When Rosemary Sandy retired from teaching, she couldn’t just sit around and do nothing.
“That’s not me,” said Sandy, who’s from Coral Harbour but has been living in Rankin Inlet since the 1980s. “I’m the person that keeps going and wants to do a lot of things.”
And her output is impressive: when she got an assignment to make 20 amautiit for five- and six-year-old school graduates, she completed the entire job in 10 days.
“I did all these and I made an extra three,” she said, after she posted a photo of her work and others inquired about making them one for their child.
“All of them are different colours. I ty to make them different colours just to keep them interesting.”
She grew up in Coral Harbour on the outskirts of town, several kilometres from school. Her father worked at the airport, which was also a distance away, so she spent a lot of time at home observing her mother’s sewing.
“My first wasn’t that great,” she said about dipping her toes into making amautiit, remembering she gave it a shot in her 20s.
But after she kept making them and getting better, family began requesting amautiit and her abilities grew from there.
Ever since, she’s been making all manner of traditional cold-weather gear and spends much of her time going from contract to contract teaching other people how to sew. But her favourite is the amauti.
“I just love amautiit,” she said.
One of Sandy’s jobs had her a bit skeptical at first – teaching men at the healing facility how to sew. But she was warmed to see the inmates’ pride in making items for their children.
“It makes me feel great, because they did something for their family,” she said. “A lot of them – all of them, actually – it’s always their first time seeing the sewing machine or trying the sewing machine, but a lot of them are fast learners.”
For a while when she was younger, Sandy observed that the skills in making traditional clothing were falling off, as people were able to buy winter gear from the stores. But with the sewing programs she’s involved in across the region, she’s seen interest pick up again.