The woven story of an amauti tie

Pangnirtung’s Eena Angmarliak shares the process of weaving a custom amauti tie at the Uqqurmiut tapestry shop

Pangnirtung’s Eena Angmarliak has worked at the local arts and crafts centre since 2010. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

PANGNIRTUNG — Locals and tourists alike have walked through the doors of Pangnirtung’s Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts for decades to order custom scarves, hats and tapestries, and to buy souvenirs.

Despite an unusually tourist-free year brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, local artisan Eena Angmarliak, who has worked at the centre for over a decade, is busy as ever.

Uqqurmiut, which means “the people of the leeside,” has been operating in Pangnirtung since 1991.

When Angmarliak isn’t weaving, crocheting or making prints at Uqqurmiut, she’s crafting things for her nieces and nephews or taking on other custom projects, like sealskin purses.

She says creating things is good for the body and mind.

“When you like making things, it’s always fun … People who don’t make things are missing something from their lives,” Angmarliak said with a laugh.

A custom order for two amauti ties. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

On Monday morning, while crocheting a baby bonnet, a customer handed a slip of paper to Angmarliak.

The new custom order was for a two-piece amauti tie with fringe — a sash and front strap. This client’s three colours of choice were white, black and dark jade.

Finishing up her coffee break, Angmarliak headed up the spiral stairs in the circular workshop to get started on the project.

She quickly found the three colours of wool among dozens of spools lining the walls and placed them on a wall, threading the strings through hooks to be fed onto the warp.

White, black and dark jade wool is chosen for the project. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

Angmarliak spun a large frame while winding the wool around it, laying out the colours according to a pattern and counting the strands.

Next, she tied sections together, and quickly laced the strands together in a crochet-like pattern so they wouldn’t get tangled on the way to the loom — which has been in use since the 1970s.

Eena Angmarliak quickly crochets the arranged strands of wool to keep them from tangling. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

Once there, Angmarliak and another artist wound the strands tightly into the loom and she soon got to work meticulously threading each of the 48 strands through two needles, then through the comb of the loom.

Her fingers only get sore after tying each strand of thread on the other side of the comb, she said.

Each strand of wool passes through two needles, then the comb of the loom and is tied on the other end. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

The next morning, Angmarliak started the weaving process.

First, she rolled more white wool onto a spool to pass through the threads laid out in the loom. Each time, she used the comb to pull the white strand back tightly, eventually forming a pattern, a process that took several hours.

By early afternoon the two amauti ties were woven with a V-shaped pattern and Angmarliak twisted the fringe on the ends.

A label is hand-sewn onto finished projects, ready for sale or to be picked up, in the case of this custom order. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

Then it was time to sew the shop’s signature label onto the pieces by hand and tie the pieces together with a bow.

Angmarliak laughed after reading “dry clean only” on the label out loud, noting there isn’t a dry cleaner in Pangnirtung.

With another custom order in the books, she returned to making scarves to fill the shelves of the souvenir shop at the front of Uqqurmiut.

Eena Angmarliak completed two amauti ties in about two afternoons. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Becky on

    The woven sash is called a Qatsungauti. It’d be great to include Inuktitut names and terms in your articles. We need to use every opportunity protect and preserve our language, especially when talking specifically about technical and material aspects of Inuit culture

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    • Posted by Nancy Webster on

      Is there a website for the shop?

    • Posted by Heather Burke on

      Amazing work.

      Please include the proper Inuktitut names so that we can all learn and respect the Inuit culture.

    • Posted by Standards Are Needed on

      Is there agreement on the names? There seems to be such diversity of opinion on what to call items. Sort of highlights the need for a standardization of Inuktitut, but then that raises the question of whose dialect to use.

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  2. Posted by David Denny on

    Lovely!
    They do weaving and dyeing here, too.
    I was intrigued by the word “Amauti”
    I doubt there may be a connection, but the Native word here in Quechua (Runasimi) for a Wise Man, Community Leader, Medicine Man, is “Amauta”.

    I love First Nations America. My sincere heartfelt wishes.

  3. Posted by Karen LeBlanc on

    Love this article! I am a weaver and fibre artist living in Fredericton NB Canada.

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