Weaving New Traditions: How Sewing Labs Are Revitalizing Indigenous Culture

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KZ Fashion Show group © Courtesy of Soaring Circle

What happens when Indigenous youth are gifted a sewing skills lab? An entire community comes together!

Last fall, our national organization presented a workshop on appliqués in the community of Penticton Indian Band, B.C., creating quite a buzz. Community members of all ages gathered to learn, share, reconnect, and encourage youth to take up the textile arts, which are so deeply woven into the fabric of Indigenous culture. 

Since then, the number of young enthusiasts has kept growing, and many of their mentors have rekindled a fire to hone their skills and pass on traditional knowledge.

On 20 April, we were welcomed to Outma Sqilx w Cultural School to celebrate the talent and impressive creations that have come to life since that first workshop. Together, we officially celebrated the opening of our 19th sewing skills lab in their community. 

“This new lab means more opportunity for community growth and collaboration… The impact of the Soaring Circle program has been phenomenal,” says Cricket Testawich, event organizer for PIB Social Development. 

© Courtesy of Soaring Circle & PIB
© Courtesy of Soaring Circle & PIB

Our Sewcase program began in a single school in Labrador in 2019. Today, it has flourished into a complete mentorship program that connects students to Indigenous artists, designers, and major brands so they can more easily access careers in fashion, start their own brands, learn about entrepreneurship, and acquire employable life skills. We are fortunate to be so well supported in this mission by industry expert partners like Janome Canada, PVH (Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein), Evolugen, American Eagle Outfitters Foundation, and many others.

It’s amazing to watch young people start their own brands and discover a passion for all aspects of the work, from design to sewing, marketing, and selling—so many of them boldly take that leap, inspiring their peers. This is what Sewcase is all about!

In Penticton, home of our National Youth Ambassador, actress Summer Testawich, we are also reminded that a sewing lab brings even more than that… Sewing builds confidence, strengthens relationships, facilitates intergenerational learning, teaches patience and perseverance, and brings healing to the mind and soul through the slow, intentional rhythms of the creative process.  

Since 2012, our organization (formerly known as I Love First Peoples) has engaged hundreds of thousands of Canadians in active participation in our programming. The Sewcase is no different. 

Summer Testawich © Courtesy of Soaring Circle

Whether you would like to engage as an individual, community group, corporate partner, Indigenous artist, wholesaler, etc., there are many ways to help sustainably expand this program.

You can make a difference by “adopting” a lab anywhere in Canada, furthering this program’s mission by offering opportunities to even more students. You can also support Sewcase by upcycling end-of-roll fabrics and accessories or by pre-cutting unused fabrics to help teachers reduce prep time!

Online, we welcome support through the contribution of expertise or knowledge within our educational community platform—or share this article with your network! There is an opportunity for everyone to collaborate. 

For more information, please visit our website at SoaringCircle.ca, drop us a line, and follow the phenomenal work of our students on social media. 
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Soaring Circle empowers Indigenous children and youth to succeed through education and the motivation to stay in school. We bridge communities through practical projects that promote reconciliation and education. Through our celebrity platform, we also raise awareness about reconciliation across Canada and around the globe.

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