the Carmel

Artisanal alpargates


Alpargates are a kind of espadrilles used by Spanish peasants in the 16th century. The Carmelites of the Teresian Reformation carried out by Saint Teresa of Avila adopted them and transmitted them to their foundations abroad.

The sole is made of a braided hemp braid, rolled up on itself and sewn very tightly. 

Sister Aimee  once thanked his family for a gift of raw material in a letter to his sister Marie: "I have just received a large bag of hemp sown and harvested by my dear brother Arsène".

It is with pleasure that I saw and handled it. This hemp will be used to make the mat to form the underside of our alpargates (or shoes) which are not in use in the world, or rather in our France because it was once, in the time of our mother Sainte Thérèse, the shoe of the poor in Spain. It is a providence that comes to us very timely. Our good custodian did not know where to buy some to provide the sister in charge of our shoes with her supply for this year. [Sr St Vincent de Paul].

The top and the heel are made in a large woven fabric, except the end of the toes, named rosette and made with a needle (model opposite).

alpargate needles LT
tools-alpargates LT

Top, heel and sole were sewn with very large threads using these large needles and awls, several of which are preserved (pictured right). This work was often given to the sisters of the white veil (the lay sisters), given the physical strength it required.

These handmade shoes wore out very quickly. Thus, Sr. Aimée continues in the same letter to her family: I am one of the sisters who wear the most shoes, always having a job that keeps me busy on Sundays and holidays as well as on working day.

See here the room where they were made.

Walking with alpargates is difficult on terracotta tiles wet (these terracotta tiles), hence the wearing of wooden "clogs" to walk on the tiling of the cloisters in very humid weather.

As the alpargates were very dirty because of their light color, the Carmelites also put on clogs over their sandals to go to the garden.

For the laundry, we had to go straight to the clog because wet alpargates take a long time to dry! Marie Guérin complains about it in a letter to her father (letter of July 3, 1898).

LT miniature alpargates
Some miniature models from Spain that have been preserved