It has been a while since I went into a full step-by-step process post, but these slippers were so easy to create, so much easier than my first pair, that it seems right to share with everyone.
What a fountain of information she has created! Forget the books, unless you need some pictures to inspire you; instead start right away with her instructions. I’ve corrected just about everything I first learned thanks to her instructions.
1. Start with tracing your foot, and then create an oval around your outline. Make a rough boot shape drawing a straight line up from the middle of the instep. Trace two of these shapes, end to end, on a piece of fabric to create your resist. I used a bit of diaper fabric because it is coated on one side, but cotton will work just as well.
2. Time to lay out your batts over the resist. I started with a layer of natural, undyed wool that is slightly coarse and crimped, partly because it would give the slippers stability, and partly because I wanted the inside to be white. The colored wool is New Zealand merino, very soft and combed straight. The wool in each layer lies perpendicular to the wool in the layer beneath it.
You should have two identical batts when you are finished composed of four (or more) layers – two white and two colored. Take your time laying out the batts, as it is important that they are even throughout, otherwise, you will have thin spots in your slippers.
If you are very lucky, a handsome barista will enter at this point with a large foamy café au lait to bolster your energy.
3. Moisten the first batt with hot, soapy water and lay your screen over the roving. I used rubberized non-skid carpet underlay, but you can use a polyester curtain or some other sheer fabric. Get your hands nice and soapy, then rub them all over the surface, agitating gently without moving the fibers around. Let the felting begin!
4. After a couple of minutes, remove the screen and flip over your batt. Tuck the loose edges around your resist.
5. Repeat the process with the second batt, and then sandwich the two together.
6. Fold the loose edges of the second batt over the first batt, which has already been tidied. Your resists will be trapped in the middle inside, between the layers of felt.
7. The next step is fulling the felt. I use bubble wrap, as directed by Pat Sparks; other people use bamboo screens, or blinds, and still others use yoga mats. Whatever you use, give the felt another dose of hot, soapy water, roll it up and work it.
My preferred method is to wrap the bubble wrap bundle in a beach towel and rock it back and forth under my feet for fifteen minutes. This creates a nice firm felt, in a short amount of time. Other methods suggest rubbing the felt on a washboard, but I found this laborious and boring.
The towel technique is a variation on the time-tested method used by nomadic peoples around the world to create large tapestries and yurts; they bundled the wool and dragged it for miles behind a pack animal as they travelled across the steppes.
8. Unroll the bundle after five minutes to check on the progress. It may be necessary to straighten or realign the felt if it has become skewed in one direction, or if it is felting more in one spot than another.
9. Rotate the felt 90 degrees before rolling it back up to ensure that it felts evenly in all directions.
10. When the felt is close to the size you hope to achieve, it is time to cut the package open. This is my favorite part. Slice them right down the middle and extract the fabric resist.
11. Since I intended to keep these slippers, I put them on and worked them with some more hot water until they felt snug; this is where the final shaping happens. If you are making a small pair, simply felt them around your hand, working the felt from both the inside and the outside.
I was a bit too vigorous at this stage, as one of the slippers has a little nipple on the toe where I didn’t smooth out the crease down the middle carefully enough. It is also nice to work all of the edges after they have been cut to make them look smooth.
…a little lariat, a few needle felted leaves and a little button to close it up. Lance said I remind him of the Mercury Man logo for FTD flowers wearing these slippers, derived from the Roman god Mercury hence the name Mercury’s Slippers.