Make Custom-Fit Shoes for Dolls With a Basic Pattern

Doll shoes shown with a miniature felted Norwich terrier.

The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

Make Doll Shoes With a Custom-Fitted Shoe Pattern

Doll shoes are not as difficult to make as you might think. Basic slip-on Mary Jane-style shoes are a good pattern to start with as they can be easily made to fit any size of doll.

Use these steps to make a custom pattern to fit any size or type of doll. Once you have the basic pattern made, you can adapt it to design various other boots and shoes for your doll's feet. Another easy to make doll shoe project is flip-flops or beach sandals and chukka boots.

Materials Needed

You can use fabric reinforced with lightweight interfacing to make the shoes, as is shown in the instructions for making removable slippers for dolls or you can make fine flexible faux leather for smaller dolls. If you wish you can also choose one of the thin leathers for miniatures. Other items include:

  • Sharp pencil
  • Paper
  • Lightweight card stock
  • Scissors
  • PVA glue
  • Medium weight card stock or thin craft foam for the soles
  • Embroidery thread, bunka, or other decorative cord for the trims

Draw the Sole Pattern

Outlining a sole pattern for shoes for a Brenda Breyer Doll.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

Use a sharp pencil to trace around your doll's foot to make the outline of the sole. Trim out the sole pattern. Check it at the bottom of your doll's feet, marking and trimming the pattern if necessary.

Flip the pattern over and check it against the doll's other foot. Like humans, dolls sometimes have slight variations in their foot shape.

Mark the top of the pattern with the initials that identify the doll.

Make the Basic Toe Cap Pattern

Mark a pattern for the toe of a doll's shoe.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

To make the basic pattern for the toe cap of your doll shoe, take a semicircle of paper and hold it against the top of the doll's foot, as much as possible in line with the front of the leg. Crease the paper around the edge of the sole of the doll's foot. Use a pencil to mark the bottom edge of the doll's foot on the paper.

Trim the Toe Cap Pattern

Trim the base of the toe cap pattern so it ends at the base of the doll's foot.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

To fit the toe cap pattern to your doll's foot, trim the paper you marked in the previous step back to the marked line.

Carefully fit the pattern back on both of the doll's feet, checking to make sure the pattern fits both feet exactly. If one foot is different from the other, make a second toe cap pattern and label the patterns with the doll's name and the foot they fit.

Note: The tape holding the pattern on the doll's foot was only used in order to show the fit. You do not need to tape your pattern to the doll's foot to check it.

Mark The Toe Fit Pattern

Mark the shoe toe cap pattern to indicate where the sides would join the section from the heel.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

In order to use the toe pattern for your doll shoes to make a range of designs, you will need to know where the sides of the pattern start. Use a pencil to mark a line from the top edge of the foot down to the sole, keeping the line parallel to the line of the doll's heel.

Lay out a Sole Allowance for the Toe Cap Pattern

Shoe toe pattern shown overlaid on a toe section with a fold allowance.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

When you have a precise toe cap pattern that fits your particular doll, lay it on another piece of paper and draw a line an even distance away from the pattern to make the pattern large enough that it can be folded over and glued to an insole.

For dollhouse miniature dolls, you may need to keep this to less than 1/8 inch wide. For larger dolls, you may want an allowance as large as 1/4 inch.

In order to allow you to position fabric designs for future shoes, you want both the exact toe cap pattern and a second pattern with the folding allowance shown on it. Label the pattern with your doll's initials.

Make a Heel Pattern

Marking a heel pattern for custom fitting doll shoes.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

The paper pattern for the heel of your doll shoes needs to indicate the ankle, either the ankle bone if there is one, or the point on the doll where the foot articulates (if it does).

Lay a strip of paper behind the heel of the doll, bringing it forward on both sides at least as far as the front of the leg.

Mark the center back of the heel on the paper strip, and trim the strip so it lies neatly just at the joint of the foot and the foot sole.

Mark a line on the side of the pattern where it meets the front of the leg.

Set the toe cap pattern over the heel pattern, and draw a dotted line where the two patterns meet.

Test Your Doll Shoe Pattern

Shoe patterns and parts made from them designed to custom fit a doll.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

To test that your shoe pattern fits the doll, make a trial pair of basic slip-on Mary Jane-style shoes to check the fit. The construction of all basic doll shoes will be the same as this first pair.

Design the Mary Jane Shoe Pattern

Mary Jane shoes consist of a toe pattern added on to a heel pattern, with the seam for the one piece shoe at the back of the heel. Lay out your toe cap pattern (without the allowance), and line up the heel pattern with one side of the toe cap. Mark a new combination pattern with the heel and toe sections, which is designed to be seamed at the heel of the shoe.

Cut out a rough pattern and then cut out the inside of the paper pattern evenly to set the top of the shoe, where it will be open against the foot. Test this one-piece paper pattern against your doll's foot.

Cut the Shoe Pieces

When the one-piece pattern fits your doll, cut out the following pieces to make your first pair of test shoes:

  • Two soles: Cut these from medium weight card or thin craft foam (press the craft foam with a roller to flatten and thin it out a bit if necessary).
  • Two light card insoles: For shoes worn by a doll, the plain card is fine. If the shoes will be on display and not worn, you may prefer to use a patterned paper or fabric for the insole which will be visible.
  • Two shoe uppers: Cut these from thin leather, faux leather, or fabric backed with lightweight iron-on interfacing.

Assemble the Shoes

To begin assembly of the shoes, lay the shoe upper over the top of the foot and check that it will overlap the toes enough to allow you to glue the excess fabric back over the bottom of the insoles.

When you are sure the shoe upper is positioned correctly, trim the back of the shoe so the overlap will line up with the center of the heel.

Glue the shoe upper together at the heel.

Test the Alignment of the Shoe Upper

Center the top of a doll shoe before gluing it to the insole.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

With the shoe upper in place over the doll's foot, check that the opening in the top of the shoe is centered over the foot, then proceed to glue the upper to the bottom of the insole.

Before you leave the glue to dry, check again to make sure the upper is in the correct position on the doll's foot.

Glue Shoe Upper of Doll Shoe to Insole

The doll shoe upper is glued to the bottom of a cardboard insole, after the heel seam has been glued.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

Apply a thin layer of glue to the bottom side of a doll-sized insole, and lay it on the foot of the doll glue-side down. Carefully fold over the edges of your shoe upper, pressing them into the glue on the insole, spreading out any folds around curves and making sure that the upper is glued evenly to the insole rather than in folds and creases. Trim the shoe upper if necessary.

Check the top of the shoe to make sure it is correctly positioned on the foot, and leave this part of the doll shoe to dry while you work on the second shoe.

Glue Soles and Trim

Doll shoe soles made from craft foam are glued to the shoe upper and insole.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

To finish the soles of the doll shoes, carefully glue the correct sole to the foot of the shoe, catching the shoe upper in a sandwich between the insole and the sole.

Turn the shoe (while still on the foot) so you can see the top of the shoe, and check that the sole is positioned evenly on the bottom of the insole. Leave to dry.

When the sole is firmly glued to the insole, run a narrow bead of PVA glue along the line where the sole joins the shoe upper.

Beginning on the inside heel of a shoe, take a narrow section of trim (twisted strip of leather, embroidery or quilting thread, or bunka) and press it into the narrow bead of glue, taking the trim from the inside back heel of the shoe up and around the front, down the side and back to the heel to meet up with the start of the trim.

Cut the end of the trim at an angle with sharp scissors, and carefully glue it to a slight overlap of the trim start. Leave to dry.

Add Trim and Straps

A finished pair of Mary Jane-style tiny doll shoes next to a quarter to show size.
The Spruce / Lesley Shepherd

You can finish the top of your doll shoe with a trim that matches the trim on the sole. You can use bunka, a fine ribbon, embroidery thread, twisted cord, fine leather lacing, or other trims.

To Trim the Tops of the Doll Shoes

Run a fine bead of glue inside the open edge of the shoe upper. Beginning at the inside edge of the heel, apply trim so it is glued just under the edge of the shoe upper. Continue gluing the trim in place until you reach the point where you began. Cut the end of the trim at an angle with sharp scissors and overlap the trim start. Use tweezers to press the trim ends tightly together.

To Make Straps

You can make straps for your doll shoes from a bit of bunka, a fine ribbon, flat leather lace, or braided embroidery thread. Glue one end of the trim for the strap inside the shoe on the inside edge of the shoe pair. Allow the strap end to dry.

Glue the other end of the strap just under the outside edge of the shoe. If you wish a button or buckle strap, add the buckle to the strap or make a small buttonhole, or sew a button to the end of the strap, then glue the strap on the top surface on the outer edge of the shoe. Leave to dry.

Beaded flowers can ​be added to the shoes using no-hole beads or microbeads. Add them to the shoes while the clear "polish" layer used to finish the shoes is drying. Doll shoes can be waxed with acrylic finishes or acrylic floor finish.

You can tie tiny bows for the front of your shoes using a miniature bow maker.

When your shoes are finished, test fit them onto your doll to make sure your pattern works. Depending on the fabric or leather you used to make your shoes, they may be difficult to put on your doll. You can make things easier by making your doll a tiny shoehorn from a section of plastic or a plastic straw.