To me, there is nothing like the feeling of walking barefoot. Moccasins give some protection, while allowing the feet to still feel the earth. I wanted to learn how to make them, both to learn the skills, and so my family and friends could escape sneakers for awhile.
I started by searching the web for pictures and instructions — the links are shown below. Then, following a recommendation from a class at the Tracker School, I ordered the book Craft Manual of North American Indian Footwear, by George M. White. This book has instructions and patterns for many types of Native American moccasins.
I wanted a moccasin that was high enough around the heel to protect the ankles, and chose the Apache shaped-sole 3-piece on p.42 of the Craft Manual. Several pairs later, what I have resembles this pattern, but I’m sure it would not be confused with the original. My sides are higher, and the seam is probably sewn differently. Also, the fit is still winding up a little loose. It’s an evolving task, I learn something with each pair.
Before the first pair, I practiced on some old denim. This was easy and quick to cut and sew, and gave a rough idea of the best sizes for sole, upper, and heel.
The first couple of pairs were made from 4-5oz (4/64″ – 5/64″ thick) vegetable tanned cow hide, from Tandy Leather. This is a fairly rigid leather, that turned out to be not the best for mocs. The next few pairs were made with moose hide from Moscow Hide and Fur. Although thicker (I’m not sure of the exact weight), it is softer and more pliable than the cow hide. It’s very comfortable!
Note that the moose hide moccasins in the pictures below have sheepskin inserts. This makes them warm outdoors in the winter, and more comfortable indoors walking on flat floors. The plan is to remove the inserts in the summer, when it gets warm. But, the moccasins may be too big a fit then — we’ll see …
Here are two pairs made of cow hide, for twins who were then 1 year old. The picture on the right is a closeup of one of the pairs. If I made mocs for toddlers again, I’d use buckskin. It’s lighter weight than moose, which makes it easier to work with in smaller sizes. Probably a lot more comfortable too …
Here are two pairs made for my son Eli. The pair on the left is made from the cow hide. The pair on the right is made from moose. Note that in the left picture, the top and sole overlap so that the top fits inside the sole. This was to protect the top and seam from abrasion. But it makes the seam bunch up on the inside the moccasin, particularly around the toe and heel with small moccasins. For this reason, the picture on the right shows the top and sole held flat together and sewn. This is the style I use now. The seam is sticking out — much more comfortable!
Here is one of a pair made for my wife Liz. It is moose, and in this pair the top and sole overlapped rather than being sewn together. It gives a smoother look, and the seam is not so bunched up in the larger size that it is uncomfortable.
Here is a pair made for my daughter Emma. The top and sole are sewn flat. The seam, however, is lower to the ground than in the other pairs. This is because the foot tracing was done 6 months before the mocs were made, and her feet grew! I traced them in the summer, and took 1/2 a year to make them … But, cow hide was the leather of choice last summer, and by the time these were made, I had ordered the moose hide.
Here is the pair made below, and their first walk. This was 2/19/2 about 7AM, the kids and I went with the dogs to the park and walked around on the ice.