Eight Rankin Inlet students in need will have new parkas for the upcoming school year thanks to the stylish work of young seamstresses enrolled in a sewing program.

Earlier this year, the Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council launched the Ikajurniq youth corps program, which encourages youth to give back to the community. To complete the program, each participant must volunteer 120 hours.

During this particular two-week program, participants were taught how to sew a parka from scratch in the first week. The garments sewn during this period were made for students without parkas.

Participants then spent a second week refining their skills by sewing a customized jacket for themselves.

“Everyone really enjoyed it. Maybe half the participants had never used a sewing machine before. You could tell in the end they are going to continue sewing,” said Ilitaqsiniq program manager Kelly Clark-Lindell

In addition to sewing, Clark-Lindell said the students spent 45 minutes each morning doing a literacy activity, like journaling or group discussions, meant to encourage mindfulness.

“You really want them to leave bettering themselves. We sometimes don’t give ourselves time to reflect on those things in our crazy world,” she said.

Elders Rosemary Sandy and Ipiqsaut Dion ran the program along with instructor Tracy Ayaruak.

Clark-Lindell said the girls spent the first day of the workshop going through all the materials they might want to use before sitting down to draw their designs.

“They kind of had free rein,” Clark-Lindell said.

Ilitaqsiniq co-ordinator Amy Ainglidik said that once the girls started on their second parkas for themselves, they became more confident in their skills.

“Everyone had a very different style — you could see that especially in the jackets they made for themselves,” she said.

Princess Autut, who was one of the eight participants, told Kivalliq News the workshop was her first time sewing.

“I’d never sewn a parka before so I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “My mom usually sews everyone’s winter parkas. I thought about it a bit and thought I could help her.”

As soon as she arrived and saw all the materials and the people in the program, Autut said she knew she would be fine.

“At first it wasn’t too bad. We just cut off the material and zig-zigzagged it so it wouldn’t fray,” she said. “When I started doing the parka, I started getting afraid and I was like, I’m gonna mess this up. But after finishing the first parka, I felt a lot more comfortable.”

Autut said she focused on making her first parka functional, with lots of space for pockets and a more traditional wide fit.

However, when she started working on her own, she tailored it to fit her sense of style.

“Since my mom always makes my parka, she always makes it boxy. You can’t see any curves. But I wanted to make something more fitted. It’s more girly,” she said.

While more-fitted parkas aren’t considered as warm or traditional, Clark-Lindell said that’s the way younger seamstresses are expressing themselves these days.

“There is a trend nowadays. Parkas are fashion. It’s not necessarily what you need, it’s what you want to look like. That’s where our younger generations are going: toward fashion.”

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