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Rev K.E.A. Exham’s Chasuble

Splendid vestments can be created even in remote locales. A fine example is this chasuble of caribou hide and beads made in Old Crow.

RCMP Corporal Jack Strain and his wife Anne came to Old Crow in 1965. Jack asked to be confirmed in the Anglican Church, and Anne asked what gift she might give in thanksgiving.

In the Fall of 1966, after much discussion and studying pictures in church catalogues, the native women of Old Crow felt they could make a chasuble using materials and techniques from their sewing tradition.

The women tanned the hides of two caribou. These were cut according to an illustration of a chasuble in the Anglican Book Centre Catalogue. Two hides were required so that the vestment would fit Rev. Exham, who was six feet five inches tall.

The women of Old Crow traditionally decorate with beads. When a large area of hide is to be decorated, the beads are first sewn onto pieces of felt which are then attached to the hide. The ladies wanted to decorate both the front and back of the chasuble with four-inch wide bands of tiny red beads.

The bands would extend from the neckline to the hem, and from each shoulder to the centre at chest level. A cross, with radiating beams of gold-coloured beads was envisioned where the bands converged on the back.

The women of Old Crow gathered in the Rectory to assemble the garment. While some worked on the floor lining the hides, other older women and young girls, working in pairs, strung red beads on double strands of thread which were long enough to reach from neckline to hem. These strings of beads were positioned on pieces of white felt, which had been cut to the desired shape, and  laid out on the dining table. The strands were sewn to the felt with a tiny stitch between every two beads. The late Sarah Abel produced the cross and beams for the back. The Rev. Dr. Ellen Bruce, Martha Kendi, Myra Moses and many other women worked all day for two weeks to complete the chasuble.

The chasuble was dedicated by Bishop Henry Marsh and worn at the Christmas service in Old Crow, December 25, 1966.


story from Beth-Anne Exham

Rev. Kenah Exham wearing the chasuble. 

Exham Coll. 

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