Introduction: Mukluks for Christmas

Picture of Mukluks for Christmas

My Dad used to snowshoe many miles in boarding school in Manitoba sporting mukluks and several pairs of socks. He has talked about  his experiences since we were kids and has wanted a new pair for quite some time. I started working leather last year, mainly recycling old coats or pants into hand bags. When I picked his name for Christmas this year, I knew exactly what I wanted to make for him. Using an old pair from a family friend as a model and many hours on Google, I strung together ideas to string together his Christmas gift.

Step 1: The Tools

Picture of The Tools

The best leather to reduce humidity and therefore help keep your feet warm is supposedly deer. The deer leather I found was beautiful but not very thick nor rugged. I opted for vegetable-tanned cow hide for the sole, scrap cow hide for the tongue and deer hide for the leg. Veg tan is very rigid stuff and initially I had thought it just needed some breaking in. Turns out it won't wear down to become a flexible sole so I suggest using malleable leather and glueing on a crepe sole to protect it should you try to tackle this project on your own.
Tanner's bonding cement is handy to keep the pieces in place in addition to the thread, which is coated in wax so it's easier to handle. The leather conditioner is mainly beeswax and helps protect the leather from moisture. For deco I picked up some coyote teeth and bone.

Step 2: The Project

Picture of The Project

One of the example mukluks was disassembled to roughly trace the pieces however my Dad's feet are bigger so I used a pair of his old insoles and added an inch in width to the sole of the model.  
After cutting out the veg tan soles I punched them with roughly equal spacing around the outside edge. Now, the only way to mould veg tan is when it's sopping wet so I dunked it in the sink and weaved some thread through the punched holes to give the sole a foot form and let it dry overnight.
I made the tongue larger than the model as the sole shape was larger and also in hopes that it would be easier to weave the tongue into the gathered front of the sole. 
I traced the leg piece onto the rough side of the deer tan, adding length (so he won't get snow in his boot if walks into a deep area) and extra tabs to reinforce and make the glueing process easier. Then I glued on black canvas to strengthen where the grommets would go for the laces. That way if anyone pulls on the laces the leather won't stretch or tear around the grommets.
I cut out the front part of the leg and punched it with the same number of holes as the edge of the other leg pieces. Then I sewed the two leg pieces and tongue together. 
Finally, I sewed the leg piece to the sole. This took the longest as the veg tan was very rigid and difficult to sew the tongue piece into the gathered toe area. I was later informed that you can sew the veg tan wet so it will gather nicely and render much less damage to your fingers. 
The grommets I had initially bought did not have a long enough post for the number of leather layers and canvas I ended up with. I used a boat tarp repair kit which included the punch, the setter and the anvil for large brass grommets. I'm sure smaller grommets with longer posts can be found online but Walmart was handy. 
I gave my Dad the mukluks for Christmas without the grommets or laces in as I found the boat tarp repair kit afterward and also required some assistance lining up the grommets so they mushroomed and pinched the leather properly. 

Step 3: Final Product

Picture of Final Product

All in all it was a great experience and I enjoyed it thoroughly! Next time I work with veg tan I'll be sure to sew it wet. I'll definitely try to find a more malleable (yet durable) leather for the sole and glue on crepe to protect it. That way it will bend with your foot when you walk. It would also be good to try to sew the toe of the mukluk together in a fashion that won't collect so much snow, and will also allow more "roof" space for the top of the foot. I had attempted a whip stitch but the veg tan was too stiff and large gaps were forming so the snow would have easily fallen in.
Fortunately for our Canadian winters I will have lots of time to make another pair :) 


snoopindaweb (author)2014-01-12

Greetings, I bought a Tandy knee high kit and used heavyt Moose hide soles. were great till I got them wet, They became like soaked wool socks on bare feet. Probably should have waxed or oiled them.

Mandzal (author)snoopindaweb2014-01-13

Hi! Yes, Tandy sells a beeswax product to assist in water resistance but I'm not sure the moose hide would ever be waterproof. I bet they're comfortable though!

snoopindaweb (author)Mandzal2014-01-16

Thank You. I was impressed with the fight scene in the pond in the movie Jeramia Johnson. They were jumping around just fine and dandy. I sold the moccasins when I figured they wouldn't even let Me walk. I did tell the buyer about that.

wdsims63 (author)2014-01-12

These are great. I love them. I've made some moccasins for myself before and also used veg tan cow leather, but mine did break down a little. Unfortunately, I made one of them too small so they aren't super comfortable.

As for the toe area, you can sew them inside out and them flip them right side out when you are down sewing and this will invert the stitch you have and give you more room in the toes.

Thanks for the pictures.

Mandzal (author)wdsims632014-01-13

Hi! Thanks for the tips, what thickness of veg tan did you use? Mine certainly isn't flexible enough to turn inside out and I used 5/6 oz. Unless you worked with it wet?

wdsims63 (author)Mandzal2014-01-13

It was pretty thick stuff, but I don't know the weight. I used leather from a bag of scraps I got at a hobby store.

In addition to working it while wet, you can also use Mink oil (I use it on mine) to soften the leather and provide protection. It seems like it conditions the leather better than bees wax alone.

There is also the option of laying the pieces flat on top of each other and using a lock stitch, but not sure if that is a best practice for working leather. (The stuff I've made doesn't look near as good as yours.)

rpotts2 (author)2014-01-12

for those that asked, I believe crepe is anither name for gum soles

sniffydogs (author)2014-01-12


lfisher12 (author)2014-01-12

very nice

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mjursic (author)2014-01-12

Bravo! You could soak the veg tanned leather in tap-warm water next time. It shapes even better if you do, and you can apply neatsfoot oil to restore flexibility and waterproof. Projects like this you should go with veg-tanned all around. And don't bother with crepe. These are beautiful. No, they're FLIPPING beautiful.

NotAPot2PN (author)2014-01-12

Very nice! What is "crepe" and where is it found? I want to repair my LL Bean slippers (bedroom slippers? house shoes?). Leather moccasin uppers, fake wool lining and "gum" soles - holes in the soles! I've patched them with all sorts of "Shoe Goop" and duct tape, all of which extended their life, but now new soles are needed. Plain leather soles would be okay except that they must be water-resistant and not slippery - thus my interest in "crepe". I have basic leather-working tools and a bit of experience making American Indian footwear & crafts. Again, very nice, thank you.

leendert bob (author)2014-01-12

I can't be nicer, I love what you did and made.

woodNfish (author)2014-01-12

What a great gift for your dad! I expect he is very proud of his new mukluks because you made them for him.

savageotter (author)2014-01-12

Great Job on your first pair of Mukluks!

Deer, Elk and Moose are the best "leather" to use, especially if they are "tanned" naturally - and smoke cured. Veg tanned leather if really soaked can be turned inside out but it usually dries stiff and when the seam is on the inside, can cause serious rub blisters.

A great source of protecting leather for serious outdoor use is using a wax plumbers ring. Want warm feet? line the bottom of your Mukluks or other shoes with fur! A Russian friend uses the dog hair after brushing their dogs, I was sceptical but it works great!

check out: to assist in expanding your leather skills

loafers (author)2014-01-11

when I opened this Instructable, I only thought mukluk was just a funny word, now that I've finished reading it, I not only know what mukluks are, but to make a pair of them. Sadly, it's unlikely I ever will make them though, I live in the Australian tropics. I think these are grpovy though.

jbrown141 (author)2014-01-10

What kind of tools do you use for leather work? I am trying to get into it and make some clothes

Uncle Kudzu (author)2014-01-08

Wow! Bet your Dad loved these!

Wonder if you could sew it just like you have here, but start from the inside out and then reverse it before adding the top part? Would that put that big seam on the inside and present a surface a less likely to scoop up snow?

Mandzal (author)Uncle Kudzu2014-01-08

Hi! Yes, he was very happy with them. Great suggestion but the veg tan sole is too stiff to turn inside out...maybe if I had sewn the tongue on separately I could have tackled it from the inside...brainstorming!!

Uncle Kudzu (author)Mandzal2014-01-10

Yeah, I should have guessed that the leather was too stiff.

Hey, here's a fine 'ible about making moccasins:

He discusses getting the holes right for stitching the top.

Renard_Bleu (author)2014-01-09

Great project and nice instructable (Your first one?!!) I kinda like the over-sized grommets and multiple shades (90's sneaker style).

ahauta (author)2014-01-08

Very cool I might try this some day, I live in Manitoba so I know what you mean by cold.

Mandzal (author)ahauta2014-01-08

Thanks! Yes I suppose the idea of mukluks is you're to keep moving. If you give it a try just make sure your sole is a more flexible leather. It might help to cut out brown paper drafts to make sure holes will line up too, I wasn't always perfectly aligned so it was occasionally tricky :)

acuchetto (author)2014-01-08

Nice job! I trust your dad is happy with them?

Mandzal (author)acuchetto2014-01-08

Thank you, he's thrilled! :)

KyHillBilly76 (author)2014-01-08

Very Cool!

Mandzal (author)KyHillBilly762014-01-08

Thank you :)

alandr (author)2014-01-08

Very cool and original!! Great way to "keep warm"! I bet your Dad will be out snow-shoeing with these in no time!

Mandzal (author)alandr2014-01-08

Thanks I'm sure he will!

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