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 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 is 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.