Felted slippers workshop at the Art League.

Yesterday I attended a felting workshop at the Art League in Alexandria. This was an all-day, make-your-own-slippers event, led by Renate Maile-Moskowitz. Even though I had no real felting-from-scratch experience (having only fulled items I’d already knitted or crocheted), I left the classroom at day’s end with my own pair of custom, fitted felt house shoes, which I have been wearing this morning at home.

We began by making outlines of our feet, enlarging them by an inch on the sides and an inch and a half on the ends, making plastic cutouts (one for each foot), and then laying out our wool using these cutouts as guides. I chose a blue wool for the exterior, grey for the lining, and a coarse brown wool for thickness in between.

Learning to shingle.
Learning to shingle.

The process is a bit complicated to explain in text, but the principle is simple. We essentially encased the plastic cutouts in wool and then felted them to enclose the cutouts completely, and in such a way that the lining color ended up inside, and the exterior color on the outside. This was a little confusing, and I made a few mistakes. Fortunately, felt is forgiving, and I didn’t suffer too badly. What you’re trying to end up with here, if you can envision it, is topologically just a spherical shell of felt with the blue on the outside, the grey on the inside, and the brown sandwiched between them. At the “center” is the plastic template.

Final felting: molding the slippers to my feet.
Final felting: molding the slippers to my feet.

Once the initial felting was complete, we bravely measured and made cuts into the tops of the shapes, which would become the foot openings. The shape of this cut was essentially a long slash with two v’s cut into the ends in opposite directions, or two Y’s connected by the stem. We then put our feet in and Renata helped us do the final felting-fitting to our feet.

The finished product.
The finished product.

The end result is a lovely pair of slippers that fit me perfectly. What a great day!

For anyone interested in arts and crafts in the DC area, the Art League is an amazing resource. They do courses and workshops in a number of different fields, have art shows, and really seem to be a vibrant community of people who make lovely things. If my budget can spare it, I’d love to go back and do more felting.

I have some more pictures up of the day’s work here. I’m looking forward to more felting in my future — perhaps making another pair sometime soon, so I can remember how to do it!

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