Slipper Finishing School Day 1

Galilee Slippers designed by Mamachee
There are some things I have learned about slippers over the years, mostly because they seem to be the one item I have made the most mistakes on. Fun, cute, fast gifts that.... may or may not actually be worn. It might be my perfectionism, but the times I have given handmade gifts that flopped have downright devastated me. It's not always easy choosing the right gift in the first place, then you have to worry about yarn and color and size and style and other things. And then you really must consider two even more important things: comfort and practicality. You may land on the perfect pattern, know a person's favorite colors and styles and shoe size, choose a nice soft yarn, and do a damn good job at it, but if they aren't going to be a pleasure to wear, they are not going to be worn.

Slippers are about more than keeping your feet warm while looking cute. They need to be practical- something you can get up off your sofa and go for another cuppa without wincing- and less than dangerous. Let's face it: It hurts to walk on crochet. Unless you go with some seriously plush, bulky yarn and have some seriously plush carpet, the stitching grinds into your heels and the balls of your feet as you walk across the floor. Advising someone to wear socks with a pair of slippers you are gifting is downright admitting you had a bad idea. Will they figure this out themselves? Should they have to? 

And unless you have floors made out of rubber or sandpaper, slippers are... slippery. Hardwoods, vinyl, tile are sworn enemies of socks and slippers, but even carpet can be hazardous to someone with crochet-covered feet. There have been lots of articles and tips about making non-slip soles- and I will link to some of those in a bit, but personally, I like to go with the simplest (and admittedly fun-to-do) way, Let's see exactly what we will need and then what we do with those things! Above all, you can fix all these problems by spending less than $1 per pair of shoes- which makes it sort of impossible to say no to, right? And what's another hour or so spent to get a professional-looking and very foot-friendly result. Pretty much nothing, if you ask me! Not to mention... this stuff is fun or why else would we do it? 

Slipper Finishing Supplies
Slipper Shopping* List

1. A good pattern
2. Some nice, washable yarn
3. Felt squares in a matching or complimentary color
4. Thread in a color to match your felt and a sewing needle 
5. Paper and pen
6. Foam Sheets in a matching (or close) color
7. Puff paint in a matching color
8. Scissors

*some of these cost you nothing!

Let's break this down.

1. A good pattern
  • Not all slippers will leave you an edge around the sole to attach the bottoms to later. You could always sew them to what you perceive as the bottom margin, but that is trickier to get right and may change the look of the slipper. 
  • Patterns that require you to double-strand the soles probably will be harder to pad, would use a lot of yarn and just be too bulky. Walking on 4 layers of stitching alone would be softer, but the discomfort level would be intensified.* 
  • Look for patterns that are modeled on PEOPLE. How much of the foot does it cover? Does it look like it will stay on kicking around under a blanket? Will it be insanely difficult to get on and off? Will it end up so heavy that gravity will win? Imagine it on your foot and decide how it will feel.
  • Make sure the pattern has the sizes you need, those sizes match the measurements (don't forget about width!) you expect, and there is information on gauge and enough information about the yarn used that you aren't spending an hour trying to find out what it is and what is comparable**. If all of this information isn't available before purchasing, ask the designer.
*Tips on substituting slipper soles will come on Day 3.

**Ravelry is a fabulous source for everything knit and crochet, and in the case of comparable yarn a lot of people have already done the sleuth-work for you! Click on the 'yarn ideas' tab at the top of any pattern page and you will see what other crocheters have successfully completed that pattern with!

2. Nice, washable yarn

I personally prefer acrylic or a high-acrylic blend for any item that will need to be washed often. Kids, pets, feet- these will all need washable yarn. Make it soft. Another dollar or two per skein may be all it takes to get a softer, stronger, prettier yarn that washes well. It's worth the cost for your hands working it and your gift-recipient wearing them. 

3. Felt squares 

The Felt Squares aisle at Hobby Lobby is fantastic
Shopping for felt is fun! So many colors and patterns and it is SO CHEAP you really can't go wrong. You might have trouble deciding, in fact. A standard sheet of felt is 9x12" and that is big enough to fit up to about a size 13 or 14 in men's. Bigger than that you may need to angle your cut or buy a 1/8 yard from a bolt. 

4. Thread in a color to match your felt and a sewing needle 

That's pretty obvious. You want a small, sharp needle and you want the sewing to not be obvious.

5. Paper and pen

I bet you have this! Or a pencil. Pencils are good, too! So is reusing that printer paper that got a little rumpled or your insane printer thought it needed to print just one line of text on!

6. Foam Sheets in a matching (or close) color

The foam won't really be seen, but it might show through a bit on the bottom. If you can't get the exact color, get a color that doesn't clash. If you buy in a multi-pack, you can use other colors for the center of the 'sandwich' and just have the outside one a better color. I found foam sheets at the dollar store, but they are thinner than ones at a craft store. Doubling or tripling up on them is still cheaper. I like cheap. 

The bigger the slipper, the more padding I add. For a baby, you might just skip this step, though it does help give a nice structure to the shoe. For a toddler I would use 1 or 2 thicknesses- for a man I would use 5 or 6. Maybe test it by laying some on a cloth on a hard floor and stand on it in your sock feet. Bounce a little. See how many layers it takes to hardly feel the floor, then take away some if you think it will be too thick to sandwich in between the inner and outer soles. With the two layers of crochet and the felt lining, this should be a perfect thickness for you. Adjust that for whoever the gift is intended for.

At big craft stores, foam sheets come in really big sizes- and a choice of three thicknesses. At Hobby Lobby, they ranged from 89cents for the thinnest to $1.59 for the thickest. For men's slippers, I did 2 layers of the thickest, which is equivalent to about 6 layers of the thinnest. These larger sheets are pretty essential for large men's sizes. 

7. Puff paint in a matching color

Again, FUN! Though a little trickier to get the right color than the felt. Use your judgment about what will look good if you can't go EXACT- or use black and just be extra special neat about it so it looks intentional. I love painting soles because you can have fun with it - use dots or stripes or zigzags or smiley faces.. write their name... there is no limit to how cool you can make that. AND, Puff Paint is pretty cheap and can do about 3-4 pairs of slippers, depending on the size. That's like 20cents a slipper!

HERE is a great round-up article on Moogly that already covers other ideas for non-slip soles. Whichever you decide on, take your time and make it neat!

8. Scissors

Let's hope you have these already... and a pair you won't mind cutting through a few layers of foam board at a time with! Might be good to pick up a pair for $1-2 just for this kind of 'thick' crafting.

Tomorrow I will cover the actual slipper finishing! Stay tuned!