Why & how to add soles to hand-knit slippers

Wooly slippers are the best for keeping toes cozy all winter long, but they have one major shortcoming- they can be super-slippery on wood and tile floors. While my boys delight in sliding across the living-room floor in their wool socks, it’s generally no fun to be worried about slipping all the time when you're wearing knitted slippers. Non-slip soles for slippers make them nicer to wear and are also extend the life of slippers by preventing holes in the knitted material.

Image from The Knitted Slipper Book

Image from The Knitted Slipper Book

When I set out to write about slipper soling for The Knitted Slipper Book, I did a lot of research on popular DIY soling options and I also came up with a few of my own, drawing from my experience making handmade leather sandals. I’m going to give you a quick rundown of the different soling options featured in the book and have also included video tutorials I made where applicable. For complete information about how I add soles to slippers, see pages 18-21 in The Knitted Slipper Book. 

Paint-on Natural Latex Rubber

This material is quick and easy to apply and forms a thin, yet sturdy non-slip coating on slipper soles. It goes on milky white, and generally dries translucent, though it can look a bit yellow depending on the color of the slipper. If the final color is important to you, knit, felt and “sole” a test swatch. The material I use is call Castin’ Craft Mold Builder, and I buy it at my local Michael’s store. I've linked to the same product on Amazon because I can't find it on the Michael's site. It is a bit smelly, so I usually apply it outside or next to a window. I’ve found that a cheap brush is the best application tool, as it's difficult to remove the material from the brush. 

Plasti-Dip

This material is also a paint-on sole, but it’s made from synthetic materials and is more heavy-duty. It's available from Ace Hardware. I used black for the projects in the book, but it comes in a few basic colors as well as clear. This stuff is straight-up stinky, so apply it outside. You can build-up layers to make a thick sole that is suitable for wearing outside. On one pair of boots I made for home use, I even made the Plasti-Dip come up the sides of the slipper a bit, much like Keen shoes have a black rubber sole that continues up the toe, to further protect the slipper body. You apply it the same way as the latex.

Sew-on suede sole

This is potentially the most inexpensive way to add a sole to slippers because it’s easy to find suede garments at thrift shops. I came up with a way to make a simple, custom template for the slippers you’ve knit, so the soles are sure to match the slippers perfectly. You can either punch holes in the suede and then sew it on, or use an extra-sharp leather needle and stitch right through the suede. 

Sewn-on vegetable tanned leather

I make leather sandals from 6-7 oz vegetable tanned leather, and love how they wear and hold up for years. I buy my leather from my local Tandy Leather Factory store. You can call them and speak to the store closest to you and they will help you figure out how much leather you need to buy- they've always been super-helpful for me! I punch holes in the leather with a rotary punch, it's fastest and I find all kinds of uses for this tool in my studio. You can sew on a leather sole with embroidery floss, but waxed linen thread is rot-resistant, so you could wear these slippers outside if you like. Working with leather can be tricky, but I share my techniques in the book, so it’s a good way to get more familiar with this useful material. (Plus, if you buy a piece of leather for soles, you’ll have some left over for little cases, coasters and maybe sandals!)

I'd love to hear from you if you have any questions or ideas about soling slippers, please leave a comment if you have any thoughts.

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