This has been my first pandemic. Two and a half months passed before I could make something for myself. At first I was too numb. My brain, numb to thoughts, bruised by the incoming news from every app, message and web page served up by my stupid palm-sized slab of anxiety. My fingers felt numb to fine or even broad work, but were pressed into squeezing as much of life ‘out there’ into this small little set of walls and windows that form the box we live in.
I did make. I cooked out of necessity. I even created; because you have to get creative when you can’t get to the shops, and your grocery delivery turns into a fortnightly lucky dip of what the online store seemingly didn’t sell much of that week.
I even sewed, pressing my machine into action like thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of others have been doing, up and down the land, mass producing masks, scrubs, and other things that the practitioners of often derided ‘women’s work’ always warned would be needed when the apocalypse came. I don’t know that many ever thought that it might happen in their lifetime, though.
But I could not make anything (make, in bold, with anything approaching joy, or comfort, or any of the other qualities that handmade entails), until this weekend, 16th and 17th of May. And I made slippers.
Slippers are almost inherently funny to me. They are perhaps one of the greatest symbols of comfort and homeliness, but to me they will always remind me of my Nan. She was obsessed with slippers and my need to wear some at all times. ‘You’ll catch your death! Put some slippers on!’ as if my entire biological form was dependant on that pink pair of stiff-soled Marks and Spencers moccasin slippers for children. I rebelled so very much. I was a barefoot child (‘you’ll stub your toe!’) through and through. Eventually we came to a truce and I wore socks. She made me wear the ones with the grips on the soles (Totes Toasties) so that I did not slip and have an accident in the kitchen, but she still always bought me slippers, and I would wear them occasionally to appease her.
Seven years ago I made myself a pair of slippers out of scrap fabric. I don’t know if Nan would have been happy in me calling them slippers, not having a rock hard sole nor little grippy dots all over the bottom, and yet they served me well and comfortably until I inevitably lost one.
I don’t think of those slippers (or, indeed, any slippers) very often, yet for some reason, when I was sorting mask fabric for pre-washing, I pulled out my little selection of fabrics and decided that I would also make myself a pair of slippers. Perhaps I need a Nan to look after me and worry about me at the moment?
These are not posh fabrics – they are from Ikea. I love Ikea fabrics, partly because that’s where my Nan (again) would take me to buy fabric to be made into all sorts of furnishings and projects when she would sew for me in my teens and 20s. I make a lot of things with Ikea fabrics, including the previous pair of these slippers. The outer fabric is an Ikea upholstery weight cotton with botanic and zoological specimens in a white on navy print. It’s perhaps my favourite piece of fabric and I’ve used it for everything from handbags for myself to blackout blinds for my little boy. The lining is a piece of quilting weight cotton, with a sole quilted with layers of Ikea fleece blanket, and the whole slipper given body and squooosh with high loft fusible fleece.
I quilted the insole with a 2.5cm diamond pattern. I got serious and brought out the overlocker to edge the sole liners. I really faffed around making these.
If you knew your way around a sewing machine you could probably knock a pair of these up in 90 minutes or less, including cutting the fabrics. They took me two days of a few minutes here, and a few minutes there. I took my sweet, sweet time. I took that time for me. I pushed away the idea that this was selfish sewing, and then I embraced the very idea that it was selfish sewing, that it had nothing to do with the pandemic, and that these slippers were totally seperate from what was going on in the world.
But maybe they never really were. Because slippers are comfort, and boy this weekend I really needed that comfort. I needed somebody looking out for me, to make sure that my feet were warm and that I did not stub my toes. And really, Nan would be so proud, because I will not be slipping in my kitchen with these on…