Winifred Nungak always tells her parka-making students that it’s better to learn to make one yourself instead of waiting for someone
make it for you. “One day they will be mothers or wives and they will be able to make clothing for their family,” she said.
Nungak is a talented seamstress, but she’s also a successful businesswoman. Born in Kangirsuk, she moved to Montreal to study fashion design, and eventually launched her own label, Winifred Designs. She was invited to Kuujjuaq by Community Liaison Wellness Worker Attasie Saunders to hold a parka-making workshop this past April for youth between the ages of 16-25.
Saunders asked Nungak to come because she felt it was important for youth to learn how to make their own parkas.
“I only started learning late,” Saunders said. “It was hard to find people to teach me, so I taught myself, and just watched how the material was sewed. But I wanted Winifred to come so our youth can know our tradition of sewing our traditional clothing.” Eventually, when they have kids, she said, they can sew for their own families.
Nungak had a great time hosting the workshop and said the students were a joy to teach, even though COVID restrictions limited the participants to 10. “My workshop was more quiet than before,” she said, “because in the past I used to have 15-20 students.”
The event was funded by the Wellness Program under the Ungava Tulattavik Health Center. The lining (iluppiak) and the commander (silapaak) were provided, while participants had to buy the bias, zipper, and anything else they wanted for their parka. Some brought their own sewing machines to use, and some were provided by the sewing centre in Kuujjuaq.
Nungak started teaching in March 2014, when Mary Arngak from Kangiqsujuaq invited her to instruct a parka-making workshop during a Youth Empowerment Conference. Since then, many other communities have been inviting her as well.
“I started sewing parkas at the age of 16 and I know the feeling of wanting to learn at that age, especially how to make a parka,” she said.
Saunders said that the youth really enjoyed the workshop. “It was fun to be around them. They were determined to learn.” There were older people in the community who were also interested in learning, Saunders said, so perhaps other organizations will be able to pitch in and bring Nungak back to teach again.