I made my first kuspuk last weekend! It’s a style I hadn’t seen before; I’d planned to make one with a ruffled skirt, but when I saw it the shop, I had to have this one. It’s more like a winter parka than a kuspuk, which is why I chose this pattern. It’s one that Jeanne devised herself, so I can’t use it to make kuspuks to sell-but I wouldn’t anyway. Production sewing just isn’t my thing.
Kuspuks are a lightweight overshirt that a lot of the Native women, well, everyone really, wears. They can be as fancy or as plain as you like and there are all kinds of styles. The main ingredients are a simple pullover with long sleeves, a pocket, and a hood; after that, it’s fair game. Some of them are just barely waist-length, some have a pleated skirt, some have a ruffled skirt, you can trim them with rickrack or embroidered braid or bias tape or no trim at all. Mary made hers with puffy sleeves and a fairly snug cuff, but you can use elastic in the cuff too. The skirted kuspuks can come almost to your knees or be much shorter; all the styling is up to the maker. Each village has their own basic style, but with variations. Since I’m not a villager, I don’t feel constrained-I can do whatever I want.
Well, I should start at the beginning! I saw the class advertised at Raven Quilts a couple of weeks ago, and my friend Mary said we should take the class together. Sounded like fun to me! So we paid for our class and made plans to head to the shop together. I gathered up some fabric; some horse fabric I’d intended to use for a quilt many years ago. Oh well, nothing like repurposing!
Jeanne Acton taught the class. She is an excellent seamstress and incredibly energetic. She was doing about three things at once the whole time. Teaching the class of five, helping Kate with running the long arm quilter (a quilting machine) and advising the girl running the shop. I learned a lot about cutting and sewing more efficiently. We all made our own patterns, although I didn’t make mine until after I was finished; I used Jeanne’s pattern.
Both Mary and I were thrilled to finish our kuspuks, or qaspeqs is the way its spelled in Bethel. Mary was particularly pleased, as she doesn’t think she’s a very experienced seamstress. You could have fooled me! She did a great job on her kuspuk! I love the way she trimmed it.
I have another pattern that I was going to use, but Jeanne’s pattern is so simple, I’ll probably use it again. There’s only two main pieces, the sleeves and the pocket. Really fast to put together! And I can use it to make a winter parka too. There’s a quilter’s weekend retreat next weekend… maybe I should make another kuspuk… I really like the first one I made; it’s super comfortable!