Nov 26th
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DIY/Recycle Make Your Own Moccasins
Make Your Own Moccasins PDF Print E-mail
DIY Projects
moccasins-100x110.jpgTan an eel and then make your own moccasins, that are durable for both outdoors and inside use, and are very comfortable.  SIMPLE TO MAKE!

When I was young, my dad used to bring home eels that had been caught during the recent floods. Because he had an attitude to not waste anything (it was tough surviving in those days), he was always great at creating a voyage of discovery for my brother and sister.

Making moccasins is something I have passed on to my own children, even though now, we use (recycled) moccasins-350px.jpgdiscarded skins we find in op shops and yard (garage) sales.


Most old bushmen you speak with can tell you many different methods of tanning skins. Some of these methods can be quite expensive but not so using my dad's age old formula.

The following is a tried and tested recipe for small skins using bicarbonate of soda and lighting kerosene, which works well with eel skins.

TANNING THE EEL SKIN - First skin the eel. It should be a large eel or two eels if you have large feet.

1. Wait until the skin has dried a little, then remove all flesh particles with a blunt knife.

2. Stretch the skin out on a suitably sized board and tack arount the extremities, pulling gently and stretching as you go. Make sure there are no wrinkles. The right side should be face downward on the board.

3. Mix approximately 1/2 pound (225 grams) of bicarbonate of soda with some lighting kerosene until it is thick and creamy and smooth. Spread this on to the skin using a flat blunt knife. Rub and press this into the skin for about five minutes, wearing gloves. Kerosene is very drying on your skin.

4. Next, scrape off and discard the paste, then apply a second coat and leave it on overnight. If weather conditions are hot and dry, then cover the skin with a dam cloth or bag this prevents it from drying too quickly.

5. Next day, scrape this layer off and apply another layer. Each time, rub it in well. This procedure must now be repeated for the next seven days. Note: If conditions are extremely hot, the procedure may be repeated twice a day for the first three days.

6. At the end of the week, the skin should be dried out nicely. If not, leave it scraped clean and uncovered until it is dry. Remove the tacks, and lift the tanned skins from the baseboard. It should be fairly soft and pliiable. If not, try see-sawing it around a smooth post, by holding each end and working it to and fro.

The skin may now be rubbed over on both sides with a damp cloth to remove the residue powder. To add a good finish, a small amount of neatsfoot oil may be polished over the surface.

To make the moccasins:

moccasins.gifRequired two eel skins to make an adult size pair of moccasins:

Using a large size sheet of graph paper, draw a centre line A--A.

Place the paper on the floor and with your foot on this line, draw the outline of your foot, allowing a reasonable area all around. The fit of the moccasin will depend on the accuracy of your pattern.

Now draw a line B--B as the heel.

Draw line C--C parallel to B--B, half the length of your foot.

Following the diagram, make the following measurements on your graph paper.

Mark the width of the heel X--X.

For the depth of your moccasin, mark the graph X--Y where shown to equal X--X.

Mark D half way between X--Y on the heel piece.

For the length of the front flap mark E--F on the graph, again the same measurement as X--X.

Outline your pattern shapes carefullly, using these measured points as guides.

Transfer the outline to transparent paper for your actual cutting pattern and, using small pieces of adhesive tape, to secure it to the eel skin.

Cut two moccasins, making sure you cut one with the pattern laid face down and one face up, otherwise you will have two left or two right feet!

If you wish to line the moccasins with soft fabric, cut the lining at the same time as you cut the eel skin.

Pierce holes for the lacings where shown in the diagram.Assemble the two parts of the moccasin, lacing through the holes as shown.

The shape is achieved by folding and lacing; no sewing should be necessary.

Cut the turned-over edges of the eel skin around the cuff and tie at the instep to complete your moccasin.

If the width of the eel skin is not sufficient to make adult size moccasins, then an alternative pattern, using a seperate piece for the sole, may be used. The pattern can eaily be modified.

Sometimes a join may be necessary up the centre and back and this join may be machine stitched, or lashed by hand.

The above pattern is only limited by your imagination. Add beads, tassles, use skins with hair (fur), wool skins to create an Ugg moccasin appearance, etc. I hope you all enjoy creating moccasins like my family have for the last 70 - 100 years...Enjoy!


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