Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tutorial: Making Felt Slippers

A pair of felt ankle boots.

I did this tutorial a few years ago, when I was making a set of reproduction 1400's ecceliastical felt boots for an arts competition. But that was in my Live Journal, so I thought I'd transfer the entry over to here. This is the first half of the tutorial, showing how to make the felt boot. If you stop here, you've made a great set of house slippers. And if you vary the colors of wool that you use on the outside layer, they can be very decorative! I'm thinking of making another pair for myself, for winter house wear.


First, make your pattern by tracing around your foot, and adding a couple of inches and an upper, like so:
initial pattern

Then transfer that to either plastic or a tightly woven fabric. Flip it over and trace it again, so you end up with a weird U shape.
fabric resist, ready to go

Cover this resist with three layers of carded wool.
cover the resist with 3 layers of wool

Flip the whole shebang over, remove the resist, and wet down the middle of the pile of wool with very hot, soapy water.
wet down the middle with hot soapy water

Put the resist back in place.
put the resist back in place

Fold the wispy edges of the bottom wool over onto the resist. Add another three layers of wool on top.
fold edges of bottom layer over resist, add top layer

Wet the whole mess down. Flip the thing over. Fold the wispy edges of the wool over, and gently wet them into place with very hot water. This creates the seam on the sides. Your resist is totally enclosed at this point.
wet the whole thing down, flip over, smooth edges over to close seam

Gently massage the surface of the wool until it just holds together. Roll the wool up in netting or bubble wrap, and roll it around until the edges just start to curl up. Cut the two boots apart, and remove the resist.
Gently work surface until it holds together. Cut in two, and remove the resist from the middles.

Now, spend 4 or 5 hours abusing the wool. Roll it, smack it, give it lots of hot hot water. The wool will shrink more in the direction you are rolling, so you can control the shape. Turn it inside out now and again.
Spend several hours rolling and abusing the felt, with lots of hot soapy water.

Shrink specific places even more by rubbing them on a wash board.
Selectively shrink parts using the wash board.

Do the final shaping by massaging the boot while it is on your foot.
Do the final shaping on your foot.

One down, one to go!
One down, one to go. Continued here: http://tangibledaydreams.blogspot.com/2010/10/tutorial-felt-slippers-into-1400s.html

23 comments:

  1. So cool!!! Thanks for taking the time for this tutorial.

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  2. My pleasure! If you make a pair, I'd love to see the pictures.

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  3. Thank you so much! I have been trying to make slippers for months now and I couldnt figure out the best way to do it. I had also tryed using a resist, it worked but not as well as I wanted, and now I know I just didnt full it long enough! I am very pleased and happy to say that I just finished one very nice looking alpaca wool boot thanks to your tutorial, too late now to finish the other one.... tomorrow will be a happy day for the other boot! thanks again.

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  4. Oh, I'm so tickled!! I'm glad this helped, and I hope you enjoy your nice warm feet. :) I'm thinking I want to make another pair now, and decorate the outside layer with all sorts of swirls of color.

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  5. Wow - this seems neat but I sure could use alittle more info. There is no sewing involved? Hmmm. The pattern that you make, the wierd U shape thing is for 2 boots, and at one point you cut it apart? Sorry, but if you could explain this better, it'd be nice...

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  6. Nope, no sewing at all. As you apply heat, water, soap, and agitation the wool fibers will 'velcro' themselves together. You end up with a seamless slipper that has been form fitted to your feet. And yes, if you look at the pictures above you'll see where I cut the two boots apart.

    If you haven't tried felting before, I'd suggest starting with a smaller project (like this one http://tangibledaydreams.blogspot.com/2009/08/tutorial-felt-camera-case.html ) so you get the idea of how it works.

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  7. OK - i understand it a bit more, thanks to your reply and a little more web searching. So up there is a step where the resist is removed (probably the first time you turn it inside out) and from the point forward it stays out, but the two halves of a boot do not meld together,

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  8. Hi there,

    Do you feel the seem at the bottom of the slipper? Thanks...

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  9. You do need to pay attention to getting just the right amount of wool at the seam, and then working the seam to even it out in the felting process. I have a slight ridge at the bottom of mine, but I don't notice it when I'm wearing the finished slippers. It just means I need more practice to even that out some more.

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  10. Hi! What do you generally make a resist out of? I figure paper wont' work because of the water. Do you use plastic? Let me know!

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  11. I have a ton of sled dog fur saved... it hasn't been carded, but I am wondering if I just start layering it at different angles and felting if that will work? would love to know your thoughts on this, thanks for the great tutorial, Carol

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    1. Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute and Samoyed felt beautifully. It is best to blend dog fur about 50/50 with wool as straight dog fur (called Cheingora) is WARM! Plus dog undercoat is like alpaca and buffalo and is inelastic. The wool addition helps with that too.
      Mary - proud husky parent

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  12. Anonymous, I used a tightly woven cotton cloth for this resist. But plastic works as well.

    Carol, it depends on the fur. Not all fiber felts well, as I learned when I made my first try at a felt rug. I was using sheep wool, but breed of sheep didn't give good felting fleece. My second try, with a different breed of sheep's fleece, worked much better. I would suggest making a smaller test first, to see how the fiber behaved. Perhaps something like a small ball or bead, like in this tutorial: http://tangibledaydreams.blogspot.com/2009/07/how-to-make-felt-beads.html If you can make a firm, smooth bead that doesn't pull back apart when it is dry, then you can try a bigger project.

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  13. Hi can you tell me,for the pair of slippers how many oz. of wool you suggest? Thank you

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  14. Hi! Thanks for stopping by.

    I didn't measure when I was making these, but the various books I have estimate between 7 and 10 oz, depending on the size of your foot and how high up the ankle your slippers go.

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  15. I seen this done one time at a wool fest. but it was done in one piece over a plastic foot sole shape made from a shower curtain. you covered both sides of the pattern and felted in a plastic bag rubbing then cut a slit in the top for the ankle area and felted and shaped more but i wish i could really find the pattern if anyone knows please send it to pintrest

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  16. Oohhh my god So stupid work. Other idea for felting easy?

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  17. If you look to your left on this page, scroll down and you'll see a list of 'labels'. Click on 'felt', and that will take you to several other hand felted projects.

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  18. hello, thank you for tutorial, how much of felt do I need in average for slippers (let's say size 42) like this ? (i don't want to buy too much or too little) ... and probably some good source to buy a felt online

    cheers

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  19. I didn't measure when I was making these, but the various books I have estimate between 7 and 10 oz, depending on the size of your foot and how high up the ankle your slippers go. I've gotten my wool most recently as mill end rovings at http://www.thesheepshedstudio.com/Roving.html . Just don't buy wool that has been treated to be superwash, because it won't felt for you.

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  20. Thanks so much for including this link with info about your demonstration at Estrella War XXIX. Unfortunately, I won't be coming until Thursday but will try on my own as my AZ all house tile floors are so cold in the winter. I will also use blog posts to answer the inevitable questions.

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    1. If you hit a snag, let me know and I'll try to help.

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  21. Shoe tutorial describing how to create a shoe structure out of wool layers . The concept of making a shoe shape is different . Thanks for the idea .

    Regards
    Barker Marine

    Men Shoes UK

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