Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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And then they’d twist it [porpoise sinew]. They’d take maybe that long [about two feet] to start with, but they could make the thread much longer. They’d take it and they’d twist it together…Then they rolled it up real tight.

—Bobby Stamp, 1988, from the Alutiiq Museum oral history archive

To make thread for sewing, women cleaned and dried the back sinews of porpoises, whales, or caribou, then split them into individual fibers with a fingernail or comb. They moistened the strands and rolled them together between the hands, twisting in new pieces until they had thread of the right thickness and length. This wooden bobbin was used to wind up and store the sinew thread, as well as other materials such as embroidery yarn.

Culture: Sugpiaq (Alutiiq)
Region: Alaska Peninsula
Village: Ugashik
Object Category: Tools
Dimensions: Length 8cm
Accession Date: 1894
Source: William J. Fisher (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E168633