Beyond the shared goal of hand-making a warm coat, each participant in a parka-making workshop hosted at the Kwanlin Dün Cutural Centre took something different away from it.
The design, sewing and fitting of a fur fringe on the warm winter jackets provided opportunities for quality family time, the creation of gifts and the refreshing of old skills.
Dorathy Wright taught the three-day course concluding on Nov. 24. Wright brought most of the parka materials from her craft shop in Norman Wells, Northwest Territories. Originally from Inuvik, Wright said the parka design she was teaching to the class was in the Mackenzie Delta style. The room in the cultural centre chattered with the sound of sewing machines as the class participants put the parkas together.
Jacine Fox was stitching together a pair of small parkas for her twin granddaughters, age 4, which she plans to give for Christmas. The twin girls are named Syleff and Tsalarza. It will be a special Christmas for the family, as Syleff recently completed a course of chemotherapy. Fox said the results of the treatment have been positive and the family is planning a potlatch to celebrate with all those who supported the family and prayed for the young girl.
A few tables down from Fox, mother and daughter Diane Olsen and Skyla Vance worked on parkas for themselves.
“It’s a mother daughter activity without the husbands and the grandkids around,” Olsen said.
Olsen’s dark purple parka is the first one she has made for herself; she said she made one for Vance years ago. Although she does a lot of sewing projects, including fur mitts, she said fitting the bulky insulation into the parka’s sleeves was challenging and took a few tries.
The parka coming together on Vance’s workbench was black with trim and accent panels of black fabric printed with tiny pink flowers.
“I’m not too much of girly girl even though there is flowers on the print,” Vance said.
Along with the method Wright was teaching the class, Vance said she has learned a lot from Olsen.
“She’s taught me everything she knows basically.”
Geraldine Irvine said as the parka making course went on, some of the skills she learned working in a coat factory that used to operate near the Yukon Inn were coming back. She said the bright blue and butterfly printed parka nearly finished on her workbench is the first jacket she is making for herself.
It is one of several sewing projects she has in progress. Irvine said she is learning to make mittens and also has an I-Spy quilt with 164 pieces to be stitched together in the works.
As he was hand stitching the lining into his red and black parka, Marcus Herrom looked forward to fitting the silver fox fringe he had picked out.
“I can put my hood up and basically disappear,” he said of the dark fur fringe.
Herrom compared the parka making to other hands-on activities like a moosehide preparation workshop he had done through his school.
The class was Wright’s third in the Yukon in recent weeks. She said each of the classes has been well attended and well received with about 10 participants in each one.
Wright has been sewing and making clothes for the past 10 years. For the past five years she has been teaching classes with a focus on parkas and quilting.
Her ties to the Yukon and the idea for teaching classes come from sharing a fashion cohort organized by Entreprenorth with women from all three territories. With connections made through the cohort she was able to offer classes in the Yukon for the first time in November.
Wright said she plans to return to Whitehorse in December and for the bead, fur and hide symposium in March. She plans to offer classes on both visits. She said the December classes will be for making parkas and memory quilts. The memory quilts she makes contain photographs printed on fabric and patches cut from loved ones’ clothing to create a beautiful display quilt.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com