Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials and techniques are as individual as she is—unique, experimental, and always interesting.
You Can Create Shoe Lasts That Are Custom-Made for the Wearer
Wet-felted boots or slippers can be handcrafted using a simple but very effective shoe last made from gaffer tape and recycled plastic bags. These are cost-effective, and they can be used over and over again. Each pair you make can be custom-made, sized or designed for the wearer.
Which Are Better: Polystyrene or Duct Tape Lasts?
Wooden or polystyrene shoe lasts can be purchased from Amazon. They will last for many years to come.
There is no doubt that these lasts are the ultimate when it comes to making wet-felted slippers and boots for men, women and children. The outlay, however, can be considerable, especially if you require a number of different size lasts.
Homemade gaffer or duct tape lasts can easily be customized to fit the wearer. These lasts helped me to create slippers which fitted perfectly for just a fraction of the cost.
Unconventional Felting Methods
I do like to use a few non-conventional methods for speeding up the felting process. For one, I like to make use of a tumble dryer, sometimes a washing machine or even an electric sander. A microwave oven comes in very handy for reheating cold wet wool if I want to shrink the wool a little more in some areas.
Can You Tumble-Dry Duct Tape Lasts?
I found it really reassuring to discover how much of a beating my duct tape lasts were able to endure in the tumble dryer. The lasts were almost as good as new when they emerged from their newly made felted boots.
- One pair of thin socks. (Be prepared to sacrifice these as you will not be able to use them again.)
- A roll of duct or gaffer tape, which is a waterproof sticky type of cloth tape
- Thin card, similar to the type which comes from a cereal box. I used a piece of surplus mount board which I had left over from picture framing.
- Plastic carrier bags from your local supermarket. A surprising number will be needed to stuff the shoe lasts. Alternatively, you could use some popcorn or polystyrene balls to fill the lasts with.
- A pair of scissors (preferably the bull-nosed type) so that you don’t cut yourself!
- A marker pen for marking your final cut, also for drawing the template on the cardboard
Optional: Gather a Few Assistants
Like me, some of you may find bending difficult. Try enlisting the help of an assistant or a few friends, especially if you have a use for multiple sizes. Better still, gather a group of like-minded felt makers together to make a variety of shoe lasts which can be used by the group at a later date.
Don’t forget to mark each one at the bottom with the relevant shoe size so that the sizes can be identified at a later date.
1. Draw Around Both Feet
Start by standing flat on a piece of card with both socks pulled onto your feet. Draw all the way around each foot with a marker pen.
Read More From Feltmagnet
2. Cut Out the Soles
Cut the sole shape out and then attach a piece of duct tape to the underside of each foot as shown in the images below.
4. Stand on the Cardboard and Pull the Tape Over Your Foot
Now, stand on the cardboard sole and draw the tape up and around each foot so that the cardboard is now attached firmly to the underside of the sock and your foot.
5. Mark Out Both Feet
From now on, it will be necessary to repeat each step you take, on both feet before you move on to the next step. This help to ensure that your gaffer or duct tape is evenly applied throughout the process.
6. Smooth Out the Tape
After each step, smooth the tape down at each end of the tape as shown.
7. Tape Around the Foot
Continue standing flat whilst you wrap shorter pieces of tape around the ball of the foot and over the instep. It is important to do this standing at first to ensure that the last will provide sufficient foot room once the tape is being worked around your foot.
Make Sure to Do It the Same on Each Foot
Keep on systematically binding the foot in short overlapping strips of tape. Smooth the tape down as best you can—one as you go. Remember to do the same thing on each foot as your work through the process.
8. Work up the Leg
Work up as high up the leg as you would like your boot to go, not forgetting to include a little extra height if you would like a fold-over at the top of your completed slipper.
9. Cut a Slit at the Back of the Foot
Cut a slit down the back of each foot or one at the side of each foot, whichever way you find the most simple. I find it easier to cut the last down the side of my foot as this is easier to get to.
10. Draw a Line
Once done, draw a line with a ruler straight down the side of the foot as indicated in the image, or down the back, and then cut right down the line through all the layers, including the sock. I found that my large pair of scissors worked very well, but you can use a blunt-nosed pair if you are afraid of cutting yourself. Please be careful.
13. Smooth Out Any Wrinkles
You need to cover the foot with two or three layers of duct tape. Work any wrinkles out as best as you can.
14. Stuff the Lasts With Plastic Bags
It is now time to stuff the feet of each last with plastic bags. Tape over the slit as you fill the foot with the plastic bags.
Alternatively, you could use popcorn or Polystyrene filling. Cheap black bags can also be substituted as can bubble wrap. I find that supermarket plastic bags work equally well.
15. Fold the Sock Over and Tape Closed
Once you reach the height you desire for your last, fold over the surplus sock and seal the top of the last with a few layers of duct tape.
Do You Have Different-Sized Feet?
You may be surprised to discover that your own feet may differ in size. The beauty about using duct tape to make your lasts is that can easily make lasts which fit your own feet.
16. Add Extra Tape Where Needed
At this stage, you may decide to alter the shape of your last a little.
Perhaps you want to add a little extra filling or tape to an area where you have a bunion on your foot.
You might like to add pointy or square toes to your boots.
Now is the time to add these little extras.
The duct tape can be very forgiving and perfection is not important but try to keep the surface of your shoe last as smooth as possible.
Your Lasts Are Ready to Use
Your shoe lasts are now complete.
Mark the size or the name of the wearer underneath each foot if you are making lasts on a variety of feet.
How to Use Your New Duct Tape Lasts
- How to Make Wet-Felted Slippers Using Duct Tape Shoe Lasts
This tutorial is aimed at people who find it difficult to find footwear to fit them. These duct tape shoe lasts allow you to make custom-fit felted boots.
© 2014 Sally Gulbrandsen
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on August 16, 2020:
Good modification with the plastic bag. I think it better to err on the large side rather than make the lasts too small as wool can easily be shrunk to size, much harder to stretch it, in fact it will be almost impossible.
Meera on August 16, 2020:
Very helpful. I’ve made my lasts and will work on the slippers next. One modification I did was to use plastic bag around my foot. My first attempt at using the sock didn’t work because the sock pulled away from the tape and the tape stuck to itself. I used the plastic bag and it worked well. It may have added some extra but, around the ankle but I think that will be. Thanks for your tutorials.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 20, 2020:
Thank you. I am glad you found the tutorial helpful.
Sawsan on May 20, 2020:
U are amazing !!!
I like your doing felting .very helpful tutorial ..
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 16, 2020:
After many years of making slippers I believe you get a better if you use the template method. Make a template around 40 percent larger than your own feet and use these to shrink the boots down to get your perfect or use your own feet as an option. If I am totally honest, nothing compares to a really great pair of shoe lasts. These are more useful to people who either have two very different sizes of feet or have problems getting shoes or slippers to fit.
Rouge Hoffmann on May 15, 2020:
hi sally, thanks for your tutorial on duct tape shoe lasts for felting booties. Now curious to know when making the lasts, do you need to make them extra large to allow for the shrinkage when felting with wool? cheers Rouge
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 05, 2020:
You ask the question? Where can I buy Merino Wool? I purchase my Merino Wool from World of Wool. I use Merino Wool or Botany Waste but you can source it from both from E-Bay or Amazon if you are in a place where it is difficult for you to find it.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 02, 2017:
Glad you liked this Tutorial. I do hope that you find time to wet felt some boots.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 08, 2017:
No problem! Not sure about 'voting' but know images can be pinned on Pinterest. Glad you enjoyed the tutorial. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Thank you.
LindaLW666 on March 08, 2017:
Hello, Ms. Sally, and thank you for the grand tutorial! I look forward to trying this. I notice some readers have said "Pinned" and "voted", but I'm new to this site and don't know how I can 'vote' for you! I'd have already done so if I could figure that out!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 22, 2017:
Alison, well done to you. I do hope the slippers turn out as you would like them. I still recommend in the future, that you use a template for a more professional approach. You can always use the lasts inside the boot-shaped template at a later date. The duct tape lasts should always be a bit bigger than your feet if possible for the best result.
Alison on January 22, 2017:
Well, the lasts are made and I'm off to work through the Master Class Boot tutorial. Thank you so much for posting all of this. Hopefully, at the end, I'll have a wearable pair of boots - not as pretty as the ones you've made but if I can get them soled and just wear them, I'll be happy.
I'll let you know how I get on . . . . . . .
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 21, 2017:
You are very welcome. Please take a little time to visit a few of my other tutorials, in particular, the Master Class Boot Tutorial. There are many ways to make boots but this is one way to make a pair of boots which should fit you perfectly.
Alison on January 21, 2017:
This is exactly what I've been looking for! I've been wanting to make a pair of felt boots for ages but haven't been able to work out the pattern properly - these lasts will be perfect though. Thank you - you're a lifesaver!!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 30, 2016:
You are welcome Maria.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 14, 2016:
Hello, not too late in the question. The slippers fitted me. If I was to write this tutorial again, which I will to do sometime, I will advise people to put on thick socks, maybe even 2 pairs and then cover them with a pair of tights and then put the duct tape over the tights. That way you will have more space for shrinkage. Cut through the tights and leave the socks intact. Always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to shrinkage when felting, so easy to shrink something but not so easy to stretch it. I wish you succcess with your project.
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Antoinette on February 14, 2016:
Hi. I know this is late in the conversation, but I have a question. When I have made other felted boots and slippers they shrink considerably. Since these can't shrink because they are on the last, will they still firm up enough without shrinking, or should the last be made larger than my shoe size, for forming, and then further shrink the boots after removing from the last? Thanks for any help. Great idea. Going to try it today!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 27, 2015:
I don't have any personal experience of the product you mention by name but I do know from personal experience that the foam I used 'Gorilla' was highly flammable and I would not use it in a microwave. You can purchase polystyrene lasts but they tend to be rather expensive but nice to work with. I appreciate your visit and would love to hear how you get on.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 27, 2015:
I have used a foam in a can. It is incredibly messy to work with and highly flammable. I used it very successfully in one of my hubs to make a hat last which I carved into shape when it was dry. I did try filling some wellington boots with the foam to make shoe lasts but did not find it altogether successful. The product stands up to use in a tumble dryer with no problem but I would not use it in a microwave because it is such a flammable product. Good to receive your comment, thank you.
Betsy True on March 27, 2015:
I love this project and will try it. I was thinking I would plaster cast some old shoes and then cut them off the cast. Then I found your wonderful site.
I was also thinking that instead of stuffing the duct tape shape with plastic bags, I might get a firmer shape using the version of Great Stuff that isn't supposed to expand, just flow and harden. I didn't know if this would be as durable in the microwave, but I know a version of this is used in constructing garden ponds, so it should handle getting wet ok.
Betsy True on March 27, 2015:
I wonder if you could us the "great stuff" insulation that doesn't swell to fill the forms? It's supposed to fill out the space and harden. I don't know if it would stand up to water and microwave. Have you tried it?
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 15, 2015:
Thank you, if you like this you will find many more wet felting ideas on my profile. Glad you enjoyed this. Thank you for stopping by to comment.
Jacobb9205 on February 15, 2015:
Wow very unique and interesting idea! Love it!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 10, 2015:
Thank you so much. Your comment is valued and appreciated.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 10, 2015:
you sure are clever with both duct tape craft and felt too, awesome hands
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 24, 2015:
Hello Jennifer, it was nice of you to stop by to comment on my this tutorial. I was able to make the slippers on my own but I am sure it must be a lot more fun doing it with someone. I very much appreciate your taking the time to comment.
I hope the project works out well for both of you.
Jennifer on January 24, 2015:
I hope I can get my husband or daughter to help me make a pair of these so I can make some slippers. Maybe if I offer to make some for my helper it will be easier to get them to help.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 23, 2015:
Glad you found this hub interesting. I love experimenting with creative ways to wet felted items - this is one of my many tutorials on wet felting. I hope that you will return when you find that time is in your favor and creativity is begging you to try this out.
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on January 23, 2015:
What beautiful felt boots! It´s interesting that the duct tape lasts hold up even in the washing machine. I also found it interesting that you customize the shoes for extra comfort where needed. Although I don´t do crafts at this point in time, I am interested in them and look forward to reading more about your felt shoes.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 18, 2015:
I did try the expanding foam when I started out with this project, with one difference. I tried filling Wellington boots but found the polystyrene did not expand evenly throughout the boot. The foam can also be a bit messy to work with.
I did use the expanding foam to make a hat last. It worked brilliantly. The bonus - I was able to carve the polystyrene with a carving knife when it dried. The polystyrene on the hat last was largely unaffected by water so I don't think you will have a problem. Not sure how it will work in a tumble dryer - if you decide to go that route.
If you enjoyed experimenting with this one, you might like to try my tutorial - Making gloves with fingers rather than fingerless gloves where I used kitchen gloves stuffed with polystyrene balls:)
I would be interested to know how you get on. It was very kind of you to share your felting experience with everyone.
Elena on January 18, 2015:
Just to give an idea. I stuffed mine lasts with expanding foam and putting over a thin plastic bags when using them as don't think they waterproof
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 17, 2014:
The possibilities are endless once you realize how amazing this stuff is - I am not surprised that duct tape sometimes finds itself in space too:)
Thanks for your comment, it is much appreciated.
poetryman6969 on November 17, 2014:
I have heard they take duct tape into space because there is nothing you can't do with it.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 12, 2014:
Glimmwe Twin Fan - thanks for the pin and the comment. I appreciate your visit as always.
Claudia Porter on February 12, 2014:
This is fascinating and perfect for folks wanting to make felted booties. Nice hub! Pinned.