I discovered a new sewing obsession last year – Mocassins! I usually let my kids go barefoot a lot when they’re learning to walk – but our lifestyle in Perth has us outside all year round, and add to that our backyard has the roughest concrete/rock combo patio ever – which left me with an awesome excuse to try making mocs. It’s something i’ve wanted to do for years and for some bizarre reason i found it oddly intimidating? I don’t know what i thought would happen – sewing machine explosion?
Anyway, they turned out to be so simple, so straightforward and by far the most satisfying thing i made all year. Seriously. I just love seeing her potter around in little mocs i made her. As a side note Birdie is also wearing some Mini Virginia leggings i made her. They’re the size 2/3 so they’re quite baggy on her as she isn’t quite 2 yet. She’ll get at least another year or so wear out of them.
The cropping on all of these photos is a little unfortunate – so few of her cutie pie face! But taking photos of a moving toddler is always kind of a hilarious take-what-you-can-get kind of situation. That Birdie – goodness me she is just too cute!! Ok on to the actual review part or i shall endlessly photo bomb you with my toddler*…
I bought all my leather from Leather Direct in Osborne Park. I was worried about using the regular cows hide that most people use for mocassins as Birdie was so small, so i tried a thinner lambs hide for the pale pink and black pair and a goat hide for the copper pair. Turns out I was kind of wrong, but you live and learn.
I found the lambs leather worked really well – it was soft and supple and dream to sew. On the downside they get beaten up quickly. Which i have to admit i didn’t mind, as i mostly use these in our garden or on the school run. Now that Birdie is getting closer to two years old i’ll be making her mocs from a thicker cows hide.
The goats hide was a devil to deal with. It was very stiff and much like vinyl or vegan leather or whatever they’re calling that stuff these days. I would not recommend it.
Actually while we’re on the subject, if you’re planning on making moccasins, please use a real leather – using vinyl or something synthetic is so uncomfy and unbreathable for little feet.
SIMPLY SMALL WONDERS BABY MOCASSIN PATTERN
As a side note, I’m quite sad that i never got photos of Birdie wearing her very first pair pictured above, which were pale pink and as you can see she completely wore to death before she grew out of them. You know i’m going to treasure them like a weird relic now.
For the pink pair I used the Baby Moccasin pattern by Simply Small Wonders. You can find it on Etsy or on her website. It’s a great pattern and i’m really happy with how the moccasins turned out. I found the sizing to be spot on and the explanations were pretty good. The only thing i wasn’t a fan of is that the sole pattern piece is more foot shaped than oval shaped. This caused a few problems for us when putting them on as since the mocs are very slightly shaped for specific feet we kept putting them on the wrong feet and then having to swap them constantly. Finally i just wrote “L” and “R” underneath them, but that looked a bit messy. I don’t think its really worth have a moulded sole shape for a baby/toddler as their feet are like little oblong boats anyway.
That being said, it’s a great pattern without any modifications and gives that classic moccasin look that we all seem to like these days. I would definitely recommend it!
I also purchased the Baby Bow Mary Janes pattern but haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.
LIL PAPOOSE MOCCASIN PATTERN
For the black pair (and another copper pair i didn’t get photos of) I used the Lil Papoose moccasin pattern from Peekaboo Pattern shop which was a recommendation by Jill. I really like the fit of these mocs. The pattern shape is more oval, so you don’t need to worry about which foot is which – and i have to admit i really like that. The thing i don’t like is the fringe style of this pattern. It wasn’t a big deal to alter – i just made the front fringe larger, and then removed that same amount from the back/side fringe to compensate.
This pattern with that small modification to the fringe pattern pieces is my go to pattern. I really like how it turns out and just works. Highly recommended.
For my next pair i’d like to try some without fringe, or perhaps add a bow.
MY TIPS FOR MAKING GREAT MOCCASINS
Use your best sharpest scissors or a rotary cutter. Leather can be a pain to cut if your scissors aren’t sharp so use the good ones.
Leather needle. Seriously do not forget this, you will cry if you leave a ballpoint needle in your machine.
Topstitch thread. I didn’t see any mention in either pattern about which thread to use, but now i know from experience you absolutely need to use topstitch thread or similar. I used regular thread in the copper pair i made and i had to resew the toe seam endlessly because the thread couldn’t handle the beating. Since then i only use topstitch thread and i’ve never had an issue.
Walking foot. Yes you can sew these without a walking foot, but now is a very good excuse to buy one if you don’t already have one. It makes sewing leather infinitely easier if you use a walking foot.
Loop turner. This is a bit of a strange one but when it came to threading the elastic through i found the least painful method was to use my loop turner. That lovely skinny metal shaft slipped through the casing easily, and the hook on the end helped pull the elastic through.
Trace your pattern pieces on to the leather before cutting. This prevents any slippage issues, helps you make the most of your leather with efficient layout, and means no worrying about pins etc. I found a pencil worked well for light leathers and a black pen for darker leathers.
Make sure you practice first! Practicing first will ensure that your machine tensions are correct, and help you figure out the best stitch length. I found that a longer stitch length was best. I usually favour a very short stitch length, but for leather i found that had the effect of cutting through the leather rather than periodically puncturing it. Don’t just jump in, get the hang of sewing with leather scraps first.
I don’t like sewing with leather with clips. I find it irritating and bulky. I prefer to pin along the seamline in a few strategic places. For the moccasins i pin at the heel, and then at the sides. That’s it.
It’s easy to stretch leather and pull it too much in the wrong direction as you’re sewing. I found this particularly true around the heel. For this pattern piece i prefer to sew from the centre to the side seams rather than from one side around to the other side. Yes it adds a tiny bit of time, but it results in a perfectly even sew.
I hate things that are not symmetrical. When it comes to cutting the front fringe i like to leave the fringe uncut till just before the end. Then cut up the centre, then cut the triangle shape, then last cut the rest of the fringe.
I also like to cut the heel fringe before inserting the elastic
When it comes time to insert the elastic, make sure you measure and mark your elastic length, but DO NOT CUT. I mean it. Do not cut.
As i mentioned before i like to use my loop turner to pull the elastic through. Once you’re at the other side you can find that mark again and sew along the line.
Except that i don’t sew. I find the sewing elastic part to be really fiddly and frustrating. Instead i tie a knot, and then i pull the knot so that it sits in the front of the shoe hidden in the casing. I like this method because it makes it really easy to find the knot later and adjust the elastic tightness if need be.
That’s it! Now if i was you i would just start making mocs for everyone i know! They are so satisfying, quick and easy with a fantastic result.
(*Ok i lied… I’m going to photobomb you with more Birdie photos hehehe)