How to make felt boots (Russian valenki) for toys
To begin with I should warn you that I’ve never claimed to be a great felter as I hardly have any experience in felting, but nevertheless let me show you how to felt your own toy valenki boots in case someone finds it beneficial.
So let’s just call this article as simple as that “That’s how I felted my toy valenki boots”.
• Felting wool
• A piece of 4mm thick packaging/carpet/laminate underlay foam for valenki boots template
• Two 30x30cm squares of bubble wrap film
• Mosquito net/ nylon curtain netting fabric or window screen fabric
• Liquid hand wash or soap gel to prepare your soap solution (water ratio being 1:10 ). You may certainly use one of wet felting soap containers if you already have one at hand.
Make a template out of the piece of packaging underlay foam, which you will then use to felt your valenki boots on. I forgot to take a picture of my template, however you may clearly see the boundaries on the photo showing the first layer of felting wool.
NB: You require one template for both boots.
Remember that your felting wool will shrink in size and therefore your template should be bigger than the finished size of the boots. An experienced felter would normally make a sample copy of an item and take measurements at the initial and final stages of felting. Their next step would then be to make a template. As for me I took liberty and created my template at random. I think that after you’ve felted your first valenki boots, you will see what size template you require to fit your toy’s feet. At any rate it did work for me personally. Here are my measurements.
So let’s begin.
The appearance of your boots is directly dependent on how neat you lay the fibres of your felting wool out. Place your bubble wrap film onto a flat surface and then the boots template onto the film. The whole process will consist of four layers of felting wool placed on each side of the template.
Grasping the end portion of a piece of roving with one hand gently pull off ‘tufts’ of fibres with the other hand and lay them down horizontally onto the template parallel and as close to one another as possible. Ensure the fibres are of about same thickness. The covered area should be 2-3cm bigger than the size of the template.
The second layer should be made in a vertical direction.
The third and the fourth layers should mirror the first and the second, i.e. the third layer is made horizontally and the fourth vertically accordingly. Make sure that when you make a new layer, it is slightly transparent and that you can see the previous layer through the new one.
Now you’ve completed laying out your felting wool on one side of the template.
Cover it with your netting and pour or squirt some warm soap solution though the nozzle of your container on the netting (I have not covered the wool on the picture but please do so).
Gently rub the wool through the netting making sure the netting does not felt to the wool itself. Carefully remove the netting making sure the wool stays in place. Cover the wool with the second piece of the bubble wrap film. Press down and stroke it gently for about 5 minutes. The fibres should start drawing closer and felting to one another at this stage.
Now turn the piece over so that the template is on top of your ‘sandwich’. Fold the excess fibres over the template.
Repeat the layout starting with a horizontal layer. Continue until you’ve got 4 layers of alternate horizontal and vertical layers. Cover your top layer with the netting. Pour or squirt some soap solution on the netting. Gently rub the fibres first through the netting and then through the bubble wrap film.
Turn the piece over. Fold the excess fibres over the previous layer and stoke them gently until you’ve got rid of any remaining creases.
Repeat the process of rubbing through the netting and then though the bubble wrap film one more time. Once your felt has become firmer, you may start pressing and rubbing it more intensely with bare hands against the bubble wrap film or even a washboard if you’ve got one.
Continue so for approximately 10-15 minutes. Provided you have done everything right, your felt should have shrunk to the stage when you need to take the template out. Cut your felt along with the template right across the middle (I tried to do it as neat as possible, so nearly succeeded). Take out the halves of the template and straighten your valenki boots out.
Put your fingers inside the boots, press and rub the folds against the bubble wrap or against some firmer surface like a table corner. The folds should eventually become no thicker than the rest of your felt.
In order to achieve an even better result, you may subject the boots to a so called ‘thermal shock’. Rinse them in hot but not boiling hot water, then in cold and warm water. Pour or squirt some soap solution on the felt. Press and rub it against the bubble wrap film or the wash board, or even simply between your palms for a bit longer.
When the felt has shrunk in size and become smaller than the template (see the picture below), then you may stop the process and rinse it in warm water, gently wring out excess water through the towel, straighten it out with your hands and let it dry.
Unfortunately I did not save a picture of the original grey valenki, however you may have a look at a similar pair of valenki that have already found their rightful owner.
Here is another example of valenki made for Charming witch
and for Dear Raindieer