Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/240

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Of course, in such a climate, the hands need to be well protected, and 'they have first-rate gloves and mittens. The gloves are always made of dressed deer-skin, with the hair-side in, and usually have a fringe of wolverine fur round the wrists. They are specially meant for dress occasions, and are often tastefully ornamented. The common, every-day mittens are made of thick deer-skin, and are always worn with the hair next the hand. Both men and women, particularly the women, when they have no work to do that requires both hands, have a great habit of wearing only one mitten, and drawing the other hand back through the sleeve inside the jacket for warmth.

In very cold weather, particularly when hunting or traveling, they wear very thick mittens made of the shaggy hide of the polar bear. These keep the hands very warm, and one of these mittens held upon the windward side of the face makes a capital screen against the sharp wind. The long, harsh hair, too, makes a firstrate brush for dusting off frost and snow from the clothes, and for brushing up the floor. When hunting with the rifle in winter, the hunter wears a pair of thin deer-skin gloves under his mittens. Then, when he is ready for a shot, he slips off his clumsy mittens, and can handle his gun without burning his fingers on the cold iron.

Of course, all these clothes are made by the women, who cut them out by their eye very skillfully, using their favorite tool, a broad knife shaped like a chopping-knife, which they use for cutting everything, from their food to a thread. This is better than scissors for cutting furs, because in cutting from the skin-side you cut the skin without cutting the hair.

For sewing skins they make their own thread by stripping fibers from a piece of dried sinew, but use nowadays steel needles and common brass thimbles. They do not sew as a white woman does, but wear the thimble on the forefinger and thrust the needle through from left to right. In old times their needles were made from the small bones of the reindeer's legs, and they used thimbles made of a bit of sealskin, in the shape of a ring with a pad on one side to press against the needle.

The great time for making new clothes is in October and November, which are named in the Eskimo calendar "the time for sewing" and the "second time for sewing" All summer long they have been living in tents and knocking round outdoors, and their clothes have grown pretty shabby and dirty. Now they have come back for the winter, and the time has come to make new clothes. But deer-skin clothes must not be made in the village while the hunters are out after seals, for that would bring bad luck; so the women take their work out into little tents pitched some distance from the houses.