How to Make Mukluks

Since the Stone Age, people have had to make their own foot coverings to protect the skin on the feet and for warmth. Many of these shoes or boots were crafted from animal hides, and in some cultures--especially those of the Native Indians of North America--this tradition continues today. Mukluks are boots that are worn outdoors in very cold, dry (semi-arid) climates--not in areas where there are cold puddles and slush on the ground. They are especially warm, and when the natives wear them with felt liners and several pairs of socks, they are impervious to the chill of a frozen river or deep, powdery snow.

Inspect the hide, and check for any holes or thin areas to avoid. Pull the hide in several directions to determine which is the "bias" or stretchiest plane. When cutting the leather, remember to place the pattern in such a manner that this "bias" aligns from one side of the foot pattern to the other side, not toe to heel.

Obtain a simple shoe pattern from the library or take apart an old moccasin so you understand the basic construction of a slipper-type shoe. You can also ask a local cobbler for a basic pattern for a soft moccasin or, if there is a local museum or native Indian group, ask if there is a moccasin pattern you could study or copy.

Remove your shoes and socks, and place your feet on a piece of newspaper. Use a felt-tipped pen to draw around your feet to make a pattern for the sole of the mukluk. Add at least 2 inches to the perimeter of the pattern. Rather than a rounded end at the heel, use a straight edge to mark the heel end of the pattern. Cut out the pattern and mark it "sole."

Make a second pattern for the vamp (top) of the mukluk by drawing around each foot. Cut out the pattern and fold it toe to heel. Cut the pattern at the fold and discard the heel end. Mark the pattern "vamp." Cut a long, thin piece of leather (the "welt") that is about 1/4 inches wide and long enough to go around the perimeter of the rounded side of the vamp

Thread the sinew through the leather needle, and tie a knot at the end of the sinew. Use an overhand whip stitch to sew the leather into a shoe form, keeping right sides of the leather together. Try to keep the stitches uniform and about 1/8 inch apart.

Complete any beadwork you want on the vamp before sewing it to the sole. Insert the welt into the seam between the vamp and the sole, and sew the seam. The welt ensures the seam will remain strong and will provide a finished appearance to the vamp. As you sew, gather the sole leather uniformly around the vamp. Trim the welt close to the seam on the right side.

Place your foot into the toe part of the leather mukluk and bend up the heel end to adjust the length of the shoe. Mark the center of the heel end of the mukluk (the straight edge). Measure 3/4 inch from either side of the center mark and cut a 3/4-inch slit toward the toe at each point.

Bend the two flaps on either side of the center-marked flap upward, and sew them together. Sew the center-marked flap to the new heel you have created, completing an upside-down "T" seam.

Cut a wide strip of Melton wool large enough to sew around the top of the mukluk shoe you have just completed and tall enough to reach up to your calf. Sew the seam that will become the back of the calf seam, then sew the wool to the top of the leather sole/vamp portion. Hem the top of the wool tube, insert a drawstring, and sew a decorative strip of fur around the top or middle of the circumference of the wool tube. Add the lining to the shoe part, and sew it to the bottom of the wool tube.