Cotton Loafer Knit-a-Long, Part 2: Jute Soles

Thanks for joining us for part two of the Cotton Loafer series. They loafers are some all-season slippers from The Knitted Slipper Book.  In part one, I talked about my design inspiration and choices. Be sure to check in over at the STC Craft blog for a chance to win a materials kit and knitting tote! In the meantime, we're talking about jute today. I love thinking creatively about new materials or techniques to solve design problems. When I set out to make a pair of slippers that were inspired by boat shoes and espadrilles, I figured I try the very same material that espadrilles are made from- jute. I bought my jute at Ace Hardware, but you can find it in the garden sections of most stores. 

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It's not something you'll find in your local yarn shop, but jute is an interesting material to consider when you're knitting something that needs to be rustic, sturdy, and richly textural. I think jute would also be good for knitting flat objects like coasters, or even a doormat or vessels like baskets and bags. In fact, I'm planning to offer a free pattern that uses jute and cotton to make a sweet mini-tote- stay tuned for that next week. There are also other footwear patterns that have used jute before, these crocheted sandals have always intrigued me. 

Now. Time for some real-talk. Jute is not a delightful material to work with. In fact, it's kinda awful. It doesn't glide through your hands like the most luscious, rich merino. It's like a hairier, rougher and generally more unpleasant linen. But happily, the sole is so small, the not-fun part of knitting is over quickly. Garter stitch and short row shaping make for a shapely, yet cushy sole, and  it's fun to see how quickly it develops. The garter-stitch edges make it easy to pick up the stitches for the cotton upper, which I'll talk about next week. 

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Cotton Loafer Knit-a-long, part 1

Since we will soon be swept into the pleasantly busy time of Christmas gift making and knitting, I thought it would be fun to do a knit-a-long of a small and sweet project just for us knitters. Over the next two weeks, I'll be posting twice-weekly about The Cotton Loafers from The Knitted Slipper Book. Today there's a companion post over on the STC Craft blog. Be sure to check out that post for more about this project and to enter for a chance to win a materials kit and canvas knitting tote.

Sometimes when I have an idea for a new design, it takes many "drafts" and gnashing of teeth to replicate the image I see in my mind. Other times, the fully formed design practically pops off the needles on the first go-around. The Cotton Loafers were the second type of design, and they are one of my favorite projects from The Knitted Slipper Book. 

The shapely, sturdy sole, the functional leather lacing, the contrasting cotton upper, all the details I originally envisioned are there.  Here are some ideas, colors and images I was thinking about when I started working on these slippers. 

I have always wanted to design something that used jute from the hardware store. Admittedly, it is not the nicest thing to work with, but it makes such a sturdy, rustic fabric that I think it's worth it. Plus, the sole is such a tiny bit of knitting, it's really not bad. I knew I'd need some soft and cool cotton to contrast with the rustic base, and the organic Worsted Cotton from Blue Sky Alpacas was a great fit. I knit my first pair in a rusty red color, but when it was time to knit a sample pair for the book, I turned to a pretty blue that reminds me of well-worn denim. 

I will be posting about knitting the slipper sole on Thursday, so if you want to join in, round up some materials and supplies. The design's Ravelry page has all the relevant details, of course you can also find this information in your copy of The Knitted Slipper Book! I will also be starting a giveaway here on Thursday, here's a sneak peek of the knitting tote I made for the winner- 

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Blanket Ankle Boots Tutorial: Part Two

In part one of the tutorial, I shared the materials and tools, knitting, sewing and template-making. Today I'll cover how to stitch together the sole and attach it to the boot. Making the sole requires the use of saddle stitch, a leatherworking technique which makes very sturdy stitches that won't unravel even if one stitch is broken. To prepare for this type of stitching, cut a 40" long piece of thread and thread *both* ends with needles. 

To advance to the next step in the slideshow, just click on the image. 


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Blanket Ankle Boots: A Tutorial, part one

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. 

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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

Supplies

  • 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

Tools

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. 

Knitting Daily TV Series 1300

Back in February I travelled to sunny and warm Cleveland, Ohio to film a segment for the newest season of Knitting Daily TV with Vickie Howell. It was a great experience to meet some fellow designers and to work with Vickie and other knitting pros. I had a lot of fun chatting with Heather ZoppettiJoanna Johnson and Lauren Riker, who were also in town to film segments for the show. Working from home, it's sometimes difficult to feel connected to the knitting world, so it was especially nice to spend time with these talented women. 

Here are some shots from my "vintage" iPod, the only camera I brought with me. 

The series is now beginning to air on PBS stations and it's also available to purchase on DVD or digital download.  I'm in Episode 1311- Foot Forward. Here's a preview for that episode:

In my segment I demonstrate how to felt and assemble the Sunday Morning Scuffs from The Knitted Slipper Book. It was fun to make these slippers in a new and cozy colorway- they look so different from the samples in the book.

You'll have to check your local PBS listings to find out when the new series airs in your area. From the looks of the production calendar that was in the green room, the series is full of some really stellar guests and great projects-  I'm looking forward to catching up on the whole series soon!

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Tangents

Katie's Tangents

We went camping as a family this week. Raftless, but with a borrowed rowboat, we stayed at Holly Bay Campground on Laurel River Lake. It was a super break, and only an hour's drive away. Since we went mid-week, we basically had the lake to ourselves. It was our first time camping as a family for more than one night, and I think we will definitely go camping again. 

Two successes of the trip were my camp kitchen setup- made totally from materials scrounged from my garage and messily in-use in this photo, 

and the hammock I made from a thrifted sheet using these directions. Wish I had made one for each of us! It was in high-demand. 

I had time to stitch and finished an Alabama Chanin style corset that I plan to overdye with indigo to tone down the bright blue. 

Laura's Tangents

My family has been in vacation mode too-only we headed to Chicago to visit Stirider's brother, Jamon. We had such a great time. It was fantastic to experience the city with someone who lives there and loves it. We did all sorts of touristy stuff like an architectural boat tour,

visited the (free!) zoo and conservatory, and spent an entire day at the Museum of Science and Industry, where we toured a U boat and a streamlined train from the 30's-but what really made an impression on me were two much smaller objects-the sweepers clock video installation, and a vintage plywood model for a proposed exhibit.

Hope your summer thus far has also included a break from the ordinary and plenty of knitting by the water!


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