Last weekend I participated in moccasin making workshop.
Since the move and since I had tossed my old decrepit slippers, I had been announcing several times a day how I needed new ones. Then checking my inbox, this workshop appeared, part of a weekend of learning from a native elder and his wife at the small artisan cottage where I fire my pottery. Great timing! I used to wear moccasins as slippers for many years and I had just got out of the habit.
We participated in a welcoming song with drum, a smudging (the smudge shell is on the table there. I did not get a photo of the beautiful beaded feather that went along with it. I was a little camera shy at the beginning, although I had asked permission)
The deer skins were smudged. We gave thanks to the animal for providing them. We examined them, noticing there imperfections that told in part the life of the deer, any scars or other markings, the bullet hole. All was acknowledged.
We chose our skin and pattern size and cut and prepared the shoes, hammered the lacing holes with an awl.
We were making the moccasins in the Ojibwe style (Ojibway "those who cook\roast until it puckers", referring to their fire-curing of moccasin seams to make them water-proof." hence the puckered toe style. The word moccasin is derived from Ojibwe as well.) We cut the lacing by hand out of the hide as well. I would have liked a big blunt darning needle for the sewing up but managed without.
There was a potluck lunch and we continued. It took some practice to get the sewing even. I did an okay job, nothing great and I consider myself to have better than average dexterity. Time and patience! Appreciate handmade moccasins if you should have the good fortune to buy one. It took all day to make these! At one point I was reminded of second sock syndrome:) We were also reminded that that was why we smudged ourselves at the beginning of the day, to ensure calmness if we screwed up or got frustrated. There was a very nice atmosphere all day.
One of the participents brought in a few hides she had purchased. Cow hides they were and the smell coming from the tanning was less than pleasant. The difference in the deer and cow skin was drastic.
To interrupt for a moment, this photo above? The most intense part of the process, sewing through the three layers very snugly.
The cow was stiff and much harder. The deer hide was soft and supple like butter.
In fact, it barely feels like you are wearing anything when you have the mocassins on. We were given a little lesson on beading but I like these as is.
I like these a lot. They have molded to my feet and I have barely taken them off.