Traditionally the Inuit used sinew from caribou and bone needles to sew together the parts of their kamik patterns. They acquired steel needles a few hundred years ago from trading posts. Today many women use waxed thread and dental floss, although these do not possess the desirable characteristics of natural sinew.

They make seams with a tunnel stitch to avoid puncturing holes to the outside of the boot. In addition, sinew swells when wet, making the boot waterproof.

"For caribou, seal, and other skins with the hair left on, I use overcast stitches. For shaved seal skin, I use a different stitch so water can’t leak through the holes made by the needle. The needle never goes all the way through both layers of skin."
Annie Okalik, Pangnirtung, 1985

The bird bone needle, seal skin thimble, steel needles, bearded seal sinew, and loon skin bag for holding sinew are traditional sewing tools.

"Ivalu [sewing thread] is made from sinew from caribou, narwhal, and other animals, including birds."
Elisapee Alooloo, Arctic Bay, 1984

"The oils in the feathers help keep the sinew moist and ready for Read More
Traditionally the Inuit used sinew from caribou and bone needles to sew together the parts of their kamik patterns. They acquired steel needles a few hundred years ago from trading posts. Today many women use waxed thread and dental floss, although these do not possess the desirable characteristics of natural sinew.

They make seams with a tunnel stitch to avoid puncturing holes to the outside of the boot. In addition, sinew swells when wet, making the boot waterproof.

"For caribou, seal, and other skins with the hair left on, I use overcast stitches. For shaved seal skin, I use a different stitch so water can’t leak through the holes made by the needle. The needle never goes all the way through both layers of skin."
Annie Okalik, Pangnirtung, 1985

The bird bone needle, seal skin thimble, steel needles, bearded seal sinew, and loon skin bag for holding sinew are traditional sewing tools.

"Ivalu [sewing thread] is made from sinew from caribou, narwhal, and other animals, including birds."
Elisapee Alooloo, Arctic Bay, 1984

"The oils in the feathers help keep the sinew moist and ready for use. That is why we make these bags inside out."
Silatik Meeko, Sanikiluaq, 1989

© The Bata Shoe Museum, 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Tunnel Stitch

Tunnel Stitch

Frank Kazmerowich

© Frank Kazmerowich


Needle, thimble and sinew

The bird bone needle, seal skin thimble, and bearded seal sinew are traditional sewing tools.

The Bata Shoe Museum
1980 - 1988
Needle: Bird bone, Thimble: Seal Skin, Sinew: Bearded Seal
S80.1582, P89.66, BSM Collection
© The Bata Shoe Museum, 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Elisapee Alooloo

Elisapee Alooloo

Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe.

© Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe.


Loon skin bag with sinew

Loon skin bag with sinew

The Bata Shoe Museum

Loon skin and bearded seal sinew
P83.276
© The Bata Shoe Museum, 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Steel needles

Steel needles

The Bata Shoe Museum

© The Bata Shoe Museum, 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will :
  • Explain how the environment influenced population (Aboriginal, French and Engilsh) in their culture, lifestyle and economy;
  • Identify the effects that resulted from interaction between Aboriginal peoples and colonizers;
  • Summarize the evolution of the shoes in Canada and involve significant changes to Canada’s development;
  • Analyze the development of Canada through the evolution of shoes.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans