Make your own Shoe Lasts
for felted boot projects
Making shoes or boots from felt is something thats been going on since prehistory,
and it is perfectly possible to finish a pair of boots on your own feet for perfect fit.
But, you do end up with very wet, cold feet when you do this! Many of  the modern
versions of felted boots use either knitted or hand felted bases that are then
shrunk and felted in a washing machine to give a dense finish and the final shrunk
shape.

It is possible to buy polystyrene foot lasts, but these are not easy to find, quite
expensive, and don't help when a friend with different size feet asks you to make
them a pair too- I've been using this easy and effective method for making as many
customised foot lasts as you want- you can even modify the shape as you go to give
pointed toes or to add a little ease over problem areas of your foot.

Hope this is helpful!
Sally
January 2004
 

You  need:
-1 pair of thin socks that you won't need again
-1 roll of 'duck/duct tape' 'carpet tape' or 'gaffa tape' (it has different names in different
places, but its usually silver or black and has a strong cloth type weave and is very sticky and
waterproof)
Thin card (the back of a cereal packet is fine)
-Lots of old plastic carrier bags, or cheap plastic bin bags
-Pair of scissors
It sometimes helps to have a friend to assist, especially if you don't bend so easily!

Method:
Put on the socks, and start by standing flat on a piece of card and drawing round it so that
you have a flat sole shape. Cut this out and use a long length of tape to attach it to the sole
of the foot bringing the ends up over the top of the sock. Smoothly wrap the ends of tape
over the foot. Still standing up, add shorter lengths around the ball of the foot and  then the
instep area. Its important to do the first few wraps standing so the last is roomy enough for
comfort when walking about. Keep systematically wrapping the foot in short, overlapping
lengths, making sure everything is smoothed down as you go.

I find it helps to do both feet at the same time, i.e. one strip on the left foot, one on the right,
then I know I'm doing the same thing to each. Work right up to your ankles, as far up as you
want the lasts to reach. Don't worry yet about getting out of them!

You need to get at least three layers over the whole foot, working out wrinkles as best you
can.

Once you have both feet smoothly encased in tape, carefully cut yourself out of them using
the scissors, be very careful not to cut yourself!

Now, stuff the toe area of each last with scrumpled up old carrier bags- its amazing how many
you can get rid of into a pair of these lasts. If you run short, cheap bin bags work ok, or odds
and ends of bubblewrap or any soft plastic packaging. It needs to be as tightly packed as
possible without distorting the last.

Once the toe is filled, you can tape up the cut that you made to get out of the boots and stuff
the rest with more plastic bags, Again, I advise doing both at once, then if you run out and
have to switch to different packaging, both are the same.

Once you get up to the height you want your last to be, make a smooth top for the last with
more tape.

At this stage you can decide whether to alter the shape at all. So, if you want pointy toes, you
need to wad up some packing and tape it onto the toes, or if you have a sore area on your
foot and want more ease there, add a few more thicknesses of tape to that area. Usually, a
final layer of tape all over the shape to smooth everything out and ensure it stays together is
enough.

Thats it, your lasts are done. Might be worth writing the size on the bottom in permanant pen
if you are making several pairs for different people!

Using the lasts:

Make your basic boot by your usual method, felted with a resist layer or needlefelt or knitted,
all work fine. Put the boot on the last, it will obviously be too big. Take some strong elastic
bands, or hair bands, and use these to hold the shoes in place at strategic points. For some
tricky ones I've used a fine string thread and laced the boot onto the last- this can be useful if
you have a large opening or want a tall boot to stay up and not slump down the last.

Depending on your felt, it can either go straight into the washing machine or you can wet felt
it for a while by hand to settle the felt. If you go straight for the machine, start with a quick,
cool wash and check that everything is ok and that the bands havent stuck or marked the felt.
If all is well, go for a hot, long wash with some added lumpy laundry (rolled up socks, trainers,
kids toys etc).

The finished boots will have been able to shrink as far as the last and no further. I've had
great results this way, and hopefully you'll find it helpful too.
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