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Bellinger takes time to heal and do a little sewing

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Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 1:32 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

DELTA, Alaska - For the first time in my life, I’m laid up while I heal from a foot surgery. This means crutches for four weeks and my usually hectic schedule is limited to my living room.

Truth be told, I’m loving it and hating it all at once. I’m a busy body, so this is a change for sure. But at the same time, I’m relishing the break. I’m going to use this time to catch up on some film and writing projects, but also to try to make myself a parka.

I’m not a pattern type of girl, so I’m not sure how I’ll fare following directions. My past sewing projects have been limited to straight lines and made-up guess-timations. I can claim victory with two fur hats I made my husband and father. I made my own pattern, and they came out better than expected. But I suspect it’s easier to have success with a hat than a parka, and since I’ve never sewed a garment, this might be interesting.

I’ve gathered all the materials I need except for the fur ruff and trim, and hope to start piecing it together in the next week. I took a quick look at the pattern the other day and was admittedly daunted and a little puzzled by a few things. What’s a dart? It’s mentioned a few times in the pattern. The zipper should be a challenge too. So many new things for me. But hey, I’ve got the time and I really want to make this thing, so I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

It’s humbling to see the craftsmanship of parkas and mukluks and mittens that are handmade works of art. Any trip around Fairbanks in the winter will undoubtedly turn up folks wearing such finery. And it’s warm to boot. I’ve always wanted a pair of those beautiful, handmade, beaded fur slippers.

Dave and Patty Davenport sent me a couple photos of mittens and mukluks they have made, and the age of these items confirms that they are not only practical, they are worth the time to make.

“The mittens were made about 40 years ago and the mukluks about 30 (years ago). They are still as warm now as they were back then. The other photo is of a pair of mukluks in the making and a pair of completed slippers. Get inspired.”

I’d like to see a pair of commercially made boots last for 30 years. Not a chance! The mukluks are the next thing I’ll try to make.

Since the holidays are coming up, I’d like to hear about your favorite recipes that involve wild or naturally harvested food or wild game. What will you be serving for Christmas this year? In 1999, my husband and I spent the winter at a remote homestead at the very tip of the Alaska Peninsula. We were separated from the first Aleutian Island (Unimak) by three miles of Bermuda Triangle-like water of the North Pacific and the Bering Sea, also known as False Pass.

That year someone in the village gave us a fresh king crab. That was the best meal we had ever had, and that one crab lasted us two days. It was huge. That was one memorable Christmas dinner, followed by a nearly 24-hour stretch of Yahtzee to see who would have to do the dishes. Hey, we were in the Aleutians. What else were we supposed to do?

Brookelyn Bellinger is an independent filmmaker and author of the book “The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin’.” Send your questions to

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