A wee while ago, I heard about making felt feet from a friend who advised me to contact Yuli Somme, a feltmaker based in Devon. Back in 2007, she had developed a process for doing this as part of an arts project to celebrate the winter solstice that was inspired by a walk she undertook in Norway retracing her father’s epic escape during the Second World War. She heard tales of travellers who had stuffed wool into their boots for insulation which felted as they went about their daily lives. She experimented with this idea and felt feet were born!
For almost a year I’ve had a bag of Blue-faced Leicester wool sitting under my bed crying out to be used for such an activity. Yuli recommends this native British fleece as the most suitable. She tried lots of different types in her experiments. The original felt feet project was particularly striking as all the boots were creamy white and contrasted sharply with the moorland landscape upon which they were placed. Undertaking feet felting at the start of a walk and felting the wool through walking can be a poignant approach to a journey project or hike that merits a practical memory making activity.
Yulie sells felt feet starter kits and this lovely video shows the process – the children dancing are worth seeing, as are the boots walking over a car towards the end of the clip. As you can see, felting feet has a multi-purpose potential which I think many children would enjoy be keen to try:
At the end of the Drove Roads Journey, there was a final event for local people and passers by to enjoy. One of the journey participants, Sarah Hughes, had carried with her on the journey a large quantity of merino felting wool and offered to undertake some feet felting as part of the event.
It very much reminded me of making felt seats albeit with some sensible adjustments. If you do buy Yuli’s Feetfelt Kit, then there’s lots of helpful detail about the specifics of ensuring the felt feet have no holes or gaps. When Sarah felted my feet I chose the colours of the clothes I had been wearing during the week and asked for a rough check or tartan design because I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to see part of Scotland that I did not know very well.
A lot of patience is needed for the felting process, unlike other felt projects I’ve undertaken. The soggy wet wool needs to be worn until fully felted. As it was the final day of the Drove Road Journey, I made the decision not to remove them until I had returned home. Once I arrived (about 6 hours later), I took off my boots and bread bags and rinsed off the felt feet before carefully peeling off the felt feet. Here they are at the back entrance to my house:
And here’s a side view. Sarah had done a very through job in that there were no holes and the ankles are beautifully even:
Even the soles look lovely…
So this pair of felt feet are one of many memories created from the Drove Road Journey. A unique and lasting tribute to the event. Many thanks to Sarah for her wonderful work.
The felt feet are too close fitting to be used as slippers. However, having undertaken this activity, I’m now keen to try and make slippers using the original Blue-faced Leicester wool I still have along with other native sheep breeds for decoration.