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Pearl Creek Elementary School's kuspuk club celebrates its colorful creations

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Posted: Monday, April 9, 2012 11:06 pm | Updated: 1:51 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Brightly hued and beautifully patterned, the fabric of Pearl Creek Elementary School’s after-school kuspuk club’s creations lit up the room Wednesday.

It was the club’s end-of-the-year potluck, where the group of seven students and four teachers were able to show off what they worked so hard on all year long — their kuspuks (“qaspeq” in Yupik).

The group has met once a week since October, totaling about 20 meetings, where they painstakingly sewed together the garments. Some of the sixth-grade students had never used a sewing machine before. Others had tried sewing a few times.

Ruby Leff, 12, completed her project first of the group. The robin’s egg-colored, jacket-style kuspuk was lined with lime green trim.

“It reminds me of ‘Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh,” she said.

Leff was one of the students who had sewn before starting on her kuspuk.

“I love sewing, I sew all the time and knit, too,” she said.

She decided to leave a skirt off her kuspuk, making it quicker to sew, because she didn’t want it to get in the way of riding her bike or skiing.

The club’s teachers, including Mary Maisch, Jackie Martin, Kristi McEwen and Debbie Baggen, picked up different fabrics for the students to choose from.

Sarah Vremen, 12, chose a dark-colored and orca-patterned fabric.

“I really like the patterns, and it looks natural,” she said. “It looks so much like it’s on a totem pole.”

Other kuspuk club members included Isabel Nicolier, Amanda Bedford, Rebecca Manley, Malaki Bell and Linnea Schultz.

At the potluck, the students and their families were treated to a slideshow put together by Malcolm McEwen, who photographed just about every club meeting. It showed the students creating their sewing tool kits, attaching their hoods to the main bodies of the kuspuks and trying out their near-final products.

The patterns for the garments came from Kristi McEwen, who Maisch said became a lynch pin of teaching the group. McEwen, who is Yupik, taught the students her pattern for the kuspuks and all seven were completed.

Marty Hintz (known as “Yaya” by Pearl Creek students) has taught students at the school a Yupik lullaby since they were in kindergarten. She's the grandmother of Bell.

At the potluck, the students performed the song and a dance for the crowd, while wearing their brand new creations.

“That was nice!” Hintz said after one performance. “Nice way to break in your kuspuk.”

Contact staff writer Reba Lean at 459-7523.

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