Sunday, July 30, 2017

Making the Ligonier Shoepack

Bespoke shoepacks.  One of the many messes on my workbench a few weeks ago.

The original of this moccasin/shoe hybrid can be found at Fort Ligonier.  I have found it to be a good winter moc, with a sturdier sole and thicker lining than the typical pucker-toe moccasin. 

My first pair of shoepacks. 
Kept my feet warm and dry in a Virginia snowstorm.

That being said, we only have one example in the mid-Atlantic states (Fort Ligonier), so I will leave it up to the individual as to its appropriateness outside that area.  There are examples of winter moccasins (unsoled) throughout the Great Lakes region, that may be more appropriate. 

I started by drafting a diagram based on the measurements of the foot and then transferred the lines to a paper pattern.  These shoepacks were made using 6-8 ounce oak tanned leather, the same I would use for shoes.

Liners made from a scrap of Wilde Weavery blanket.  Most of the
time I use white British Army blanket scraps.

I always sew the lining to be removable to promote drying.  The linings are sewn first as they are quite thick (2-3 layers) and I want to ensure that my leather is a little larger to accommodate that and not crowd the feet.  Tight shoes are the worst thing for keeping feet warm, as they restrict the circulation.

I sew the uppers first while wetted, using hemp thread.  Some trimming of the uppers may be needed to fit the soles.  Be sure to use a pencil to mark where your holes will be on the uppers and then soles, to ensure you don't have one extra, and that they all line up properly. 

 The shoepacks also need to be well wetted when lacing the uppers to the soles.  For finishing, I will water down dye (I prefer a greyish color to imitate brain tan, but some of my past customers have preferred a darker, more aged look). 

Soaked with my waterproofing mixture.  I have found that a hot application
in the sun works best to keep them soft outside and dry inside.

To soften them up, I'll apply a hot mixture of beeswax and neetsfoot oil and let them site in the hot sun to get it to permeate the leather and fill the seams. 

The finished shoepack.  Like any shoe or hiking boot,
don't wear them on a  long movement without breaking them in.

Insert the liner and you are ready to go.  I recommend wearing them wet for a day (allowing them to dry out on your foot) around the home, in order to get the leather to conform to the shape of your foot.


  1. Excellent - -
    I know a couple of people who may be interested in trying something like this. Think I'll pass it on.
    Great piece -

  2. I built my winter pacs in 1983 and the summer boot in 1989. I moved near Pittsburgh,PA in 2012. For the 35 years prior to that I live in Latrobe, 10.2 miles from Ft Ligonier. I was privy to a private tour of the archive in the basement of the Museum of the Historical Society. I was given copies of the boot makers patterns and some insight to the construction of the boot. I like many have made small modifications for my self.

    1. Thank you for the links. I love Latrobe and Ligonier. Such a beautiful part of this country!

  3. Do you make them for customers ?

    1. Yes, I do. Shoot me a message if you’re interested!