Four Sealskin Pualuit

It’s the Ninth Day of Christmas Crafting, and we are down to number four. We were at a spectacular party last night, where I had iqaluq, igunaq, tuktuminiq, nattiminiq, and muqtaaq. It was awesome, but between eating too much and sleeping too little, I’m hanging out in bed this morning. Perfect time to test out blogging on my phone.

Last May, I bought my first sealskin: a large, maroon, tanned affair. In the fall I was given a pattern for tiny mittens and worked up the courage to cut out the pieces. Over the Mondays that followed, I slowly, slowly, pieced them together.

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Once they were done, I heard the predictable refrain from older child: “where’s MY new mitts?” Duly noted: if I really want to get her interested in a gift, I should wrap it up and give it to her sister. But she had a point; her sweet little white mitts from our neighbor don’t fit her anymore. Meaning, M now had two pairs of warm mitts, and N had none.

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Observe sad big sister in the background with inadequate fleece mittens.

It was back to the skin with a larger pattern and an exacto knife this time (see Lesson #1).
Lesson #2 is, don’t bother with pleather. The ladies at ACW are opinionated, which they more than make up for by being generous. When I showed up with pleather for cuffs, the 2nd President gave me scraps of beaver (seen above). When I showed up with pleather for palms, they dug through their stash till they found a nice piece of proper black leather.

There are opinions to be had on lots of subjects in sewing, actually. Discussions on the merits of glovers versus sharps (which are sewing needles) reminded me of knitters debating straights verses circulars.  My choice of tikiq (thimble, also means index finger) from the store was generally deemed inferior; I was then gifted an expensive and fancy one (who knew there were expensive and fancy thimbles)? The point all agree on is that one should use good materials and tools so that sewing is actually fun. That is a sentiment I understand.

For the cuffs on N’s mitts, I was offered more beaver, but I wanted something different, so I could tell whose mitts were whose without holding them up to compare sizes. I had saved up, and went to the Big Craft Sale with the hope of purchasing some kind of fox fur.

The fox was expensive, and the furrier there didn’t have a colour that would go with maroon. But he was selling some coyote for a reasonable price. I chose one that had wide strips of white along its flank, with the idea of using them for cuffs. Thus, I brought home my Second Fur.

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The fur on its back, with the edges curled in. You see the nice white strips along the tummy.

I did a lousy job cutting it, since I always end up doing these things on Monday night right before a meeting. I managed, with a little stretching. Fluff covers a multitude of sins.
I must say, the most exciting part of sewing pualuit (mittens) for me is the gathering. To get that distinctive Baffin look, the thumbs  and fingers are sharply gathered.

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You can sort of tell in this picture how the thumbs look twisted outwards. The tops aren’t too bad though, if you don’t look closely. This is right before I sewed the last liner together inside out so that I had two left hand liners.

It’s all done by hand, and I’m crap at it. There are two gathers per piece, and two pieces per mitt (skin outer and fleece liner), so I’ve had sixteen tries, and each one comes out different. I’ve tried basting, marking, different at starting points, and using different rates of gathering. Every time it’s better, but still quite wrong.

You might think this was a turn off, but that’s the opposite of true. It means it’s always exciting. Which way should I try next? Which direction will it skew this time? It’s like mastering a board game; developing strategy and learning the fine detains is most of the fun. Besides, even when I get it wrong, I don’t “lose.” They are still mitts.

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I have so far to go before I’m a shade as good as the masters I hang out with, so I might as well enjoy the process. And the girls have warm hands, even though the thumbs are skewed.

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