Skin boat seamstress Priscilla Sage threads her needle with sinew. Strands of dried caribou muscle are braided together in a time consuming process to create the traditional thread used for sewing. Sage teaches local workshops and also individuals on the Inupiaq technique of extracting the muscle while butchering the caribou, drying the muscle, pulling strands from the dried muscle and braiding it into thread.
These seal skins are thawed a few days before they are used. The fur is scraped off of the skin, and then sewn together as seen in the pictures. The smell is ripe for some people, and new seamstresses usually make a few mad dashes outside the first time they sew. I was used to smelling my mother in law from being around her after she is done with this sewing task, so the first time I sewed, I didn't even flinch. I've sewn only once, about two years ago, for my husband's family whaling crew - Akootchook Crew. It was a great experience and my mother in law Priscilla and the other ladies were very helpful and encouraging.
~ Mary Sage February 2006