I'm pretty psyched about this project you guys. One of the main reasons I got started on this slipper path was because for a while I was obsessed with trying to make my own shoes. I did make some awesome sandals that Laura and I still wear, but I took a huge detour in the form of The Knitted Slipper Book once I started exploring felted wool footwear, as slippers seemed a natural fit for that material. But now it seems I've come full circle as I've figured out how to add custom sturdy *outside* soles to slippers. This means there's no reason for me to have cold toes all winter. It means not having to remove my favorite slippers to trek outside. It means I don't have to purchase another pair of cute but flimsy "made in China" boots to get me through another winter. It's heady stuff, and I can tell that this is just the first of many pairs of slipper/shoe hybrids I plan to make for this winter.
These are the Blanket Ankle Boots, trimmed with a special piece of thrifted weaving I've been saving. They are made from thick and sturdy felted wool and have a leather and natural rubber sole that is hand-stitched in place. The pattern is based on the Renaissance Boots from The Knitted Slipper Book. Incidentally, the socks that are peeking out the top of these boots are the Slouch Socks, another pattern from the book.
The natural rubber and leather soles transform these into actual shoes, I don't think they look like slippers anymore. Since you trace your foot to make the soles, they fit perfectly, and it also means you don't need any fancy shoemaking tools to make these.
I think these boots will be perfect for knocking around this fall and winter. Would you like to make some of your own? I'll be posting the tutorial over the next two days, so read on! Today I'll cover the knitting pattern alteration, blanket cuff sewing and first part of the sole assembly. On Tuesday, I'll add the tutorial for sewing the sole together and attaching it to the slipper boot.
Let's get started!
The body for this boot is a simple pattern, knit like a extra-large simple sock with a quick short-row heel. Since you're felting them, the short rows are easy to knit because you don't have to pick up your wraps- they disappear upon felting! Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica yarn felts up thick and lusciously. I used a vintage piece of weaving for my boot cuff, but you could use a favorite scrap of fabric you have squirreled away, or maybe a funky woven fringed placemat. Other than that, you'll need a scrap of thin leather and a piece of rubber soling. In the supplies and tools section below, I link to sources for the specialized supplies and tools. Because some of these materials can be tricky to find, I'm thinking about offering kits of leather, rubber, and the special heavy waxed nylon thread. Let me know in the comments if you'd be interested in this and I'll put some kits together.
Supplies and tools
- Manos del Uruguay Wool Classica: 3 skeins (since the pattern is shorter now, you *might* be able to make a pair with 2 skeins.
- Fabric for cuff- 2 pieces that measure about 6"x16" each- including fringe, if present.
- Button and craft thread
- Thin leather piece, about 12"x12" I use leather upholstery samples for this.
- Rubber soling. This is hard to find- I bought a whole bunch directly from the manufacturer. Simple Shoemaking sells something similar, I think the material I have is a bit thicker.
- Waxed nylon thread
- Nontoxic contact cement
- Size 10 1/2 knitting needles
- Sturdy scissors (these are the best for cutting leather and rubber)
- Long needle (I use the biggest ones from the milliner's needles I bought from Alabama Chanin)
- Leather punch, I used the smallest setting for this project
- Optional: leather stitching groover and overstitch wheel
- Tape Measure
- Paper, pen
- Paintbrush for glue
To make the Blanket Ankle Boots
Felt and shape the boots as written in the book, but knit only 50 (53, 53) rows before turning the heel. After felting, turn down a 2" cuff on the boots to add stability and extra warmth. This also allows for flexibility when you add your blanket piece. I used a vintage piece of weaving, and it was smallish. I folded the cuff down so the weaving fit perfectly on the body of the leg.
I'm trying something new for this tutorial, and have added a photo slideshow for the how-to steps. To advance to the next step, click on the photo. Tomorrow, I'll continue this tutorial and show how to finish up the sole and attach it to the boot.