I have found that having warm feet goes a long way toward making me feel warm in general, so I try to keep slippers handy in the wintertime. After all, no cure for the common cold is a good as preventing one from the outset! Slipper patterns of every possible design are available for free on the Internet, and since old, worn-out or damaged clothing is abundant, it makes sense to up-cycle slippers instead of buying new ones from the store–except for the issue of the sole. When I buy the slippers at the store, they come with a non-slip (generally waterproof) bottom. Most homemade slipper patterns call for a piece of leather or suede, but unless you have an old leather or suede jacket lying about that you can use for this (I don’t!), you have to come up with another option. So, I began a search for materials that could be recycled into safe slipper soles.
The most obvious choice, and the most durable, was to try to reuse a sole that I already had on hand. Sometimes, the upper portion of a slipper purchased at the store will wear out before the sole. When this happens, it is sometimes possible to remove the damage upper portion and use it as a pattern to make a new upper from old clothing. However, another option is to use the soles of flip-flops. Even cheap flip-flops that don’t fit well generally have a sole that can be used. This is especially helpful if you know that your children will out-grow theirs before the next summer season. Use this season’s flip-flop to make the next season’s slipper. I made this pair of slippers for my husband using a holey felted wool sweater and a pair of flip-flops that had a poor-fitting and uncomfortable upper section. I removed the plastic upper and used the sweater to make a warm and safe pair of slippers.
A second option that surfaced was a kitchen place mat. If you have the old, thicker-plastic place mats that have a non-slip bottom, you have a wonderful resource for slipper soles! I found four of these mats at a thrift store for $1.25. The rather loud bunnies on the fronts of these mats had seen better days, so I did not mind putting them to a better purpose. Using the pattern found here, I made this pair of slippers substituting the suggested leather bottom with my place mat soles. Even using several layers of denim from some old jeans, I was still able to stitch the sole in place on my sewing machine! I used a hot glue gun and some jute twine to cover the raw edge so when the slippers are being worn, the soles are not visible. These place mat soles have worked very well. They are flexible, waterproof, and do not slip.
The third option I found is also durable, flexible, waterproof, and non-slip. The rubber of bicycle inner tubes is a wonderful material for slipper soles–especially for children’s slippers which are small enough to be cut from the tube in one piece. Using a pattern from The Purl Bee , I used more felted sweater pieces, fabric from an old T-shirt, bicycle inner tube, and some leftover Pottery Barn ribbon to make this pair of slippers for a child in my church. Once again, the sole material is not really noticeable while the slipper is being worn. Although I did not try this, I think it would work well to cut small shapes from the rubber and sew them to slipper socks or crocheted slippers.
On this pair of slippers I crocheted for my daughter (from the December 2009 issue of Crochet Today) , I tried a fourth option. I fused plastic shopping bags together to make a non-slip sole material. I discovered that the glossy bags are better for this than the ones that are not shiny. The glossy fused bag “fabric” does not slide, while “fabric”made from the matte-finish bags will slide. After I made a pattern of the bottom of the slippers, I cut the fused plastic to make two soles. As always, fused plastic needs to be backed with something when it is to be sewn to prevent the stitching from ripping through the plastic. To do this, I used old T-shirt fabric and stitched around it on my sewing machine. Then I hand stitched the sole to the bottom of the slipper. It is amazing how well this material works! I don’t know how long these soles will hold up, but as long as my daughter uses them indoors, I think they will last quite a while. Even if they only last several months, the materials are so cheap that I can make another pair!
One verse came immediately to mind while I was working to make my home-made slippers safe, and that was Psalm 37:31. Speaking of the righteous man, it says, “The law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.” Isn’t wonderful to know that our heavenly Father cares enough about His children to safeguard their steps?! By reading, memorizing and meditating on His perfect law, the Christian is given traction for all the slippery slopes he must traverse in this life. If you are a Christian today, praise the Lord that you serve the One Who, “…is able to keep you from falling…” (Jude 24)!