How to Make Mukluks: An Overview
Today, trends come and go, but like the Inuit culture, the mukluk boot is timeless. Mukluks, moccasins and traditional Inuit leather boots have been worn for thousands of years in the most northern parts of North America. Crafting a pair of mukluks is more than just sewing fabric together onto a sole to create a shoe. Mukluks are an integral part of Inuit culture and have significant meaning to the Inuit people.
Traditional mukluks are typically made of reindeer hide, moose hide or seal skin with various animal furs and intricate beadwork added as design elements. Traditionally, mukluks were worn in extremely dry and cold temperatures, which is why they have no sole to protect the wearer’s feet. Animal hides have exceptional breathability, wicking away any moisture that might develop inside the boot, which means no cold feet! In the most Northern parts of North America, the hard packed permafrost and snow covered land provided little moisture so the Inuit people were not concerned about their feet getting wet.
While exact materials and design vary by traditional tribes, there are few key components required to make mukluks:
- Two pieces of material, typically animal hide: the foot and the vamp (the smaller piece which goes on top the foot)
- Liners, which today can be made of felt, but traditionally might be made of a thicker animal hide
- A gaiter, which is a conical shaped shape material designed to fit the calf, attached to the moccasin
- A stitching material, traditional Inuit women used sinew to stitch together materials, however thread or cord can be used to day.
The process begins by creating the moccasin part of the mukluk by whip stitching the foot and vamp swatches of material together to create a small shoe-like shape. Next, liners can be sewn or purchased to fit inside the moccasin-like shoe. While wearing the liner and the moccasin shoe, the gaiter, which can be made from a number of materials, is whip stitched to the moccasin shoe and tied around the calf. For a tighter fit, ties can be threaded through the top of the gaiter to tie around the top of the calf. Fur and beadwork can be added after the first basic steps are complete.
The mukluk is unique because of its virtually weightless design. Some say it almost feels like walking in socks! The same first steps can be followed to create standard moccasins. The key factor in crafting moccasins, mukluks or traditional leather boots are the materials. High quality animal hide, authentic fur and traditional beadwork will produce the best mukluks, while cheap and poor quality materials will result in cold, wet feet. The best part about making mukluks is the creativity that can be displayed; fringe, beads, solid soles and colorful materials can be added to customize moccasins and mukluks.
Today, mukluks are popular with celebrities and trendsetters – however they have strayed from the traditional design. To learn more about authentic aboriginal mukluks visit www.MuksandMocs.com.
image via Skills for Wild Lives