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Industrial sewing machines donated to Abluqta Society in Baker Lake

Baker Lake is about to receive an industrial-strength boost to its sewing abilities, as two industrial sewing machines were recently donated to the society by Ilda Silvaroli, the owner of former Glebe Draperies in Ottawa.

Erin Strachan, manager of Indigenous Capacity Building Programs at Performance Management Consultants, has been helping out with the Abluqta Society since 2016.

Erin Strachan stands next to the two crated industrial sewing machines that were flown on the Agnico Eagle Mines charter to Baker Lake this past month. Photo courtesy of Erin Strachan

Strachan said the society worked with Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) to have the two machines (one sewing machine and one serger) shipped to Baker.

She said the machines are built right into tables, with each one weighing about 200 pounds.

AEM asked if we could go up to Baker to deliver some training to help people get over the intimidation factor of using these really big machines,” said Strachan.

Ilda Silvaroli, the owner of former Glebe Draperies in Ottawa, Ont., donated two industrial sewing machines to the Abluqta Society that arrived in Baker Lake in December 2019. Photo courtesy of Erin Strachan

“We’ll be doing a one-day workshop on either Feb. 21 or Feb. 22, during which we’ll do two groups of 10 in back-to-back sessions.

“The hope is Abluqta can get a contract from AEM to do its uniform repair and create jobs for people in Baker Lake who want to sew.”

Emma Inns of Adorait Boutique in Ottawa will be accompanying Strachan to Baker to conduct the two training sessions on the machines.

Strachan said Inns has extensive experience in sewing, including using these two machines in the past.

She said Inns will also be helping Abluqta with other important ventures while in Baker.

“Emma has done a lot of shelving in the past and building or creating things with recycled material,” said Strachan.

“We have a bunch of wooden pallets that she’s going to help us turn into floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall shelving units for the thrift shop and food bank.

“Emma’s also going to help Abluqta build a living wall on which they can grow some vegetables for the food bank with a grow light.

“She’s gone to India, Tibet and Nepal to teach people how to sew things, or to help find a market for the traditional crafts they produce and create jobs for people”

Strachan said the two also want to host a tea while they’re in Baker to invite people in the community who make crafts to come and show their wares.

She said Inns’s work with recycled fabrics may be able to help the thrift shop with some things that just aren’t moving.

“The thrift shop has a pile of T-shirts that nobody is buying, so we can take those T-shirts, cut them up, and make them into wall hangings or something else,” said Strachan.

“So, if we can have people bring in their crafts, it might give Emma ideas on what to turn the T-shirts into.”

Strachan said the process will be one step at a time.

She said people in Baker won’t start automatically producing stuff they can sell overnight, and the first step is for them to get comfortable with the machines.

“Once they’re comfortable they can start doing some repairs and earn some income that way,” said Strachan.

“We’re also hoping the machines can be used by people for their own projects.

“We will have to establish some sort of studio fee for their use, or, if the person doesn’t have the money to pay the rental fee, they could volunteer the equal amount of time in the thrift shop or food bank that they used the machines for.

“We want them to be used as much as possible, but we also have to make sure the people using them don’t break them because they are very old machines.”