wool felted boots

(rant begins here. for details about wool boots scroll down considerably)

i've been needing good boots ever since i moved here. in 2009 my mom's combined christmas/birthday present to me was a pair of work boots, and they lasted me for a solid year before starting to fall to pieces. i still wear them occasionally, and they get a good laugh - the uppers are only 2/3 connected to the soles anymore, the leather cracked and worn, the lace sheathing torn away.

not to discredit my mother's gift - as i have been finding out, along with my hardworking, boot-needing neighbors, good boots are almost impossible to find for our lifestyle.

felting boots
since those boots wore out, i've worn hand me downs from friends' coworkers, thrift store finds, and 'up for grabs' boots that folks at the ecovillage were getting rid of. i have even been gifted a Brand New pair by a loving and supportive neighbor, who heard that most of last winter my feet were wet.

so let me explain: this lifestyle is hard on boots. they really are needed most days, for safe passage on rough/muddy/snowy/dangerous terrain, while doing construction work, while handling Large animals with Sharp hooves, and while doing heavy lifting and otherwise serious manual labor that can easily put one's feet at risk.

thrift store and hand me down boots are not made to handle that for long. $100 boots are not made to handle that for long. even $200-300 boots are not made for it. and i think you will find that if you read warranty agreements in detail, the boot makers do not intend to protect your investment for very long.

felting boots
rather than stepping down off my soap box, i'll step sideways onto my idealistic cloud: i can make better boots. i don't Want manufactured boots. i don't know WHO actually makes the boots i've worn, and if they're happy, if they're free to determine the condition of their labor, or if the resources used to make those boots are gathered (or synthesized) respectfully. i want hand made boots. and of course i can't afford to BUY hand made boots. so i'll make them.

i've begun by making felted wool boots. i hear from friends that russians in very cold climates are known for boiled-wool boots that stay warm and dry through very cold conditions. that's well and good, as long as it Stays cold. but i'm concerned that with our changing weather, melting snow and slush will eventually degrade or soak through the wool - not necessarily ruining the insulative properties of the wool, but nonetheless leaving me with wet feet.

wool felted boots
so the wool boots are my base. once they're done i'll process one of the half dozen deer hides i've got sitting around and will wrap the bottoms with a few layers of leather, and maybe after that a lovely blacksmith that i happen to know will help me turn them into hobnail boots, adding some extra durability and traction to the soles. i'll keep you posted on how this works out.

oh, and making the wool boots (they're almost done) only took two days. it was easy work, though incredibly tedious. i recommend having friends around, movies to watch, or otherwise surrounding yourself with some amusement or meditation to pass the hours of patient rubbing, laying out of fiber, wetting, rubbing, turning, etc ad nauseum. you can find instructions very easily with a google search. and don't worry overmuch if you don't have exactly the materials recommended. your boots may not end up looking perfect like theirs, but you're liable to still end up with serviceable boots, as i have.