Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Felted Slippers

My favorite part of felting was shaving the slippers.  This picture was taken before they were shorn.

For about a year now Andy has been complaining that his feet are cold and pointedly showing me the layers of socks he applies to his feet.  Since it’s getting to be winter, and even in Tennessee it gets a bit chilly, Andy has been back at it and not so discretely letting me know that it was time that I got started on making his slippers.  He threatened to buy slippers if I didn’t get going, so a couple months back I bought yarn and a pattern.  I’m not sure why Andy felt confident in my ability to make him a pair of slippers, especially after seeing these.  It may have been my insistence that he not buy slippers, after all, why should I have a skill (I use that word loosely) if we’re not going to use it?
The dog is everywhere.

I’ve knit lovely things before, hats and socks, but those horrible slippers just threw off my confidence.  My biggest problem is not knowing what yarn to use, what size yarn and needle.  The solution to this was to go to the yarn store with a pattern that specified yarn weight and needle size and stick to the plan, I would not improvise.  No winging it!  I asked the lady who runs the yarn store where “worsted weight” wool was located and when I made my selection and got up to the register she said, “Oh, looks like you decided on the chunky weight instead.”  Chunky weight?!  I had no idea there was even a category called chunky!  The worsted weight yarns looked pretty chunky to me and I liked this so-called “chunky” color better.  Ugh.

That’s when my plan went out the door and the owner introduced me to a pattern for felted clogs (this pattern was written by someone whose first language is English), showed me correctly weighted wool that was on sale and helped me pick out the correct needles.  She ensured me that this was a simple pattern and that felting was easy (you’ve done it accidentally to a sweater before, right? ...of course).  I left the store with a brand new plan and a daunting skill ahead of me, felting.
Felting supplies, pillow case tied with slipper inside, soap, old towel to help agitate.

The pattern wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  After watching many YouTube videos I learned how to M1, the overcast stitch, back stitching, and knitting two pieces together, I also learned the mattress stitch which I accidentally used when I should have done an overcast stitch (oops!).  Without the Internet I really wouldn’t be able to make anything, the videos on this website are amazing.  I think a private knitting instructor who hangs out at my house while I attempt to make stuff would be really handy.  Kind of like a knitting nanny.  It’d be nice if they would do laundry too.

Learning everything and putting it into practice took a lot of time and therefore I wasn’t making the slippers fast enough for Andy’s liking.  I finally made a deal with him that if he made dinner I would make his slippers.  A mini Glee marathon over the weekend helped me to finish the second slipper and... my God these are slippers?!  They’re huge!  They are slippers for giant’s feet!  Whose feet are these going to fit?
These slippers are much to big for the dog's feet.

From my accidental sweater felting experiences I know that felting shrinks things; however, I had no confidence that these creations would shrink to the appropriate size.  They’re so big!  I couldn’t get excited about the felting process because I was worried all my work was for naught.

The slippers turned out beautiful and Andy’s feet are nice and toasty warm.  He won’t say it, but his feet might even be too warm.

Here’s how to felt, a very general guide to felting.


Pillow case
Washing machine (or a big tub and a long stir stick)
Old towel, jeans or if you want to be crazy, shoes
Mild soap
Item(s) to be felted*

The Gist:

Put your item(s) to be felted into your pillow case and tie the pillow case shut.  Your items should have room to move around a bit.

Place your pillow cased items into the washing machine, with the towel/jeans and some mild soap.  Make sure hot water will come out of the machine and turn it on to the first setting of the regular wash cycle and let your wool get agitated!.  You’ll want to run through this cycle a few times.

I learned that it took people anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.  It took me hours to get the slippers felted down to size.  I think this is because my machine doesn’t agitate like many other machines, it’s very slow, which agitated me.  If this is the case for your washing machine, it may be best to let the tub fill with water and use a long stir stick to agitate the wool yourself. Your stuff will be done when it's either the right size or you just like it or if you can't distinguish the stitches anymore

The pillow case is for catching run away strands of wool, and there will be lots!

*Item(s) to be felted should be wool.  Acrylic yarn wont felt.  If the wool is “superwash” then it has been treated so as to not shrink in the wash, this means it won’t felt.
Slippers complete, drying and being formed with plastic bag stuffing.

If anyone out there has more tips or tricks for felting items, please share!  I’m a beginner at this but I might like to try felting something else.  I would definitely do these slippers again, I just need to learn how to knit faster!

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