Mendiferous

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All soles

I had a dilemma this week – my crochet slippers developed some holes and I had the choice of finally giving up on them or mending them. A while back, Kate sent me some sheepskin slipper soles that are no use to her in tropical Australia and I plan to use these to make myself some brand new spiffy slippers at some point, but looking at my old slippers, I decided that there was still a bit of life in them and mending would be worthwhile. I did briefly toy with the idea of using the new soles to mend the old slippers, but actually the new pieces do not coincide entirely where the old ones are worn and, anyway, I have some ideas for the new ones… when I eventually get round to them.

This is the third mend of my old faithfuls and each time I have used a different colour to make the repair obvious. First they had new crochet soles, then I added some crochet reinforcement to the sides, and now finally I’ve done some darning:

The original yarn was a mix of sock wool and some 100% wool chunky, but all the blue mends, including the latest three patches of darning, have been made using Axminster rug wool. The original company that I got the Axminster wool from went out of business, but I’m delighted to say that a new supplier, Airedale Yarns, has popped up. I haven’t ordered from them yet, but I can highly recommend Axminster wool for making slippers – it lasts so much longer than any other yarn I’ve tried for the job.

So, my slippers live to be worn another day. I’m pondering whether there will come a point when there is nothing left visible of the original slippers… or , indeed, whether they will eventually become unsalvageable.

Do you have items that are mended repeatedly? And when do you decide to give up on them?

Sole purpose

When I make something, I want it to last (unless it’s food). If I put hours into knitting or crocheting, I’d like the finished object to be used for years to come, so choosing the right materials to work with is very important. For example, I have learned that sock yarn is essential for hard-wearing socks – with the best intentions, a normal 4-ply is useless, as you’ll have holey socks in no time at all.

Making slippers has been quite an experiment in terms of finding the right yarn because, unlike socks, there is no yarn specifically designed for slippers. And, my word, does it need to be hard-wearing. Originally I tried out a variety of yarns, but finally settled on Axminster – the stuff they make carpets out of – because this is designed to be walked on day in and day out, just like a pair of slippers. However, by the time that I discovered this yarn, I’d already made several pairs of slippers with other yarns.

Oh no, a hole!

Oh no, a hole!

My own pair needed repairing some time ago – they are made with a combination of chunky 100% wool yarn and a couple of strands of sock yarn. Mr Snail’s were made from Pure Whitefaced Woodland Wool from Blacker yarns (no longer available), which has lasted about 15 months before wearing through. Mine had new soles a while ago, but Mr Snail’s slippers came in for the Axminster treatment this weekend. Rather than simply darning them (I hate darning), I made them complete Axminster soles, covering up the damaged part and returning them to functionality.

Axminster sole

Axminster sole

The Axminster yarn contains about 20% nylon to make it much tougher than pure wool. Part of me really wants to use only natural fibres, but I have to acknowledge that the presence of nylon does make this yarn much more hard-wearing and, therefore, ideal for this purpose. I’ve written about yarn ethics in the past and I still struggle to find a perfect option in all cases. However, by choosing this particular yarn for this particular use, my work lasts longer and the slippers need repairing or replacing much less frequently, thus conserving resources and making the best use of my time. I think that’s as good as it’s going to get!

Good as new

Good as new

I got sole

Our slippers!

Mr Snail’s slippers #1 and my slippers in their heyday

Crochet slippers have turned out to be very popular. I’ve made then for myself, my mum (two pairs), one of my nieces, one of mum’s neighbours who has been very kind whilst mum has been ill and Mr Snail (also two pairs). However, they are a bit tough on the fingers to make and so I’m determined to ensure that they last as long as possible. The most recent three pairs have been made of Axminster carpet wool and had the soles coated with latex, but my pair was just made from yarn I had lying around at the time (now there’s both Axminster and Berber wool lying around, but not then). So, it’s no surprise that they have started to wear out:

Nearly worn through

Nearly worn through

Regular readers will know that I hate darning, and anyway, the whole of the bottom of both slippers was wearing thin, so a more radical solution was required: new soles. I didn’t have any black yarn, so I opted for a lovely blue with an added strand of purple sock yarn to increase the bulk a little. I started with a chain 18 stitches long and then just worked round and round in double crochet (UK terminology) until I reached the appropriate size, After that, it was just a case of stitching the new sole onto the old slipper and now I’m back to toasty feet again:

 

 

Carpet slippers

December 2015 This post has been edited because the company that I bought the yarn from has gone out of business.

My final post for Zero Waste Week just has to be craft related…. well, I can’t go a week without writing a post about knitting or crochet can I?

In order to reduce waste, it’s a great idea to buy good quality items that won’t wear out quickly. Yesterday, fellow blogger westywrites posted about her attempt to avoid buying new clothes for a year and the fact that her socks are wearing very thin- a particular problem because she doesn’t wear slippers round the house. She has been inspired by yours truly to attempt to knit her own socks for added durability (they do last well if you use genuine sock wool and are easier to mend, in my experience, than bought ones). However, round our house we do wear slippers because I make those too… and they certainly protect your socks.

New slippers in Black and yellow Axminster rug yarn

New slippers in Black and yellow Axminster rug yarn (with hand-knitted socks underneath)

I have been experimenting with different chunky yarns for slipper-making and my latest creations are true carpet slippers because they are made of Axminster rug yarn (80% wool, 20% nylon)! I reckon that if this yarn is sufficiently hard-wearing to make carpets from, it should be good for the slippers that walk on them. The pair I’ve just finished is for Mr Snail – now he has a different home during the week, he needed a second pair of slippers to save him remembering to take one pair back and forth each week. I asked him to choose a colour and he responded that he wanted black and yellow to match the cover of his novel (I know not why). In fact the yellow that I ordered was rather more orange than it looked in the picture on the Texere website (sadly this company has now gone out of business), but it was the only yellow they had and he still seemed pleased with the end result. I made them to match part 2 of the Kindle edition of the novel, because the paperback edition is mainly yellow and white and that would have shown the dirt!

Lovely natural shades of Berber wool

Lovely natural shades of Berber wool

I was also delighted to discover that Texere [used to] sell Berber yarn (another one used for carpet-making, but pure wool this time), so I’ve bought some of that too to have a go with. If you want to make some slippers like the ones shown, the pattern can be found here and it’s free to download. It’s a bit hard on the hands if you use a really robust yarn like I did, but the resulting slippers are very warm and comfy… and they will not only save your socks, but may also help to reduce your fuel bills!

So that’s the end of my posts for Zero Waste Week – I hope you have been inspired somewhere along the line.

More slippery

I’ve now completed two pairs of the lovely chunky slippers, so here’s a a slippie (a selfie of slippers) or possibly a slipture (a picture of slippers):

Our slippers!

Our slippers!

Toastie toes

No sooner were the slippers off my hook and the ends stitched in this evening than they were on the feet of Mr Snail of Happiness. Please excuse the poor pictures, but it’s dark so I had to use a flash:

An immediate hit

An immediate hit

Modelled with hand-knitted socks too!

Modelled with hand-knitted socks too!

If you want to make some, the pattern can be found here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/adult-chunky-slippers … or you can pay me to make some for you!

Slippery

Repaired at the heels, but they won't last long

Repaired at the heels, but they won’t last long

Well, despite my best attempts, Mr Snail-of-happiness’  knitted slippers are not going to last forever. I made a reasonable job of mending the second one this week – using a crochet patch to avoid the hated darning, but I could see that their time is nearly up. It’s partly my fault for choosing a very soft yarn, which turned out to be not very hard-wearing. Never mind, they’ve lasted a year or so and it has given me the opportunity to learn more about different sorts of yarn and slipper designs. I have a ball of the purple wool left over and it’s going to make a lovely soft hat one day!

I’m not going to make the same mistake again: for his new pair, I have chosen a very tough yarn and a lovely adult chunky slipper crochet pattern by Jennifer Dougherty (http://www.crochetbyjennifer.com/). The yarn I selected is another one from Blacker Yarns, this time Pure Whitefaced Woodland Wool, which comes from a rare breed of sheep grazing Suffolk heathland. One of the reviews on the Blacker site said that this is ideal for slippers, and it certainly feels like it’s going to be very hard-wearing.

A new slipper... just one so far - he'll have to hop!

A new slipper… just one so far – he’ll have to hop!

The pattern turned out to be very quick to work up and, despite only making a start on the first one at coffee time today, I had finished it (all but weaving in ends) by the evening. It’s a bit tough on the fingers because of the combination of the robust yarn and the main stitch used (front post double [US]/treble [UK] crochet if you’re interested), but I can live with that if it results in a slipper that lasts a long time.

A darn good job

I know that I’m a big proponent of mending things, but there is one job that I’m not very keen on and that is darning… I always put it off. However, it’s a useful skill to have* and it is great to be able to mend a knitted garment, particularly one that I made myself and put lots of effort into.

The first set of threads in place (darning is like weaving)

The first set of threads in place (darning is like weaving)

So, it was quite a job to persuade myself to start repairing Mr Snail-of-happiness’  slipper socks. In a way, it’s my own fault they wore out… I chose a lovely soft wool that wasn’t really up to the job. I should have chosen something more rugged; and I will, when I need to knit a new pair, but for the time being I want to keep the old ones going as long as I can. I do have quite a bit of the yarn left, but I think I will use if for a soft, warm hat rather than more footwear!

And the finished job... not too bad and it should last a while longer

And the finished job… not too bad and it should last a while longer

Yesterday afternoon (I really needed good light and it was a nice bright winter day) I settled down with needle and yarn and started the repair. It was a big hole in the heel and he did keep wearing them for a while after it formed, so it had got worse. Sadly, the wool seemed to have no tendency to felt, so I had to do quite a lot of work around the edges of the hole before I could start the actual act of darning. Once I got going, I did quite enjoy it, and I certainly feel pleased that I have managed to eek a few more moths of life out of this particular creation. Next time, though it’s tough Icelandic wool if I can get it!

-0Oo-

* I don’t intend to give a tutorial, but there’s some great information here.

Wool week round-up

Here we are on the last day of 2013 British Wool week, so I thought it appropriate to show you what I have made using wool and yarn in the past seven days:

British Wool Week 2013: The results

British Wool Week 2013: The results

The slippers were felted last Sunday; one and a bit of the socks were completed in the past seven days; the bacterium was crocheted one evening, and the chunky shawl was started on Friday evening.  Not an insignificant amount of creativity in a week, if I do say so myself. I did all of the knitting and crochet at the same time as something else: watching TV, listening to an audiobook, attending a meeting or quietly thinking about some permaculture design work.

If you don’t already do it, I encourage you to try being creative when you are relaxing… it’s very satisfying.

Seize the day

I was supposed to be teaching this weekend – a course on land restoration and habitat creation. Sadly, it had to be cancelled and I was left with three empty days, Not that my days are ever really empty, but I was very conscious that some time had appeared that would otherwise have been filled with teaching and I was keen not to let it slip away. Happily, I got the chance to go on a  felting course today… an opportunity too good to miss.

So, I have been making felt slippers at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre with Lorraine Pocklington of Greenweeds. In fact, it’s a course that I have done before, but a girl can never have too many pairs of slippers and I knew that I would really enjoy myself. So the day was seized and there’s now a soggy pair of handmade slippers drying in our bath!

We started off by selecting the wool that we wanted to use: Masham, Texel, Gotland, Icelandic or Hebridean, all produced in Britain so not many yarn miles!

A selection of undyed, British wools

A selection of undyed, British wools

Then we made our resists (the thing that goes in the middle or your felt to stop the two sides sticking together and allowing you to make three-dimensional objects without the need for seams). Once you have a resist, you build up layers of fiber around it, using water and soap and then you begin to felt.

The felting begins

The felting begins

You rub the fibres to encourage them to mat together, and once they have started to develop a structure, you keep on working them to form the felt. Today we rolled our felt in bamboo mats to achieve this

Bootee slippers still joined as a pair about to be rolled up in a bamboo mat

Bootee slippers, still joined together, about to be rolled up in a bamboo mat

And eventually, you form two slippers and mold them around your feet… or get a friend to do it!

Felting to fit your feet

Felting to fit your feet

Get a friend to help!

Get a friend to help!

And at the end of the day, we all ended up with at least one completed slipper!

Lovely slippers - mine ore front left

Lovely slippers – mine are front left

Since I had the advantage of having done the course before, I finished both mine: Gotland exterior, Texel Interior with decorations using some scraps of yarn from Colinette. What a productive and satisfying day.

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