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 heavyweight, 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, a very fine drive punch or a 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 Thong Thing
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.
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