Friday, December 16, 2011

Tutorial: How to make felt baby booties

Today I made a pair of wet-felted baby booties, and thought I'd take some pictures as I went along to show you all how I did it.

The first thing I did was to make my pattern. The little lady who is getting these has a foot that is about 4" long by about 2" wide, so that is the center oval there on the left side. I drew another oval half again as big around that, because wool shrinks as it is becoming felt. Then I drew a second matching oval over on the right, and joined them in the middle to become a weird looking U shape. (Picture two boots lying on their sides, with their tops touching.)

Then I took that U, and cut it out of a tightly woven, sturdy fabric. (Those are my felted rocks littering the project. I use them as pattern weights.)

After I had my pattern, I assembled the rest of my tools and materials: wool roving (NOT superwash), bubble wrap, netting, hot water, dish soap, and a scissors. Not pictured is the towel I put on the floor to catch drips. Felt making is a wet, soapy job.

I spread the bubble wrap on the table, and put the pattern/resist on top of it. (The bubble wrap keeps the water more or less contained, and the texture gives me something to rub against while I'm felting down the wool.) Then I put down a light, even layer of wool roving.

I put down a second layer of wool roving, at right angles to the first one. Notice that the wispy ends are hanging slightly over the edge of the resist.

Then a third layer goes down, at right angles to the last one. At this point, I felt around and added a touch more wool if there were any thin points.

Now I added the surface decoration, which in this case was little wisps of four different colors of wool roving.

I carefully flipped the whole thing over.


Then I removed the resist for a moment, and wet down just the center of the stack of wool with hot hot soapy water.


I put the resist back into place, and then gently folded those trailing edge wisps over it.

Now, just like I did before, I put three more layers of wool right over the top of what I'd already done, and added some more color to match the other side. Again, the edges were trailing beyond the previous work.


I wet down the center again with hot soapy water.


Then I flipped the whole thing over again, and folded those edges over one more time. At this point, the resist is totally encased in wool. I wet the whole thing down with the hot soapy water.


Now I put the netting over my wool, and gently rubbed it with my hands. Wool fibers will felt themselves together with water, soap, heat, and agitation. The netting keeps the wool from shifting out of place too much while the rubbing forms a beginning of a felted skin on the wool.


I flipped it over gently and rubbed the other side. After awhile of repeating that, the felt started to hold together nicely. I'm working more on the middles at this point, because I don't want to really hard felt down the edges until the next bit.


At this point I cut the U shape right in half. Now I had two boot blanks started on their way.


I carefully pulled the resist out of the center of the boot blanks.


Then I stuck my hand into the boot, and rubbed the seams flat until they held together, flattened out, and didn't have any lumps. A little more soap and hot water helped this along.


Now that things were holding together, it was time to really make felt. Remember that wool felts together with agitation? I spent about an hour, working back and forth between the two booties. I scrunched them up and rolled them between my hands. I rubbed them against the bubbles in the bubble wrap. I frequently stuck my hand in the boot, and rubbed the felt around my fingers. I knew that the more you rub the felt in one direction, the more it will shrink in that direction, and I used that to shape the boots until they matched the dimensions I was looking for.


The tops of the boots kind of had a mind of their own on the shaping. I could have left the edges kind of rustic and natural looking like this.


But instead, I trimmed the top down even.


Then I rubbed the top end between my fingers to heal the cut edge.


I also added a little cut down the center top of the boot, to make it easier to get on and off.


When I was satisfied with the shape and size of the boots, I rinsed the soap out with cool water, and left them to dry.


You can see how far they shrunk from the original pattern!


And here are the finished booties. I'll have the little girl who is getting these put them on when they are slightly damp, and wear them around until they are dry. That will finish the shaping process by molding the felt to perfectly fit her feet.

9 comments:

  1. What a fascinating process. And I have a new found respect for the work that goes into making these. They turned out very cute!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this! Very interesting to see the process. I love felted things, and these baby booties are adorable!!

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  3. Adorable! I've wet felted adult slippers, so I know how much work this was. The results are just great!

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  4. Cute!! Thanks for the tutorial.

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  5. This looks simple enough to try. Want them in my size though :)

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  6. Thanks, everyone!

    Rhiannon, go for it. It works just as well for adult sized slippers, though it takes a little longer for them to felt down properly. They're very comfortable. If you are doing your own, stick them on your feet towards the end, and rub the wool so it will mold exactly to your foot size. (Though, from experience, be careful not to curl your toes when you do that, or the slipper will end up just a bit too short for toe-wiggle room.)

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  7. this is amazing!! gonna try to do that for me little one!

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  8. beautiful, I want to try this but how much wool would I need for... say... a size 5 toddler slipper? Do you have any suggestions as to what kind of wool roving I should buy and where?

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