Indigenous

These unicorn mukluks will have you flying over rainbows and glitter

Cree Anishinaabe two-spirit artist Alley Yapput recently completed a pair of unicorn mukluks for one lucky toddler. 

'I've never done the unicorn design before so this was my very first one,' says artist Alley Yapput

These unicorn mukluks were made by Cree Anishinaabe artist Alley Yupput as a custom order. (Submitted by Alley Yapput)

Where does one get unicorn hide to make mukluks?

That's a secret that Alley Yapput isn't giving up.

The Cree Anishinaabe two-spirit artist who lives in Thunder Bay, Ont., recently completed a pair of unicorn mukluks for one lucky toddler. 

This is the first pair of unicorn mukluks Yapput has made, but Yapput has been making moccasins, mukluks, mitts and other traditional crafts for 20 years. 

"I was with my grandparents until I was about 13 and I got a lot of first hand knowledge," said Yapput. 

"I spent a lot of my time with my grandmother when I was growing up, just watching the kind of crafts that she made."

The unicorn mukluks were a custom order that a lady had placed last year, but Yapput had a broken arm and needed to take time off from crafting until it healed. 

Yapput took some inspiration from a pair of Uggs the artist found online.

Alley Yupput with the toddler-sized unicorn mukluks. (Submitted by Alley Yapput)

"I usually try to be a little bit more creative with people who want custom pairs, I get them to shoot me a few images or sketches of how they want something to look," Yapput said.

"I don't reproduce works that are off the internet — I go to make 100 per cent my own design."

Google searches of unicorn images and other unicorn- inspired crafts gave Yapput an idea of how to design the mukluks. 

The artist added some ears, fur tufts for hair and some flower buttons to accentuate the design. 

"There weren't a lot of mukluks that resembled a unicorn, so I kind of came up with this design and I thought, 'OK well this works.'"

Yapput can usually complete an adult pair of mukluks in about two days and said it takes about the same amount of time for baby-sized pairs.

"Making baby mukluks is always a challenge because I do have large hands," Yapput said. 

"So when you're trying to work with something that would fit in the palm of your hand, it is quite a challenge."

The artist added some ears, fur tufts for hair and some flower buttons to accentuate the design. (Submitted by Alley Yapput)

Yapput is taking a break from mukluk and moccasin work to focus on garments like jingle dresses, ribbon shirts and ribbon skirts until the fall. 

The artist offered some advice for Indigenous crafters who are just starting out. 

"Don't give up," Yapput said.

"Sewing and beading takes a lot of patience and practice. If you're going to start a project, just make sure that you finish them because you don't want something sitting around for a really long time.

"Don't get discouraged and keep at it. We all started at the same place."

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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