The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing
Mrs. Lucy Meeko
1988, 20th century
Caribou fur, synthetic sinew
60 x 131 cm
Purchased from Mrs. Lucy Meeko
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Amauti (9)
Keys to History
Lucy Meeko (1929-2004), an elder from Kuujjuaraapik (Great Whale River), Nunavik, made this young girl's parka (amauti) while demonstrating skin sewing at the McCord Museum in 1988. She first marked and cut freehand a pattern out of paper folded down the middle. As she went along she adjusted the proportions and curves according to her own inner vision. Traditionally, the Inuit seamstress does not use a standardized pattern: each piece of clothing is made to fit one particular individual, and an old garment can serve as a model for a new one. The oldest method of developing a pattern, and one that is still used, is by measuring with hand and eye. This technique is deceptively simple: an extremely complex system of pattern development that takes many years to master is at work.
Inuit clothing is symmetrical. The middle of the animal's skin is the middle of the front or back of the garment. In the old days the skin was marked down the middle by pinching or biting, folded, then the outline was made using an edged ivory tool. The seamstress also determines which way the fur must flow for each part. Usually in the finished garment the flow goes from top to bottom. The strips of fur or hide that constitute the edges and the ruff around the hood have a horizontal fur flow. The marking and cutting for one amauti may take one hour for an experienced woman.
The amauti is made of heavy caribou skin, fur to the outside. The girl's future role as a mother is foretold by the qaksungauti, the hide girdle surrounding the waist that goes under the amaut, the baby pouch on the back, to support the child. This belt is looped through a V-shaped strap that descends from the neck.
The artisan who fashioned this amauti came from Kuujjaraapik, Nunavik. The very large hood, rounded side bulges for the amaut, curved indentations of the long akuq (back flap), and shorter flap at the front are all features of Nunavimiut clothing.
Lucy Meeko designed the pattern for and made the girl's amauti during a demonstration of Inuit sewing at the McCord Museum in 1988. This event was held in conjunction with the exhibition IVALU: Traditions du vêtement inuit / Traditions of Inuit Clothing.
Lucy Meeko was born in 1929 and died in 2004 in a tragic fire that also claimed her husband. She was one of the North's most accomplished seamstresses as well as a distinguished artist whose paintings and carvings are in many museum and private collections.