Snow shoes

During my trip to Canada I saw a lovely display at Lake Louise, capturing the past of pioneers mountaineering in the area. I was enticed by the old attributes. The skies were familiar to me but the pair of snow shoes really got me. It was right there and then I decided to make a pair in miniature. For various reasons I'd to do it quick, one of them being I'm currently working on a really neat book mill as well. 

So straight after getting back from Canada I did some research. It soon became clear various times and regions have their own shape of shoe and type of lacing, and after reading into the small hours, I opted for a type that's common in the North East of Northern America, called Huron. The weaving I choose for is a combination of modern day techniques and the 'old fashion way'. 

It started out with making a jig to bend the beech wood to shape. Normally the shoes are made of ash, but I didn't have that so beech it was. Which is perfect for bending too, by the way!

When the jig was set & done I could steam the 0.6 mm thick mm strips of beech. A simple set up in my frypan did the trick. I took the lid of for a photo, but of course they were steamed with the lid on. Less than10 minutes was more then enough to make them soft and pliable. Bigger pieces would take more time; you want all the lignin in the wood cells to become soft. But if you steam for too long the lignin will boil out and bending can then result in splits and breaking.

The thin strips cool off very quickly too, and then the lignin will harden up again so I'd to work fast. Placing the centre of a pair of strips at the tip of the shoe form, the sides were then gently bend down, till they touched at the back. I pressed the counter shapes tight to the strips and hammered them down. The four ends were held in place by a clamp. Then I let them dry over night. 

The next day I glued the strips together and put them back in the jig to dry.  Excess glue would surely bulge out under the pressure so to prevent the shoes from sticking to the jig I lined it with cling film. Simple and worked a treat. Meanwhile the braces were cut, predrilled and put into place when the shoe rims were dry.

Now it was on to the weave. Old shoes have holes drilled through the rim, to take a thread where the weave is connected to. The benefit is the thread will not wear when the shoes are worn. You don't see this method of weave as much anymore in modern day shoes, which makes sense being slightly more labour intensive. Hmmm... stuff isn't made as hard wearing any more so it seems... 

Neither was I confident enough to drill the holes in the narrow rim, and as these shoes won't get any wear anyway, I figured to simply weave (the more modern way) around the rim, instead of through it. 

I'd an option between all sorts of thread, thick and thinner... light colored, brown, beige... and after seeing some real shoes made in that color I decided on a brown, just cos I thought it looked good. Egyptian cotton, count # 30.

The edge of the weave was a challenge to figure out. Initially I thought of using a bobbin lace technique; the braid half stitch as seen here on the left. Turned out it wasn't as simple as I thought so it was back to the drawing board (computer) and just figure out and learn the way it has always been done.

Each time I'm amazed at how much you can learn from YouTube, like when I needed to learn how to cane a seat. And this time was no exception with tutorials on the net showing how to weave snow shoes! There where various methods and approaches shown but they all came down to the same triangular weave. But the best part were a few diagrams I'd found and with those I set myself down and started...

Here's the toe section finished and heel part done too. As you can see I worked both shoes at the same time, so I would be conscious, aware and remember how to tackle the particular portions I was working on. If I'd finished one shoe complete and then had to return to do the other i'd probably have had a really hard time remembering how i did it to keep them uniform.

Like I said, it was a tricky job. Mostly because it took some time to find the rhythm or structure in the weave. Sometimes it was over, over, over, and then the it was under, over, under, under... I'd to stay really focused while weaving, or a mistake was easily made... Turned out it was constantly 2 steps forward, 1 step back, taking out some and redo it again until it was right. But after a while I got it :-) Or so I thought... :-/

I'd made a start on the middle part, redid them a few times and then it went OK. When I was nearly done I encountered a big mistake in one and had to take out almost a 3th of the weave. Argh...

But I got there in the end, and here's how they looked at that stage.

Now it was on to the binding. Native shoes have simple leather strips without buckles, but now that this pair was sort of eclectic already, I figured to give them a more modern type of binding. 

On the left is a section of it; the toe part with the first of the straps. If you look close you can see they are not attached on the same side. Something I didn't found out (again!) until I was almost done so I'd to remake that... 

A few more pieces, buckles and finally a bit of leather polish/wax:


Who's up for a snow-shoe-obstacle-run?

Wow, this post turned out quite long. So thank you for reading all the way down.
Have fun,


  1. Unbelievable work! They are marvellous :)
    All the best

    1. Thank you Vivian. Glad you like 'm but they're no way near as grand as your Manor!

  2. Those are really wonderful/ How clever you are to figure out how to make them in miniature. They're beautiful. They bring back memories of our cabin in northern Wisconsin. We had a pair on the wall. :-)

    1. Hi Catherine! Straight away 'your cabin' comes to mind... was it like a retreat? Somewhere in the woods? I picture a log cabin like I've seen a few in Canada the other day, and they seem like just the best place to relax. Hope you have fond memories surrounding yours?!

  3. These are incredible! Thanks for the steps in making them. Your research and execution of the work leave me speechless! I'll pass on the obstacle course though... Your shoes are beautiful---

    1. Well, you know me by now Linda... I love to share the steps it takes to make something. Hoping it inspires or benefits others, just like all the other people before me showed how they made their snow shoes. I couldn't have made these without their aid and explanation.

      btw, too bad you won't take up my challenge, i would love to have a run with you whaha. Hope it isn't cos of your leg?

  4. Awesome! your works are always beautiful!


  5. What a fascinating challenge - I think one of the best things about being a miniaturist is the discovery of interesting details and facts as we seek for authenticity in the miniatures we make

    1. Hi DollMum! I couldn't agree more with your comment! Making miniatures is one thing, but everything leading up to it is perhaps even more interesting. The stuff you learn, discover, the worlds and cultures that unfold... In this particular case I was blown away by the beauty and superb quality of some of these shoes. Through experience some Native American Indians perfected them in such a way, they were able to combine intricate and decorative weaving patterns with a perfect shape and durability, fit for the demands of terrain.

  6. Me encanta la vitrina en la que te has inspirado,pero me gusta mucho más,como has hecho esas raquetas de nieve,están perfectas!!!! Y junto al trineo forman un conjunto maravilloso,dan ganas de que vuelva a nevar para estrenar!!!!!

    1. Gracias Pilar! No es es genial que podemos encontrar la inspiración en los lugares más inesperados?

  7. I've tried bending wood once but I boiled it rather than steaming. Probably why it didn't work =0/ Thank you for showing the steps of making the snow shoes. Very helpful and an awesome end product. The weaving is immaculate =0)

  8. Hi Pepper, bending and steaming took a bit of trial and error here too. In the past I've messed up too, steaming pieces for too short, or too long, ending up with cracks and splits... :( All I can say is; don't give up! The satisfaction when it DOES go as you planned is awesome.

    The thing with bending wood is the heat. You want to get the wood hot in order to soften the stuff that makes it hard and strong; the lignin. If you put it in water it will moisten up too, and that will cause it to swell more then just steaming it. So depending of course on the shape and size of wood you have to concoct some sort of chamber and feed that with hot air e.g. steam, making sure the wood isn't in contact with water or moisture at the bottom. Good luck! Hope you'll give it another try?!

  9. j'admire le travail de tissage du fil et je retiens la technique à la vapeur .Pour ma hutte de Hagrid j'en avais fabriqué en rotin , il se tord bien avec l'eau bouillante

  10. Debora, Your work is just Awesome!!! No matter what you make, you go the extra distance for perfection! These snowshoes are just incredible! I am just glad I don't need to use snowshoes.... it is a lot of effort! Skiing is much easier! :)

  11. Another great project! You always work so accurate it is a pleasure to read your blogs and follow the steps you took. Again the detail is amazing and I applaud you for your patience and the realism in your work.
    Thanks for sharing, love your how-to's!

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Les raquettes sont déjà très très belles en taille normale, mais ces toutes petites sont tout simplement de vrais bijoux! Bravo! Je ne savais pas qu'il y avait des courses d'obstacles avec raquettes, quelle drôle d'idée!!!

  14. Prachtige trip, en wat een schitterende foto's.Wat jou oogjes zien kunnen jou handen maken, ongelofelijk knap weer.Lieve groeten,Alexandra.

  15. I saw your blog on Tatiana's and I'm so glad I came over. You are such a masterful artist! These snow shoes are just incredible!

  16. Wow. I can't find words to say how much I am amazed. You work is perfect.Oh my Godness.I can't believe that it is so small. I looked back through some of your older blog posts, and I think all your work is beautiful - so very well done. I'm looking forward to seeing many more of the lovely pieces that you make.

    I decided to follow your beautiful blog and it will be very niece if you visit my blog and follow too.

  17. Wat heb je dit ook weer mooi gemaakt. Prachtig hoor!

  18. I learn some new stuff from it too, thanks for sharing your information.
    low heel shoes

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