Many of you know that I moved here to Northern Ireland from New Zealand. I spent most of my life in New Zealand, and my children were born in New Zealand. We all see Northern Ireland as our home and love it here. However, there are a few things that I miss about New Zealand, that you can’t get here in Northern Ireland.
I miss Pineapple Lumps (sweets, but kiwis call them lollies), Lemon & Paeroa (a lovely fizzy drink that is unique). Onion dip (made from a packet of dried onion soup and a tin of reduced cream) which you have with potato chips (crisps), Milo (a hot chocolate drink) and amazing marshmallow centred chocolate covered Easter Eggs, Oh, and not forgetting the Chocolate Fish (pink marshmallow cover in chocolate, shaped like a fish). My taste buds are going into overdrive as I am writing this. Thankfully, a few years ago, I discovered a London based company that stocked all the Kiwi speciality food (along with Australia and South Africa) so all of us ‘imports’ could buy our fav foodstuffs from home. So once (or twice) a year, I treat the family to all those favourites.
Sorry, I got a bit side-tracked in explaining the true Kiwi items that we grew up with and miss as they are not available here. It was the mention of the pineapple lumps and marshmallow Easter eggs. There is one other item that we grew up with and I forgot completely about until my oldest daughter reminded me when she was expecting Lucas last year.
She asked me to make Lucas some of the sheepskin slippers I made for the girls when they were babies and toddlers. These slippers are very much a Kiwi icon and very popular. They are so warm in the winters and cool in the warmer months. Being made from sheepskin means that the outer soles are nonslip, which is great for when they were learning to walk. This meant no slipping on wooden floors. They were warm and cosy on their feet as the sheepskin was inside. The upper part was either knitted or crocheted which meant that the entire slipper was soft and pliable on their feet, right from birth. I had completely forgotten about these slippers, as it had been over 15 years since I had made them for Alyssa.
Being New Zealand – the land of the sheep (& the long white cloud), it was easy to go down to a local tannery and get some sheepskin offcuts or even buy the kit with the soles ready cut and with holes to make the slippers. However, being in Northern Ireland, the task of finding suitable sheepskin offcuts was slightly more difficult and there was nowhere to buy the sole kits (other than buying direct from New Zealand). I had long since lost my original pattern and could not find a pattern for the knitted slipper uppers.
So last year, I made up a couple after doing a few experiments in the designing process. Suitable sheepskin proved to be harder to find but I got some which I could make a couple of pairs. Lucas lived in the slippers.
Fast forward to October this year (and Lucas’s first birthday) – Latisha asked if I could make some more slippers as he had grown out of the ones I had previously made. So I really got my thinking hat on. I needed to be able to source a good reliable place to obtain suitable sheepskin, which I did, the bonus being that the skins have been treated specially to be used next to babies’ skin. I then had to work out, write and test suitable patterns for the slipper tops (after input from Latisha about what was the best design for the babies’ feet) and be able to have several sizes available. So I have finally got a pattern written for knitted slipper tops from sizes new born through to 2 years old. I will be doing a crochet version as well.
These slippers are amazing and so practical and stylish, while being cosy and pliable for babies’ feet. I knew that I wanted to share this Kiwi tradition and product with everyone here. These slippers really work well with the tops being made from handspun yarn – it truly makes these totally natural and all from the sheep (so to speak). I have used both hand dyed and natural handspun in my samples and love how rustic they look.
So, I then got to thinking on how it would be great to offer these in kit form – pair of soles (with holes ready to use) and the corresponding size pattern to make up a pair. I decided to leave out the yarn, mainly to keep the cost down and also to leave the option to you, so you could either buy handspun yarn or use your own. I am also thinking of offering ready-made slippers as well which will be packaged in a lovely linen bag which would make a lovely gift for that special baby ….