Mar 12 2011
Footwear must be one of the most abused items in a practicing primitive´s kit – I for my part have certainly worn down a number of moccasins. Walking barefoot whenever possible helps to cut down on how often footwear needs to be repaired or replaced. The Ojibway people of this area had a reason though that they used moccasins: When walking/running off trail, one repeatedly encounters sharp objects like twigs that can easily cause a serious injury – something that people who need to move to hunt, trap, gather and explore can´t afford to happen too often. I had to learn this lesson the hard way, thinking my feet could get used to a little bit of discomfort. Enduring discomfort is one thing, dealing with a deep stabbing wound is another. Anyways, here are a couple of examples of footwear that are part of my equipment:
A pair of winter mukluks that I finished earlier this winter. This is the “puckered-toe” style that Natives in this area typically used. Two long lacings on each mukluk can be wrapped around several times and tied off to secure it to the foot. A drawstring on the top prevents snow or debris from falling in (which usually is not a problem since the upper part of the mukluk is overlapped by pants or leggins anyways). The material is buckskin (grain off); I placed the sole in the thicker area of the hide, for the uppers a thinner piece is sufficient. For the sewing I used artificial sinew.
The same mukluks after a winter of heavy use. They´re still in very good shape, and besides reenforcing some of the stiches (after the buckskins streched some of the seams were not completely tight anymore) no repairs were necessary.
Winter conditions are usually more gentle on footwear, and so a pair can last for a while. This style of mukluks is mainly suited for cold temperatures – once the snow gets wet, the mukluks and eventually the stockings and feet will get wet, too. One of the (many) projects I´d like to work on is to make some more water-resistant boots e.g. made with beaver fur. If it happens I´ll post about it here.
A pair of summer moccasins made from grain-on buckskin that´s been treated with pitch and oil. To increase their durability, I´ll probably sew on one or two more soles of buckskin to the bottom. Soft grass stuffed inside provides some extra comfort and insulation, especially when the moccasins get soaked in wet conditions.
In any case, it makes sense to have at least two pairs available so they can easily be switched out when one needs to be repaired etc. On rough and hard surfaces (rock, asphalt) moccasins naturally wear out much faster, which is why I switch to a rubber-soled commercial style in those areas…Regards
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