How to Make Your Own Moccasins 

Take your tanned animal skins one step further by turning the leather into comfortable, durable footwear.

February/March 2017
Story and photos by Dennis Biswell


For thousands of years, we’ve been using tanned animal skins to protect our feet. The oldest known leather footwear is a 5,500-year-old center-seam moccasin that was discovered in an Armenian cave. Perhaps the most famous ancient leather footwear is the 5,300-year-old pair found on the feet of Ötzi the Iceman. In 1991, his body and belongings were discovered emerging from a melting glacier in the Ötzal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border.

In the October/November 2016 issue, I described how to turn deerskins into leather. Now, I’ll explain how to use that leather to make a pair of lined side-seam moccasins. This style of moccasin has several advantages. The moccasins are made from one medium-sized deer hide. The style doesn’t place much stress on any of the seams, so deer leather is a perfect material to use. For sewing moccasins, you’ll only need to use one type of stitch, a whipstitch, which is easy to master. The finished product is attractive, comfortable, and warm. Whether this is your first project or you’re an experienced leather worker, follow these instructions to turn your deer leather into moccasins, and then you, too, can take a walk on the wild side!

Before you begin cutting and sewing your moccasins, here are a few tips:
• Always test a new pattern by first forming a pair of moccasins with felt or denim and your lining material. This way, you’ll be able to test the fit and practice sewing bulky material before cutting any of your home-tanned deerskin.
• Use the thicker leather from the neck, shoulders, back, or hips. Deer leather from the sides, belly, and legs is just too thin.
• The membrane side, or the sanded side of the leather that was next to the muscle, will become the inside of your moccasins. The grain side, or the smooth side of the leather, will form the outside of your moccasins.

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