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Recycled Wool Sweater slippers – tutorial!

Felt, Patchwork, Recycling, Sewing, socks, tutorial  |  January 8th 2011  |  0 Comment
This tutorial is from making these purple slippers for my Munchkin.  She absolutely LOVES them. 

Want to make some of your own?!  Then grab an old sweater (it doesnt have to be wool, but wool will give a much better shape and you wont have to worry about it stretching on you as you sew) and lets go!

FIRST.  If you are using a wool sweater, try FELTING it!  I just started felting sweaters in the last few weeks and it is SO COOL.  All I do is cut the sweater apart at the seams and cut off any buttons and pockets, throw it in my wash machine, turn the water to hot and the most agitation possible, add a little detergent and let ‘er wash.  It should shrink it right up, making it thicker and also softer.

Even if your sweater isn’t 100% wool, you could try felting it if it has a fairly high percentage of wool.  The plum and grey striped slippers above are from a sweater that was like 93% wool.  I had to felt it 3 times I think to get the result I wanted, but it was so worth it!

The only warning I have to give is all the fuzz…there’s a lot.  It gets all over your machine, all over your laundry room floor.  And I read somewhere that if you do a lot of felting in your wash machine that it might clog up the filter (or something like that) and you’ll have to get it repaired.  I’ve done 4 sweaters (one of them 3 times) and my machine’s still doing great.

Okay, sweater is felted…now to make your pattern.  This part is by far the hardest part, but dont let that scare you off!  If making your own pattern is just overwhelming, you can just use any ol’ shoe pattern you want.  There’s quite a few free ones online, plus a lot on Etsy to buy.

But, perhaps you’re like me and you have children with…less than ideal feet.  Alright, I’ll spell it out…my kids have fat feet.  (Inherited from my hubby – they also got their cankles from him.)  I wanted to be able to make something that I KNOW will fit my Munchkin and Monster (plus I want to be able to make these slippers to sell on Etsy and at craft fairs) so I knew I needed to come up with my own pattern.

First you need to get your measurements.  I’m going to show you with pictures, and I’ll label the measurements by letter.  (I apologize for lack of straight lines, or good angles…having 3 little kids around will do that.)
A – Length of sole, toe to heel

B – Width of foot (at widest part, along the “knuckles”)

C – Width of ankle (easiest to get when you trace the foot or shoe, make a mark where the ankle is and the measure the width of the tracing at the point)

D – Circumference of ankle (all the way around)

F – Circumference of calf (where you want the slipper to hit)

G – Floor to top of foot (by the ankle)

H – Over the top of foot (by the ankle)


E – Height of slipper (ground to where you want the slipper to hit)

I – Length of top of foot, from ankle to toe

(I didnt draw a pattern on paper for these slippers (other than the sole), so all these pictures show the actual sweater being cut out.  I recommend making an actual pattern and possibly even cutting it out and sewing it on practice fabric before cutting up your sweater.  Yes, regular fabric will be different than sweater, but it will give you a general idea whether the pattern you made is going to work or not!)

The easiest way to get the sole pattern is to trace the foot and then add enough for a seam allowance (I used a seam allowance of 3/8″).  Or you could trace one of their shoes (you probably wouldnt need to add a seam allowance).  As for me, my kids were sleeping when I made these (I actually snuck into my daughters room and measured her feet as they dangled off the edge of her bed!) and her shoes are at least a size bigger than what she needs in order to accomadate the width.  So I freehanded something like this:

I used measurements A (6.5″) and (2.25″) , made a “t” and then drew the shape and then added the seam allowance.  It certainly wasnt an exact science, but it seemed to work out.

Cut a rectangle using the following measurements (try to use the hem of the sleeve or bottom of sweater for the top of the rectangle):

(The numbers in parentheses are the measurements I used for my daughter.)
In one of the bottom corners (you’ll do it to both), mark a little rectangle like in this picture:
G (floor to top of foot)
C (width of ankle) divided by 2
Now make a little curve inside the rectangle, like the dotted lines in the picture.  Cut out this curve.
Do the same thing to the other corner so you end up with a piece like this:
(except, maybe do a better job at getting it EVEN!  Uggh…well it worked out in the end even if it looks ugly here.)
You’ll be cutting out another rectangle to start with.  I didnt take an actual picture of the rectangle, so here’s a drawn one:
The “curved corner of the Ankle piece” is what you just finished cutting out in the previous step.
As you can see in my drawn rectangle, I put another dotted line…you’re going to curve this rectangle too!  I usually fold it in half and cut the curve that way so its even on both sides.  Its not an exact science, which is why I suggested doing a test slipper out of practice fabric.
Okay, now you have three pattern pieces! 
You’ll cut two of each from the sweater – making sure to get reverses of the soles so you dont end up with two right-footed slippers.  (Yes, I’m speaking from experience!!)
Take a quick breather…now on to the easy part – sewing!
Cut a piece of elastic to the length of D (circumference of ankle).  I used 1/2″ elastic, but a little skinnier might have worked too.
We’re going to sew the elastic onto the ankle piece, horizontally, right above the curved corners we cut out, like where this line is:
(Make sure you have the elastic on the WRONG side of the fabric. Again, speaking from experience here.)
1. Using a straight stitch, sew one end of the elastic in place.
2.  Set your machine to the longest stitch length and the biggest zigzag.
3.  Zig zag right over the elastic, making sure to gently pull the elastic so that it stretches the entire length of the fabric.
4.  This is what it should look like when you’re done.
With right sides together, stitch along outside edge of ankle piece.
(I like to fold down the top of the slipper a bit, so I usually leave the top inch or so unstitched.  For these slippers, I just didnt sew the ribbing that was at the top.)
If you want to embellish the top of the foot of the slipper, like I did, now is the time to do it.

(I took strips from a pink sweater and stretched it as I sewed.  Nothing special.)

The next part is easy enough, even if I dont make it sound easy.

Your ankle piece should have wrong sides out from sewing the elastic on it.  Its kind of a tube now.  The two curved corners you cut out should  be connected to form a nice arch.

Take the top of foot piece and fold it in half, with the right side facing OUT.  This fold will be perpendicular to the straight edge (folding the curve in half).

Slide the top of foot piece INSIDE the ankle piece, curved edge first.  The right side of the ankle piece should be touching the right side of the top of foot piece.  Also, the straight edge should be lined up with the curved corners.  (You shouldnt see much of the top of foot piece at this point.)

Pin the pieces in place and stitch.  (Sometimes, the straight edge of the top of foot piece is a wee bit shorter than the curved corners of the ankle piece.  As long as its just a little shorter, its usually okay.  Just pin the two centers then gently stretch  it as you pin the rest.)

Now this is what it should look like, with the wrong side out.  The last step is to sew it to the sole!

To line up the top with the sole, you could mark the center of the toes and heels and line up the marks.

OR…fold the sole in half (along the length of the sole) with the right side facing out.  Fold the top part (ankle piece/top of foot that are now sewn together) over the sole with the right side touching the right side of the sole.  You should be able to line it up and pin it fairly easily now.

Stitch these two together….I usually start at the top of the toe and stitch around the outside of the foot down to the heel, then start at the top again and stitch around the inside of the foot down to the heel.  It seems to line up better for me that way.
Turn right side out, sew up the other slipper the same way, and ta da!

You’re done!!! 

You can use this pattern with any type of fabric really…I’ve done some cute baby booties out of cordouroy and did a lining from a t shirt!  Once you get the pattern made, its kinda hard not to make a whole ton!!!
If you try my tutorial out, let me know how it goes…I know it works for me, did it work for you?

source: 1.bp.blogspot.com

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