Felting Slippers With ESGWSD

That is the East Sussex Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers.  I went to my guild meeting on Saturday where we all had a catch up and some learned how to do Navaho spinning.  I got some booty that day, but that is another post as I haven’t had time to take photos of my loot.

There was also a talk by a lady who does felting.  She even has a certificate in it.  She also weaves rag rugs.  I always try to keep an open mind and heart about people who talk about what I love to do as I hope to learn something new.  There are a few ladies at the guild who needlefelt and do some wet felting, but they are primarily interested in spinning, weaving and dying.  I joined the guild because I am a felter mainly interested in dying and would like to learn a bit about spinning.  I think if one works with wool, one is eventually going to come across felting in one form or another.  As I was doing the slipper felting workshop, I was asked by one of the members to write something about it for the newsletter.  I was a bit hesitant, but committed to it eventually.

Now, for those of you who don’t know me or haven’t read my other blog (Arlene’s New Beginnings), when I am learning something new, I tend to research the heck out of it.  I am a process person.  I like to know how things work and why.  It is like science.  I am a practical person.  I can be a pain in the butt and ask a lot of questions until I understand everything.  I will watch a video on how to do something at least 3-4 times before I attempt it myself.  When I do an online video class, I watch the whole program before attempt anything.  Sometimes I don’t have all of the materials people use.  I have now learned that you don’t always have to use everything the tutor uses, especially if it is an expensive or specialty item.  I read blogs and watch YouTube videos if I want to know how to do something.  I only ask questions if I can’t find the answers there.  I have learned that you can felt something in so many different ways.  There is also an extremely limited amount of literature out there.  Some of it is good and some not.  Although people like to say that there is no right or wrong way to do certain things, I have found that there is usually a step-by-step process.  I sometimes think that in the short time I have been felting, I may have acquired too much information. But then again, I have had a lot of free time these last few months and have been doing a shedload of felting and learning as I do.  Do you see where this is going?  I shall leave it at that for now.

There were 10 of us doing the workshop.  Although I know how to felt, I have never felted slippers before.  It is on the list.  I have a book and have watched YouTube videos, so I had expectations.  We had a list of supplies we were supposed to bring – I brought some extra.  After all, felting slippers is just a vessel for your feet and I know how to make vessels.  We were each given a template resist.  I found that surprising considering that we all had different sized feet and the templates were pretty much the same size for all.  We were shown how to lay out the wool on the template and so we got cracking.

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Some of the ladies made batts out of their own wool and some purchased merino on offer.  I brought some merino batts that I wasn’t using at the moment.  You can see how creative everyone was with their layout and decoration.  We only put on 4 layers of wool on each side, plus some decoration.  I had an extra layer as I had some batts made on the blending board which would have brought it up to about 5 full layers.  Once we laid out our wool and wet everything out, there was a lot of rubbing.  At this point, I would have used a sander.  Some of the ladies were losing the will to live with all the rubbing, but we all persevered.  I helped out my neighbour who was struggling a bit with her wool and as I had passed the pinch test we both rubbed hers together.  Once we passed the pinch test, we were supposed to rinse our work in very hot water, squeeze it out, and then throw it down on the table.  I have never done this when making a vessel and I wasn’t about to start now.  So I rolled my slippers on the template as I normally would until the resist buckled.  Then I rinsed in hot water and threw it down a few times.  After this, we were supposed to cut the work in half and remove the template, which we did.  After this, everyone was expected to put their slippers on and full them on their feet.

DownloadsYou can see from the picture on the lower right hand side how the slippers would shrink down.  I have to say that I didn’t follow all the instructions exactly.  In my experience, the inside layers of a vessel take a bit longer to felt than the outside layers and so I turned my slippers inside out and palmed them with soapy hands to full them a bit.  So, I was a little bit surprised that doing this wasn’t suggested considering that some of the ladies had some problems with the inside layers of their slippers.  I was also surprised that there was no rolling to full the felt or shrink it down.  With the amount of wool we used in our slippers, I really didn’t think that rubbing alone would have been enough.  I brought my shoe lasts in and shaped my slippers on them.  I left them with the soap on as I was planning on finishing them off at home.  Here are the mostly completed slippers.

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Unfortunately for two of the ladies, the wool that they used for their inner layers turned out not to be wool at all and therefore did not felt and had to be removed.  Apart from a few hiccups, everyone made a good effort.  At least they all know how to make a pair of slippers.  When I brought my slippers home I took them off the shoe lasts.  Although the shoe lasts are in my shoe size and are the right length, they are too wide.  I fulled the slippers on my feet to shrink them down to size.  I will post photos once they are completed.

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