Save your money on leather, make shoes working with paper patterns


Save your money on leather, make shoes working with paper patterns

When you work on a new shoe, before you make the actual shoe, you must check it. It doesn’t matter if you are a master shoemaker or a beginner, you must check if your pattern is correct to not fall flat on your face.  Although, it’s more common to make the pattern check from leather, I strongly recommend working with ordinary paper.

Why? It will cut your work time, it will save your money and actually it will be more accurate. 

Working with paper pattern to make your shoes

Before I will explain you why you should work with paper to check your patterns, I will show you how to do it.  

Here is how I make simple flat ballet shoes:


1. This is the cardboard basic pattern of flat ballet shoes, which you need to check


2. Here is the exact copy of the cardboard basic pattern with all its lines from ordinary A4 paper


3. To make paper pattern more flexible just crumpled it a little bit. This way it will be possible to last it on the last. Here is important not to overdo it, or it will tear up.

paper pattern-on-last

4. Here is the paper pattern lasted on the last. You see, it looks exactly like leather upper lasted on the last . This way you can easily check your pattern that is made from paper.

5. Observing how your paper pattern lays on the last you can easily understand if you need to make some corrections or not. Then you will make all those corrections on your original cardboard basic pattern.

Why I use paper to check my shoe patterns?


When I check my patterns from paper I get more accurate results, than the check from leather. Paper do not stretches as leather. So, if you made some mistake during your pattern construction of basic pattern and then you will check it from paper, you will see your mistake immediately.

The paper pattern with mistake will never lay perfectly on your last; you will never  be able to place it correctly on your last. The paper pattern with mistake will tear during lasting or it will just look wrong.  On the other hand ,when you check your pattern from leather, you may not notice that, because the leather pattern stretches and you can always place it perfectly on the last, even if your pattern is wrong.

Best example of paper pattern accuracy is pump shoes. The design of your throat line that you draw on the last ( on the adhesive pattern) will lay exactly as you designed using the paper pattern. But it will be much harder with leather, as it will stretch less or more in the throat line on the last and you will not get the exact design.

Here it can influence on your decision, if you need to open the top line or close it more on the throat line. Once you like it, make the mark on the last where the top line of your paper pumps passes and only then make a check from leather, which you chose to work with. This check relevant only to test the chosen leather , because each type of the leather stretches differently and to get the pump’s throat line exactly as you have on your basic pattern, you need to check it.  

Note: There are shoe models that you must check with leather like; pumps, one cut patterns or 3D patterns with volume like we made in Freehand pattern techniques course.

Use less leather

Working with paper patterns to check the correctness of your cardboard basic patterns will save you money on leather.  Using paper you don’t need to use leather to check your pattern.  It’s  not a problem when you will make just one check but there can be many, especially if you made your pattern wrong. So, just calculate how much leather you will save. Work smart, consume less! 


Finally, working with paper you will save your time:

1. You don’t need to cut, to assemble the parts of the leather pattern.

2. You will get correct check of your basic pattern with paper pattern and then you will develop all other parts correct as well. This way you will not waste your time on repairing all those details, if you made not such an accurate check from leather pattern for example.


Please check the fresh new question from Dan this week on “Help me make my shoes“. He made his slingbacks from paper but lost the original cardboard pattern. Does he must make his pattern from the start again or can he use this paper pattern to fix his problem. What do you think?

I’ll be posting the solution latter this week, so be sure to check it as well.

Now, I really hope I convinced you to use paper pattern, or at least to try to. I strongly advise it just because I use it myself. So, will you use paper pattern? Let me know!  

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There are 4 Comments

  1. Posted by srle

    I think solution B. Do not need original cardboard.

  2. Posted by Eileen

    Hi Sveta, Thanks for making me think about how one would correct Dan’s problem… it’s good practice. I think I know the reason why the pattern is not fitting correctly. If I am correct, the original cardboard wont be needed for the solution and he can work from his paper pattern, but I will have to wait for your answer to check my thoughts.

    • Posted by Sveta Kletina

      Hi . Yes you are both right. We can work with the paper pattern, that is why it is so important to make our check with paper pattern. And I will show my solution to Dan problem too. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Posted by ann anele

    yes i’ll always use papper patern