Brrr, it’s chilly out there this morning so I thought it was apropos to bring you Christine’s fur memories and musings. We’ve definitely moved out of late summer weather and into fall. And, we’re fast approaching the cusp of winter at least here in Ottawa.
So, that means it’s almost time for my bamboo toques and mitts. They’re currently in production at The Bobbins Production Studio and scheduled to arrive the first week of November. Perfect timing. Like getting your winter tires installed. You may not need them right away but you know the cold and snowy weather is on its way.
As you know, the removable fur pompoms that go with the bamboo toques are recycled from pre-loved fur coats and pieces donated by women in the COKANNA Coffee Shop Community. Christine is one of these women. She’s written this lovely piece on how fur was part of her everyday life growing up. Enjoy!
Christine’s fur memories
“My first memory of fur was a fox fur stole rather like this one.
It was in a dress-up chest my Grandmother and Great Aunt had for me and my sister. I was about 5 years old and my sister was nearly 4. We spent hours playing dress-up so it was a smart way to keep us busy.
Fur back then
That was in 1963 and both my Grandmother and Great Aunt had fur coats. I believe they were mink. They lived in Winnipeg where the winters can be brutal.
My mother had a short grey Persian lamb coat and a short muskrat coat. My father had a muskrat hat with ear flaps. The use of fur was normal back then. Somewhat later fur hats that did up under the chin were popular with girls and they looked something like this:
I think I had a rabbit fur hat with satin lining when I was about 8.
Other fur objects
At the same time, I was into Highland dancing from the age of 6 to 12. Part of my dance outfit was a grouse claw kilt pin.
I was also familiar with a Sporran which is part of the traditional Highland dress from my Highland dance competitions. In addition, my uncle was a bagpipe player in The Black Watch.
When I was 9, I had to start a collection of some sort for my Grade 5 class. I had collected rocks for awhile, been invited to view stamp collections of older neighbours, and had a few silver dollars as birthday gifts. Instead, I decided to write to local furriers in Ottawa to ask for their scraps. They all generously sent me samples and I put them in a shoe box. I remember my favourite was the marten fur which was 2-toned.
In my late teens, my mother gave me her Persian lamb coat to wear. From the age of 14, I was a thrifter. I picked up a fur coat which I think was made out of goat and wore that for a couple of years.
To this day, I’ll still pick up a fur item like a hat at a thrift store and have been given lots of fur bits from friends and family. Some of these were contributed to Colleen in her call-out for fur pieces for her bamboo toque pom-poms.
Needless to say, I didn’t grow up thinking anything was wrong with fur. There was a disconnect between the animal and the fur. The same disconnect occurs in the meat department of the grocery store. Nowadays, few people have to feed themselves by hunting.
Wearing fur now is often seen as unethical. However, during the pandemic I started following two groups on Facebook that feature work by First Nations. The first group called Breathe collected masks relevant to the covid pandemic from across Canada and the US and has had two museum shows. It was started by Métis Artist, Lisa Shepherd.
The second group is called Arctic Sewing Room and features the sewing work of those in the Arctic making parkas and mukluks. Some of these creators use fur that they or their family harvests. I would hate to see these skills lost and there is an effort to teach the younger generation how to make these beautiful and functional garments.”
Thank you, Christine
Thank you, Christine, for sharing your fond fur memories and for sharing these Indigenous artists with us.
We have a few of the same childhood memories. I remember having a white rabbit fur hat that did up under the chin. I believe we called them bunny hats. My mother also had 2 Persian lamb coats, one full length grey one and a short black one. They have since been made into bears for me and my sisters and nieces.
Your much-appreciated fur contribution has been made into these lovely soft pompoms, ready and waiting for their matching toques.
Until next time,