05 September, 2009

Bunny Suit

I gave this post the silly title of "bunny suit" but actually I do want to talk about bunny, hareskin from the Arctic specifically.

I got a few Canadian books sent to me recently from a bookstore in Nova Scotia.

The mere sight of Canada Post labels on a parcel does an ex-pat's heart good.

Before ordering, I must not have looked all that closely at the description of one book, Hall, Tepper and Thompson's Threads of the Land: Clothing Traditions from Three Indigenous Cultures/Liens à la Terre: Traditions Vestimentaires de Trois cultures Autochtones (Hull, QC: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1994), because I was expecting something thicker than its actual twenty-four pages.

The last outfit is the one that interests me. First, the look. The hooded parka and pants combination makes me think of the Abominable Snowman: rumpled, white, and fuzzy, head to toe. Second, the diagram of the construction technique, called looped netting, looks like very simple nalbinding on a frame.

The description states the fragile hareskin is cut in a spiral, cured (soaked, twisted, and dried), and "joined to others to form a long, furry cord. A looped netting technique converted the cord into warm garments." (p. 21)

From what little I understand about nalbinding, I strongly suspect this means a strip is looped into net first and then its end is joined to the next which is then looped into more net, eventually producing a continuous cord. Otherwise you'd be trying to cram multiple hare pelts through small loops.

The book gives the outfit's provenance as Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories, 1964, and notes that hareskin clothing used to be common for adults and children.

The hareskin outfit appears functional, locally made with local tools and local material, culturally appropriate, environmentally low-impact, biodegradable, and biodiverse. And fuzzy.

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