Hello Sewists,

I hope you are all keeping well in your respective parts of the world? I’m still back at work in the salon and keeping really busy while I continue to work through the backlog of appointments. It’s tiring work, but rewarding in so many ways; the joy of seeing my clients again is giving me all the energy I need, and of course it is a massive relief to be able to earn again. The safety guidelines are easy to follow and the visor only takes a few minutes to adjust to each morning. Distancing in the space isn’t a problem either, look, I’ve got this whole corner to myself…!

Busy at work – no time for slippers here!

‘Hey, what about those slippers!’ I hear you say… Well, they started off as a rather fancy looking wine bag. This must have come as a gift at some point as I don’t remember buying it… but it has been knocking around the apartment for some time. Well, in an early-lockdown-tidy-up (near the beginning, before I took up napping) this bag resurfaced and with thoughts of the Refashioners at the front of my mind I immediately remembered the slippers pattern in Vanessa Mooncie’s book The Gentleman’s Wardrobe. BINGO! I’ve made a few bits from the book before, but always had my eye on these slippers. I thought they’d be the perfect project to start footwear – ironic that I ended up making sneakers and about 10 pairs of espadrilles first! – I was waiting for the right fabric to present itself, who knew I had just the thing all along!

(For reference, if you haven’t got one of these bags knocking about, it’s made of double sided felt, approx 4mm thick, blue on one side and grey on the other)

The original wine bag

First things first; unpicking. I carefully unpicked the decorative blanket stitch, saving the thread for later. The sides were easy, after unpicking the backstitching, the seams ripped out easily. I took off the handles to save for another project and I was left with three pieces; the front, back & bottom as one long piece and the two side pieces. With a little bit of wiggling, I managed to fit the pattern pieces on. Here’s a tip: with all the ‘turning and flipping’ to fit the pieces on, always keep an eye out that you still have two mirrored pieces – It’s not going to be long before someone makes the ‘two left feet’ gag!

Pattern pieces chalked onto fabric.

Cutting out was a bit tough on my scissors (and wrist!) but it didn’t take too long. I tried using a rotary cutter at first, but I ended up either not pressing hard enough to get all the way through (leaving scrappy edges) or pressing so hard I almost sliced my cutting mat in two! There were going to be no do-overs on this project, so I ate my spinach and muscled through with the scissors, which were much more accurate around the curves and corners.

Pattern pieces cut out – I love the crazy shapes!

If you’ve ever wondered when to get your sewing clips out, now’s the time! Obviously, this stuff is far too thick to pin! I guess you could glue it, either temporarily or permanently (check a scrap for staining and seepage first)

Soles clipped in place, ready for sewing.

Using the walking foot, I loosened the tension slightly and switched the stitch length up to 3.5mm. Rather optimistically I started with a regular needle, size 80, but as the sewing got tougher I upgraded through a jeans needle to a leather needle. Out of the four different needles I used, I can’t say which one was the best, but the one that lasted longest was a general-purpose size 100!

Sewing the soles on

Then I decided to make it really tough on my machine by adding an extra heel piece. I had just enough fabric left to cut out two ovals – and then bulldozered my way through sewing them on!

Extra heel piece – only attempt this if your machine can handle it!

It seems that three layers of double felt is quite a push. It’s not the prettiest stitching but I made it through eventually (whether my machine is ever the same again is another matter!)

As one slipper ended up with all the writing on it, I wanted to add an embellishment to bring them together more as a pair. I drew an outline of the motif from the bag, cut two out of the last scraps of felt and decorated them with the original blanket-stitching thread…

Motif pattern drawn…
Motif drawn onto felt

I used a hole punch to mark the stitches which meant I could sew with this nice fat needle with the big eye…

Motifs cut and decorated

Then I got to clip the slippers together for the first time to check the placement of the motifs.

A teaser of the finished slippers – very encouraging!

At this point I stitched the side seam stitched as I couldn’t resist trying them on – and thank goodness I did as the opening was too small for my high-arch feet! As they still weren’t sewn together I could quite easily wiggle my foot in and eyeball where I needed to cut, and I used the off cut as a guide to cut the other slipper.

Adjustment for high arches.

Sewing the motifs on was the last bit of machining; being only two layers the bulk wasn’t such a problem, but keeping tidy around the intricate shape was a bit fiddly. Still, pretty pleased with the results… (did I hear a heavy sigh of relief from my machine as I unscrewed the walking foot and switched off the power…?!)

Almost ready – outer edge left to sew.

Finally the hand sewing. I wasn’t going to punch guide holes all the way around so I knew I’d have to find a sharper needle than the one I used for the motifs. I’d bought a set of mixed needles back when I made my first espadrilles and found what I was looking for there – I’m pretty sure it’s a hand sewing leather needle, quite thick but honed to a super sharp dart like point (which could draw a drop of blood just by being close to your finger!) and also has the benefit of a big fat eye to get the floss through. My blanket stitching isn’t the neatest, but I found it very therapeutic…


… and I finished up with a very comfy pair of slippers…!

Now, I suppose the clue is in the title – being felt bottomed, these slippers are a bit slippery – and I have to admit to falling over twice in my initial excitement of wearing them. (If anyone remembers this story you’ll know why that was alarming). I was contemplating applying some kind of glue to the bottoms, maybe in an interesting pattern or design, in the hope that it would provide some grip once it’s dried… but these slippers pick up enough fluff and debris all by themselves, and I feel safe enough if I stick to a walk-don’t-run policy in them!

All in all this was a successful refashion; I took something that was never used and turned it into something that is used every day. You can’t say fairer than that!

Happy sewing!

Notes to self;

  • As with all refashions, check you have enough material before you start!
  • In the future, maybe think about hand stitching the whole project…?
  • Look into non-slip sole treatments…