How To: Buckskin Mittens
You will need:
- Buckskin, light leather, or covering of your choice, piece(s) approximately 20” x 20” should suffice
- 4 Rabbit or other fur-bearing hide
- Utility blade
- Paper bag or pattern paper
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Marker or pen
- Real or artificial sinew or heavy-duty thread
- Glover’s needle or heavy-duty sewing needle
- Sitck pins (optional)
- Seam-ripper (optional)
- Sewing machine (optional)
Create A Pattern:
First, let’s make a custom pattern...
Open a paper bag or paper for pattern-making. I like recycling paper bags. Once the pattern is created the paper can be laminated and kept for storage. Open your hand with fingers comfortably apart and thumb spread from palm
With marker or writing utensil outline your hand…
Your outline should look something like this.
With a ruler measure approximately 1/4" all the way around your outline.
Continue to outline the 1/4" allowance.
The outline should come straight down from the base of your palm on either side of your hand.
With your straight-edge, draw a line across the widest part of your outline...
Then measure and draw a line from the base of your out-stretched thumb to the tip...
Now from the point you started to measure your thumb. Draw a line or mark the same length from that starting point.. Here, it is 3-1/2".
Now, mark the center of your first bi-secting line.
From that mark, mid-point, draw a half ellipse to the length of your thumb marked on the pattern previously
Now this part is tricky, and not too exact, but sketch out a smaller ellipse within the larger one starting from your bi-secting mid-point.
Here, I have colored in the negative space around the smaller ellipse for clarification.
Now measure and mark out 3" from the base of your thumb-length mark. This will be the base length of your mitten.
On the opposite side or blade-side of your outline measure and mark out 2" from the base of your pattern. This will be the slit allowance.
Then measure and mark up from there 1". This will be denotation mark for the attachment loops or buttons.
At this point your pattern should look something like this.
Now cut out your pattern...
This is what your palm and back mitten pattern should look like. Be sure to cut out the negative space around your thumb outline.
The next part to creating a mitten pattern is to create the pattern for the thumb cover.
Place your palm pattern on another section of your pattern-paper...
Ok, this part may be a little tricky...Using the palm pattern mark out the thumb-base ellipse. Then find the mid-point line and measure up the length of your thumb from there, sketching out a thumb-like shape. On the thumb-base part of the thumb-cover pattern measure and mark out an allowance of about 1/4" from the mid-line around to the outside of the this part of the pattern.
Your thumb-cover pattern should look something like this. Note the tick-marks at 4 the four points.
Here is your finished mitten pattern. Notice the tick-marks on the 4 points of the thumb-cover pattern:
A – Top,
B – Inside thumb base mid-point,
C – Outside thumb base,
and D – Outside thumb base mid-point.
These points will be referred to later when the thumb cover is sewn onto the palm.
Create a Mock-up
Now this part may seem like a whole lot of extra work, but when you have time, energy, and/or money invested in the materials for the actual piece, it is a good idea to be sure that your measurements are correct and your piece actually fits before you start cutting into your expensive material...such as buckskin. Tanning buckskin takes a whole lot of the time, and energy part. See the How-To on brain tanning buckskin here.
If you are feeling risky or are absolutely sure your pattern will work feel free to skip this part. Me, I prefer to be safe than sorry, measure twice so all I have to do is cut once...your choice.
So with less expensive or expendable material, such as a terry-cloth towel used here, use your pattern to outline the pieces on the material
ATTENTION: Notice that the back part of the mitten pattern does not have the thumb. This part is simply a bullet-shape. Also, be sure to mark out your slit allowance(s).
Cut out mock up pieces.
ATTENTION: Notice that the back part of the mitten pattern does not have the thumb. This part is simply a bullet-shape.
You do not have to make a pair of mock ups. One mitten should be fine.
Now let’s put the mock-up mitten together:
First pin the thumb cover to the thumb part of the palm. Pinning from point A of the thumb cover to B, then D to A. This is the order the thumb cover will be sewn to the palm.
Now sew the thumb-cover to the thumb part of the palm; sewing from point A to B then D to A.
Note: The sewing machine is completely optional. You can hand-sew...but using a machine saves a little time. If you use a machine use a zigzag stitch. This emulates the whip-stitch we will be using in the final construction of the mittens.
Now place the palm piece with now attached thumb cover to the back mitten piece.
Now sew the back to the palm piece. Start from the slit allowance all the way around to the base of the opposite side using a whip or zigzag stitch.
The finished mock up. It fits. Here, however, the blade-side or outside of the mitten is a little snug and the thumb was a little long so I was able to cut and make the necessary adjustment to the thumb and now I know to add a little more allowance on the outside of the mitten.
These adjustments are exactly why it is a good idea to do the extra work of making a mock up before cutting into your final material.
Now with all that done...let’s take it apart. Here I am using a seam-ripper.
Once the mock-up is dismantled you can then use the adjusted/fitted pieces to transfer to your final material or create another pattern on your pattern paper.
Here is the final fitted and adjusted pattern. After creating the mock up and using the adjusted pieces to create a new pattern, I confident the finished piece will fit and can now move on to working with my final material.
Creating the Fur Lining
Now let’s create the lining for our mittens. Here I am going to use rabbit pelts from the leather store. It would have been nice to harvest some actual rabbits for this. But I live in the city and I enjoy the wild rabbits that visit the yard. And since I can purchase rabbit pelts at a reasonable price it was not necessary for me to hunt the animals myself.
It is important to make sure that the grain of the fur is in the direction your hand will slip into the finished mittens...
Lay your adjusted pattern on the skin side of the fur. Being sure that the top of the mitten is pointed in the same direction of as the grain of the fur.
You use pencil, or pen or a mark to outline your pattern. I used a marker for clarity since the lining will be inside the shell material and lines or marks will be hidden in the finished piece. Be sure to mark your slit allowances.
And remember that the back of the mitten does not have the thumb. Also, be sure to flip your palm pattern to be sure that you have opposite hands and not two rights or two lefts onto your expensive pelts.
After you have opposite facing palm pieces marked on the skin side of your pelts, and opposite facing thumb covers, and back pieces marked on your pelt you are ready to cut out your lining pieces.
You can use scissors, but you run the risk of under-cutting the grain of the fur side and creating bald spots on the edges. It is better to use a utility blade to just cut the dermis of the pelt.
Here are the finished pieces cut from the pelts...
Now I will hand stitch my lining using a whip-stitch. With your leather or glover’s needle and heavy thread or sinew...as we did in on the mock up, begin stitching the thumb cover to the thumb part of the palm starting at point A and sewing to B, then sewing point D to A.
Remember to stitch with the fur sides together.
Once the thumb cover is sewn to the palm...sew the palm to the back. Remember to stitch with the fur sides together.
Here is what the finished fur lining should look like. This stage is also a place to note any adjustments needed before cutting into the buckskin. Notice the cuffs with the fur facing out.
Making the Buckskin Shell
Now we are ready to cut into the buckskin. I prefer to tan only one side of my buckskin creating a darker "hair-side" and a lighter skin side. This helps for doing projects like this.
I lay the pattern out on the dark side of the buckskin and use a pencil to outline the pieces on the material. I do this to help avoid blemishes or unwanted anomalies that may show up on the finished piece. It also helps in finding color consistencies or interesting tones, textures, or marks that I may want on the finished piece.
Now I will hand stitch using a whip-stitch. With your leather or glover’s needle and heavy thread or sinew...as we did in on the mock up and the lining, begin stitching the thumb cover to the thumb part of the palm starting at point A and sewing to B, then sewing point D to
Remember to stitch with the dark sides together.
Once the thumb cover is sewn on, match the palm and the back with dark sided together.
Using a whip stitch helps maintain the allowance in the original pattern, and is an easy stitch to learn and use. This is the completed left mitten buckskin shell.
Next, turn the mitten shell outside in...this can be a bit tricky, but be patient and work steadily to flip the buckskin out.
Ok, once the shell is flipped out, it is time to fit the lining into the buckskin shell. This can be a bit sticky but take your time and gently but firmly slide your lining mitted-hand into the shell, flesh side of the fur to flesh side (or light side) of the buckskin.
...work the lining into the shell, and be sure the mittens at this stage fit and are comfortable. Almost done...
Now attach the lining to the shell. Be sure to match the slit allowances between the two pieces and start to stitch from the start of the slit...
All the way around the opening of the mitt...
All the way to the start of the slit allowance to the other side.
The slit allowance allows you to comfortably slide your hand into the mitten, and turn the cuff out.
Voila! After repeating all necessary steps for the opposite mitten you will have a pair of warm and cozy fur-lined buckskin mittens!
If you are like me and have tendency to loose a glove or mitten you can attach tether loops or buttons to the blade side of the mittens. Here is a piece of cannon bone from whitetail deer that has been cut and shaped using sand-stone, sand paper, or a rasp. Then sewn to the mitten and a thong attached to them.
I then slip the mittens in the sleeves of my coat or jacket and allow the tether to rest on along my shoulders. This definitely helps to keep my mittens from getting to far away from me. Hope this tutorial, although long-winded, helps in your mitten making endeavors. =)