A Simple Pair of Moccasins With Canvas Gaiters




About: I'm the kind of person who's mind doesn't stop. Literally, I take medication to fix that just so I can sleep at night. I have an unhealthy obsession with making things and believe, firmly, in sharing what I ...

I've always wanted a pair of moccs that were more than just a pair of slippers. I was looking for comfortable footwear that I could wear in any weather condition and that would stand up to abuse, all the while allowing my feet to feel the ground underneath them. Since I work in leathercraft, which is the corner of my 'craft' triangle (the other two being metalwork and woodwork), I figured I could come up with a pair that were suitable to my needs.

For this I would have to research. I looked at my local leather shop for some patterns and found them very costly. Not only that, they were limited to a specific size and would take some serious modification to adjust for different sized feet. Next was a search online, where I found the resources, strangely, lacking. There were sites that offered patterns, however I ran into the same issues that plagued me at my leather supplier.

For the plans I was searching for, I had to go to the source. I planned a trip to the Canadian Museum of Civilization and decided to study many of the styles they had on display. After taking lots of pics, many of which were closer than the museum security were comfortable with, I started to read some of the descriptions. Instead of using a pattern for their mocs, natives would use the person's feet as a template, then draw the pattern directly on the leather as a way of creating a custom fit. A bit more research at the local library would confirm that and so I was able to design more of a technique than a pattern, that could be modified to fit any foot, and was based completely on traditional craft.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Cutting wheel or utility knife
Sewing awl and/or needles and awl
Cutting mat

Tanned leather (deer hide works well, but is very thin and will need to be lined) Thicker hides like Caribou, buffalo, bison etc work best
Canvas for gaiters
sinew or artificial sinew or waxed cotton or waxed polyester thread

fur for lining - rabbit, goat, etc.

Step 2: Picking Your Design

There are many different styles of traditional native mocs, however most will find the pair in the first pic the most recognizable. The technique I created is based on this style, but also includes gaiters so that they can be worn in the winter or in harsher environments where leg protection is important.

I've included a few other pictures of moccasins that were displayed at the museum. The technique in this instructable can easily be adapted to these other styles since it uses the wearer's feet as the template.

Step 3: Cutting Your Pattern

The pattern is completely adjustable, depending on the person's foot size, however I've included some basic measurements for someone with a size 9-10 foot.

Examining the pattern:

Have the person stand directly on the leather and your measurements can be taken from there.

1. draw a 2" line around the toe (3-4 if you plan to include a lining) and extending as far back as the front of the ankle.
2. Now measure an addition 3" out to create the uppers around the ankle it should end up being roughly 8 1/2 inches long.
3. The uppers should extend roughly 4" back from the heel of the foot.
4. From there you can measure the tail that will extend from the back of the moc. As the diagram shows, it should be roughly 1.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches long. There are some traditional tail designs in the pattern.
5. Once you have measured everything, you can cut the pattern from the leather and copy the same steps for the other foot.
6. the tongue and vamp can be cut next. The design is for 8" in length, however you can make it longer depending on your taste. When creating mine, I added an additional 3" so that the extra material would fit under the gaiter keeping the snow out.
7. Finally, you can punch the holes, with your awl, or if you're experienced enough can do this as you're sewing.

Step 4: Assembling the Moccasin

It's important to ensure that the number of holes in the vamp/tongue matches the holes around the toe of the moc, or it will end up lopsided. As your stitch, pull the material together tightly and the excess leather in the toe will start to become wavy. It's alright, this is natural and it will even out as you stitch.

For the heel of the shoe, you can simply stitch them together (which is more traditional) with the seam on the outside, or you can overlap the ends for a much cleaner look. You can also sew the tail up into the moc if you don't want it extending from the foot, however traditionally, they are left to hang out behind.

Lastly, you can fold down the upper, or leave it up for a high cut look. It's really just a matter of taste. The holes punched in the upper are for the lace that goes around the ankle for support, and ties at the front like a traditional shoe.

Step 5: Cutting Lacing

All lacing is cut from a single patch of leather. Traditionally, a strip would be cut around and around the patch until a long strand of leather was created. Using a cutting wheel instead of a knife will make this process easier, as well as, leave you with a cleaner, straighter length of lacing.

You should end up with, at least, 3 feet of lacing for each moccasin.

Step 6:

The gaiters are simply cut pieces of painter's canvas that have had their edges sewn down. I've found that the optimum size is roughly 12x24" with one edge shortened to 22" to create a taper that adjusts for calf size.

Attaching your gaiters:

You have the option of leaving your gaiters off of your mocs, however it's a nice addition to attach them to the uppers. If you do decide to attach them, you, again have the option of having the 'uppers' of the moc in the up or down position. There's no real rule to this. With the short end of the taper down, start sewing to the outside of the foot, and continue around until your reach the inside. You should be left with several inches of material that can be wrapped around the calf, overlapping the material on the outside of the leg.

Step 7: Tying Your New Moccasins

With your moccasins complete, now it's time to wear them. As you can see in the pics, the gaiters are wrapped around with the seam on the outside of the leg. This helps prevent accidentally opening as you walk. Tying your mocs is simply crossing over the lace in front and back of the leg until you reach the top. It's function is to keep the moccasin snug on your feet, and the gaiters closed up tightly, thereby keeping the elements out.

It's that simple. Not much material or tools and a very low cost project that can be fun and very functional

I hope you enjoyed the instructable.

Workshop Contest

Second Prize in the
Workshop Contest

Manly Crafts Contest

Participated in the
Manly Crafts Contest

Instructables Outdoor Projects Contest

Participated in the
Instructables Outdoor Projects Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Book Character Costume Challenge

      Book Character Costume Challenge
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest

    26 Discussions


    Tip 10 months ago on Step 7

    If you are on a budget:
    Look for a high top design -- one that comes up at least 8-10 inches.
    Wear felt boot liners (available anywhere that sells arctic grade workboots -- most northern farm stores too.

    Use nylon pack cloth -- the heavy nylon canvas used for making backpacks. Get UNCOATED cloth -- you don't want them waterproof.

    You can increase how long they last by painting the bottom with a mix of contact cement and powdered rubber.

    a lady from unalakleet years ago was going to make me a pair of mukluks but she passed away before she got to it. she was going to use sealskin with the hair on it. she said she had to leave 1/4 inch gap all around my foot otherwise my foot would freeze. i would have treasured them as my sister had a pair made by the ladys in kotzebue when she worked there for the health dept

    1 reply

    You don't really need to. Vegetable tan leather would wear down quickly because of it's stiffness, whereas something like a brain tan leather is elastic enough to give with stones and branches. Even deer hide, for as thin as it is, is pretty resilient. Think about some of the bramble and brush these animals walk through in life. Their skins are made to take a lot of punishment. The only caveat would be pavement where the wear would be constant, you may want to add an insole.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! For winter insulation buy the felt socks for cold weather boots, put them on and add 1/2 to 1 inch of felt on the bottom before measuring, this should keep you warm in extreme cold conditions.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Fine lookin' moc's Another source for those looking for patterns may be buck skinning books from the library. I may have to give this one a try.

    Thanks for the post


    5 years ago

    Wonderful 'ible! My interest in shoe making has recently been reignited, so this is perfect. Tell me though - how warm do they actually keep your feet?

    5 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    These look very similar to Steger Mukluks, which are some of the best and warmest snow footwear available - but a whole lot more expensive than these. Check them out on the net and you will see some gorgeous examples that may even give you more ideas if you plan to make these.

    At $300 a pair for Steger, that's the very reason I made this 'abl, tho they are really nice looking footwear. With lining, these shouldn't cost more than $30 for the DIY crowd.
    All of my inspiration comes from Museum and library sources since I wouldn't feel right about copying from a company, but thank you anyway.

    I am not suggesting plagiarizing Stegers, but a lot of what we find on instructables have retail versions available, and we frequently generate ideas from seeing something and realizing as DIYers we can do pretty close to the same thing. Anyone looking at their website will see what a great job you have done - not to copy from them, just for a different visualization on what is available. Most people I talk to don't even know what mukluks are. You did great.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    With a lining, I wear mine in the snow. Better traction too. When you make your lining, follow the same process as the moc then you can either sew it in, or wear it like a sock.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Huh, ok. I didn't expect them to be that warm! I'll definitely have to try making a pair sometime... :)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I have several pairs. One is deer hide, but as I mentioned, I had to line them because it's pretty thin. The pair I use most often are buffalo which is roughly 8-9oz.


    5 years ago

    awesome! where would a person find leather for this?