How to Make Moccasins That Cuddle Your Feet
Moccasins Can Be Beaded Like These Cheyenne Ones
Keep Your Toes Warm This Winter
If you know how to make moccasins that cuddle your feet and keep your toes warm this winter, you can make some wonderful gifts for loved ones or friends.
Native American peoples have always been very creative and ingenious. They used every scrap of hide for clothes, bags, pouches, robes, and moccasins. For warm and comfortable winter footwear there is nothing better than a pair of soft-soled moccasins. I am going to show you how to make moccasins that cuddle your feet and keep your toes warm this winter. It really is not as difficult as one may think.
Let's take a look at some basic steps to make moccasins and the supplies you will need. It really is not as difficult as one may think.
Supplies and Tools Needed
- Deer, Elk, or moose hide (at least 2 square feet) - These hides are softer and stretchier than cowhide or pig suede. Deer hide is thinner than moose and elk, so it is easier to stitch and gather.
- Artificial Sinew
- Leather Needle (Glover's Needle)
- Paper bag for pattern
- Pen or Soft Lead Pencil
- Leather thumb guard (for ease in pushing the needle through the hide)
Caution: Glover's needles are very sharp. They have a three sided point that cuts on all three sides. This enables the needle to pass through the leather without tearing. Be very careful when using these needles. Wear a leather thumb guard to help push the needle through the leather.
Use an overcast or whip stitch and sew by hand. Make a knot at the beginning and ending of each seam, keeping the knot on the outside of the moccasin for comfort.
Make Your Pattern
To make the pattern, place one foot on paper and draw around the foot in the design shown in Diagram 1. Extend by a half an inch beyond toes and heel of the foot. Make sure the sides on either side of the pattern will come far enough up and over the top of the foot and leave a half inch seam allowance.
The straight edges on the side that extend out further determine the cuff size which will be folded down. If you like, you can extend this cuff to go up as high as the knee, or just below the knee, if you want "high tops."
Checking and Cutting the Leather
Carefully check for holes or markings on the hide before marking your pattern.
Since leather is a natural material, each piece will vary in the stretch. The stretchiest part should go across the foot rather than from toe to heel. Do not try to pin the pattern to the hide, for two reasons: it is too difficult to do, and pinning might distort the pattern. There will be a rough side and smooth side to the hide. Decide which side you want inside next to your feet.
Place the pattern on the wrong side of leather (the side that will be the inside of your moccasin) and very carefully draw around the pattern onto the leather with a pen or soft lead pencil. Cut the pattern out. It is important to cut only one thickness at a time, so the pattern remains true.
For a smoother look, hide the stitching inside the moccasin by sewing it inside out. Sinew is the traditional "thread" to use for sewing items made from hide. You can purchase artificial sinew, which is just as strong and cheaper. Remember to keep the knots on all seams on the outside so as not to irritate the tender footsie inside.
Using a whip stitch (see diagram 2) and beginning at toe, stitch up to the ankle in front. When this seam is finished do not cut off the sinew, make a stitch or two to secure the seam and then go back down the seam to make a narrow welt along the length of the seam by turning down the seam salvage and stitching it in place. This will make the moccasin stronger and will also help to prevent the seam from showing on the outside. It is okay if the toe is puckered like a rabbit's nose—this is often seen on moccasins and is rather cute. Any other puckered spots on the outside can be pounded flat with a wood mallet.
Sew up the back seam from heel to top. A heel tab can be added with a whip stitch if desired. In the days of the ancient ones, heel tabs sewn on the moccasins dragged along the ground and covered tracks. This tab can be fringed, trimmed in points, or left straight. See diagram 3 for detail.
Turn moccasin inside out. Now you know it is going to fit nicely because you used your own foot for the pattern. However, if you just cannot wait. You must be very excited to have gotten this far, so go ahead and try it on just for fun.
To secure the moccasin on the foot, a thong is made to wrap around the ankle. The best way to make a thong is to cut it from a scrap of hide in a spiral from the outside towards the center. Measure your ankle and add the inches needed to wrap from back to front and tie in the back of the ankle. This is the length you will need for the thong on each moccasin. Secure the thong in the back of the moccasin by making three loops in the hide with the sinew and sliding the thong through these loops. (see diagram 3) The cuff can be turned down after tying the thong.
If you have made high-top moccasins, these can be secured while wearing by tying a longer thong around the ankle then criss-cross in back and front alternately until you are about two inches from the top, then tie in front. To prevent cutting off circulation to foot or leg, do not wrap and tie this thong too tightly.
Diagram 2, Whip Stitch
Still Enthusiastic and Feeling Creative?
Moccasins are often beaded in beautiful designs. If you are a beader, you may want to decorate your moccasins in your own unique design. Or trying a traditional design and color scheme from a particular tribe gives an authentic and traditional look to your moccasins. Usually, only the top is beaded. The part of the cuff that will be turned down can be beaded also.
Fringe can be added around the ankle. When the cuff is turned down, the short fringe is quite attractive and authentic looking. A strip of beading at the top of the fringe gives a very nice finished edge.
A lining of rabbit fur or imitation fur can be made by using the same pattern used for the moccasin. Just make the seam on the non-fur side and make sure knots are on the same side. Turn lining fur side in and slip it into the moccasin. Secure to moccasin by taking (small stitches) around the ankle and take a few stitches at the toe and heel. Your foot will love being cuddled by this fur.
These Will Take a Little More Attention, but It's Well Worth it
© 2010 Phyllis Doyle Burns