Mendin’ the Fence

This weekend we were hit hard with storms. Thunder and lightning hitting at the same time, pounding rain, hail, howling winds, power outages. We had a real live “dark and stormy night.” There was a new little river running down the hill, and the alpaca yard looked a bit like a swamp. The chickens were super-happy because rain brings worms!

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On the way to town this morning, I noticed a branch had blown off a tree in the front of the property and had broken the fence.  When we got home, we noticed the cows were in the front pasture, and the broken part of the fence was between them and the main road. We called the landlord to let him know, and found out he was out of town. He has a caretaker that he would call, but that person wasn’t going to make it out for at least a few hours. Charlie told him we’d go out and see if we could do anything to make it a little more secure.

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I’ve never been particularly afraid of cows, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever been on the same side of the fence as they are. Fortunately, they ignored us at first.

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The very absolute first thing you need to be aware of is that mud puddles in an alpaca yard are probably mud puddles. Mud puddles in a cow pasture are most certainly NOT mud.

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Watch my step. Check!

The branch across the fence was really long, and hit the fence about halfway. Charlie brought down his saw so we could cut it close to the fence and let each half fall to either side. Soggy, green wood isn’t easy to cut. I could tell while I watched Charlie fight with it. Finally, the branch broke through and the fence popped back into place. Sort of. It’s a hot fence, and it was live – I know because I accidentally touched it and it zapped me. It would be enough to deter the cows until the caretaker could arrive.

 

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We also noticed another fence post had snapped off at the ground, and completely flipped around, twisting the fence on either side. Once Charlie had the post flipped back around the right way, there was nothing really to hold it up. He was able to prop it at an angle and the tension from the fence somewhat held it up. Again, good enough until real repairs could be made.

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We had been in the pasture long enough, the cows were ready for us to be gone. I was much happier when they weren’t looking at me. These are livestock, not pets, and they aren’t particularly people-friendly. As we were heading out the gate, one of the young bulls looked straight at us and snorted.  I guess he just wanted to show us who was boss, from his side of the gate.

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We got the gate closed and back to the house just in time for the rain to start pouring down again. And now we can add “Mendin’ the Fence” to our list of homestead accomplishments.

Field Trip – Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue

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This weekend Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue held their annual Bazaar and Open House. In the rain, they’re 2 hours away, but I love visiting them. It was exciting to see their parking area filled, and the barn full of vendors and people. There have been so many large farms in need this year, Cross Creek has many senior and special needs alpacas that will need extra care before they find a new home. The Bazaar serves as a fundraiser to help meet these extra needs.

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I brought my spinning wheel, because it’s always fun to spin with fiber people. The very first thing Shari showed me was bags of fiber from Spike and Tajo! I hadn’t brought my carders, and I’m not entirely sure how to just spin from raw fiber. I brought the bags home, and will start spinning my boys’ fiber as soon as I can. I thought about taking the bags out and showing them to the boys, but I don’t know if that might freak them out a little, or maybe they wouldn’t care. I decided I thought it would be much cooler than they would.

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Charlie and I wandered around a bit, visiting all the animals. Several of the alpacas we recognized from the Bow rescue.  There were also some of the long-time residents, a llama, a miniature pony and, of course, the dogs.  Listening to Jackie and Shari talk about the alpacas is always so impressive. Shari can tell you who is who based on the smallest little difference in their coats. They can tell all about the animals, where they came from, their age, who they’re buddies with, just about anything you would want to know. They’re very careful to make sure the alpacas go to homes where they’ll fit in, and try to send them with a buddy, whenever possible. Alpacas have such a sense of herd, they should never go to a home solo. Without another alpaca friend, they will be very stressed out and sad. At Cross Creek, the alpacas have lots of pasture space and friends to hang out with.

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One of the questions I hear all the time is, “What’s the difference between an alpaca and a llama?” Or people will just call them all llamas.  They are related, but they’re quite different. Check it out:

 

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Alpaca

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Llama

The vendors had alpaca products, jewelry from repurposed items, handmade creams and soaps, canned fruits and vegetables, books, and other fun things. I said I was going to get sucked into the world of 3D felting, and I bought my first kit. I also got a book written by Aya Walksfar. We met Aya on a rescue and didn’t know she was an author. She writes exactly what I read – mystery books! It’s next up on my reading list.1025141815To learn more about Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue, or to make a donation to this wonderful organization, check them out at http://www.crosscreekalpacarescue.org/

What Time Is It?!?!

imagesWe were totally messed up this morning! Somehow, we had gotten it in our minds that the clocks changed this weekend. Didn’t matter that nobody else was talking about it, no reminders on the news, Facebook didn’t even mention it. We decided it was today. I have to get up early for a flight tomorrow, and was even relieved that I’d have that “extra” hour.

Now, it doesn’t help that there was a major power outage last night. Ours was only out for a short period, but it was enough that the clocks needed to be reset. Two of our clocks are new, and I wasn’t sure if they’d set the correct time overnight, so I went ahead and set them an hour back. Tori had to be at work 2 hours earlier than normal today, so before she went to bed we reminded her the time was changing. She wasn’t worried about it since her phone would automatically change. Smart girl.

This morning we woke up and our phones hadn’t changed. Or, maybe, my clock automatically reset itself, after I had reset it manually, so it was an EXTRA hour earlier than it should be. Or, maybe, because of the power outage, the phones that should have automatically changed got messed up and stayed the same.

Oh, I know! The battery operated, analog clock in the kitchen, which didn’t get changed last night, will tell us what time it WAS, so we can figure out what time it IS. Holy moly! We may never be certain of the time again. Because of the storm, we can’t even check this out on the internet.

Saved by the calendar! Relax, everybody! We had the wrong weekend. It’s NEXT weekend. Don’t forget, fall back.

Lights Out

We love living in the sticks! Really wouldn’t trade it for anything.  We’re surrounded by trees, there’s a pond by the driveway, town is 20 minutes away, and we only see our neighbors’ homes in fall and winter when the trees are bare. Our water comes from the creek that runs through the property. It’s our little corner of paradise.

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Every now and then we lose power. It’s part of the package and I still grin when it goes out because it’s a happy reminder of where we live. Usually the power is only out for less than 30 minutes. We have a gas generator, if it’s really bad, but we try to just wait it out.  Today, it was out for about 3 hours. That’s long enough to realize how electricity-dependent we are.

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Usually, the instant reaction is, I can go outside and do something. When it’s pouring rain, that’s out. So, I could get some things done on the computer.  If the internet was working.

I can usually spin or crochet while I wait it out. Not today. The storm has made it pretty dark. Even with all our skylights, it was a little too dark to see well. I can read from my tablet…if it’s charged.

It would be a great time to run the vacuum. No. Laundry? Nope.  Ooh, I know! I saw a recipe for homemade crackers that I wanted to try. Except the oven is electric, too.

I could always take a shower. Even that is something of a no-no. That awesome creek water I mentioned? It gets pumped into a tank in the garage. Every glass of water, hand wash, or toilet flush drains that tank. Without power, it doesn’t refill. A shower would completely deplete the water supply. Since we don’t know how long the power will be out, this is important to remember.

After running through all of my non-options, I make the only logical choice. Naptime!

 

Spin Around

Fiber people are great enablers! At this month’s Spinners Guild meeting, we didn’t have a set program. Instead, everybody brought their wheels, we hung out, learned, and encouraged each other to try new things.

There are so many wheels to choose from. It was cool to see what different people use, and hear why that is what they selected.

My friend Alice’s husband Bob MADE her wheel. He didn’t repurpose or rebuild it. He built it from the ground up, and it’s beautiful!

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This one is a Ladybug. They’re known for being compact and easy to transport. They also have an extra-wide double treadle (two pedals), so if you’re a two-footed spinner, your feet aren’t knocking into each other. I considered one of these. I think they’re really cute, but I like a single treadle.

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I don’t know what this one is, and its owner was off socializing, so I couldn’t ask. It’s a single treadle, which I like. I thought it was really cool looking.

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One of the gentlemen in the club does the spinning, and his wife does the knitting. He is unable to use a “manual” wheel anymore, so he uses an “e-spinner.” Yep, that’s an electronic spinner. When I first saw one of these at a fiber show, I thought of it as cheating a bit. Hearing that this one allows someone who loves spinning – and his wife – to continue his craft, has caused me to change my judgmental mind. I loved hearing that he found a way to continue to provide his wife with homespun yarn.

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We had a workshop a couple months back, making self-striping yarn. Some members had missed that meeting, so they had a make-up class this month. Very cool the way you can take one skein of yarn, wrap it on a board with pegs in just the right way, dye it, and as you knit socks or a scarf, it stripes all by itself.

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Another group got together and learned how to use drop spindles. I’ve used a drop spindle once, and it’s really cool to watch people, who know what they’re doing, make them work. Some people work them pretty fast. I’m not one of those people. I’ll stick with my wheel.

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One of the ladies shared a nuno felted scarf she made at last weekend’s Fiber Fusion show. I KNEW I should have attended that class. In nuno felting, you felt thin layers of fiber onto silk, and it makes a super soft, absolutely beautiful piece.

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I also got a chance to share my slippers. It’s very rewarding to share a project with people who know what went into completing it.  A few people wanted instructions, and I was happy to share! That’s what the guild is all about, after all – people sharing what they do in order to keep the fiber arts from completely disappearing.

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Next month is Member Sales. I can’t wait to see what I can get my hands on!

Toddler Tuesday – 10/21/14

I get teased sometimes for getting excited “like a kid” about things. Whenever I spend time with Raymond and Reta Jean, I’m reminded that none of us see things quite like kids do. The best we can do is try, and hope to come close. This is what we did this week.

I got to babysit a few days while Carly covered Tori’s shift at work. Yep, that’s McDonald’s for dinner one night, and pancakes another. Gabba tries to follow rules, but it didn’t happen this week. Besides, breakfast for dinner is cool. We also ran up and down the hall, played super-hero, ate marshmallows, and watched Letters! (That’s what the kids call Wheel of Fortune.)

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Reta Jean can’t wait to get the the pacas and hens. She’s my farm buddy and likes to help with chores. I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture, but she was trying to eat grass like Tajo. We convinced her to just feed him some hay. Finding eggs is always exciting, and she’s even learning to set them GENTLY in the basket instead of just dropping them in.1017141335-1  1017141341

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While Reta Jean was helping with the animals, Raymond was off with Auntie Tori, picking flowers.

1017141344cThere are all kinds of crawly critters this time of year. Sometimes it takes toddlers to remind us how cool it is just to watch them and touch them.

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Raking up leaves is fun when there are happy faces just waiting to jump into the piles. Carly must have raked them up 5 times. They’re still a mess around the yard, but we were having too much fun to actually haul them away.

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Reta Jean loves following Brother.

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There’s one game left this season, and Raymond is finally getting the hang of soccer. He still likes to stop and watch the birds, or pick the grass, but he stays in the game. Reta Jean is too young to join the team, but she’ll totally be ready next year.

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And no week would be complete without breakfast at Steve’s. Raymond has figured out how to roll his tongue. I think I’m the only person on the planet who can’t do that. Maybe Reta Jean won’t be able to, either.

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Raymond was practicing writing words on the menu. He can’t just write cat or dog. Nope. Our Raymond writes Xray Fish. Two years until kindergarten. His teachers are going to have their hands full.

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Have a great week!

Field Trip – Fiber Fusion

1018141153aLast year, Charlie and I saw “Fiber Fusion” signs all around the fairgrounds. We had no idea what it was about. I’ve been waiting ever since for it to return. Fiber Fusion is every fiber geeks dream come true. Fiber animals, vendors, classes, fiber judging, equipment – anything you could want.

We learned through years of swim meets and water polo games how to find the pool on a strange campus. EZ-ups, towels, ref whistles, parents with stop watches and kids with REALLY bad hair, were all signs we were heading in the right direction.

Gun shows tend to have parking lots full of pickups with NRA stickers. You can find animal shows by looking for animal trailers, cages, and a trail of hay. Fiber shows are easy to identify by the bags of yarn, fiber and spindles going in and out of the buildings, people wearing beautiful handmade creations, and spying an extra spinning wheel or two in the back seat of the car.

Because we love the fiber animals, that’s our first stop. The sheep are cool, and the angora goats make me want to bury my hands in their curly locks, but the angora rabbits and alpacas get the majority of our attention. People tend not to believe me when I tell them I’m afraid of rabbits, but it’s embarrassingly true. I figure any critter with teeth designed to puncture my skin wants to do just that: bite me and puncture my skin. I’m not so bad that I run away screaming when I see a mouse, but that’s mainly because at heart I’m afraid whatever it is will move faster than me, be terrified by my scream, and still manage to bite me. BUT, I love these German angora bunnies. They’re bigger than two of my dogs, fluffier and softer than anything you’ll ever touch, and are perfectly happy to be completely still while you pet them. That’s my kind of rabbit. We’ll be visiting the owner of the rabbits soon to learn more about raising them.

 

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Once inside, there are walls, and baskets, and bags and boxes full of any kind of fiber you can imagine. Raw fiber, roving, batts, bumps, wool, alpaca, angora, silk, YAK.
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The creativity and talent of fiber artists is so inspiring. Some things I look at and think, “I could do that.” Other things I’m in total awe of. I met one of the owners of Alpacas from MaRS, which is right up the road from us. She said she could teach me how to nuno felt alpaca. I’m definitely going to pay her a visit. Soon!

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I managed to keep my distance from most of the equipment. I have one wheel, and I’m still learning how to use it, but gosh, they had some great pieces for sale!

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I was really good. I want to play with some angora before deciding if we’re going to bring one home, so I got an ounce of angora/wool blend – which spins BEAUTIFULLY. I also bought 2 rolls of the “Repurposed” alpaca. I think it’s really cool that somebody has found a way to use every last bit of fiber, and I needed some roving for 2 spin demos I’ll be attending this week.

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Needle Felting My Slippers

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My slippers needed a little decoration. I decided, since the weather is turning gloomy for the winter, I wanted some sunflowers to make me smile. When I first heard of needle felting, I thought it must be something complicated, but it’s actually super easy. I’ve been told you can needle felt any kind of natural fiber, but I’ve only done it with wool.

Felting needles vary in sharpness, are flat-sided, and have barbs along the shaft. The barbs push the top layer of fiber through the felted piece. The scales of the wool hook together and lock themselves into place. This is the backside of the very first project I did, and you can see how much the fiber pushed through.

Back of needle felting

Needle felting fiber can be found online, and can be ordered in a variety of colors. If you buy rolls of roving, it will last a long time because it takes very little to complete a design.

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If you can draw, and actually get your hands to do what your mind sees, I’m pretty jealous. I can copy, trace and even stay in the lines if I want to. Fortunately, that’s all I need to be able to do to needle felt.

If you’re like me, find a simple sketch of something you like. I used Google images and searched “sunflower sketch.” This gave me a selection of simple illustrations that would be easy to trace.

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Print out your picture in the size you want, the trace it onto water soluble stabilizer. I was taught with Sulky, so I use that one. The tracing will be used as your pattern, and once the design is done, the stabilizer simply rinses away. Be careful not to drip anything on your pattern or it will dissolve before you get a chance to use it. You also want to make sure whatever you are felting on is completely dry, for the same reason. Using a marker like Sharpie makes the design easier to see through the fiber.

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When needle felting onto something flat, a thick piece of foam is placed under it to give the needle something soft to jab into – better foam than your lap. Since my slippers are “3-d,” I cut a piece of foam that would fit into the slipper, and stuffed it down into the toe.

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Usually, once you start felting, the pattern will be help into place by the fiber. Because of the curve of the slipper, I used several pins to hold the pattern in place. Once everything is where you want it, you simply start stabbing away.

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Using very thin pieces of fiber, start by pushing the needle through the fiber along the pattern line. Once it’s tacked down, you can fold the fiber back into the pattern and continue stabbing it within the pattern lines. Add small amounts of fiber at a time, until you have the thickness and color you want. Stab, stab, stab, until your shape is fairly smooth.

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Once you have your main color down, you can add other colors for highlights, lowlights, outlines, or to add depth to your design. If you don’t like the way something is looking, you can use your needle to pry up the part you don’t like, and pull it out.

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When your design is done, simply rinse the pattern away. I usually find that once the lines of the pattern are gone, I see areas where I want to fill in a little better. Sometimes I decide I want to a darker color to outline the design to make it stand out better.

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This is an egg basket I made. You can see the dark outline around the eggs.

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Anything goes! It’s really hard to mess up, which is what makes this the perfect project for me.

1017140849You can find everything you’ll need at my Amazon Store:  http://astore.amazon.com/redmwood-20

Felted Slippers – Take 2

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I conquered the slippers! I really hate when a project blows up on me, so I took on the slippers again. This time I used wool batting, which I purchased at The Pines this weekend. Because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the alpaca out completely, I blended it into the inside layer. Here we go with directions and pictures!1008140942

You will need:

  • Wool batting
  • Towel (or 3 or 4)
  • Plastic bag, plastic feed bag, or bamboo-type place mat or blind
  • Extra piece of plastic or bubble wrap to help flip template
  • Sheet of bubble wrap
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Glycerine soap (Like Neutrogena bar)
  • Bottle of watered down dish soap

Lay our your towel, plastic layer, bubble wrap – bubble side up, and slipper template.

1008140937You will find directions for the slipper template in my 10/9 post. Lay out a layer of fringe around the edge of the template. This is where I put the alpaca. This fringe will be folded over to the other side later, so don’t get it wet until you’re on the second side.1013141355a Fill in the rest of the template with a layer of batting going “north-south.” Then add another layer of batting going “east-west.” This gives you two layers of batting on the first side. Sprinkle cool, soapy water over the layers of wool, being careful not to wet the fringe. Gently press the water into the wool, working from the middle out. Be careful not to move the fiber around too much.1013141403

Carefully massage the water into the fiber, making sure the fiber is wet to the edges of your template. You will be able to feel the template through the fiber. The soap helps open the scales on the fibers, which allows the felting to occur. Continue to massage the fiber until it starts sticking together a bit. You’ll have a goopy mess at this point, but it will all be OK.

At this point, many tutorials say to lay a sheet of plastic over the wet fiber, and flip the whole thing over so your template is on top. If you’re looking at a goopy mess of fiber, and you’re anything like me, “just flip it over” sounds ridiculous. I put the plastic over the wet fiber, roll the package up about halfway, THEN flip it and unroll. It makes me feel like I’m a little more in control of where things are flopping. Now, fold the fringe around the edges of the template, flattening it out with soapy water. Make sure your fiber is tight around the edges of the template. If the folded over fiber felts onto itself, it will make a lumpy ridge around the edge of your slippers.1013141410

Again, you’ll place a north-south layer of fiber, then an east-west layer. You’ll want another row of fringe, too. Wet the fiber with soapy water and massage like you did on the first side. Once the fibers start sticking together a bit, add two more layers of fiber, continuing to lay the fibers in opposite directions. This will be your fourth and last layer will be the outside layer of one side of your slippers. If you want a particular color or design on the outside, this is where you want to put it. Sprinkle with water, press into fiber, and massage gently until felting begins.1013141439

Now, you get to “just flip it over” again. I used the roll and flip method again. It works for me. Here, I folded the fringe over, then added the final two layers of fiber on this side.  Doing it this way, I had to make sure the final layer of fiber stayed within the edges of the boot. I think next time I’ll lay the two final layers of fiber and then fold the fringe over. It seems this would make for a neater edge. Repeat the soapy water-massage step until everything is holding together pretty well. Some people like to have bubble wrap over the fiber at this point to add a little more friction.1013141453 Keep rubbing the fiber, adding water to keep everything sticking together. You should be able to just flip it over now. Rub a little, flip, rub a little, flip. Each time you flip, make sure your edges are snug against the template to avoid a ridge. This part can take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of wool you’re using, and how quickly it felts. Since my alpaca slippers disintegrated when putting it in the washing machine at this stage, I worked this pair by hand a little more. The layers at this point should be plastic, bubble wrap, and slippers. I place a nylon mesh laundry bag over the slippers, then roll all the layers around a pool noodle.  The nylon bag prevents the fiber from felting onto itself, and the pool noodle gives you a little more to work with as you roll. If you don’t have a pool noodle, you can do without.1014140808 I like doing this step without the pool noodle. Roll everything up, and with your hands on top, roll the whole package back and forth 50 times. Unroll, then reroll everthing from the opposite end. Again roll back and forth 50 times. Some people will feel confident throwing their slippers in the wash here, but I’m still not risking it. The fiber is beginning to shrink, and I can feel the template crinkling up inside. That’s OK.1014140840a One more time, I unroll the package, reroll it from the other end, and now I roll it back and forth 100 times. Unroll again, reroll from the other end, roll back and forth 100 more times. You should see you fiber noticeably felting at this point, and acting as a solid fabric. NOW, I’m ready to stop rolling.1014140852Your slippers should be really wet now. Throw them in the washing machine on the spin cycle and spin all the extra water out.

Cut your slippers carefully around the middle. You don’t want to cut your template. You can see here how much the felt shrank around the template. There will be a bit of a crease around the edges. Get the slippers wet, and use a bar of glycerine soap to rub out the crease, and any ridge that may have developed.10141408551014140858a They are WAAAY too big. I’m a little afraid they’re never going to shrink enough. Don’t worry. Keep watching.1014140914 I put my slippers in a mesh laundry bag, then ran them through the first wash with cool water, extra-gentle/handwash. I use the bag to keep them from getting too beat up, and possibly messed up under the agitator. The directions don’t specify to do this. I’m just paranoid.1014141058 The slippers were still super-big, so another run through the wash. This time warm water and regular cycle.1014141058a Still too big. One more wash – warm and regular. During this wash, I put them inside out. This helps discourage creases from forming.1014141146 Almost perfect, but still a little loose. You have to be careful once things start shrinking. I wore the slippers for a few hours while I hung out with the babies and they got a little looser. I put them in the washer for, MAYBE, 5 more minutes and they were almost too small. I would never have expected that. While the slippers were still wet, I shoved my feet into them so they would form to my feet. It worked, and they now fit perfectly!

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