How to Make Traditional Chinese Slippers

Chinese fashion image by Liu Xiang from

Traditional Chinese shoes and slippers today come in several different styles, from hard-soled cloth shoes to soft modern bedroom slippers. One of the more common types of Chinese slippers comes somewhere between modern footwear and historical design. This traditional slipper style features a soft sole attached to a split-seamed slipper top that is often embroidered with complex artwork. You can make your own version of a Chinese slipper using a few basic sewing skills.

Stand with your feet apart on a large sheet of paper. Have a friend trace around your feet, then smooth out the curve around the toes. Cut the tracings from the paper.

Pin the traced feet to a single layer of medium-weight leather. Cut around the feet patterns so that you have two leather soles.

Cut two pieces of muslin that are large enough to fit over your whole foot. Have a friend help you place the pieces of muslin on either side of your foot, with the fabric edges meeting at the front and back of the foot.

Pin the fabric together at the front and back of the foot. Adjust the fabric so that it completely covers your foot, then adjust the pins so that the fabric fits snugly against your foot with no bunching.

Mark the position of the pins in the fabric with a marker. These marks will create seam lines.

Locate the middle of the top of your foot, just above the ball of the foot. Make a mark here. Also make a mark at the back of your ankle, and marks at the sides of your ankle. Connect the front mark with the side marks using concave curves. Connect the back mark with the side marks using convex curves.

Cut along your drawn curves and discard the excess fabric. Unpin the remaining two pieces of fabric. Use the remaining pieces as your shoe top patterns.

Cut along the marked seam lines on your shoe top patterns. Pin the shoe top patterns to a double layer of your heavy canvas fabric. Cut two shoe tops for each pattern piece, adding an extra 5/8 inch to each edge.

Repeat Step 8 on the silk fabric you chose to use for the outer part of your shoes. You can also use brocade or any other decorative type of fabric.

Baste the outer fabric to the canvas fabric, using a quilter's basting spray. Let the spray dry completely.

Lay each pair of shoe top pieces together, outsides touching. Pin and sew the front and back edges together, 5/8 inch away from the edges. Iron the seam allowances open and zigzag-stitch the edges.

Turn the shoe tops right side out. Fold the open top edges under 1/8 inch, then another 1/2 inch, encasing the raw edges. Sew the folded edges down.

Fold the bottom edges of the shoe tops under 5/8 inch and pin them in place. Lay the shoe tops over the leather soles, matching the edges.

Hand-sew the shoe tops to the leather soles from the inside, using a slip-stitch. Unpin the seam allowances.

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