Fine Fox Fur Fuzz Feels Fabulous: Inuit Arts and Me, Part 1

When we moved north north north a year ago, I was so excited to be moving somewhere that handcrafts were a big deal. To this day, I’m grateful that my knitterly preoccupations fit right into my otherwise very different environment. And I was willing – nay, eager – to adapt further to the landscape, and take up more of that other craft, the one that alternately annoys and terrifies me whenever I dare it: sewing.

Specifically, sewing with skins and furs, and sewing outerwear. Inuit women are all over it. The local craft shop (which doubles as a hardware store) stocks every color of gore-tex fabric, and furs are available both at craft sales and by mail order from furriers.

If you’re not into killing animals for their pelts, well… in another context I might have an ear for you, but up here, fur is survival. I cannot describe to you what a difference it makes to have the windbreaking softness of fox fur next to your face, or how sealskin layered with leather and fleece keeps your hands warm when it’s -40 with windchill. Also, I don’t know about the furriers, but the hunters up here – even the ones who sell commercially – use the whole animal. There are pretty strict quotas on harvesting, from what I understand. Seals are not as endangered as you think. They are also delicious.

Anyway, if you hate me now, that’s cool. I promise I won’t murder a kitten just to get your goat (so to speak). Otherwise, read on.

I did not achieve my absolutely addle-headed goal of sewing an amauti (Inuit baby-wearing coat) for my first winter here. In fact, the only sewing I got done last year was to add a strip of fox fur to my kindercoat hood.

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This is the only shot I have of it; I don’t know what happened to my in-progress shots, it was so long ago now that I worked on it. It was a bit of an experience: I saw someone on our local sell/swap Facebook group selling a hood-sized strip of fur, showed up at their house and exchanged cash for said fur, and took it home. At first I just stared at it for a while. I had insecure, awkward conversations about it with my neighbor, the dean’s wife, who is a one-woman sewing and kitting factory. Mostly they ended with “just whipstitch it on, good grief.” And, eventually, I did.

It wasn’t a technical operation, though it was operationally difficult. Black on black was potentially not the best choice, especially since at the time the days were down to 5-6 hours long. I think I had the wrong needle, and the one time I tried to work on it at ACW, the elders were all shocked that I didn’t use a thimble. Well, that explains how I wore off the pad on my left index finger. And here I thought thimbles were just for antique collectors.

But I struggled through, and after less hours than it takes to knit a DK-weight hat, I have an absolutely fabulous fur trim on my Kindercoat.

I am very very happy with my fur trim. N wants one for her coat, and I will do it if I run across a good piece. I’ll get a thimble next time. And I won’t do black.

So that was my one bit of sewing last year. Tomorrow: my one bit of sewing thus far this year, which was a rather… unusual… knitterly take on the same thing.

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