Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recycled Wool Sweater slippers - tutorial!

 Like I mentioned in my previous post, at my first craft fair on Friday I got TONS of compliments on these recycled sweater booties - but the most common comment was "I love these but I dont have anyone small enough to wear them!"

So, I figured I should try expanding my size range.  Plus, I've got two toddlers that refuse to wear shoes or socks in the house, even when its FREEZING, so maybe if I make them special slippers they'll be a little more cooperative.
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 B (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?

Fine Craft Guild


  1. I'm a fellow Iron Crafter- and I love your little slippers! Following you now! :)

  2. These are awesome! They look so warm and snuggly!! I linked to your tutorial over at Craft Gossip Sewing:


  3. Great tutorial. I love woolly slippers, and this looks delightfully easy to follow. When I felt in the washing machine, I put the wool inside old pillowcases and hold them closed with elastic bands. It saves me finding fluff everywhere and I don't have to worry about my lint filter. You might find it a bit tidier that way.

  4. Thanks so much guys!

    And as for using a pillowcase - GENIUS!!!! I never would have thought of that myself, so THANK YOU for suggesting that!

  5. Those are so cute. I might even try making myself a pair with a felted sweater.

  6. This is just what I was looking for, thank you! Now, to wait until we move into our new place with a washer/dryer- yay!! Thanks again. I can see all new slippers for Christmas coming our way ;-D

  7. oh wow this is such a great tutorial!!!!

  8. Those are ADORABLE! Seriously! And a FABULOUS tutorial!
    You should come link this up to my Making It With Allie Link Party! I think it would make a Fabulous addition!

  9. This is such a fantastic idea! I'm filing it away for next winter (since it's getting to be summer here !)

    Popped by from Seams Inspired -Thrifty Christmas Challenge and glad I did!

  10. This is absolute fabulous! I can't wait to read through all your posts. :o)

    I am so excited you joined me for my Thrifty Christmas Challenge. You are going to INSPIRE so many people! Thank you for sharing! :o)

    Larri at Seams Inspired

  11. I´ve seen many slippers or booties tutorial but yours is most useful because we can make our own pattern. Thanks so much. Follow you from now. Hopefully I can learn more from you

  12. What a great tutorial! I love these, I really want to make some for myself now that it's getting cooler!
    Amie @ http://kittycatsandairplanes.blogspot.com/

  13. I love these! thanks for the tutorial! I am your newest follower!

  14. i voted for these, as i think that they are the most like a storebought item, ie. well designed, good proportions, good color scheme, etc.
    you deserve it.

    now that i see you made such a great tutorial for them, do link them up http://www.finecraftguild.com/diy-linky-party-19/
    so our readers can find you too!

    have a creative day,

  15. These are so cute! Now I'm wishing I had a wool sweater to felt...

  16. Great tutorial! What's the best way to line them? Trying to figure it out in my head but it's not working...

  17. (not sure why I'm "B".. I'm Gretchen. lol. Anyway.. do I make an inverse in a different lining-type fabric (wanting to do fleecy or softer something to line my corduroy ones) do i still put the elastic in the lining? surely not..

    Here's my thinking: Make an inside out slipper top part (sans elastic) and sew the soft stuff on top of the sole, right sides out, fuzzies on inside, cute corduroy outside, and then just slip the inside-out slipper into the right-side out slipper, sew up the top and bottom edges, and then sew the whole thing onto the now-one-piece sole.

    Would that work? Guess I'll try that.. lol

  18. Thanks everyone for the compliments - it always brightens my day to read them!

    And Gretchen (although I have to say "B" is much more mysterious and exciting ;) ) - I've only done a few pairs of lined slippers, and that was before I got smart enough to put elastic in them. I'm going to try a lined pair with elastic very soon (although I've been saying that all week!) and this is a quick run-down of what I'm planning:

    -Make a total of 4 slippers: two of the outer and two of the lining. I'll probably make the sole completely symmetrical so that there is no left or right boot to keep mixing up. :)

    -At first I thought about sewing the elastic on the lining rather than the outer, so that it wont be seen, but I think sewing just on the outer will hold it in place better, even if it is visible.

    -Have the outer slipper right side out, the lining wrong side out. Slip the outer slipper inside the lining. (Right sides should be touching each other.) Sew along the top of the slipper, leaving about a 2 inch gap that you will then turn the slipper right sides out through. Then tuck the lining inside the outer and topstitch along the top of the slipper, tucking the edges of the gap under. (My grandmother helped me with a pair and she actually handstitched a blanket stitch along the top and it looked amazing - I just am not that skilled at handsewing yet!)

    I think the way you're describing, Gretchen, would work okay too, but then again I think my brain went to bed when the kids did an hour ago so I could be wrong. Let me know how it turns out!

    Maybe I'll even post a quick picture tutorial this next week if I do get a lined pair of slippers made.

    If anyone makes some slippers email me some pics and I'll feature them on my blog!!!

  19. LOL I think the "B" came from my husband's Google account. I started up a blog on Wordpress and um... yeah forgot what it was called and my username and all that.

    My first attempt didn't suck. I just figured as I was cutting to cut the lining smaller. BAD idea. Now the foot won't fit inside. LOL. Soo.. lesson learned: has to be the same size. Duh. *blonde moment* But hey.. kinda turned out almost like reversible slippers, that is, if you want your fuzzy slippers lined with corduroy (which I can't spell without spell check arg). And if it's fuzzy enough, you can't even really tell too bad with the sewing cuz it sinks in far enough. Once I get the *real* pair done, I'll send pics. And probably pics of my mess-ups (one sole sewed on from the outside thinking, "now WHY would we sew it on so you can see the seam.. oooh whoops.. supposed to do it inside out. Got it." so I fixed it on the 2nd one.)

  20. Those booties are AWESOME and ADORABLE! Great work. I'm so glad you linked this up. Great tutorial, too. Thanks!


  21. These slippers are tiggeriffic~!~! I knit a lot of wool slippers and purses and I felt them. WHen felting in the washer machine, Iput the item into a cotton zippered pillow case cover.. you can get them at Walmart for $3 ...THis keeeps all the fuzz in the pillow case and not in your washer.. A lady I know clogged up her washing machine with all this fuzz and it cost her a lot of money to fix.. Have a great day..ta ta for now from Iowa....

  22. I wish I could figure how to post pics.. Here..I'll try a link. These were for a one-year-old birthday and I'll make the same kind for my 3-almost-4 year old and 1-year-old for Christmas. I'm also making some for my twin sister, her husband, and their kiddos (same ages as mine). :)


  23. Those are great! Do you mind if I link to your tutorial on my blog one of these Tuesdays (Tutorial Tuesday)? I have a blog devoted to recycling sweaters.
    As for the washer... you can put the sweaters in pillow cases to contain the fuzz, but I think the important part in keeping your machine healthy is running a load of regular laundry immediately after a load of sweaters, to flush out the fuzz. I have felted literally 100's of sweaters in my washer, loose and not in pillowcase, without any issues at all. I think it's when you allow the fuzz to dry inside your machine parts that it starts to cause a problem.

    Kris :)

    ~ Reuse, Recycle, Resweater! ~
    Blog ~ www.resweater.blogspot.com
    Shop ~ www.resweater.artfire.com

  24. Kris - I would be honored! I've been to your blog MANY times, there are so many great ideas on there! And, I actually bought some sweaters from you earlier this fall, and they're all so wonderful that I have yet to bring myself to cut them up. :)

    Those are some great tips about felting...I've been working on a "follow-up" blog post about felting and other slippers that I (and some readers!) have made, but Christmas sewing keeps getting in the way! Hopefully sometime this week I'll get on the ball and finish that up. :)

  25. Great, thank you! I will probably put it up in the next week or 2, since i'll probably be too busy to come up with anything on my own for the next few weeks.

  26. these are great! I am bookmarking this for a project to do later - thank you for the inspiration, very clever!

  27. Thanks!!! I saw these over at Tatertots and Jello and knew I had to come and see. I went to buy booties for my five month old yesterday, and I only found one pair! BRRRR....it's cold. He needs more. These are great. Oh yeah, my two-year-old has those crazy feet too. Awful!

  28. Found your post at Tatertots. These are awesome. I have a couple of shrunken by accident sweaters that would be perfect for this project.

  29. So sorry I took a little longer to get your tutorial up on my blog than I said, but i'm just now starting to recover from the holidays ;)

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Kris :)

    ~ Reuse, Recycle, Resweater! ~
    Blog ~ www.resweater.blogspot.com
    Shop ~ www.resweater.artfire.com

  30. This tutorial was a lot of work and you did an awesome job. THANKS!

    Kate @ Fabric Deals Club

  31. Great tutorial! I just blogged about my wool slipper experience a while back, but there's no way I could walk anyone through that craziness. I love the tallness of these slippers. I may just have to make some more!

  32. I love this tutorial but in the first few pics of your daughter wearing the purple slippers it looks like there are little grippers on the bottoms of the slippers. Can you tell me how you did that?

  33. awesome slippers. I made a pair on my site and they are more like ballet slippers. I love the booties stye and am definitely gonna try a pair for myself because my feet are always cold. :) Thanks so much for sharing

  34. I wanted to add a link to the pair I made and hope I did it right so you get to see the pair I made for myself and am now selling in my shop.

  35. SOOO excited to have found this! I'm making last minute Christmas presents for my kiddos (who suddenly all asked for slippers). Money is tight, and I had these already felted thrift store sweaters that I'd meant to make into longies when I was attempting to cloth diaper my triplets (now 3 and potty trained...mostly). All I had to do was cut them out. I TOTALLY eyeballed everything (I'm such a slouch, and I hate to measure). I did sneak in and make sure things were long enough, or wrapped completely around. I also picked up some of that fabric that's like the bottoms of footie pajamas (we have some very slick floors). I still used the sweater for the inner, just added the non skid fabric. They turned out cute...and probably too big. I won't know till Christmas morning (I tried to sneak in and slip them on...but he was having none of it, and I didn't want to risk waking him!) But I think they're pretty cute! Only 3 more pairs to go...and then I think I'll make a pair for me!! Maybe I'll try and actually measure the next one! If one of them will hold still!

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  37. Thanks! Making these tonight, Christmas Eve, for my sleeping babes.

  38. This pattern was lovely, and so quick to knit. It would't take more time to make them

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

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    Barker Marine

  39. these are so cute! I'm trying to make them right now but you lost me here:
    "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)."
    was I supposed to sew the of the ankle pieces together? I just cant tell what's going on.... Wish I knew how to upload pics of what I'm doing so you could tell me where I went wrong!!

    would you mind emailing me? allisongbowers at gmail dot come. I would really appreciate it!


  40. 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 ... awoolsweater.blogspot.com

  41. Made some of these this fall and just got around to blogging them. Love how they turned out (after I figured out my mistakes). Thank you! Blog post is here: http://thriftathome.blogspot.com/2016/01/little-felt-boots-and-hood.html

  42. I am excited to make these- but I have one question: I've done my measurements, and am starting to make my pattern: you add a seam allowance to most of the measurements, but not to the "C divided by 2" and "G" notches- should I add a seam allowance there, in essence making those notches smaller, or not worry about it? Thanks so much!

  43. Hi! Just wondering if you ever mastered these with a liner? I'm keen to make a pair but really want to do a wool outer with a fleece liner in them. Thanks :) Donna

  44. Born out of a diverse Baltic climate. Hand made from the best New Zealand's wool. Wool slippers

  45. I just made some felted ones for my six month old. Thanks so much for the time you spent on this. Great pattern and instructions!

  46. Such an amazing post you have shared with us. quarter zips custom is also becoming trend in the fashion arena

  47. throw your sweater in an old pillowcase and tie it off before throwing it in the washer, it will keep all the loose fuzz from killing tyour washer. I think you can also dry it in the pillowcase then take the case and shake out the fuzz outdoors. Birds can use it for nesting.

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