Friday, April 12, 2013

The Dorset Parka Skins Are In

Rangifer tarandus skins
I have the skins now for the Dorset Palaeoeskimo parka reproduction.  It took a little longer than I'd anticipated, but I'm pretty happy with what I have on hand now.  These are reindeer hides, not caribou, although both old world reindeer and new world caribou are the same species of deer; rangifer tarandus, so they are essentially the same thing.  Given the state of the caribou herds in Newfoundland and Labrador at the moment, the most realistic option I had available was to use imported reindeer hides.

Soft, soft, soft
I had planned to pick up the skins on my recent trip to Alberta at a leather and fur supplier in Calgary.  They had excellent prices and I wanted to see the skins in person to make my selections.  As soon as I landed in Calgary, I drove straight to the fur supplier and sure enough, he had a warehouse full of skins of all shapes and sizes.  I couldn't see the reindeer skins in my walk around the store and when I asked him about them he said; "You're about two days too late.  Two film production companies were in the area and bought 10 skins from me at the start of the week. I'm out."  I was gutted.  I called all over Alberta while I was there and I couldn't find anybody else that had any skins at a good price.  I came home empty handed.

The skins are imported and sold as rugs
Last week, I went back to searching online and found Te-Ri Products.  They don't have their prices published, but I have used them in that past for other rangifer tarandus projects and when I contacted them and explained the project, they gave me very good prices. When the skins arrived yesterday and I had a chance to start thinking about assembling them, I think I could use another hide or two, so I ordered two more straight away.  They should arrive in the next couple of weeks.

I'll plan the pattern on the
table cloth skins, before
cutting the hides.
The Dorset Parka needs to be big enough to squat in and I think I'll use two whole skins for the front and back.  A third (and possibly fourth) skin will be needed to add pleats to the sides, make the sleeves and the collar.  I suspect that if I wanted to do a lot of sewing, I could come up with enough bits and pieces from just these three skins to make the whole parka, using strips for the sleeves and sides, but I want the extra hides to be safe.  I should have a better idea as I start cutting and experimenting with patterns.  I've traced the outlines of the three skins onto plastic table clothes from the dollar store.  I'll use these to plan out the the cuts and assemble a technicolour raincoat before I start cutting and sewing the actual hides.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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