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How to embroider shoes with a rainbow pattern for summer

Use sashiko-style stitching to turn a pair of plain canvas shoes into colourful beach-ready kicks.

how to embroider shoes

Transform a basic pair of canvas shoes into something special with this Sashiko-style embroidery using bold rainbow threads.

Using a combination of Running Stitch and Backstitch you can create a beautiful decorative design that will add a burst of colour to your shoes.

We’ve used plain white canvas shoes, but you can choose any colour. You’ll need to use a contrasting thread colour to ensure it stands out though. If you prefer a more subtle style, opt for a black shoe with white thread instead of the bright rainbow colours we’ve used in this project.

Stitching onto canvas shoes is a little different than usual embroidery fabrics, like cotton or linen. The material is much more rigid so we recommend a slightly different technique. More on this below.

What is Sashiko embroidery?

For this project, you’ll be using Sashiko-style stitching. Sashiko embroidery is an ancient Japanese technique which is essentially a decorative Running Stitch stitched in striking geometric patterns.

Being over 400 years old, this technique has a rich and interesting history. If you want to find out what it was originally used for and why it became popular, head over to Japan Crafts.

free sashiko patterns pdf step4
Sashiko embroidery example

How to embroider shoes

Top tips for embroidery on shoes

Stitch on top of the fabric

To make stitching the shoes easier, don’t pull your needle through to the back, instead, work on top of the fabric.

Do this by pushing your needle horizontally through the entry point of your next stitch while finishing the previous one. Try to keep the knots inside your shoe small to avoid bumps that might rub and irritate your feet.

Use a loop start to avoid bumps

This project uses an even number of strands throughout. You can use the loop start method to avoid any bumps at all.

Loop start method:

  1. Take half the strands required and cut them to twice the length needed.
  2. Fold them in half, and thread the ends through your needle.
  3. Work a stitch and then slip your needle through the loop at the back.

What stitches will I need for this project?

Are you looking for more tips and tricks to upgrade your stitching? Check out our embroidery stitch library.

What materials do I need to embroider shoes?

  • Canvas espadrilles: white (or another colour of your choice)
  • Stranded cotton: 1 skein each of bright blue, avocado green, orange, light orange, pink and yellow
  • Basic embroidery kit
  • Embroidered shoes template
how to embroider shoes

You Will Need

  • Canvas espadrilles
  • Stranded cotton
  • Basic embroidery kit

Total time:

Step 1

Transfer your design to your shoes

Transfer the designs from the templates onto your shoes using your preferred method. Remember to adjust the template sizes to fit your shoes.

Use tracing paper on the template to flip the design. This will create a pair of shoes with a mirrored pattern.

transfer your design to the shoe

Step 2

Running Stitch on the toe of the shoe

Starting at the toe of the shoe, use six strands of light orange to stitch the curved design using Running Stitch.

Then, stitch the horizontal dashed lines using Running Stitch in six strands of bright blue.

Remember: Stitch on top of the fabric (as mentioned above).

embroidered shoes 2

Step 3

Work the pink and green stitches

Stitch the solid horizontal lines in six strands of pink using Backstitch.

Then, work the adjacent vertical dashed lines in six strands of avocado green and Running Stitch.

embroidered shoes 3

Step 4

Continue stitching working up the shoe

Continue working your way up the shoe, using six strands of each colour for the design and working on top of the fabric.

Work Running Stitch for the dashed lines and Backstitch for all the solid lines.

embroidered shoes 4

Step 5

Add the rainbows!

Next, add the rainbow on the heel using Running Stitch in six strands of bright blue, avocado green, yellow, orange and pink.

embroidered shoes 6

Step 6

Finishing your first shoe

Secure any loose threads.

Stitch the other shoe using the same method, but mirroring the pattern.

embroidered shoes 6

Spruce up your jeans

Add embroidery to your jeans to give them a fresh festival look this summer.

embroidered jeans main image

Strut your stuff in your new embroidered shoes!

Even though the stitching is quite simple on these shoes, you’ll find that it elevates your whole look! By using brightly coloured threads, you’ll definitely catch an eye or two.

Remember you don’t have to stick with the same colours we used, use your favourite colours, or you could even try metallic thread!

Got a pair of Converse that could use some sprucing?

We’ve got you covered with our embroidered Converse tutorial. We take a plain pair of Converse and add delicate wildflowers to give them a unique twist.

embroidered shoes main