Fibre Arts

Practically, Inuit fibre arts began with women sewing the clothing necessary to survive and children making dolls to learn how to sew. Commercially, however, its roots are initatives from the 1960s, such as a Pangnirtung weaving project and, even before that, garments and tapestries from Baker Lake.

The Baker Lake initiative grew in part out of a near tragedy in the 1950s. When caribou migration patterns changed, the inland Inuit of the Keewatin (Kivalliq) faced the disappearance of their key food source and the source of most of their fabric. Baker Lake women turned to southern fabrics and advice provided by female teachers and other qallunaat (non-Inuit) living there. The combination of traditional Inuit skills, European techniques, and new textiles in brilliant colours gave rise to beautiful wall-hangings. The marriage of the traditional and the modern created a vibrancy and uniqueness that today is the hallmark of the wide variety of fibre arts in Nunavut.

Baker Lake remains best known for its embroidered wall-hangings, the Pangnirtung Uqqurmiut Co-op releases several new tapestry designs each year, and Taloyoak is renowned for its packing dolls, arctic animals carrying their young in wool duffel parkas. Duffel (heavy wool) and inlay and appliqué clothing are also produced in many Nunavut communities.