Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials and techniques are as individual as she is—unique, experimental, and always interesting.
Shoe Lasts Come in All Shapes and Sizes!
To make these slippers, you will have to create a template which should be made from floor underlayment. You can trace around the actual wearer's foot, but if you are making slippers regularly, you may find it easier and more convenient to buy a shoe last and trace around these.
Shoe lasts can be purchased in a variety of sizes, as shown below. I encourage you to use them if you would like to achieve a professional finish for all of your wet felted slippers or boot projects.
Advice on Buying Shoe Lasts
Sizes: Small shoe lasts for children can be difficult to source or are expensive to buy, so keep your eyes peeled for reasonably priced ones which occasionally come onto the market on e-Bay or local antique shops and Etsy.
Materials: Shoe lasts are more commonly made of wood but can also be made of resin, metal or even polystyrene. Polystyrene shoe lasts are a cheap alternative to wood or resin lasts and have the advantage of being able to be used inside a washing machine or tumble dryer. If you intend to make slippers or shoes regularly, these can be a good investment as they can be used over and over again.
Substitutes: Look for substitute lasts, such as the tiny pair of wooden shoes pictured in the image below. These were purchased as decorative ornaments! I saw their potential and now use them regularly for making tiny shoes or booties for children. They were bought at a fraction of the price of what a 'real' pair of shoe lasts might have cost.
Materials You Will Need to Complete This Tutorial
- Wooden shoe lasts, resin or polystyrene lasts, or alternatively, you may like to draw around the feet of the intended wearer of these slippers.
- A sheet of floor underlayment. Templates made using underlayment can be used over and over again. If you make an error while drawing on the underlayment, it can easily be wiped off using a damp cloth.
- A sheet of bubble wrap for rubbing the wet roving with.
- A quantity of Merino wool roving
- A marker pen
- A heavy-duty bamboo blind
- A hand towel for soaking up any excess water
- Warm soapy water, such as olive oil soap which can be grated and diluted in warm water.
- A tumble dryer (useful but not essential)
- A pair of sharp scissors
- Dental floss for attaching the curved point of the slippers to the body of the slippers once they are completed(optional)
Step 1: Draw the Template
- Put the shoe lasts down onto the sheet of underfloor layment or alternatively, you can draw around the feet of the person who will be wearing the slippers.
- Use a tape measure to create dots around the traced image. The dots should be made about 1/1/2 inches away from the traced foot. This increase in the size of the foot is to allow for about 40% shrinkage, which is likely to take place during the felting process.
- Connect the dots and complete the 1st side of the template as shown.
- Fold the template at the center line and draw a mirror image of the other side, as is shown in the image here.
- Add a curve above each toe which will be used to create the pixie toe for the slippers.
- Cut around the template.
Step 2: Cover the Template With a Layer of Wool
- Cover the template with fibers plucked from a length of wool roving.
- The layer of wool should overlap the edges and be perfectly even throughout.
- An uneven layer of wool will always result in the finished article being full of thin spots or even holes.
- Any thin spots should be filled before proceeding to the second layer.
- It is better to have 3 thin layers than 2 layers which will end up with holes in them.
Step 3: Create the Pixie Toes
- The pixie toe shape should be created by wrapping any excess wool around the pointed curve.
- This should be done when the fibers are wet, as shown in the images below.
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Step 4: Wet the Fibers
Use a squeeze bottle to wet the fibers with warm, soapy water.
Step 5: Cover With Bubble Wrap
- Cover the surface of the wool with bubble wrap, bubble side facing down.
- Wet the smooth surface of the bubble wrap with warm, soapy water.
- The soapy water makes it very easy for your fingers to glide over the surface of the bubble wrap as you rub.
Step 6: Remove the Bubble Wrap Gently
- Life the bubble wrap off the wool taking care not to displace the fibers below.
Step 7: Fold the Overlapping Edges Over the Edge
- Use a little of the soapy water to help smooth the overlap over the edges.
Step 8: Fold the Wool Over the Edge of the Template
- The neatened edges should be covered with bubble wrap and rubbed well.
- Pay particular attention to ensuring you neaten the edges.
Step 9: Cover the 2nd Side
Cover the 2nd side with Merino wool.
Step 10: Wet the Wool
Sprinkle with warm soapy water and cover with bubble wrap.
Step 11: Cover With Bubble Wrap
Cover the surface with bubble wrap, bubble side down.
Step 12: Rub Well
- Press down on the wet fibers and rub well.
- Pay special attention to the edges so as to create a neat edge.
Step 13: Remove the Bubble Wrap
Carefully lift off the bubble wrap so as not to displace the fibers.
Step 14: Neaten the Edges
- Fold the excess wool over the edges of the template.
- Wrap any overlapping wool near the toe sections of the slippers around the point.
- Cover with bubble wrap and smooth down the wet wool.
Step 15: Finish Neatening the Edges
- Pay particular attention to the turned over edges.
- Wet the wool and cover with bubble wrap.
Step 16: Add a Little Water
Rub well to smooth down the fiber.
Step 17: Add a 2nd Layer of Wool
- The layer of wool put down should be thick enough to cover the whole of the previous layer.
- There should an even layer of wool with no thin spots.
Step 18: Wet the Wool
Wet the 2nd layer as shown.
Step 19: Cover With Bubble Wrap
Wet the surface of the bubble wrap as before.
Step 20: Rub Well
Rub well, paying special attention to the edges on the template.
Step 21: Remove the Bubble Wrap
Lift the bubble wrap gently from the wet wool.
Step 22: Turn Over
- Fold the wool over the edges and neaten the toe area of the slipper.
- Use a little warm water to help smooth down the wool.
Step 23: See How It Looks Before Shrinkage
- This image shows that no shrinkage has as yet taken place.
- The little shoe lasts can be seen still only cover a small portion of the project.
Step 24: Cover the Project With Bubble Wrap
- With the Bubble Wrap still covering the project put it on the bamboo mat and roll it up inside the mat.
- Roll carefully at first, the project is still delicate at this stage.
Step 25: Roll 100 Times
- Roll the project about 100 times.
- Rotate the project and roll another 100 times
- Keep on rotating the project and roll until the fibers no longer move when pinched between the fingers.
Step 26: Change the Direction of Each Roll
- Change the direction in which you roll.
- This allows for even shrinkage throughout the project.
Step 27: Observe the Effects of Shrinkage
- The project starts to buckle as shrinkage takes place.
- The edge of the project shifts as shrinkage takes place leaving a neat edge.
- The bamboo blind is extremely effective at helping to create a very good edge with no folds visible anywhere.
Step 28: Watch for Buckling and Bending
- In this image, shrinkage can clearly be seen to have taken place.
- The template has begun to buckle and bend.
Step 29: Perform the Pinch Test
- Test to see if the fibers still move by pinching them between 2 fingers.
- If they no longer move, you are now ready to move onto the next step.
Step 30: Extract the Template
- The project is still quite fragile at this stage.
- Extract the template carefully as shown.
Step 31: Put the Two Boots Into a Plastic Bag
- Loosely tie the two sections loosely into a plastic bag.
- Tumble in a tumble dryer for about five minutes.
- The plastic bag helps prevent the slippers from moving around too much before they are sufficiently felted to withstand the tumble action within the dryer.
- Remove the plastic bag and allow the slippers to tumble without the plastic bag for about 5 minutes.
- Keep on checking every few minutes to make sure that the slippers don't shrink too much.
- The idea is to shrink the slippers enough for the shoe lasts to fit neatly into the space left behind and save you time.
- If you don't have a tumble dryer, put the slippers first into hot and then cold running water and massage with your palms and fingers.
- Drop them onto the surface of the kitchen sink to encourage the fibers to shrink.
- They will soon start to shrink.
- Shrink until the last can be accommodated inside the boot shape.
- Shrink until the lasts fit well.
- Give the slippers a final rinse under hot and then cold water.
- Roll the toe area between your palms and shape it like a sausage so that it looks like the image below.
- Allow the slippers to dry on a rack placed in a well-ventilated space.
- Thread a needle with flat dental floss and secure the curve to the slipper.
- Tie a knot inside and cut off the excess.
- Dental floss is strong and softer, and neater than cotton thread.
Step 32: Shape the Slippers
- Wet the slippers and shape them on the lasts.
- Rub with bubble wrap or a cloth.
- The toe area, once hardened by the rubbing, can easily be shaped into a curled toe shape.
Step 33: Create Different Size Slippers!
- Different shapes and sizes can be created by using different size shoe lasts.
- Use the same l l/2 inch shrinkage allowance for all sizes. This allowance is generous. You may wish to experiment a little and reduce it a little depending on the wool and method of felting that you are using.
- Some wool shrinks more, and some less.
- You will always achieve a firmer result if the wool is felted in a tumble rather than by hand.
- Three layers of wool should be used for slippers larger than the ones shown here.
- Two layers can be used for smaller sizes when you might be making them for a child who is not yet walking or crawling.
- For active children and adults, experiment with three to four layers.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is there a way to shape wet felted booties if you do not have any lasts to put in them?
Answer: You could shape them on the feet of the person who will be wearing them, or you could shape them using a flexible pair of beach shoes or slippers. Amazon sells reasonably priced polystyrene shoe lasts, or you could try stuffing them tightly using plastic supermarket bags or black bags.
© 2017 Sally Gulbrandsen
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 15, 2018:
That is a great idea. Having been brought up in South Africa I am very familiar with the locals making Sandles from rubber car or tractor tires.
Karen from Columbia, Missouri, USA on February 15, 2018:
Oh my gosh! I have always wanted a pair of these! Thank you for this tutorial! I'm going to make some and use moped tire to add soles! I will wear them everywhere! With bells too!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 18, 2018:
No better to put the slippers between bubble wrap bubble which you have put bubble side down and rub the surface which you have added a little soapy water too. This allows your fingers to glide easily over the surface. Do both sides very well if you don't have a bamboo blind. The template should be removed only once you have cut the layers apart. The slipper should not be cut before the fibers are fully fulled. Pinch them with your fingers to make sure. In the early days before you fully understand how wool will behave rub more than less. You don't want failure before success:) Your towel can be used underneath the bubble wrap to collect any excess water.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on January 18, 2018:
Can you roll it in a towel if you don't have a bamboo blind? Also do you leave the template in when you cut the layers apart? Maybe I don't fully understand this step. Thanks!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 18, 2018:
You might want to try a small pair of slippers like this https://feltmagnet.com/textiles-sewing/How-to-Wet-... Commitment is always the time it takes, rather than money it cost you. You need very little wool roving for a project like this one, perhaps only about 100 - 200 grams of merino wool roving. I suggest always using a heavy duty bamboo blind for the rolling as this speeds things up. As you learn more about how the wool behaves with friction you can use a tumble dryer to reduce the time spent rolling, A simple rose https://discover.hubpages.com/art/Learn-how-to-Wet... will teach you how a flat piece of felt can be turned into something pretty very quickly and so can a simple wet felted pieces of soap which make great presents. Hope that helps. Visit my profile page for more ideas.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on January 18, 2018:
Amazing tutorial! I have done felting (actually fulling) with knitted pieces I then hand felt. I have wanted to try wet felting for a while but it always seems so involved. What do you think is the easiest/best project for a total novice? What would be the least amount of money/commitment that would be required to start this type of felting? Thanks for your help and for your great articles!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on October 14, 2017:
Catherine Giordano, it is a pleasure to have you grace one of my tutorials. Let me warn you, this craft can be addictive! I do hope you give it a try.
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on October 14, 2017:
I'm not the crafty type, but the slippers are so adorable and the instructions are so clear, I'm almost ready to give it a try. I'm very impressed.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on October 06, 2017:
Hello devika, thank you so much! I appreciate the feedback.