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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Qaspeq/Kuspuk Coloring Pages

Kuspuk Qaspeq coloring page- blank available

A friend of mine up here who teaches school and has been making traditional qaspeqs for years is planning to teach her students to make them. That inspired these coloring pages. They can be used to experiment with color combinations and trim ideas.

(learn more about qaspeqs HERE

The stars in the upper left quarter are the stars that are on the Alaska state flag. The flowers on the right are fireweed- we use the blossoms for jelly, the leaves for tea and we eat young shoots. Another traditional way to eat them is to split more mature ones, sprinkle them with sugar and scrape them out with your teeth and use what's left to make cordage. Lower left hand quarter is Alaska's state flower- forget-me-not.

Click on the images below for larger versions to print.

Shortie/Boy's style qaspeqs:

Small jpg version:
shortie boy's style qaspeq or kuspuk to print and color- available in jpg and transparent png formats

Large transparent png version:
shortie boy's style qaspeq or kuspuk to print and color- available in jpg and transparent png formats

Girl's style skirted qaspeq-

Small jpg version:
Skirted girl's style qaspeq or kuspuk to print and color- available in jpg and transparent png formats

Large transparent png version:
Skirted girl's style qaspeq or kuspuk to print and color- available in jpg and transparent png formats




Friday, April 12, 2019

TG and I took a kuspuk sewing class together

Kuspuk qaspeq sewing class

Recently I wrote about a drum making class that I took with William and TG. The class is part of a series for Alaskan Natives/Native Americans that are meant to build wellness and community.

Today and yesterday, TG and I went to a kuspuk/qaspeq making class. Kuspuks are not part of our tradition. They are Yupik traditionally. The original version was made of skin and meant to cover and protect fur clothing. The advent of flour sack fabrics and calicos led to brightly colored, gorgeous fabric variations.

In Alaska, they are more ubiquitous than parkas. They are a uniquely Alaskan, super functional garment. They can be adapted easily. You may have seen photos of our Senator Murkowski wearing one, and in our state legislature, Qaspeq Friday is a regular occurrence.

The teacher of the class is planning to put up youtube video how tos and I'm absolutely going to give you all the link when it happens. I gave her my e-mail address so she could let me know when they were available. Angel Oliveira is a fantastic teacher and has taught a lot of people to make them.

TG generally sleeps until 8:30 am. I told her "Classes start at 8 you know." We agreed to go early and have breakfast first.

We got there, and oh my goodness! All the fabric choices! After careful consideration and a lot of back and forth, I settled on just a blueberry fabric. I was strongly tempted to add in a bright orange with it. They can be made with different fabrics all together in one garment and look gorgeous that way. TG chose a gold and blue fabric. We opted for the same trim.


TG is generally a hand sewer- and in fact, plans to hand sew one for her brother. For the class, we used sewing machines.


It was a lot of fun. After the first day, we had our hoods, cuffs and pocket done.


Today, we finished putting them together, I opted for a more traditional skirted kuspuk. Something that I can wear out berry picking on slightly chilly fall days. It will go great with jeans or leggings! Here I'm wearing it with a dress it completely covers.


There was one lady there who was super enthused over every lesson she learned and that was a blessing. It's good to see people happy about learning. TG's sense of pride in her finished kuspuk was wonderful too. 

Angel asked the class why we took it. TG said "Because I want to learn to make kuspuks and it was something I could do with my mom." and everyone, including me, was very "AWWW!!" 

Stand out moments for me, less about sewing than about life lessons and experiences. 

Angel and another teacher were talking about how they wanted to teach, so that the people they taught could go on and share it, could teach others. The lady she was talking to was speaking specifically of a salve class. That the class was filled to capacity, but she believed that people who were in the class would go on to teach their new found skills to other people. That's one of those things that's super important to me. It's not enough to learn, but at some point, you have to teach. Teaching helps you think of things differently, it helps you to verbalize exactly why some things work and others don't, it helps you learn what more you can learn. We all have things to teach and learn. 

It's the single candle thing, but in this case, that candle is culture and community. It's belonging. 

There was a mass casualty exercise in the building. We weren't really affected by it in the classroom, but you could hear the shouting. I'm glad for the exercise, for the fact that my family's care providers were making sure they were as prepared as possible, but it's a lot to think about it and I'm not quite done thinking about that yet. 

Once a month, Traditional Healing does a cleansing and blessing on their offices. We happened to be there while they were doing it. That was amazing and wonderful. I was wearing my reading glasses so I didn't recognize my healer until she was walking out but I did point her out to TG. Buz, who is a manager there, has a wonderful singing voice. There was prayer, songs, dancing and drumming. It was good. 

After leaving class, we stopped to say hello to a friend and people complimented my blueberry kuspuk and asked if I made it. I said "YES! Just finished it!"

And now for my FAVORITE photo of the day. 

This is Angel, our teacher, showing TG on a 50 year old kuspuk that belonged to my mother, how to make a pattern for one for her brother. This kuspuk has a full zipper, and plain sleeves instead of cuffs, with a separated pocket. When TG found it in her grandmother's things, it had a long rip down one sleeve. TG bought thread to match, and very carefully hand stitched it back together. It's very precious to her, and it brings me joy to see her wear her grandmother's kuspuk. That she learned from that one how to make one for her brother is such perfect balance. 



Saturday, March 23, 2019

Drum making with my family

Alaska Native Drum Making Workshop



One of the things my health care provider does is classes of all sorts. My daughter and I took several last year about cooking and foraging. Yesterday, William, The Amazing Turnip Girl and I took a drum making workshop.

The classes provide many things. A sense of community, information for life, a bit of philosophy, a sense of history that is not specific to any one People up here, but ties together things that the various groups and cultures have in common. A sense of respect.

This class was taught by David Harrison. Since I'm writing for all of my regular readers who are mostly not Alaskan and mostly non-Native, I'll do my best to introduce you to our instructor in just words. (I only took pictures of TATG and William)

While we were in the waiting room, waiting for him, I saw him come in. He stopped to talk to people he knew who were in the waiting room but not necessarily there for the class. He laughed easily. He was wearing a beaded vest and a long delantium shell necklace.  He moved quickly, but stopped often and took his time to notice people.

When the class started, he talked about how drums were something universal. That cultures around the world had made them. How it's the heartbeat of our People, all of them. How we move towards drumming because our hearts are already there. My children smiled. They've been watching me move towards the drums their entire lives. They've seen me move unerringly towards the sound even before we are close enough to really hear it. He said that when we made them, we had to be happy, at peace. Because the drum would keep that feeling, and when we were unsettled, it would give us that feeling when we drummed.

Once the making started, it went fairly quickly. The forms were pre-made, so it was about cutting and stretching the skin and lacing it into place.

The Amazing Turnip Girl's Hands

Mr. Harrison was incredibly patient, and made jokes, made it comfortable. He emphasized over and over that mistakes, as long as the skin was stretched the right way, could be worked around. Obviously practice, as in anything, makes you better. You learn how materials work together.
William's Hands

We made our drums. He told us to work the edges while they were drying, and all 3 of us have been doing just that. I watched TATG working the edges with one hand while she was reading her favorite Twitter feeds yesterday.

When the workshop was over, I asked them "Are you feeling happy?" and they were both quietly enthused, proud of what their hands had accomplished. 

Urban Natives, especially those who've grown up distanced from their culture, can feel misplaced. Not a part of the larger culture around them, not in touch with the history or culture of being Native, whichever Nation they belong to. Programs like this help. It may not be a drum made the same way as our own ancestors made them, but we know our ancestors used drums. We know they heard drums made in a similar fashion. And these, imperfect though they may be, are our first drums that we made with our own hands. 

I'm very grateful for these programs. Thank you Southcentral Foundation for providing them. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Get your button gear (coloring page)!

Button gear coloring page

Are you late for starting plants for spring?

Is your family standing outside by the car waiting for you to finish up a bit of coloring?

Is there anyone you know having those kinds of problems?

Well, here you go. A button gear just for you or for anyone else you think needs to get their button gear.


Click the images below for larger versions to print and color.


Button gear coloring page small jpg:

Button gear coloring page in jpg and transparent png versions #coloring #motivation
Button gear coloring page large transparent png:
Button gear coloring page in jpg and transparent png versions #coloring #motivation

Monday, March 4, 2019

2019 Shamrock Coloring Page

Shamrock coloring page- blank available in jpg and png format


Hi! I hope you enjoy this year's shamrock coloring page! Click on the tag for more shamrock coloring pages, crafts and printable. Click on the images below for larger versions to print and color.


Shamrock coloring page- small jpg version:
shamrock coloring page- available in jpg and transparent png formats.#shamrock #StPatricksDay #ColoringPage

Shamrock coloring page- large transparent png version:
shamrock coloring page- available in jpg and transparent png formats.#shamrock #StPatricksDay #ColoringPage

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Homesteader's Honey


My memories on FB popped up this photo. It's from the 1990s. The man in the photo is my brother and the boy is my son. The handwriting is my mom's and it says "Adam and Wm picking clover and fireweed for me to make honey" The side note says (*Enlarge?)

I may well do just that. It would be a gorgeous print.

She got her recipe from the local cooperative extension service. Here it is:

Homesteader's Honey

6 cups sugar
3 cups boiling water
30 white clover blossoms
18 red clover blossoms
18 fireweed blossoms
Sterilize canning jars and prepare lids. Boil together
sugar and water for 10 minutes; maintain steady
boil on low heat without stirring. Remove from
heat. Add blossoms and let steep for 15 minutes.

Strain mixture through cheesecloth and immediately
pour into hot canning jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece
lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water canner.
Note: Sugar syrup can be tricky. If it crystallizes before
canning, return it to the pan, add 2 tablespoons
water per cup of honey and heat.

My mom used to make so many jars of this as a present.

I hope you enjoy the memory. It made me smile to see it in my memories today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The tangle of telephone wire


The wires were free. It was in a box at a garage sale and the person asked "Are you sure you want that?"
It looked like it started in some sort of order, there was a nice fold, a nice twist, but half of it was tangled.
It became tangled worse. I had promised myself years ago that I'd straighten it all out but it was such a huge job. So instead as we needed bits of wire for projects, we found the colors we wanted, and pulled loose a long enough piece. Sometimes pulling from the middle and just cutting twice.
Straightening it all out is like doing a jigsaw puzzle in reverse- in 3D. Finding an end, and untangling just that piece. Sometimes it's short. A few inches. Those are the smaller coils wrapped around a finger or two.
Sometimes it's 5 yards or more. Carefully teasing the whole thing out, working it through the labyrinth turns.
Even when it was a tangle, I could make pretty things from it. But once it's all straight, and I'll be able to see what's there, I'll be able to work with a plan.
It just has to get all untangled and sorted. This bundle of wire life gave me.
Each piece I pull free loosens up the rest, makes it easier to see what's going on in that tangle.
When it's done,the things I make will be for me and my family, or they will be gifts. There is no way I can get what my time is worth in terms of money for this kind of labor.
But I will value the pieces that I make with it. The brightly colored bangles and other things made with something that started as only waste that someone asked "Are you sure you want that?" And if I give a piece to a friend, it will be a friend who will value my time and thought.
Life's lessons are where you find them. Today I'm finding them in the quiet unpuzzling of a tangle of wire.