Sunday, 28 December 2014

Knitting Unplied Single Yarn and Felting Slippers

This is a grey fleece from a local sheep, at least three quarters Northern Mule.  I picked it for its shades of grey, ignoring the coarse fibres.  Dragging it out recently, it felt even harsher than I remembered, really not fit for clothing.  Although all wool is wonderwool and every kind will suit some project, I half regretted the time spent skirting, sorting, and washing this rough old thing.  

Wanting to see some return on last summer's preparations, knitting felted slippers seemed an appropriate use. Carding some rolags, I spun a ball of two ply about aran weight and knitted a slipper shape, nice and large, having previous experience of how tightly this kind of fleece will felt. Although it did shrink to foot size in a hot machine wash, the felted slipper kept slipping off my heel.
" Alright, Cinderella?"  Elinor Gotland looked up from her knitting as I shuffled past in one slipper.  "Prince Charming won't go door to door looking for the owner of that clod hopper."

"Harsh, but fair, Elinor.  I can't be arsed to spin another ball of yarn to make up the pair."
"Never say die, Beaut.  You shall go to the ball.  Put the kettle on and as the vicar said to the actress, I'll get my magic wand out."
"Have you been at the Christmas liqueur chocolates, you dreadful old ewe?"
"Enough of your cheek.  Advice improves with age, much like a good single malt.  Slippers don't need fine spinning."

So, no more carding, just pulling the locks into a rough cloud and spining a thick lumpy single. Roger, my Ashford Traveller spinning wheel, is a great workhorse for many weights of yarn, but even he protests at having his scotch tension cranked up to the max to ply this kind of stuff.  Knitting the single straight from the bobbin into a stocking stitch sample gave a fabric that
veered across to the right rather than building vertical columns of stitches.  I guess this was caused by all the unbalanced energy stored in the twist of the unplied single. Knitting a sample in garter stitch, each row of knit stitches was counterbalanced by the next.

So, garter stitch slippers it was, making up a pattern closer to fairytale me pumps than rustic clogs and in a size that fit my foot before felting.
Snuggly Sister Slipper Pattern
6mm circular needle.  Approx 50g Aran/Chunky yarn.
This initial shaping fits into the back of the heel to keep the slipper on, also avoiding forming an odd little point at the base of the heel.
Cast on 6 stitches, turn and knit 6 then cast on 3 more stitches.  Turn and knit 9 then cast on 3, turn and knit 12 then cast on 3, break the yarn, leaving the 15 stitches on the needle and make another piece the same.  Move the stitches from the first piece so that they carry on from the far end of the second piece with the tail of broken yarn at the far end.  
Knit across all 30 stitches, then knit another 3 rows.

Shape the sides down along the instep and up across the body of the foot like this:
*Knit 1, slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over, knit to last 3 stitches, knit 2 together, knit 1.  Knit 2 rows.*  Repeat from * to * two more times then knit another 13 rows across the remaining 24 stitches.
*Knit 2, make one, knit to last 3 stitches, make one, knit 2.  Knit 3 rows.*  Repeat from * to * two more times, then repeat the increase row, place a stitch marker and join ready to purl in the round across the 32 stitches. Purl and knit alternate rounds for a total of 9 rounds.
Place one marker 8 stitches before the round marker and another 8 stitches after it, keeping the round marker only to remind you when to change from knit to purl for a new round to keep the fabric garter stitch.
Shape the toe as you would for a sock - on the knit rounds, knit to 3 stitches before each edge marker, knit 2 together, knit 1, slip marker, knit 1, slip 1 knit 1, pass slipped stitch over.  On the purl rounds, just go straight round.  When only 16 stitches remain, use Kitchener stitch to graft them together from one edge marker to the other.
Sew up the heel in the midline and wash in the machine at 60 degrees Centigrade. Stretch the shrivelled result onto your foot and wear it until it is dry for a perfectly snug, custom fitted slipper. Make another if you like it well enough.
Wearing our new slippers, we danced around the Christmas Tree singing outrageous versions of 'While shepherds watched.'  

Best wishes for 2015.


  1. Thanks for making me smile, I enjoy your blog. The mittens turned out well.
    My Fair Isle cardi has been on the go for four years, just one more sleeve to do.
    Happy New Year to you & Elinor

    1. Thanks :) I was given one of riihivilla's mitten kits for Christmas and I am going to make them for me. Much impressed with your valour, taking on a whole cardi in Fair Isle.

  2. Its slow knitting as I'm a left hander, so stranding colours turns the air a delicate shade of blue... Perhaps I'll see you on the Pembs guild stand at Wonderwool in April (work shops are now posted) this could spur my efforts to finish and display
    the cardi.
    From Susan.

    1. Wonderwool tickets for me and BG have already been ordered, we will defintiely be nosing round all the Guild stands - hope to see you then.

  3. blogs are new to me...
    but saw your "blog" posted on uk spinners group on fb when someone was asking about dying with garden plants
    i have been glued all evening thank you so much I am a very new spinner and love anything to do with wool. Ive so much to learn thank you for sharing your experiences are you able to "like" or favourite blogs so i can find you again

    1. Thanks very much, I love it when people say they enjoy my stuff. I don't really understand the mechanics of blogs, but I get the occasional message to say someone is 'following' this. I don't know how that works. Dinosaur that I am, I just bookmark the blogs I enjoy on my pc and find them again that way.

  4. I finished them! I spun and knitted and felted TWO slippers in some creamy miscellaneous fleece I was given by a friend who kept sheep as lawnmowers on her campsite, and liked them so much that I made ANOTHER pair in Welsh Black! I'm so pleased with myself for finishing a project. Even if it is a small-ish project :-). Well done me, even if I say so myself.
    I also tried soaking the rather "daggy" fleece in a tub of water for a week, to clean it up; it was rather smelly and I ended up scouring it in hot detergent, and now I have big clouds of fluffy fleece to process and spin, which I'm looking forward to. That's the rest of the lawnmowers' fleece.
    A friend had an Alsatian/Akita cross dog, who grew from an adorable teddy bear-like pup into a magnificent, stately prince of dogs. Tragically, he died when he was only just one year old, but we'd been talking about fibres and spinning and my friend had collected some of his fur for me to spin for her. So my next project is to spin this beautifully soft, fine, light and very short fibre into a lace-weight yarn, ideally. I'll have to blend it with some lovely, very fine Falklands merino I have in my stash in order to spin it, but I've tried a tiny amount and it makes a lovely and fluffy yarn. I'll let you know when I finish this one, too!
    Thank you for your blog, I really enjoy it and you're teaching me and encouraging me to do more, which I also enjoy greatly. Blessings on you, Fran!

    1. Fantastic - so glad the slipper pattern worked for you. I really want to try Black Welsh Mountain fleece, I do have one in the garage, but it isn't even skirted yet. The death of a dog leaves a big hole in your life. Mrs B died last September and I miss her still. Most of her fur had fallen off at the end, she was bloody ancient. I bet your friend will appreciate your canine project, very best of luck with it.

  5. This was a fantastic article. Really loved reading your we blog post. The information was very informative and helpful.I really learn very small and easy things that i have not remind but still you have mentioned such a small small things that i have to kept in mind while making such pattern.

    Thanks a lot.