Carrying Caribou Hides for Winter Clothing
“Carrying Caribou Hides for Winter Clothing” by Tim Pitsiulak – Inuit Art – Cape Dorset 2013 original graphite and coloured pencil drawing presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.
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Notes from DaVic Gallery: The key to the success and survival of the Inuit in extreme cold temperatures of the arctic is with the use of warm clothing from caribou hide that provides insulation against penetrating cold. Caribou hair is hollow trapping insulating air between the hairs and inside them. Clothing made from this material is extraordinarily warm, lightweight, water repellent and durable.
Caribou skin pants (kuliksak) were worn with the fur facing inside or outside. The socks (aliqsik) were always worn with the fur to the inside. Mittens (atqatik) were preferred over gloves because fingers are less susceptible to frostbite when cocooned in the warm pocket of air within a mitten. No modern materials can match the combination of warmth and light weight of caribou skin boots (kamik).
A traditional sewing bag (ikpiagruk)—a pouch made from caribou leg skins—contained needles of carved caribou bone, walrus ivory, or caribou antler. The thimbles were made either from caribou skin, sheep leg bones, or caribou antler. Women made their own thread either from a single strand or multiple braided strands of sinew—a natural fiber from tendons in the caribou’s leg or back. Sinew thread is extremely strong and swells when wet, tightly filling the needle holes so the clothing is water resistant.
To make an item of clothing, a Nunamiut woman first dries the hide and then laboriously scrapes the leathery side to make it supple. Bull, cow, and calf hides have different qualities which suit them for specific purposes. For example, the thin, flexible caribou calf skins are ideal for parkas; mid-weight cow skins are best for mittens, pants, and socks; and winter boots are made from the durable leg and back skins of bull caribou. Hides from particular seasons also have differing qualities. Highly resilient boot soles, for instance, are made from the back skin of a large bull caribou taken in the fall, when the hide is thick and strong.
Reference: Gates of the arctic