do! See you tomorrow.