DIY: How to Make Moccasins

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DIY:  How to Make Moccasins

Learn how to make your own moccasins with this step-by-step instructional guide.

September 16, 2013

Edited By Abigail R. Gehring

Anyone who wants to learn basic living skills, the kind employed by our forefathers, and adapt them for a better life in the 21st century need look no further than the eminently useful, full-color guide, Back to Basics (Skyhorse Publishing, 2008). The following DIY guide on how to make moccasins is excerpted from Part 5, “Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Back to Basics.


Cowhide for Feet

Moccasins, in one form or another, were used as footwear by North American Indians from Mexico to beyond the Arctic Circle. Although styles varied from tribe to tribe and region to region, almost all moccasins shared certain characteristics: the upper parts were made of tanned

leather, the leather was usually smoked to improve its resistance to water, and, except for moccasins made by a few western tribes, the soles were soft.

The three-piece moccasin shown here is based on an Apache design. Use heavy-weight, oil-tanned leather (oil tanning makes the leather moisture resistant) and cut the pattern pieces out of heavy paper (a heavy-duty grocery bag will do). Make separate patterns for each foot—right and left foot sizes are rarely the same—and baste the patterns together so that you can try them

for fit before cutting the leather. Note that pattern shapes shown are for the left foot; reverse them for the right foot. Since the leather is heavy, holes must be punched before the seams are sewn, either with an awl (as shown) or a very fine drive punch or rotary punch (standard tools sold at leathermaking stores). Use the saddle stitch for all seams. Draw the thread tight after

each stitch so that it bites into the leather; this will produce a strong yet attractive seam that will stand up under heavy wear. Note that the stitch holes punched around the soles are spaced slightly farther apart than the corresponding holes around the vamps and back pieces. The difference in spacing compensates for the longer perimeter of the sole piece and also produces a

gathering effect. The final step in making the moccasins is to add a thong. Cut the thong from the same leather used for the moccasins, and thread it through slits in the back piece. Be sure to make the thong long enough to tie a bow.

How to Make Moccasins

Each moccasin consists of three pieces: vamp, back, and sole. To add thong, cut slits at sides and rear of back piece. Finished moccasins can be beaded if desired.
1. Place foot on paper, draw outline around it with pencil held vertically. Sketch pattern for sole by allowing additional 1 1/4 in. at heel and toe, 1 in. elsewhere all the way around outline.  
2. Make vamp pattern about 1/4 in. wider than widest part of foot (line AB). To estimate length of vamp, measure distance from back of big toenail to just above instep (line CD) and add 4 in.
3. Pattern for back piece should be 4 in. high and long enough to wrap around heel of foot and overlap vamp by about 1/2 in. on each side. Check back piece using foot outline from Step 1.  
4. Use awl to punch holes 1/4 in. from edge around the soles, back pieces, and fronts (toes) of vamps. Holes are about 3/16 in. apart on vamps and back pieces; matching holes in soles are about 1/4 in. apart.  
5. To join vamps to sole, begin by saddle stitching from center of vamp. Stitch along one side, then along the other. To join back to sole, start from center of heel. Sew one side, then the other.  
6. Easiest way to make the saddle stitch is with a needle at each end of thread. Even thread off at first hole, insert needles through succeeding holes in opposing directions. Finish with knot hidden in seam.

Read more from Back to Basics: DIY Coonskin Cap.

Reprinted with permission from Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills edited by Abigail R. Gehring and published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2008. Buy this book from our store: Back to Basics.