What could be more charming than a family of smiling people, all of whose feet are cozy and warm inside colorful handknit slippers? From the very first moment, I was charmed by Katie Startzman's book. At a time when there seems to be less and less to distinguish one knitting book from another, this stands out as fresh and original. Even the book trailer is adorable.
Katie Startzman is one of those innately creative people. It may come as no surprise that she's a graduate of Berea College, the liberal arts work college in Kentucky. She still lives in Berea, and today she and her sister write about their creative exploits in their blog, duo fiberworks.
Startzman has a desire to eschew the store-bought and live a self-sufficient life. Shoes were the only real challenge—that is, until Katie stumbled upon Beverly Galeskas' masterful book, Felted Knits. She suddenly realized that slippers were the obvious answer to her footwear challenge, offering the added bonus of being soft, comfortable, and easy to personalize. Soon, Galeskas' principles became a springboard for Katie's own experimentation. Fast-forward to this fall, when her book on the subject was finally released.
Under the Covers
The Knitted Slipper Book contains 30 patterns total, ranging widely in style from ballet flats to moccasins, booties, and clogs. Many of the projects begin as knitted slippers and are finished with a vigorous felting. Some have criticized the book for this, as if the presence of felted projects violated the author's right to use "knitted" in the title. But the presence of felt makes perfect sense for the book, exactly as it's titled. If you want thick, squishy knitted fabric to wear well on your feet, your best bet is to felt it first. The underlying fabric is still very much knitted, and beautifully so.
The patterns are very clear and include extensive step-by-step photographs and detailed written instruction. I especially appreciate the amount of photography in the book. You'll find many extra shots, the kind that usually get cut from the budget. Things like pictures of how the slippers look before and after felting, and step-by-step shots of the finishing details that make many of these patterns so charming and unique.
Stylistically, the collection has a whimsical, almost cartoonish quality that rather suits the concept of house slippers. Like, say, pajamas, slippers are a rather private accessory intended to be worn in the comfort and privacy of our own homes. In such an environment it'd be perfectly appropriate to sport a pair of ballet slippers with big colorful pom-poms on top, or some curly-toed, beaded and sequined slippers. Why not?
As stylistically varied as the patterns are, this isn't a one-size-fits-all compendium. There's something for everyone, but not everything will fit everyone. The Mary Jane Baby Booties are only for, well, babies. The Lace-Up Boots are only sized from Child's extra-small to large. Others have been styled appropriately to scale all sizes and genders.
Some of the patterns are more practical than others. The Slouchy Socks, for example, are knit at the kind of loose gauge normally reserved for things like scarves. I don't imagine a pair would endure much foot traffic. But others are designed to last, like the Inside-Out Slipper Socks with suede soles, sized for a child's small to large. The Chunky Slipper Boots, sized extra-small to men's large, incorporates a thick felted sole on the base of a knitted boot. Even the more delicate projects, like The Brushed Suri Slip-Ons, have notes about sewing on a suede sole if you plan on doing a lot of walking in them.
One of the most useful sections comes early in the book, when Katie demonstrates more "soling" techniques than I've ever seen in one place. You'll find out how to secure the bottoms of your slippers, from paint-on latex to plastic dip, suede, vegetable-tanned leather, shearling, and knitted lining. Clearly she wants these slippers to be worn and enjoyed.
This book offers a lovely start for anyone interested in moving their knitted footwear beyond socks. You still won't be knitting much that you'd wear outside on grass and gravel and sidewalks. But you'd be having fun.
Most of what's in here will be quick to knit and not tremendously complicated. Some of the patterns may have slightly fiddly shaping than others, but nothing harder than your average sock.
The more you experiment with the patterns in this book, the more full your basket of colorful, textured slippers will become. Imagine having this basket right by your front door, and being able to offer them up to friends when they visit. Not as a way to say, "Please take off your shoes so they don't mess up my floor," but, rather, "Here, make yourself at home."