the slipper experiment

A few days ago I hauled up the last of the yarn from my locker to my apartment. As I suspected, most of the nice stuff had wound up in the locker (in sealed plastic bags, in a suitcase, thank goodness). Now that it's all in my living space, I'm starting to appreciate what a gargantuan task reducing the stash will be. The idea is to have it all fit in my cedar-lined chest. That means I need to decrease the volume to about 20% of what I have now. That's okay: part of knowing how to solve the problem is knowing the size of it.

I count any unfinished knitting as stash, even though it's really living in that strange twilight-land between stash and knitting. The truth is, I have so many ideas that sometimes things that are on their way to being finished wind up being unraveled and turned into stash again. I hate that silly debate between "process" and "project" knitting (reminds me too much of left-brain vs. right-brain, and all the other stupid binaries we impose on ourselves), but it's true I like to experiment at least as much as I like to get things done.

The past couple of weeks have been good for finishing things and experimenting at the same time. I finally finished the Lana Grossa socks I first blogged about last May, and started the second Noro sock of the pair I was working on at the same time. It had been so long, I had to look up my old blog post to find out what size needles I had used for the Noro, because all I could remember was that it was smaller-than-usual. (I knew there was a reason why I kept this blog!)

I also just finished a new pair of slippers for myself, because my old ones were ruined when I painted my bedroom. My old slippers were Isotoners, but this time I decided to knit my own.

I have a friend who saw a lot of my sweaters before she saw my apartment, and when she finally came over, the first thing she said was, "Where's all the knitted household stuff?" The truth is, I'm not that big on afghans, knitted pillows, tea cosies, or (gack!) wall hangings, much less door-knob cosies, toilet paper roll covers, or other ways people have found over the years to use up leftovers. That includes household slippers. When I was little, my grandmother used to knit my brothers and I slippers. We used their natural slippiness to our advantage, and would "surf" down the cushion-floored hallway after a running start. We would have our new slippers completely worn out in about a week, maybe two if they were made from Phentex instead of the usual leftover Eaton's Lady Fair Sayelle acrylic. Come to think of it, maybe that's why Oma taught me that slipper pattern as soon as I was past the scarf stage.

There's a nice pair of slippers in Melanie Falick's Handknit Holidays, though, and the idea of reducing some stash and replacing my slippers for "free" appealed. Also, this pattern calls for fingering-weight yarn, so I felt confident substituting some sock yarn. It takes me a couple of years to wear out a pair of hand-knit socks.

Here's the finished version:

Besides the yarn substitution, the major changes I made to the original pattern were:
  • Altering the size to something that would fit my feet. The pattern instructions are, as is typical for women's socks and slippers patterns, too small for me, even at the largest size. I take a North American size 10 shoe (that's a European 41, or a UK size 8), so I had to do some math to size it up myself. It wasn't that hard once I had compared the instructions to the schematics a few times, but it would be nice if someone remembered that not all women are five feet four with a size six shoe when they're publishing these things. There's a reason why I could design my own sweaters by the time I was sixteen, and it's not because I'm a fashion genius, unfortunately.
  • Ditching the long laces that were supposed to cross and tie halfway up the calf and replacing them with short laces that hold up the sides but don't require any tying, because they're sewn onto the slipper at both ends. (They can't be eliminated entirely because they're what's keeping the sides of the slipper from curling and falling off the foot.) The laces are still threaded through the centre-foot points to allow for the slipper to stretch and flex correctly as I wear it.
  • Removing the yarn-overs the pattern called for and replacing them with make-one increases instead. I don't have anything against lace patterns; I just thought this would look better. I also eliminated the yarn-over at the back of the heel since there wasn't going to be any lace to run through it.
I'd like to get some leather partial soles for them (the kind with the separate toe and heel pieces that come with the tough linen thread to sew them on with), but haven't seen these for sale in a long time. If you have a lead, please let me know.

The slippers fit and stay on a lot better than you would be led to believe when you're making them (the uppers curl something awful until they're on your feet), and the minimal upper means that your feet stay warm, but not too warm when you're wearing them. The final effect is that of a dancing slipper — pretty and elegant.