MAKE

How to make felt slippers

December 15, 2012

This month writer and stylist Rachel O’Brien headed to the Fluff-a-torium in Dorking and learns how to make felt slippers with felt guru Gillian Harris, aka gilliangladrag (listed in our directory here).

“The shoe repairer did look at me a little bit quizzically” says master Fluff-a-tier Gillian Harris, as she describes the time she took a pair of felted slippers to the shoe menders to be soled. Clearly not everyone is as well versed in the joys of felt as wool guru Gillian Harris (aka Gilliangladrag).

How to make felt slippers

Gillian has turned felt-making into an art form and her creations have graced the pages of many a magazine, while her felt-making kits are sold in John Lewis and Liberty, and her books have been translated into several languages and are sold around the world.

As a keen knitter myself, I’m used to working with wool but I had never tried making felt before, so this wet-felting workshop was to be a voyage of discovery for me. Not one to turn down a challenge I made my way to (corking) Dorking, home to Gilliangladrag’s Fluff-a-torium where I would be learning to make a pair of hand felted slippers.

Gillian Gladrag Fluffatorium

The fluff a torium

A short walk from Dorking West train station, the Fluff-a-torium was easy to spot with its bright and quirky facade festooned with felted bunting.

Gillian Gladrag Fluffatorium

With shelves, stands and cabinets filled with balls of wool, ribbons, buttons and all manner of felt items, the interior was just as inviting as the exterior and I immediately felt abuzz with creative energy.

Gillian Gladrag Fluffatorium

Gillian Gladrag

The felting workshop was to be held upstairs in Gillian’s studio and myself and the three other students eagerly eyed the collection of Gillian’s handmade slippers spread across the table, keen to get started.

After breaking the ice with a cup of tea and a chat, Gillian gave us a step-by-step demonstration and described the various styles that we could cut our finished slippers into – such as mules, booties or ballet pumps – and the options for soling them.

Gillian Gladrag Fluffatoriumhow to make felted wool felt slippers with Gillian Gladrag. Click through for easy step by step DIY tutorial to make your own beautiful decorated slippers #woolfelt #slippers #makeslippers #feltedslippers #frombritainwithlove #howtomakeslippers

How to make wool felt

Handmade felt is made from sheep’s wool called wool tops or roving (sometimes also referred to as wool fleece) which has been cleaned and combed. To make felt, the wool fleece must first be rubbed with soap and water so that the fibres begin to join.

The material is then ‘fulled’ – a process which shrinks and hardens the wool to make it thicker. By the end of the day we would all leave the Fluff-a-torium with a pair of shoe lasts covered in wool fleece to full in our washing machines, then shape and decorate at home.

How to make felted slippers

To make our slippers we first needed to cover the polystyrene shoe lasts with three layers of wool fleece. Spoilt for choice, I finally settled upon lilac for the first layer, fawn for the second and a dark purple for the outer.

Covering the shoe lasts

Laying one of my shoe lasts on its side, I started teasing out strands of lilac wool fleece and laying it on top. With a piece of polyester netting covering the last, I sprayed it with soapy water and rubbed until the wool was firmly in place.

I continued the layering process until the last was completely covered and resembled a ‘bearskin’ as Gillian described it. We repeated this for the other shoe last and for our second layer, before taking a much needed break for lunch.

How to make felted slippers

Adding designs

After lunch we added our third and final layer of wool fleece. As we would be applying our designs on top of this, we only rubbed the wool fleece gently this time.

Once our designs were in place we would then rub firmly for around 10 to 20 minutes. This is to ensure the fleece and any decorative felt we had added was secure.

How to make felted slippers

Watching Gillian, who had been working on a pair of felted slippers throughout the day, effortlessly create a simple floral motif around her wool topped shoe lasts, I opted for a similar design.

Using oddments of wool fleece in complementing colours I created five or six roses around each last and then applied soapy water and rubbed until they were in place.

Throughout the day the atmosphere was very relaxed. Gillian also demonstrated how to make needle-felted roses to decorate the slippers so that we could make them ourselves at home if we wanted.

How to make felted slippers

Rubbing with soapy water

Back home, I continued to apply soapy water and rub my shoe lasts until the wool fleece was firm. Apprehensive, I put both lasts into the washing machine along with a pair of old jeans to add friction.

With the slippers rattling around I was quite worried about how they would turn out. However I followed Gillian’s guidelines and kept them in for a second wash and spin to toughen them even more. With the wool now fulled, I carefully cut out the slipper shape and removed the polystyrene moulds. Now it’s time to allow the slippers to dry out.

how to make wool felt roses and flowers to decorate felt slippers

Decorations to try

Gillian showed us how easy it is to make felted wool roses and flowers to decorate our slippers if we wanted to. I decided to keep mine simple, but if you feel like adding a felt rose, it’s really easy. Just cut a length of felt in your chosen colour and then wind around, starting with a tight wind at the beginning and then loosening out the outer ‘petals’ as you go. Hold the base tightly as you go and secure with a few stitches underneath. Then simply stitch on to your finished slippers.

 

How to make felted slippers

The finished result

The result is a beautiful pair of cosy lilac slippers with pretty rosebuds. They are perfect for warming my toes in front of the fire this Christmas.

This one day course is ideal for anyone wanting to try their hand at something a little bit different. The making process is quite unusual and the finished product is truly unique.

Alongside felted slipper workshops you can also learn how to make felted bags, jewellery, hats and pictures. All I have left to do now is have my slippers soled. I think I’ll brave my local shoe menders… I wonder how he will react?

Ideas to try next…

Now I’ve had a go at making my first pair of felt slippers, I’m looking for inspiration and ideas for my next pair…! What do you think of these ideas I’ve found? I reckon they are all do-able following the same basic technique with a few moderations here and there – which would be part of the creative fun.

I love the combination of rich brown and soft blush pink roses here. The slippers follow the same technique as the pair I’ve already made, though I’d cut away a little more around the top this time. I fancy having a go at making the rosettes of pink felted wood roses by RitaJFelt too…

love these brown wool felt slippers with pink roses in wool. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!love these brown wool felt slippers with pink roses in wool. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

Also love her grey and red version don’t you?

love these grey wool felt slippers with red roses. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

Also really like her polka dot design – suspect I could try making these the same way I added the flowers to the pair I made…

love these grey and white polka dot wool felt slippers. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

This birds on the wire design is really beautiful, but beyond my skills right now. I am thinking about joining one of Emma Herian’s felting workshops (Emma is listed in our directory here) so I could take on more ambitious projects like this…

love these grey wool felt slippers with birds on wire. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

This simple, undecorated pair made by BureBure Slippers are just as beautiful in their way – partly because of their bright red colour

love these bright scarlet red wool felt slippers. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

This amazingly detailed slippers by KoTriangle are a touch over the top for me as they are (and beyond my capabilities), but I do like the idea of adding a poppy to bright red slippers lined in a contrasting colour.

these red poppy flower wool felt slippers are a touch over the top for me, but i do love the idea of adding poppies to simple red wool felt slippers. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

Back to simple grey wool slipper with a rose flower decoration and lined in the same beautiful soft red/coral pink colour by ShpilkaFelt on etsy.

love these grey pink wool felt slippers with rose flower. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

And I do really love the clog shape of these by WoolenClogs on etsy…. I’m on the hunt for a clog-shaped shoe last now.

love these grey and white wool felt slippers in clog shape. Click through to find out how to make a pair of wool felted slippers with other beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make - and wear!

And the restrained, understated style of this pair by AgnesFelt on etsy really appeal to me.

love these simple pale grey wool felt slippers with flowers. love these simple pale grey wool felt slippers with flowers.

Other MAKE ideas you might like to try

how to make a needle felted snowdrop with Emma Herian textile artist. Click through for easy step by step DIY tutorial to start you with wool needle felting - even if you're a complete beginner to this wonderful textile craft

How to make a needle felted snowdrop posy brooch

Easy step by steps with fibre artist Emma Herian – perfect for trying your hand at this wonderfully creative craft, even if you’re a complete beginner.

Love shibori indigo dye techniques to create these beautiful patterns. Click through to discover easy step by step DIY tutorial to create your own beautiful designs using natural indigo dye and shibori patterns with expert Flora Arbuthnott #indigo #shibori #naturaldye #DIY #crafttutorial #frombritainwithlove #plantdye

All you need to know about Indigo Shibori Dye techniques

Join foraged and sustainable plant dye expert Flora Arbuthnott in the workshop for easy step by steps to using organic indigo dye and creating shibori patterns.

how to sew a simple skirt. Add ribbon to create a simple waist. Click through for skirt making ideas you'll love

How to sew a skirt in minutes

The simplest of DIY projects – how to sew a simple and pretty skirt in minutes with easy step by steps and ideas for skirts to try…

INFORMATION


gilliangladrag is listed in the From Britain with Love directory

Get all the info you need to connect with gilliangladrag from the listing >>

Feeling inspired? Take a look at the Creative Workshops category in our Directory, where you’ll find a variety of inspiring courses, from art and crafts to fashion and beautyinteriorscooking and flower & gardening.

Gillian is the author of felting books: Complete Feltmaking and Carnival of Felting

Rachel O’Brien is a freelance writer and stylist. All images courtesy of Rachel O’Brien.

If you run a creative course you think our readers would be interested in reading about, do get in touch. Email us at editor@frombritainwithlove.com

 


A pin to share to Pinterest

How to make felt slippers with wool felt. Click through for step by step easy DIY tutorial with felting expert Gillian Gladrag. to find out how to make your own simple pair of felt slippers and get beautiful ideas to try that you'll love to make #feltslippers #howtomake #slippers #frombritainwithlove #howtomakefeltslippers

 

 

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12 Comments

  • Felt Gasket October 13, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Very nice

    • Laura Dunkley January 29, 2019 at 5:50 pm

      Thank you – glad you liked the post. Have you made a pair of slippers?

  • Cathie January 1, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Oh how I wish I still lived in Britain! Would love to try this but no idea where to find the shoe lasts…

    • Anne July 12, 2019 at 10:24 am

      shoe lasts not necessary. See you tube

  • Laura Dunkley January 29, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Gillian Gladrag herself (details at top of the post) sold shoe lasts last time I looked…. hope you find some and would love to see the finished result!

  • Susan Miller February 10, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    I bought a pair of felted slippers when we visited Estonia a few years ago. I would love to have another pair – maybe I should try making my own!

    • Laura Dunkley February 10, 2019 at 11:18 pm

      Definitely have a go at making a pair – it’s fun and easier than you might think!

  • Nancy Coyle April 20, 2019 at 12:06 am

    What kind of shoes should I use for molding the slippers ?

  • Marieke Cools August 24, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    I don”t understand, do you need old shoes or a special mould? Where can I buy it. I don”t no where I can buy it in The Netherlands

  • Laura Dunkley September 3, 2019 at 11:40 am

    They were made using polystyrene shoe lasts – I believe they are available from Gillian Gladrag from the UK but also from etsy – possibly from the Netherlands? Hope you find them and good luck with making your slippers!

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