Handmade alpargates



Alpargates are a kind of handmade espadrille used by Spanish farmers of the 16th century. The Carmelites of the Teresian reform carried out by Teresa of Avila adopted them and passed on to their foundations abroad.

The sole is made of a braid of hand-woven hemp wound upon itself and sewn very tightly.

alpargate semelle LTSr Aimee thanked her family one day for the gift of raw materials in a letter to her sister Marie: I just received a big bag of hemp sewn and harvested by my dear brother Arsène. I looked at it and handled it with pleasure. This hemp will be used to make the braid that will form the bottom of our alpargates (or shoes) that are not in use in the world, or rather in our France. In the past, in the time of our mother Saint Teresa it was the shoe of the poor in Spain. It was a godsend that happened at the right time. Our good depositary didn’t know where to buy this to give this sister in charge of providing us with shoes this year. [Sr St Vincent de Paul].


The upper and the heel were made of a woven fabric. It is not tightly fitted on the foot, making the walk a little slippery. It was also hampered by the length of the habit.

The upper, heel and sole were sewn with thick thread with big needles and awls, some of which have been kept (right photo).

This work was often given to the white veil sisters (converse sisters) given the physical strength that was required.

The frequency of replacement of the alpargates was also problematic. Thus, Sr. Aimée continued in the same letter to her family: I am one of the sisters who wear out shoes the most, always having a job that keeps me active on Sundays and feast days as well as work days.

See the room where they were made.

outils-alpargates LT

socques LTWalking with alpargates is difficult on wet floor tile (these squares of baked earth), thus the wearing of wooden sandals (photo) for walking on the cloister tiles during wet weather.

As the alpargates were easily soiled because of their light color, the Carmelites also wore wooden sandals with their alpargates to go in the garden. For the laundry, they had to wear clogs over alpargates because wet alpargates took a long time to dry! Marie Guérin complained of this in a letter to her father (letter of July 3rd, 1898).


A few scale models received from Spain.

alpargates miniatures LT

Back to the Work home page.