Monday, October 27, 2014

Felted Clogs, Carpet Trauma & Tylenol

Here's one of my pet peeves: wearing shoes on carpet.  I grew up as someone who preferred to be barefoot or in my socks if at all possible.  I'm still someone who only puts on shoes if I'm planning on leaving my yard.  I didn't used to care what other people wanted to do with their feet while at my house....then I went through the experience of pulling out all our old carpeting.

My guess is that it was maybe 15 years old.  At the time we had been in our house for around 13 years and the carpet had been replaced a few years before we moved in (or so they led us to believe....)  The previous owners had a large dog, so I'm sure that contributed to the condition of the carpeting.  But I had been good about renting a big Rug Doctor rug cleaner on a yearly basis for about the 5 years leading up to tearing out the old carpet, so I thought we were keeping it in decent shape.  When it came time to replace the carpets, we did the tear-out ourselves to save a little cash.  Ermagherd, I could not believe what we removed from our house.

First off, our house is about 65 years old and we always thought it had a musty smell.  For years we thought maybe there was mold hiding in the basement (there wasn't) or the crawl space had some sort of disgusting standing water (it didn't).  Then I learned from a neighbor that the family that built our house were smokers.  We had already re-painted every surface in the house, often with Kilz paint, so I thought that would seal in any sort of smoker smell, but for all my new painting projects, I switched to the paint that has baking soda in it.  You know, the paint that says it will make your house smell clean and fresh!  Still no change.

Then we finally save up the money to buy new carpeting.  Once we had the old carpets (and all the random debris that came with them!) off the floor, and out of the house, we realized it was not only the carpet that smelled horrible, it was the subfloors beneath them as well!  I'll put it this way - you may think you did a decent job cleaning up whatever your large dog did on the carpet....but no, the evidence is just 2 inches below the spot you scrubbed, and it's soaking into the subfloor.  I think the cigarette smoke smell had marinated into the wood as well.

After removing that nasty carpet, there was no way I was putting new carpet over the disgusting sub-floor, so I set to work cleaning and sealing it.  It was me, a bucket with diluted bleach, and a sponge, washing maybe 800 square feet of subfloor on my hands and knees.  I followed that with a couple coats of Kilz paint to hopefully seal in any nastiness I couldn't wash away.  I can think of a few more enjoyable ways to spend a week, but man am I glad I did that.  When we walk into our house now, even after a week away, we don't smell anything except possibly the garbage we forgot to get rid of before we took off.  Baby steps, people.

Even though the saga of our flooring isn't very interesting, I had to include it so you'd understand the motivation behind my love of no shoes on the carpet.  I'm totally fine with people walking through the wood and tile-floored rooms of my house with shoes on, and in fact I designed it so you can walk back and forth between all 3 doors that lead to the outside without ever having to walk through a carpeted room.  I can sweep that stuff away without leaving a trace.  But baby, if you decide to veer off the hard floors, you'd better do it in sock feet.

I've learned something about people in the three years I've been asking them to take their shoes off in my house: kids don't bat an eye, and 90% of the time, they will take their shoes off for ever more without me asking again.  I think there's one of my kids' friends who I've maybe had to remind 2 or 3 times.  But the kids who come to my house for piano lessons?  (Have I ever mentioned here that I'm a piano teacher?  Well, there you go!  Now you know 2 random facts about me!)  They jumped on the bandwagon right away and never looked back.  And their parents either follow suit, or, if they don't feel like taking the shoes off, they stand in the foyer adjacent to the room with the piano when they show up a couple minutes early to pick up their kid.  It's so not a big deal.  But adults?  Especially the ones who are related to you?  They think it's totally weird that we have a "no shoe" rule and basically leave them on until I physically remove the shoes from their feet.

So after giving it some thought, I decided to help the adults out.  After all, there are certain houses that I visit where I pack an extra pair of socks (or some slippers if it's someplace I'm super-comfortable).  Since I have a "no shoe" thing at my house, I like to treat other people's homes with the same care as my own.  But I hate having cold feet.  So my sock/slipper packing is my way around that.

I decided I just needed something similar at my house.  I'm borrowing a move from the Japanese playbook, just without the obvious shelving for outdoor shoes.    I already had a great pattern for felted slippers that I've already used a dozen times: Felted Clogs by Bev Gelaskas.  I've made them for everyone in my immediate family as well as gifts for 4 or 5 other people and they've always been very well received.  I needed to make myself a new pair this year anyway because I've worn the bottoms out of the ones I made about 5 years back!  I love this pattern because A) Being felted means the sizes are fairly adjustable B) Even the finished slippers are fairly loose on sizing, the way flip-flops don't have to fit exactly right, C) Worsted-weight held double + Size 13 needles makes for pretty quick knitting, and D) These slippers are like little foot ovens.  VERY warm.

Anyway, the plan was this: make enough pairs that there would be enough slippers to shoe any group we invite over.  In cooler months, keep them in a big basket by the front door and offer them to guests  I figure most people will keep their socks on, and if they don't the slippers are easy enough to run through the washer.  It should be a pretty low-maintenance situation, and a pretty strong hint having them sit by the door.  And it should invalidate the foot-dragging (pardon my pun) motivated by "I'm going to just keep these shoes on because otherwise my toes will be cold."  The feet of all will be cozy and warm, and I won't find myself on my knees any time soon gagging over a bucket of bleach water!  It's win-win!

As it happened, at the beginning of this month I got hit with a semi-truck in the form of a headache that just wouldn't stop.  It started on the top of my head, then gradually moved to mid-face, then the jaw as the days and weeks went on.  I'm not a person that has ever dealt with more than the very rare "I didn't get enough sleep" headache, or the "I need to drink more water" headache.  So having head pain that drove me to take Tylenol as often as the label would allow was something of a concern.  Multiple friends told me that a weird headache virus was going around, so I figured that's what I had.  And since I could barely stand to do anything except sit quietly and wait for my next dose of Tylenol, it was the perfect time to start my slipper project.

I wasn't in any shape to drive myself to the craft store that is 25 minutes away to buy more Paton's Worsted Wool (my favorite felting wool), so I dragged the "reject yarn crate" out from under my bed.  That's where the stuff that isn't pretty goes to hide out until I need it or until one of my kids says they need yarn for a craft project.  "Spare the pretty, expensive yarn!  You may use the Paton's Wool under the bed!"

I was surprised that I had quite a few skeins and partial skeins in there.  I think I had about 4 slippers done before I had to send my husband to the store to fill out my yarn needs.  He did ok, picking up about half the things on my "Must Have Yarn" list.  I made a few more slippers and by the time I was done with those, I had figured out how to get the pain killers to give me a decent chunk of the day where I could do functional things like drive and go to yarn stores.  I hit a different place and found the rest of what I needed.

I ended up with 5 new pairs of slippers.  My son immediately claimed one pair for his own (the blue & black ones), but then generously gave his outgrown slippers to his sister, who had also outgrown hers.  So I get to add her outgrown child-sized pair to our guest basket.  The beige & purple pair are kind of mine.  I haven't really broken them in yet, but I've got my eye on them.  My old pair can't go in the basket though because they are dead.  Worn hard and fulfilled their destiny.  Time for them to go to the wool mill in the sky.

My slipper factory lasted about a week and I ended up with 5 pairs for the communal basket.  If I hit another project lull this winter, I may make 3 or 4 more pairs, a couple of them in kids' sizes.  The crazy headache thing, if you were wondering, lasted 24 days.  It started October 1 and I finally woke up this past Saturday and thought "Hey!  I haven't taken Tylenol in 24 hours and nothing hurts!"  It was fantastic.  I did go to my doctor mid-month and she told me that at 39 years old, she thinks I've developed seasonal allergies.  It's possible I was just strange that allergies would hit me so hard despite the fact that I take a daily anti-histamine (for non-seasonal-allergy reasons).   No hard freezes here yet, but maybe the 2 light frosts we had in the past week took care of enough allergens to make my headache go away.  Or maybe I really did just have a crazy 3-week-long headache virus.  Whatever it was, I say "good riddance!"

How about you?  Are you a shoes-on or a shoes-off person?  Do you religiously wear slippers in the winter like me or are you fine with chilly toes?  I never remember having cold feet until I lived in my current house, so I don't know if we just have cold floors or if it's just a symptom of not being a carefree kid anymore!


  1. I am a slipper girl. I have a pair of LL Bean slippers that I love. Pair of Unisox and slippers are on my feet right now.

    Did you put soles on those? I have all hard wood floors and the idea of slippery bottoms brings broken bones in little girls to mind.

  2. Oh, man -- I hate shoes on my carpet. My kids are totally indoctrinated to it, too, and shriek at their friends to take their shoes off, too. ;)

  3. Good point, Judye! I was only thinking about these for the carpeted floors, but I guess guests might need to go to the bathroom & cross wood floors, too! I'll have to think about providing some traction on the soles!
    Katinka- a girl after my own heart! Shoeless power unite!