Winter is coming, not in a GofT way but in an old house in Dunedin way. Over summer my felted slippers died, just wore through in a way that could not be mended. Previously I had extended their life by darning and embroidery - and knitting inner-soles but finally there was nothing left to hold the mending. So a few months ago I made new slippers - but because I only make felted slipper every few years , I forgot that the template resulted in slipper a little to big. So those slippers ended up fitting bear. This last week - we felt the need to put on the heater - during the day, so it was time to make slippers for me.
I started with this, a darky died halfbred wool from Heavenly wools, in the shade Landscape-charcoal. Her fiber is interesting, some of the colourways are over dyed naturally dark wool - making for interesting shades - maybe more interesting than is possible with standard white sheep a fleece.
I dug out the template from Machiko's felting class and drew a smaller shape to cut in bubble wrap as the resist. Then I did a bit of googling and found this tutorial - while I was intrigued by the shape I was to brave enough to try this time, after all I've already had one pair of slippers not work for my feet. Once I have slippers that fit me I am keen to hunt down some fiber and try that shape.
After the initial wrapping of the form, I began to wet felt by rolling the slippers in bubble wrap - but then I gave up and headed out to the garage. I dug out the detail sander and used to to finish the flat felting. I was amazed at how fast the process went using the sander. I placed the flat shapes on a layer of bubble wrap, then another layer over the top (bubble side out) and ran the sander sans sandpaper over the plastic repeatedly until the felt firmed up. Once it was firm I cut the foot opening, removed the bubble wrap resist and fitted the felted slippers over the polystyrene forms I've acquired. I bought these a few months ago from a seller in the west coast of NZ, but they were part of her clearance sale and so I can't direct you there, I suspect they are similar to the ones at Wingham Wool Works, which come in several sizes to match feet.
I continued to wet felt, rubbing, sometimes using the sander with a layer of bubble wrap, and sometimes rubbing with bubble wrap until I thought the slippers were done. Then I was brave - when I bought the foam resists there were kind of cheap - and came with instructions to finish the felting in a washing machine. I worried doing so would batter the foam - and thought I wouldn't risk them, after all they were brand new and I damaged. After a few hours I decided to risk the washing machine - and followed instructions to encase the foam and slipper inside a title tied pantyhose leg. I can't say the washing machine process changed the felt much - I ran the top loader on heavy 'soil' and hot but every time I lifted the lid the foam forms were floating and bobbing about on the top of the waves. I set the slippers on the foam forms aside to dry overnight.
This morning I realized the felt had puffed up and wasn't tight enough to make durable slippers, so I trimmed a nice neat opening and began to reflect the slippers. The previous opening tilted from front of foot to back - and wasn't a clean finish. I re-wetted the slippers, added soap and worked and worked the felt again, I focussed on the trimmed edge, and smoothing the heel close to the foot. I remembered to flip the slippers inside out so both surfaces were equally tightly felted. I rubbed and rubbed the sole, the toe, and the heel - as well as the cut edge - trying to make the felt as tight and firm as I could. I used the ridges on the stainless steel sink drainer as well as the ridged glass on the vintage washboard I have. This took another hour or so, I'd work one slipper then put it down and work the other until it felt the same. In the meantime the first slipper would seem to relax and pull away from the form so I would begin to work it again. I added in shocking the wool, so alternating very hot and very cold water, but as we only have one sink I cheated. I held the leg of the form as I ran it under hot tap water and then cold - several times. I have no idea if it tightened the felt but I thought it couldn't hurt. The forms made working the felt to a foot shape much easier than plastic bags over ones own feet, there is only so long that one can rub slippers whilst wearing them, and working 'feet' at sink height is much nicer than bending to work slippers at floor height. Plus I'd never shock my own feet from boiling to cold water.
Once these are dry - I will blanket stitch the top edge and add a leather sole ... Then I won't care if winter comes because my feet will be warm.