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Sheep on your feet?

Sheep on your feet?

It's not difficult to transform a bit of wool batting into long-lasting, custom-made slippers that fit nearly as snugly as socks.

You start by "felting' the batting--soaking the fibers with hot, soapy water and massaging them vigorously (they mesh together easily). You then "full'--or shape--the thick, lightweight fabric to fit the intended feet. Finally, you let the slippers dry, and finish them with colorful braiding or floss. A pair takes 3 hours to make but has to dry for two or three days.

We list batting sources on page 141. Although you may get the hang of felting right away, consider ordering extra batting for a trial slipper.

Materials for the project, designed by Anne Vickrey of Menlo Park, California, include:

A 9- by 15-inch scrap of colorfast cotton

Precarded wool batting (about 3 ounces for slippers to fit a six-year-old, 4 ounces for a woman, 6 ounces for a man)

I box soap flakes

Baking soda

Braid or cotton embroidery thread (optional) to trim openings

Chamois (optional) for soles, available at hardware or auto-supply stores

You will also need a soft pencil for marking fabric; a protective plastic sheet, a large absorbent towel, and a large wooden cutting board to work on; a postal or kitchen scale and piece of cardboard for weighing the batting; hot water, a bowl, and a 2-cup measure for the soap solution; sharp-tipped scissors; a washboard or broiler rack for fulling (shaping); a needle (optional); and, most important, the person you'll be making the slippers for, or someone with the same foot size.

Setting up workspace. Since felting can be messy, work in your kitchen or outdoors. Spread the plastic sheet over a table or counter; put the towel on the plastic and the cutting board on top.

Preparing pattern and batts. First, cut the cotton pattern for the slippers, following directions in step 1 (page 132).

Next, gently pull the wool batting into four equal rectangles. For child-size slippers, each should be 1 inch larger than pattern; for adults, 2 to 3 inches larger.

Using the cardboard as a support, weigh the four batts (deduct the weight of the cardboard first). If the batts are under the 3-, 4-, or 6-ounce requirement, add a thin layer from remaining wool; if they are over, remove a layer.

To keep wool fibers loose until felting begins, relayer batts (step 2); if needed, redistribute wool to maintain their rectangular shape. Lay the four batts separately on flat surface; do not stack.

Felting. Wool batting turns into felt when massaged with hot, soapy water. Mix in 2-cup batches to ensure liquid is hot.

To 2 cups of hot tap water (120| to 130|), add 1 tablespoon soap flakes. To test, pour solution on some excess batting and massage; wool should feel greasy. If it doesn't, add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda.

Next, felt the batting, following steps 3 through 7. Gently massage the wool at first, pushing down with your finger tips. As fibers begin to knit, use your whole hand to rub more vigorously in a circular motion. Small lumps of batting may form where edges meet; these can sometimes be smoothed out during fulling. If not, use this rougher side for the sole.

For steps 8 and 9, cut slit in top and slip your hand inside. Work on the heel area first, felting and shaping it with upward movements of your hands to elevate heel. Continue to massage slipper inside and out, rubbing in a circular motion. You should end up with an oversize slipper that doesn't hold its shape.

Fulling. This molds and shrinks the slipper. First, rinse it with water and check for shape against your hand (or, better yet, enlarge the opening and check size against a suitable foot). Then dip slipper in hot, soapy solution. To reduce toe or heel, rub in a circular motion against washboard or rack (step 10); for sides, sole, and top, work up and down; rub only where you want to shrink. Stop every 30 seconds to recheck fit; shrinkage can't be reversed.

Work until slipper fits snugly (step 11). If necessary, refelt opening and continue fulling to improve fit.

To make the second slipper, repeat steps 1 through 11.

Finishing touches. Rinse slippers in water, squeeze out, then air-dry; it takes two to three days. Do not use a clothes dryer. Once slippers are dry, you can decorate them with braid or cotton embroidery thread. Sew on chamois soles, if desired.

To clean, wash in cold water and soap; shape should not change.

Wool batting sources

Felting's success depends on the batting, which should be a blend of fine (fast-knitting) and coarse (slow-knitting) fibers. These four sources sell good-quality batting, most in 5- by 28-foot sheets (1 pound, enough for two to four pairs adult-size or five pairs child-size slippers). Dyed wool is more expensive, takes longer to felt. Prices do not include shipping.

California. Ede Riesenhuber, c/o A. Vickrey, 1064 Sonoma Ave., Menlo Park 94025; call 3 to 5 weekdays at (415) 321-3209. White batting, $10 per pound; gray batting, $12 per pound; 1/2-pound minimum.

Oregon. B.J.'s Sheep Shed, Box 46, Beavercreek 97004; call Bernalou Rosebrook mornings or after dark daily at (503) 632-3122. White batting, 75 cents per ounce; dyed and blended (mohair, wool) batting, $1.25 per ounce; 1-ounce minimum.

Loose Ends Fiberworks, 1442 Pearl St., Eugene 97401; call Ruthann Duncan between 10 and 4:30 Mondays through Thursdays at (503) 836-2435. White, gray, and dyed batting; $6 to $20 per pound; 1-pound minimum.

Washington. Mostly Handspun, 19315 67th Ave. S.E., Snohomish 98290; call Rosemary Ortman between 10 and 8 daily at (206) 481-6581. White and gray batting, $10 per pound; 2-pound minimum. Dyed batting, $15 per pound; 1-pound minimum.

Photo: Snug and soft wool slippers can be worn with socks on chilly nights, or without them when weather turns warmer. Felted wool fibers don't scratch

Photo: In the spring, shearer clips raw wool from Dorset sheep. Fleece will be washed, then carded into batting used to make wool felt

Photo: 1. To make pattern, center foot on fabric; trace. Next, fold fabric-- tracing side out--in half along length through heel and longest toe, then in half across width. Cut an oval through all four layers, with about a 3/4-inch margin around tracing. Unfold fabric

Photo: 2. Separate wool into rectangular batts, two for each slipper, then divide into four layers of equal thickness. Restack so fibers of each layer lie perpendicular to the ones below. Redistribute wool, if necessary, to maintain batts' rectangular shape

Photo: 3. Center first batt on cutting board. Dip fabric pattern in hot, soapy solution; center on wool. Saturate pattern with more solution

Photo: 4. Massage pattern slowly and thoroughly into batt until wool mats down underneath, 3 to 5 minutes; keep wool surrounding pattern dry

Photo: 5. Gather batting over pattern; overlap edges 1 inch at center seam (thin edges if needed). Ease wool over pattern to form oval. Soak with solution

Photo: 6. Gently massage the top of the wet batt bundle to eliminate seams, about 15 minutes. Do not work around the outside edge

Photo: 7. Center second batt on top. Pour solution over felted oval; massage until wool mats down. Flip so oval is on top. Repeat steps 5 and 6

Photo: 8. Two inches from one end of slipper, push scissors into batting until point touches pattern; cut slit big enough to slide your hand inside

Photo: 9. After felting edges of slit to keep hole from stretching, insert hand; rub inside and outside of slipper vigorously, shaping as you go. Remove the cotton

Photo: 10. To "full' slipper, rub it against washboard to adjust fit. Check size often by testing on foot; abrasion makes wool shrink. If fibers tear, soak the slipper and then felt it again

Photo: 11. Rinse slipper under faucet, then slip on. If it needs more shrinking, repeat step 10. Slipper should feel snug, contour well to foot
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:slippers
Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1987
Words:1342
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