How to: Make a Pair of Mukluks

Category: Shelter / Difficulty Level: 3
Posted: 2013-03-16 07:23:40
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Since I live in the Northern Midwest I thought it prudent to do research in order to try and replicate what indigenous people in my region and farther North wear to keep warm. So I took a class on how to make a pair of this winter-time footwear.

The instructor of the class, Ms. Jo Wood, was very knowledgeable on both how to teach us how to make our own pair (everyone in the class completed their own pair from scratch...even a few who had never sewn before), she is also a master bead-work artist. Be sure to check out her web site cited below, and acknowledgment on the pattern and construction of this design goes to her. The style here will be of tanned moose, elk, or buffalo hide suede or flesh-side out with a canvas legging. This pattern does not represent any traditional pattern or stitching methods of any indigenous peoples, or ethnic group.

Mukluks or Kamik are a soft boot traditionally made of reindeer skin or sealskin and were originally worn by Arctic aboriginal people, including the Inuit and Yupik. The word "mukluk" is of Yupik origin, from maklak, the bearded seal, while "kamik" is an Inuit word. Inuipiaq language the "u" makes an "oo" sound, and so the spelling "maklak" is used with the same pronunciation.[2]

Mukluks are very practical in dry cold snowy environment because they allow the foot to breath, unlike many contemporary boots that hold perspiration of the foot in and conducts cold to the feet through rubber soles or synthetic materials. The moisture from sweaty feet can cause frostbite. The downside is that they allow the foot to get wet in melting and slushy snow...so be warned.

This tutorial will show you how to make a pair of mukluks from a cast and pattern made from your foot. I have tried to make this tutorial as clear as possible. A good working knowledge on how to sew by hand and/or the use of a sewing machine is necessary. Also it is a good idea, before cutting into your hard earned or bought leather to make a mock-pair out of a pillow case or old sheet to be sure you understand the procedure and your pattern fits.

Also, as I mentioned above traditionally mukluks were made of reindeer and/or bearded seal skin, elk, moose, or buffalo. Whitetail buckskin can be used, but you may need to double or triple the leather to replicate the thickness of hide of the other larger animals.

Lastly, a good thing to do before you try to construct anything from a tutorial is to read through it thoroughly, and be sure you understand what the procedure is first. Good luck!

Citations:
1). Be sure to check out this master bead-work artists, Ms Jo Wood at www.JoWoodBeads.com
2). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mukluk

Instructions

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Ok, you will need the following:

  • Heavy leather suede (moose, elk, buffalo, or double/tripled up deer skin) approx. 7-sq/ft
  • Light canvas approx. 7-sq/ft
  • Heavy wool socks, bootliners, or felted booties
  • Waxed nylon (artificial sinew), or real sinew
  • Glover's needle
  • Leather or heavy-duty sissors
  • Plastic bag
  • Duct tape
  • Ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Pen or marker
    The following is optional:
    • Awl
    • Leather punch
    • Needle-nosed pliers
    • Sewing machine

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Making Pattern Cast
Wearing thick socks and/or boot-liner on your right foot, slip a plastic bag over, secure with duct tape by wrapping around ankle over plastic bag.

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If you don't have someone to wrap your foot in duct tape, lay some down...

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Step on tape laid out to cover the width and breadth of your sole...

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Pull up the tape to cover sole, wrap your foot completely using two layers to just the top of your ankles

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Draw a vertical line across instep...then draw horizontal line over top of toes, just under the ankles all the way around the heel...vertical and horizontal lines should intersect on inside and outside of foot...

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Draw a center line intersecting horizontal line over toes.

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Draw a center line down the back of your heel intersecting the horizontal line.

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Cast is complete. To remove, with scissors, carefully cut just the bag and tape down the back of the heel to the bottom of foot...do not cut sock and/or boot liner...DO NOT cut your own foot!

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Next, cut horizontal slits about 1" - 2" at the base over the vertical back-cut...

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Now cut along the horizontal and vertical lines made on the cast. Shown here is what is called the vamp on the left and the sole on the right.

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Now cut slits on either side of the center line about 1/2" apart. Stop just before the horizontal intersection lines on the left and right side of the sole...this helps flatten the cast so we can draw out the pattern.

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Making Paper Pattern
Once you get the sole cast as flat as you can make it, tear a paper shopping bag (large newsprint or heavy paper will work too), so that it can be laid flat, and trace the outline of the sole-cast using a pencil or pen. You do not need to draw in the flattening slits.

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The outline should look something like this when you are done.

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Using your ruler or measuring tape tick-mark out 1/4" from the outline all the way around. This will be your sewing allowance...

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From the base of the outline or where the heel cuts are, draw out a 3" allowance.

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Modify the sole-cast outline by extending the left and right side lines straight down to the 3" allowance you added. Be sure to mark the center line (CF), and the side marks (Point-A and Point-B)

Then, outline the vamp cast. Be sure to mark the center line (CF). Then mark 1/2" allowance from the bottom, and add 1/4" allowance all the way around and extend the sides down to the 1/2" allowance needed to the bottom of the vamp.

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Essentially, both the sole-cast outline and the vamp-cast outline should look like this >>

You can download the PDF of this illustration to help be sure your outlines are similar. These outlines are not to scale, so don't try to use them to complete your pattern

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Cut out your outlines to make your pattern.

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Cutting Leather/Hide
Now take your hide suede/flesh-side up. Look it over for cuts, deformities,or coloration variations. You do not want your mukluks to have holes or other unsightly marks on them. Gently tug on the leather to decide which way the hide stretches the most. You will want to lay your pattern out perpendicular to the direction of greatest stretch...this will help allow the finish mukluks form better to your feet.

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Lay your paper patterns out perpendicular to the direction of the greatest stretch, It is best to use a pencil to outline your pattern on your hide. Using pen or marker can cause ink-bleed problems and are hard to erase. REMEMBER to mark your side points A and B and center front (CF) on the leather.

IMPORTANT: Lay one and outline set of pattens (vamp and sole) with markings on the paper face-up, then lay out and outline the other set of patterns with markings on the paper faced-down.

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Now take your scissors and cut out your patterns from the hide....we are off to a good start!

TIP: Leather can be expensive especially if you tanned your own, then it is definately expensive in time. A good idea is to cut out and create your mukluks from less expensive material such as an old sheet to be sure your patterns are correct your your mukluks fit...it is an extra step, but trust me, it will save you some grief.

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Making Toe Puckers
On the right and left markings (Point-A, and Point-B) measure up 1-1/4" and make a tick-mark.

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We are going to be starting to sew and thick hides are hard to work a needle through, that is why an awl and needle-nosed pliers are an options on the list...they will help you pull the needle through as you sew.

Short of pliers you can create a leather-thimble by cutting out an oval-shaped piece of hide with a slit through it big enough to fit your middle finger through. You will use this to help push the needle through thick hide with out hurting your fingers and hands.

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Now it is time to sew. First we are going make the toe-puckers. Starting from the 1-1/4" tick-mark, sew a running stitch with stitches every 1/4 of an inch about 1/4" from the edge all the way around to the other side's 1-1/4" tick-mark. Be sure to leave about 2" of sinew or thread out from the start and end of your stitches.

Using the thread we left sticking out pull them and work the leather to create the puckers in the hide.

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At this point, you can place your vamps in the sole to adjust the puckers evenly and to make sure that points A & B of the sole align with points A & B of the vamp - hopefully you remembered to mark those points in the leather before you cut the pattern out ;)

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Once you have the puckers adjusted around the toe, knot off the excess thread on both sides so you do not lose the puckers .

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Now comes the tricky part - setting the puckers. This is an extra step I found that helps [me] make more even puckering pattern.

Following this diagram from a bird's eye-view, work the needle and sinew/thread into and back out of the valleys of your puckers - not through the same insertion hole though.

You can download the PDF of this illustration to help be sure your outlines are similar. These outlines are not to scale, so don't try to use them to complete your pattern

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Here you can see where I am inserting the needle and using the leather-thimble...

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Once the needle is worked in and out I run the needle and thread over the hill of the pucker and in to the neighboring valley.

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Here are the set toe puckers >>

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Sewing on the Vamp
Now we will sew the vamp to the soles. Align points A & B of the sole and vamp together. Begin to do a running stitch from those points on either the right or left side of the sole - yes, there should be 1/2" allowance from the bottom of the vamp....

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Sew the puckers into place with the vamp the same way you did earlier when you set them in...Here, you can see where I am inserting the needle and using the leather-thimble...

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Once the needle is worked in and out I run the needle and thread over the "hill" of the pucker and in to the neighboring valley.

WARNING: Be sure your glover's needle do not pierce or cut your initial "pucker-holding stitch" or you will loose your pucker pattern and have to start again.

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Continue sewing all the way around to the opposite point. Then sew the vamp to the other sole. Whew! Almost there.

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Making Heel Pattern
Go ahead and put on your socks and/or your boot liners and see how the toe pucker fits. Be sure the toe is pulled snugly onto your foot. Using a pencil mark the back of your heel on the leather.

NOTE: If your feet are vastly different in size you will need to do this on both soles.

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Next return to your sole pattern. Draw a horizontal line at the base of your heel outline. Then, from the middle back line of at the heel measure 3/4" on both sides and make tick-marks...

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Now draw lines straight down from the 3/4" tick-marks you made from either side of the back center line

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Next, measure 3/4" down and make tick-marks, and make a horizontal line 3/4" below the horizontal heel line you made earlier...

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Your sole pattern should now look something like this >>

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Essentially, both the sole-cast outline with the heel markings should look like this.

You can download the PDF of this illustration to help be sure your outlines are similar. These outlines are not to scale, so don't try to use them to complete your pattern

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On your paper pattern cut out the left and right greyed areas...

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Then lay the modified pattern on your leather sole...be sure the top heel line on the pattern aligns with the heel tick-mark made on the inside of the sole...

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Using a pencil (or at this point a pen), draw the outline of the heel pattern...

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Your outline should look like this.

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Cut out the heel outline. The scraps can be used to make the lacing loops you will need later. You will need 4 strips about 1/4" wide, and at least 2" long.

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Sewing Heel
Now the fun begins. We are ready to sew up the heel of the sole of our mukluks! Fold the sides that are on the sides of the tail of the heel outline together inside out (or outsides together) - BE SURE the tail is sandwiched in the middle as shown.

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Now using a whip-stitch sew the sides together. DO NOT sew in the tail.

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When you are finished sewing, the back of the heel together the tail should be sticking out as shown >>

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Fold the tail up so it covers the center seam of the heel. Now sew through the back heel wall out through the tail using a running stitch.

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Yaaay! We are half way there! The bottom part of your mukluks are done!

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Making Lacing
At this time we need to make the lacing we will need. Here is a diagram on making cordage from large scraps of the hide we cut our pattern from. you will need a fairly long piece for lacing. You will need approximately 25' - 28' (feet) of lacings 3/8" wide:

  • 4 laces @ approx 65"
  • 2 laces @ approx 18"

    These measurment are for my size...it is best in this case to create longer than you need, you can always cut back later. Take the large scraps and round out the edges if they have sharp corners...it is best to use as round of a shape as possible. Begin cutting in a spiral manner all the way around...cut carefully to maintain a consistent width.

    Here is a tutorial I did a while back on How to Make Cordage - The Cutting Method for more detail on this useful technique.

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Cut approx. 36" from your lacing, and set aside. Cut the remaining length of lacing in half. Take one length and step on the middle of it and wrap it around your leg in a criss-cross pattern, like so >>

This will help determine the length you will need for your lacing. Again if it is too long you can always adjust the length later. Next cut this length in half. Do the same with the other leg, you should end up with 4 long laces approximately the same length.

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Now the 4 strips you cut from the heel cut-out earlier are folded in half and tacked in to place on the right and left sides of points A and B on the mukluk bottoms as shown >>

These will be your lace-loops. Leave at least 1/4" allowance of the lace past the top of the mukluk.

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Then take two of the long lacings you just created and tack them just along side of the closing tail of the heel seam as shown >>

Leave at least 1/4" allowance of the lace past the top of the mukluk.

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The bottom part of your mukluks are now ready for the leggings to be sewn on.

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Making Legging Pattern
To create the legging. Slip on your socks and/or boot liners to be sure your mukluk bottoms fit comfortably. Then with measuring tape measure from the top of the mukluk bottom to your desired height and add 1-1/4".

For high-top style measure to just be low the knee. For 3/4 tops measure to about mid-calf or to the top of your boot-liners. Here, I get a measurement of 15" (+ 1-1/4" = 16-1/4").

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Measure the circumference of your calf plus 2" - 3". Here, I get a measurement of 18" (+ 2" = 20"). The measurement for the pattern will be divided in 2...so (18"+2")/2 = 10". 10" will be my legging top length.

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Now you need the vamp measurement. Fold the vamp in half matching points A to B; here, I get 3"...

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Lastly, you will need the measurement from point A around to point B. Measuring tape works pretty well for this.

TIP: If you do not have measuring tape you can use a length of rope or other cordage and different colored markers to mark of the measurements you need.

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On another paper bag or the remaining part of the bag we used earlier mark out your legging pattern.

> Using the half the circumference of your calf measurement (plus the 2 - 3" added earlier)  create a top horizontal line.

> 90-degrees to the start of your line, using your height measurement plus 1-1/4" draw your height line.

> 1-1/4" from the top create dotted line, this is your lacing hem.

> At the  bottom mark out half the circumference from A to B on the puckered upper you just finished (see last step)

> From the bottom measure up 3/4" - this point will be the start of your vamp measurement...

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A picture is worth a thousand words, someone said, so here it is >>

This is what your legging pattern should look like.

You can download the PDF of this illustration to help be sure your outlines are similar. These outlines are not to scale, so don't try to use them to complete your pattern

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Making, Cutting, and Sewing Canvas Legging
Be sure to double-check your measurements - measure TWICE, cut once!

Now cut out your paper legging pattern. Align the pattern on your folded canvas. The side that you should have labled "FOLD" should be on the fold. Using a pencil draw the outline of your pattern on the canvas. Be sure to mark your 1-1/4" lacing hem and button-holes on the canvas too....

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Next flip the pattern over and repeat, and cut your pattern from through both layers of the canvas.

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Now, this next step can be done by hand but can be time-consuming. Use of a sewing machine is handy. If you have a sewing machine set the zig-zag settings and zig-zag the edge of he canvas cut-outs all the way around...this is to limit/prevent fraying of the canvas from the raw edges.

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Button Holes
At this stage is where you would create your button-holes if you have a button-hole setting or fixture on your machine....I don't so I just cut two small holes in their place, and sewed in some hide ovals that I punched corresponding holes in. The leather will prevent the canvas from ripping when the laces are pulled.



Notice the "Cordlock" on the right for the lacing...quite contemporary and totally optional, but a nice touch.
Next, match the back sides together and sew the back-seam a 1/4" from the edge - BE SURE to change your machine setting to straight stitches. You should have a tubular-canvas start of a legging.

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Now fold over the top of the legging and sew the lacing hem 1/4" from the edge...be sure to not sew into or over your button holes.

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Finishing Mukluk
Now the fun begins! With the canvas tube inside-out, match the BOTTOM center seam of the legging to the center of the back of your mukluk bottoms. This is easily done by placing the mukluk bottom along with long lacings inside the canvas tube as shown. Be sure to match the tube bottom with the mukluk bottom top.

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At this point it is a good idea to clip or pin at 4 points to hold the canvas tube in place to the mukluk bottom while we sew. In this diagram I am using large paper-clips. or binder-clips, you can use a stitch or two to tack in place, or create a "bush-clip".

Clip at the center back, points A & B, and at the center of the vamp.

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Begin sewing from the back using a running stitch. Be sure to sew in a few times tp securely lock down the lacings - shown here >>

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Continue to sew around the side of the mukluk-bottom top to point A or B where the lacing loop ends should be tacked in place - be sure to sew those securely in place too...

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Sew all the way around the top of the bottom of the mukluk bottom. Notice how the sides of the vamp stick up a bit...that is expected if points A & B are matched at the base of the vamp-angle cut from your legging pattern; the top-front of the vamp and the bottom edge of the legging-tube should be flush. Repeat attaching the other legging-tube to the the other mukluk-bottom.

Once you turn newly attached canvas leggings right-side out, put on your socks and/or boot liners in to the mukluk bottoms you can now....DRUM-ROLL Please!............

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......Voila! Slide into your new mukluks! Now you can do the Happy Maker Mukluk Dance! =D

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Cinch and tie the top lacings around your leg, and this diagram I illustrated for you shows you how to lace your mukluks up.

  1. From their anchor points at the back of the mukluk, run the laces through their consecutive loops...
  2. Cross them over in front over the vamp, and run the laces down and under the opposite lace at the ankle between the loop and the anchor point...
  3. Now pull up the laces, and criss-cross them around your leg and tie in the front or back.


You can download the PDF of this illustration to help be sure your outlines are similar.

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Here is a little extra tip... Since I live in the city there can be a lot of ice and hard floors become extra slippery when the bottoms of the mukluks get wet (again, mukluks are best for cold and dry conditions not wet and slushy), I added a rubberized spray adhesive, Bondo Heavy Duty Rubberized Undercoating. (yes, I know, not very eco-friendly).

Another option is from Sod Hoppers who makes a "Sole-In-A-Jar" product called GOOP that is particularly for creating rubberized soles on hand-made shoes...although it is kinda spendy here is the url >> www.SodHoppers.com/html/goop.html

After wearing and setting in my foot pattern in the soles of the un-treated mukluks, I place the tops in a plastic back and mask my sole outline with the edge of duct-tape and stick the tape to the bag to protect the leggings and the other areas I do not want affected by this treatment.

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The above step is purely optional...but be warned that mukluks can become very slippery from the snow, ice, and wet on most contemporary hard flooring. I hope you have good luck with this endeavor, and don't forget to check out Ms. Jo Wood at www.JoWoodBeads.com/ the inspiration behind this project.

Merry Mukluk Making!

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