Fix Your Holey Flats and Make Them Beautiful With Embroidery Floss!

Fix Your Holey Flats and Make Them Beautiful With Embroidery Floss!

While picking the girls up from school one day I looked down and noticed a couple holes in my favorite flats. I later noticed similar holes in my other pair and from there on in I couldn’t ignore them. I looked them up on the AllBirds website hoping to get more but I didn’t liked any of the current colors offered. I figured I had nothing left to lose and, noticing the slight holes all over the shoe, thought of cross stitch fabric and thus decided to patch the holes with embroidery floss. Surprisingly the one I was most excited about wasn’t that great and the one I didn’t care about turned out fantastic. Looking back I’m so glad I jumped in and I figured I’d share what I did in case you want to do the same too.

Pinterest-geared image showing, from top to bottom, a collage of three images, the title of this post, a before and after photo of my brown flats, a final photo of my blue flats, and my main URL.

I first bought my AllBirds Women’s Tree Breezer flats in the summer of 2019 and loved them so much that the next summer, 2020, I bought them again in brown. My new brown ones were kept at the front door for whenever I went out while my older blue ones were at the back door so I didn’t have to go grab my first ones. As such they were both worn consistently over the last year or so and thus it was understandable but disappointing when I noticed the holes.

As I love the brown flats more I decided to keep it simple on them and experimented, first, on the blue ones instead. I wasn’t quite sure what to do though so I decided to look online for ideas first. I’m so glad I did as I absolutely love how they turned out and they’re now my favorite of the two flats. With the brown flats I choose something safer and although I like how they turned out I don’t love them. All this to say although I started with the blue flats I figured I’d start by showing you the embroidery floss, then how I fixed the brown flats, before finally going over my favorite ones.

Getting Started

I started out by washing my flats before beginning so I’d start with a fresh and clean canvas for the embroidery floss. After jumping online to confirm that we can in fact wash the shoes I removed the insoles and tossed both pairs in the washing machine with a couple old towels as I remember my washing machine having difficulty getting soap out when the load was too small. I then skipped the dryer and laid them over a cooling rack to dry overnight.

Image shows both pairs of flats laid out in a row on a cooling rack on the kitchen table beside a LEGO planter.
After washing the flats in the washing machine I laid them out to dry on a cooling rack over night.

In case you’re curious here’s a link to the frequently asked questions for Are Allbirds Washable? and Can you wash Allbirds insoles?. As a quick side note I’m not an affiliate or anything just wanted to share how I restored my favorite flats.

Embroidery Floss

Before beginning I figured I’d go over my embroidery floss. I’ve been interested in embroidery for a while but never got fully into it. That said I dabbled years ago when putting together my girls’ quiet book pages with several pages including appliqué animals, threading a bumblebee through flowers, and a decorative embroidery sampler page. Since then I’ve added to my threads both with packages of mixed threads and the odd kit (love the TARDIS one) and have used them for small projects including patching a hole in lightweight fabric. As such I was able to simply grab my container of embroidery floss along with one of my larger eyed sewing needles and I was ready to go.

I knew going in that I didn’t want to use the default embroidery floss on the flats and instead used a single strand  taken from the six strands that the floss came in. As such, after choosing my color, I cut the length I wanted and then carefully untwisted the length so I ended up with six lengths of thread rather than the original larger one. I then selected one, threaded it on my needle, and tied the ends together so I was working with two threads as it was doubled over. This untwisting was hard as I hadn’t had a lot of practice and I ended up with some knots and even broke one of the threads so I did loose some pieces along the way. Over time I realized I should use my needle to unravel just the end of the floss, select one of the threads, and pull it out from the others. Somehow this didn’t tangle it up as much and worked so much better.

Image shows an opened pink square container filled with open circles and many colors of thread.
I use a plastic container meant for scrapbooking paper to hold my embroidery hoops, embroidery flosses, and the remnants of my older kits.
Image shows my pinching near the end of some orange thread. The end splays out and the thread on the other side is bunched up. The table below shows a freed thread along with a blunt embroidery needle.
Over time I realized it was simpler to unravel the end of the thread, choose a single piece, and carefully pull it out. This cinches in the thread while you’re pulling but once the thread is out it loosens up and with the thread gone the twisting is a bit looser for the next thread you remove.
Image shows a reddish brown thread on a table with a sewing needle nearby. The end of the thread is frayed away with bits scattered around in front of it.
I had a mix of threads in my container and quickly realized not all embroidery floss is made the same. This one wasn’t composed of twisted threads like the others and instead tore apart into pieces when attempted to be made thinner.

If you want more information about embroidery floss you can check on this brief guide on Needle ‘n Thread or look over the thirteen types of hand embroidery thread on Sew Guide.

My Brown Flats – Keeping It Simple

I started out fixing my blue flats, shown after these, and then went to work on my favorite brown flats afterwards. I don’t know if I just blanked but these didn’t turn out as nice as I had hoped. That said, as the process is simpler, I decided to start with these and then go over the blue ones below.

To start out with I went through my floss and tried to pick a color that would best match the brown so I could start by patching the holes before deciding how to continue. The first embroidery floss I chose, shown above, wouldn’t separate into strands so I switched to a lighter brown instead. After cutting a piece off and pulling one of the strands away from the rest of the floss I threaded my needle and tied the ends together. This meant I was working from a double stranded thread as the single ply embroidery floss was doubled over. When cutting the thread you’ll want it long enough that you won’t need to constantly tying it off to go to a new space, but you’ll also want it short enough to not get tangled easily. So basically you’ll want the Goldilocks length. Goldilocks here meaning having or producing an optimal balance usually between two extremes (Merriam-Webster definition) so not too short and not too long.

Image shows the thread and embroidery floss on the table next to my flat.
I cut a section of embroidery floss then pulled a single strand from the rest of it. This strand was threaded through the eye of the needle before both ends were knotted together.

At this point I had already stitched the blue flats and noticed that that although they looked great they felt a bit tighter than before. As such, while I went ahead closing each of the holes in my flats, I attempted to make any knots on the outside of the flat rather than the inside so there would be less thickness applied directly to my foot.

Image shows the front of my flat with my finger inside the shoe helping highlight where the hole is.
Once I threaded the needle I grabbed my first shoe, pressed a finger against the hole from the inside to confirm the edges, and then stitched it closed.

Once the holes were patched I started wondering what I should add to make them better. At this point the floss wasn’t apparent so looking back I wish I had stopped here. Instead I decided to add more of the same color and attempted to make them look artsy. After covering the main two holes I chose to go simpler on the third smaller hole with a little heart.

Image shows the front top of both shoes side by side over the brown table. They both have a decorative triangular or heart-ish criss-crossing design over their main hole. The left shoes also has a small left covering a little patch on the top side.
Once I minimally patched each of the three holes I went back and tried to add a decorative artsy aspect to each one. The smallest hole, on the left, had a heart stitched on after I attempted to make the other two looks artsy and heart-like.

Before stitching these shoes I was excited to see what I’d add as these were my very favorite. While doing it; however, I noticed a cut on the back that I hadn’t noticed before. Luckily for the shoes, and crappy for the decoration, I quickly noticed that the inner rubber made it’s way up the back so I couldn’t really get my needle in to stitch it closed although it was making my shoe still wearable. I decided why bother, for now, and ignored the back and kept the front simple. Maybe I’ll leave them as they are or maybe… in a couple months I’ll find a way to cover or fix the back and tie it in with the front.

Image shows the back of the shoe with a cut in it that I don't remember happening.
At some point in the stitching I noticed the cut on the back and wondered when that had happened. Between the fact that I wasn’t sure how to fix it and the lack of inspiration I decided to leave it as is for now and kept the front simple.

All in all the shoes fit awesomely and they looked better than before so, I guess, all’s well that ends well!

Image is taken looking down at my patched brown shoes while I wear them with jeans. Under my shoes is cement and tons of fallen yellow and tan leaves.
The final shoes… for now!

My Blue Flats – Adding Flowers

These flats were older than my brown ones and felt a bit tighter so I started out being less excited about them which lead to me deciding to work on these first to experiment, as a trial run, before stitching on the brown flats. I’m so glad I did as I absolutely adore how these shoes turned out and they’re now my favorite! That said with the additional embroidery floss inside the flats they were tighter once made… but over time they stretched back out and I don’t notice any tightness anymore. That extra tightness, though, was why I tried to keep the knots to the outside with my brown flats I stitched on after.

Before starting I searched online for stitch ideas and came across Sew Guide’s post 6 of my favourite FILLING STITCHES in Embroidery. I especially loved the third one showing a combination of long and short stitches; a precursor to needle painting which looks really interesting.

Image shows the title from the Sew Guide along with four images from their website and their URL.
I loved the article from Sew Guide showing their six favorite stitches. I took a screenshot of the top portion on October 16th, 2021.
Image shows three overlapping images. The top right one shows the flower drawing with the tips embroidered with staggered dark pink lines. The middle is a closeup of the flower with red stitches added. The last image shows the finished flower with three colors used for each petal, yellow center, and green stem.
The set of images showing the combination of long and short stitches to make the petals were my absolute favorite. Screenshot was taken from Sew Guide on October 16th, 2021.

I loved the petals and pictured using the staggered stitches for the center of the flower and petals leading to both sides of the shoe. I was super excited to start but decided to first grab my tailor’s chalk and mark what I was thinking on the flats so I’d have a guide and be able to mirror them against each other easier. For each flower itself I decided to center the bulb over the hole so the patch job wouldn’t be apparent and, since the holes were mirrored, this would help keep the flats a matching pair.

A quick aside. This is where I came across my first issue. There was a hard material along the bottom edge of the shoe that overlapped with the blue cloth top. From the shoe perspective this is awesome and helped my flats last as long as they did. From an embroidery patching perspective this sucked and I couldn’t make my stitches go all the way down as I had planned. That said I went as far as I could. This is why, later for me but above for you, I couldn’t fix the cut on the back of my brown flats as this material went up the entire way on the back of the flats. So great on AllBirds part but limiting on my design process here.

Image shows the pair of flats side by side with an outline of a flower sketched on either. The cooling rack, flat tailor's chalk, and box of chalks rest beside it.
After the inspiration struck I grabbed some tailor’s chalk and sketched out an outline of the flower I was picturing. I kept the center of the flower over the hole I had to patch, tried to mirror the two blooms, and had the petals arch all the way to the edge of the fabric where it met the soles.

With the design in place it was time to start. I decided to start with the center of the flower so I could patch the hole and chose some lavender embroidery floss for this task. After removing a single thread from the floss, threading it through the eye of the needle, and tying the two ends together I was ready to go with, essentially, two threads on my needle. With the thread prepped I then patched the hole before then following the outline of the chalk to outline the center bulb. Each time my thread ran short I tied it off, trimmed the ends, and threaded a new length of thread.

Image shows the chalk marked flats on the right, the embroidery floss on the right, and the threads in the center with the chalk and scissors laid out. Right beside the flats you can see the needle with a double set of threads extending from it and ending at a knot.
I grabbed some lavender embroidery floss, cut off a section of it, and then used the tip of my sewing needle to separate out the threads in it. I then took one of those threads, threaded it through the eye of the needle, and tied the two ends together making a double threaded length to stitch on the flats.
Image is a closeup of the tip of the flats showing the lavender patch in the back and the thread extending from the front flat. In the background you can see the rest of the threads, mu scissors, and the paper that had held the floss together.
I used the thread to patch the first shoe and expanded out until I ran out of thread. I then tied off a new thread on the needle and started patching the other flat. I wanted to keep them mirrored so I kept switching between the two so it was simple steps of design and copy rather than a large it has to match job.
Image shows the shoe tip with the back flat only patched and the front flat with a vague outline and two threads extending after it was knotted but not trimmed.
Once the holes were patched I started going along the chalk outline to create the edge of the flower’s center. Once I ran out of thread I tried to tie a knot and, if there wasn’t enough left, cut the thread in two and manually knotted it as you would a shoe… if you wanted a knot.
Image is a closeup of the first flat with an outline halfway through being stitched.
After doing the outline on the flat I returned to the first one and added the outline to that one too. Both times I did a backstitch to create the outline.

With the outline of the center in place I started zigzagging within that outline so I could build up some height. At this point I stopped taking photographs but I then used the small and longer stitching described in the Sew Guide’s post to paint each petal using two colors of thread going as far as I could before I hit the hard inner edge. With the petals done I then returned to the center of the flower and used the lavender and the matching dark purple from the petal to paint the center too. I chose to use the dark purple in both parts to tie the parts of the flower together as a whole bringing the lavender center and orange tinged petals together.

Image is taken from above showing the structure stitched underneath the paint threading which happened after this photo. To the side you see the chalk, needle, floss, scissors, and glass of water.
Once the outline was in place I zigzagged back and forth to create height for the thread painting later on. After this photo I used two embroidery floss colors for the petals before returning to the center to fill in the spaces and paint two colors there too.

These flats felt a bit tighter than the brown ones before I even stitched them. Then with all the threads added they felt way too tight to wear but I made a point to wear them in smaller chunks of time where I could remove them easily if needed. Over time they stretched out and I slowly forgot that they had been too tight and started wearing them for longer periods of time without worrying. Now they’re perfect again and don’t feel tight at all. I love how they turned out and wear them more than the brown flats too!

Image shows the flats taken from above looking down at them on dead yellowy fallen leaves.
Image shows the flats taken from above looking down at them against greenery and dead yellowed leaves.
Image is taken from a high selfie angle of me smiling and looking at the camera. I'm wearing sunglasses, a blue Doctor Who face mask around my neck, a blue Doctor Who top, jeans, and my blue flats.
I had to snap a photo on the way to pickup the girls from school when I realized I was wearing all blue. Love the pop of color by my toes!

I went into this excursion loving both my flats and saddened by the small holes at my toes. I loved my brown flats a bit more and was afraid to touch them. As such, I started out experimenting with the blue flats and created works of art that I absolutely love wearing. The brown flats, that I put off touching, also turned out okay but I now don’t love them as much as the blue ones. That said both are patched, unique to me, and work great. I’m so glad I experimented as it made both of them feel like new and I didn’t have to buy anything to do it!

Have you worn AllBirds tree breezers? Have you needed to fix them? If so, for these or some other shoe, how did you patch them? I’d love to know more ways to extend the use of my footwear while making them unique to me so feel free to share what you did, or plan to do, in the comments below.  Also how did it turn out? As expected, better, worse, or horrible?

Either way I hope this post finds you well and you’re having a great day!

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