Felt slippers

Before Christmas I was asked by three people if I made felt slippers. I didn’t but one friend was so keen that she sent me a link to instructions on how to make them. So I had a go at making a test pair for myself.

This is the result – not entirely successful. I used three layers of dark red merino and then three layers of grey Icelandic wool, because I thought this would make the outside sturdier – and they do feel quite robust. And they are reasonably symmetrical.

However, there were a couple of problems:

1. They didn’t shrink as much as I expected, so they’re too big for me (and too small for ESP). In my previous experience, the more layers of felt, the greater the shrinkage, so I expected these to shrink quite a lot, especially as there were three layers of merino. The resist I used was about 30% bigger than my foot – but although I fulled for ages, the final slippers refused to shrink any further. I wonder whether it would be easier if I had a form to put inside while fulling, to give the felt something to shrink against.

2. There are some prominent ridges along the sides where the wool bunched up over the edges of the resist. I couldn’t get rid of these, no matter how hard I rubbed. I think the issue here is that the instructions I followed recommended laying out three layers of wool at a time, each at right angles to the previous layer, before turning the resist over and doing the other side. Although I did trim the layers before folding them over on the other side, they were still quite bulky.

Normally I lay out one layer at a time on each side. With six layers of wool, this would obviously more time-consuming, but it might lead to a better result.

With this pair I could get round most of this problem by cutting away more of the felt around the heel to make the slippers more of a slip-on style. But I’ll probably just put them in the box labelled “Lessons learned” and move on!

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Felting on a balloon

I guess one of the advantages of not having sold anything at Spitalfields is that I don’t have to work like mad making new stock for the Tip Top Table Sale on 1 May.  I did feel like a one-woman scarf production line at times, which takes the fun out of it a bit. That would be the other advantage of selling online – you just put stuff up as it’s ready and don’t have to worry about having a half-empty stall.

Anyway, inspired by the gorgeous felt vessels made by Nicola and Zedster01, I thought I’d try making a rounded pot, using a balloon. I’ve made small felt pots before, using a cylinder of rolled-up bubble wrap, and Tess said that felting on a balloon is quite easy, as long as you thoroughly wet it with soapy water.

So I basically followed Zedster’s tutorial, using a balloon instead of a ball. I used two layers of fuschia merino, with an outer layer of grey Icelandic wool. Although I did wet the balloon well, and the first layer of wool stuck reasonably OK, I had more problems getting subsequent layers to stick. In the end, I would add a few strands, wet them, and then cover them with net and rub gently – not to felt, but just so that they stayed in place. This worked better. I also folded back the excess wool around the lip of the vessel before felting so that some of the fuschia showed on the outside (some also worked its way through the outer layer of Icelandic wool anyway).

I removed the balloon by bursting it before fulling, and after fulling I blew up another balloon inside the pot and hung it up to dry so that it retained the round shape. I love the result, and I love working with Icelandic wool – it seems to felt almost instantly!

Hanging up to dry

Another day, another bag

Still experimenting with making bags with integral handles. The proportions of this one are more pleasing; the dark brown wool is Icelandic, and the turquoise is merino with wool slubs.

I stretched the handle more on this one before it hardened, and rubbed the two halves  so they felted together to make a thicker handle.

Now I have to stop making felt and do some gardening!

Bag with integrated handle

Thanks, yet again, to the advice and encouragement from Nicola of Clasheen, I’ve made another bag – this time with an integrated handle to avoid the problems of trying to felt on a separate handle. (Also, if I’m honest, because I find making handles just a teeny bit boring!)

I was also trying out a sample of Icelandic wool I ordered from World of Wool, as it’s supposed to be light and water repellent and – most importantly – to felt easily. The fibres are very long and rather coarser than merino, but the mottled natural shades add a beautiful texture (like the grey hairs I’m starting to get!). They also smell, um, a bit sheepy, especially when wet!

Icelandic wool

So I cut out a rounded A-shaped template and covered it with one layer of pale yellow merino. I was intending to do the other two layers in light grey Icelandic wool, but after the second layer I didn’t think I’d have enough. So I used a pearl-coloured merino for the top layer.

A few of the coarser fibres in the Icelandic wool came off during felting, but most of them felted through the two merino layers on either side of the sandwich, creating an interesting texture that I rather like.

I don’t think the proportions of the bag are quite right – I shall make it narrower at the bottom next time – and I haven’t stitched around the ‘secret pocket’ or the handle. I might also turn up the top of the flap so that some of the yellow shows outside.

Inside the bag, showing the 'secret pocket' (not stitched in yet)

But the principle works, and the handle is just the right length. Thank you Nicola!