Mukluks are soft boots made of leather, typically sealskin or reindeer skin, and lined with fur. They’re sleek, comfy, and provide exceptional warmth and maneuverability in cold weather.
An authentic pair of mukluks may set you back hundreds of dollars, which is why I’ve created this comprehensive DIY mukluks guide to help you make your own pair!
My step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about making mukluks. I’ve also included an extensive FAQ section to answer all your questions.
Want to know the best part?
Anyone can make a pair of mukluks following this guide; no prior experience is needed.
Let’s dive right in!
Making your own pair of mukluks isn’t difficult, but it does need a lot of preparation. Before you get started, make sure you have these things ready.
1. Illustrated Printable Pattern
This is, by far, the most important item you’ll need. A lot of people decide to trace and cut the hide without an illustrated pattern.
Making mukluks without a pattern will make it significantly harder to get the measurements right. An illustrated pattern will provide you with:
- The sole pattern
- The vamp pattern
- The gaiter pattern
- Instructions on where to fold, pucker-stitch, and sew
Printable patterns are extremely easy to get. For starters, you don’t really need a mukluks pattern. A moccasin pattern or any other similar pattern will work just fine.
With that said, you probably won’t find a reliable printable pattern for free. For the purpose of this guide, we’ve used a 9.5-inch moccasin pattern that comes with vamp options.
Remember, any illustrated pattern will do, but you must make sure the measurements of the pattern fit your feet.
2. Medium-Weight Canvas
A medium-weight canvas will be used to cover the upper part and the tongue of the mukluk. If you choose a light canvas like melton cloth, you can line it with another tightly-woven fabric like commander, poplin, or denim.
Many fabrics will work just fine for the mukluks. Just make sure it’s not too lightweight, and try not to go below 70% wool melton.
Mukluks are traditionally made from sealskin or reindeer skin, but you can choose any type of leather that you’re comfortable with.
Cowhide is a popular choice because it’s thick yet can be sewn fairly easily. Moosehide is another attractive option and is just as strong as cowhide.
We tend to avoid deer hide because it’s much lighter and less durable than cowhide and moosehide. Conversely, elk hide is a little on the thicker side and may be challenging to sew and gather.
When choosing the hide, make sure you go with unsplit hides (smooth on one side and suede on the other) instead of split hides. Split hides are extremely tough to sew through, making them almost non-pliable.
Liners are boots that go inside the mukluks to give them their shape. They also make the mukluks much warmer.
Natives wear their mukluks with felt liners that are made of wool or natural fur. You can also use duffel or other synthetic fabrics, but make sure they’re durable, comfortable, and most importantly, warm.
5. Leather Needles
Leather needles are ideal for making mukluks because of how they’re shaped. The point is triangular, which helps in piercing tough materials like leather and suede.
Size 5 is a popular choice for making mukluks, but you can use any size that you feel comfortable with.
If you’re not sure, buy a pack with different sizes (for example, from size 3 to size 7) and find the size that works best for you.
Be careful, cheap leather needles may easily break even if they have a triangular edge. Make sure you choose a trusted supplier to get some razor-sharp needles.
Working with leather is a little bit trickier than most fabrics. To make clean cuts through leather, you’ll need a pair of scissors to match its strength.
While we’re on the topic of scissors, why not get a needle driver? Needle drivers make it incredibly easy to hold and drive the needle through tough materials like leather.
7. Artificial Sinew
It doesn’t matter what kind of thread you go with; you can use real sinew or a strong nylon thread if you want to.
We chose artificial sinew because it’s extremely strong, tangles less, and holds better than nylon thread.
8. Measuring Tape
Incorrect measurements can lead to the ultimate disappointment. We strongly encourage you to ditch your ruler and invest in a soft tape measure instead.
9. Thimble (Optional)
You don’t really need a thimble, but as you push the needle through the hide, you’ll probably end up puncturing your finger a few times.
Of course, your finger will develop calluses over time, and it won’t be as painful as before. If you’re not experienced with sewing heavy hides, a thimble will offer your finger a much-needed extra layer of protection.
10. Leather Punch (Optional)
My personal favorite tool for any leather crafts! A leather punch will save you a lot of time when sewing.
This handy tool comes with sharp teeth that punch through the leather almost effortlessly. The holes are also perfectly aligned, which is great if you’re worried about your sewing not being symmetrical.
So, you’ve gathered the required tools and printed out the illustrated pattern. Now what?
Making a pair of mukluks should be a fun and moderately challenging experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make your first pair of mukluks.
1. Cut Out the Sole, Vamp, and Gaiters Pattern
Print out the illustrated pattern for your foot size. You may be instructed to enlarge the pattern by a certain degree to match your exact size.
The illustration should contain the pattern for your sole, vamp, and gaiter. Use the measuring tape and scissors to cut out the sole and the vamp from the hide.
The gaiters cover the upper part and the tongue of the mukluk. Again, trace the pattern and cut out the gaiters from the melton cloth.
By the end of this step, you should have three pieces: the sole and vamp cut out from the hide, and the gaiters cut out from the canvas.
2. Tack the Vamp to the Sole
The next step is tacking the vamp to the sole to create the shoe form. Place the vamp on the sole exactly as specified in your pattern.
Next, start tacking down the tip of the vamp and sole. Push the needle through the hide and tie a knot. Once the top is tacked into place, do the same for both sides.
3. Pucker-Stitch the Upper Curve
Start by gathering all the extra fabric between the top and sides. Gathering the puckers properly and making sure you have them correctly spaced apart is essential. If the puckers aren’t done right, you could end up with an elf toe on the mukluks.
Start the puckering from the top and work your way down the sides. Be careful not to come too close to the tacking stitch.
To make a pucker, hold the gathered piece of fabric with your index and thumb and insert the needle through the pucker.
Keep grabbing on the pucker while you go through it again and again. Once the pucker is tacked nicely, move on to the second pucker.
By the end of this step, you should have both sides puckered from the top to the curves. The pattern should outline where you should stop pucker-stitching, but again, you can figure this out yourself pretty easily.
4. Whip-Stitch the Sides
This is where the leather punch comes in handy. Once you have the edges puckered, now you need to whip-stitch the sides.
The leather punch will create equidistant holes on both sides. This will make whip-stitching extremely easy.
To whip-stitch, start going in and around the holes until you reach the tacking stitch on the side. You can cut the stitch and whip-stitch the extra hole.
Once you’re done with this step, you should have both sides of the sole and vamp whip-stitched.
5. Insert Liner Inside the Mukluks
Inserting the liner inside the mukluks is crucial to measure where your heels are going to be.
Wear the liner and insert your foot inside the mukluk. Make sure your foot is nice and snug inside the mukluk, then mark the crescent of the heel with a pencil.
You can confirm this by wrapping the extra fabric around your heel and seeing if it fits. Take off the liner from the mukluk. You should have a mark where you’ll cut your heel.
6. Cut Heel
Double-check the measurements and prepare your scissors. Carefully cut the edges until you reach the outline of your heel.
Once you’re done, you can now sew the two edges together using whip-stitches.
7. Sew the Two Edges Together
Get your trusty leather punch and start making holes through the edges. Using the same technique, whip-stitch the edges together
8. Sew the Heel
Next is folding up the crescent and sealing up the heel. This is a little bit tricky since you’re working with a very close space. From the inside of the heel and go in and out with the needle.
Little leather loop at the back that will hold the ribbons when tying your mukluks.
9. Prepare the Gaiter
Congratulations! You’re now done with the leatherwork. All you need to do now is prepare the gaiter and sew it on the mukluks.
The illustrated patterns should have instructions to prepare the gaiter. If you can’t find them, turn your canvas inside out and fold 1 ½ inch from the top. This is where your laces will go through.
Next, start sewing the seam from the top and sides. Once you’re done, turn the canvas inside out again.
10. Attach the Gaiter to the Shoe
The opening of the gaiter should match the opening of the vamp. Start by inserting the gaiter and doing a whip-stitch around the opening of the mukluk. Make sure you also ship-stitch the neck of the vamp as well.
By the end of this step, the seam of the gaiter should align with the seam of the mukluk.
11. Add Shoelaces
You’re almost done. All you need to do now is insert the shoelaces through the gaiter and snake it in all the way.
You can make a couple of holes in the gaiter so the laces can pass through. However, I recommend you cut the hole from the inside so it’s not too obvious.
Once the shoelaces have gone all the way through, make a knot so they don’t fall out.
If you want that extra squish to your thighs, you can add a ribbon to the little leather loop we made earlier.
12. All Done!
Insert the liner, wear your mukluks, and you’re all set! If you’re worried about the soles wearing out or want the extra grip, add a crepe sole to your mukluks.
Here are some of the most common questions we’ve received.
It depends on the material you choose. Low-quality leather or bonded leather may not last beyond six months, while high-quality leather can last for decades.
The soles of the mukluks are usually the first to wear out, so make sure you add a crepe sole to protect the leather sole.
Yes, but you have to be careful. If the puckers aren’t spaced out correctly, you could end up with an elf toe or a simply ugly mukluk.
If you can’t get the puckering right, do each side at a time. Start with one side, tack, pucker, and whip-stitch, then move on to the other side.
Liners can be made of anything, but I recommend you stick with wool or natural fur. Felt liners are the best option, but some mukluks have rubber or even plastic liners.
Why buy mukluks when you can make them yourself?
If you’re the DIY type and want to make your own pair, this guide covers all the materials you’ll need and a step-by-step guide on how to put everything together.