Introduction: Felted Slipper Resuscitation
This Felted Slipper Resuscitation project was the result of an exchange/barter arrangement I made to acquire an old washboard (to be used for another felting project)! The techniques I use in this repair, can be applied to many other felting repair projects.
- upholstery foam (to support needle felting)
- felting needles (more than one!)
- felting needle holder (if you have one, it will make repairs faster)
- wool carding brushes (dog/cat brushes work well)
- sewing machine or serger (could be done by hand)
- leather needle for sewing machine (if you are using one)
- leather needle for hand sewing
- needle nosed pliers
- chalk pencil
- small pieces of wool felt for patches (alternatively use loosely woven medium weight wool fabric, like stroud)
- wool roving in various colours (to match project)
- sewing machine thread
- heavy thread or gut
- leather (for soles)
- duffel (for insoles)
Step 1: Insert Foam Support and Cut Wool Patch
One bite at a time, these well loved slippers were full of holes...
Insert a piece of upholstery foam that fits snugly inside your slipper, to provide support for your felting repair. The foam will need to be large enough to support all edges of the hole with a good border.
Cut a piece of wool felt (real wool) slightly larger than the hole you are repairing. I used felted wool that I had wet felted using some of the roving, but you could also use woven wool fabric like stroud. This step may not be necessary, but adding a pre-felted or woven wool layer between the roving layers, should add extra strength in high wear areas.
Step 2: Prepare and Add Layers of Roving
Card the roving. Lay a handful of roving on one brush, and then using the other brush to pull it in the opposite direction. This will help you to clean up and align the fibres.
Pull small amounts of the carded roving off the brush, and lay them side by side in one direction across the hole to create a light layer of roving. Add another thin layer of roving perpendicular to the first layer, and then a third layer in the first direction. Layering the wool helps you create a stronger, more even and solid bond when felted.
Step 3: Begin Needle Felting
Take the felting needle (or needles) firmly in your hand and push it through the roving into the foam to engage and hook the wool fibres together. Repeat this motion hundreds of times, being sure to work the fibres well into the edges of your repair. Keep the motion of the needle up and down (not prying off to the side) to minimize breakage...
Warning: Felting needles are sharp! and they have tiny little barbs scattered along their length. Watch where your fingers are, as it is very easy to jab yourself...
Step 4: Add Wool Patch and Continue Felting
Once the needle felting is starting to hold the roving together, add your thin wool patch, centering it over where the hole was, and then add more roving, using roving colours that match the outside of your project. In my case anything goes!
Repeatedly push the felting needle (or needles) through the wool fibres into the foam block until you feel the fibres felting solidly together, and then, keep going a bit longer and then a bit longer again.
Add more roving layers if the patch seems too thin. Try to build the repair area up to the same thickness as the surrounding felt, and take care to make the edges as even as possible.
This may take you a while!
Step 5: More Holes, More Felting...
Once you are satisfied with your first patch, move on to the next hole, you will find that your technique keeps improving... When you are evening out your patch, you may occasionally need to add more roving on the inside.
Step 6: And More Holes...
I think you get the idea! Fix all the holes in the same way, making sure that your edges are even and the patches are the same thickness as the felt around them, so you will not feel the patches when you wear them.
Step 7: Cutting and Preparing the Leather Soles
Lay your leather on the floor. Using a chalk pencil, trace a line around the bottom outside edge of your slipper onto your leather and cut it out. Place this insole on another piece of leather and trace out the second sole. Be sure to place like sides together, (smooth against smooth). Cut out your second sole.
To pre-make stitch holes in the leather, put a leather needle in your sewing machine (don't thread it), set the stitch length to about 1/4" and without using thread, 'sew' along the outside edge of both soles, a 1/4" in from the edge. This magically creates a line of small, evenly spaced holes, that make it so, so, much easier to hand sew the leather soles to the bottom of your slippers.
Step 8: Sewing on the Leather Soles
Pin the leather soles in position on the bottom of your slippers. I kept the rough (suede) side facing out, to add a bit more traction.
Thread your needle with your button hole thread, gut or other strong thread, tie a big knot in the end and get ready to sew.
You will need your thimble and pliers. Those little pliers will become your best friend. Use them to gently pull the needle through the leather when it gets stuck.
Start with the thread between the sole and the slipper to hide your knot, and then use a wrapping stitch to sew on the sole. Go down through the guide hole in the leather, grab a good bit of felt and come back up through the felt emerging close to and beside the sole. Move on to the next hole and repeat this, working your way around the outside of the sole. Regularly check the position of the sole as you go. Tie off your thread when you get to the end and tuck the knot out of sight.
Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and then get started on the second sole!
Step 9: Making the Insoles
Lay down two layers of wool duffel on the floor. Stand on your fabric and trace around your foot with the chalk pencil. Pin the two layers of fabric together and cut out a double layered insole. Repeat for the other foot.
Using a serger or sewing machine, sew or serge around the outside edges of the insoles, to bind the two layers together (alternatively, you can sew them together by hand).
Adding insoles to your slippers will make them more comfortable and increase their (new) life.
Step 10: All Done.
Slip in your insoles, sit back and admire your hard work.
Better yet, put on those newly resuscitated slippers and kick up your heels!