MFAM Week 9: Northwest Passages

MFAM header copy

Week nine is here! (Late again, but it’s here all the same.) I’ve been looking forward to this week’s project for over two months. I almost broke down and moved the date up a few times, but I’m glad I held out for now. This week we’re looking at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s collection of Native American art, which is fitting considering November is Native American Heritage Month.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I love that nearly all of these pieces have a function and a purpose, and they can either be worn or used in daily life. (I also mentioned that my camera was not a fan of the gallery’s dramatic lighting, so the photos are a bit grainy this week.)

It’s hard to pick a definite favorite in this group, but I’m pretty fond of the animal skin tobacco bag seen in one of the display cases above and up close and personal in the photo below. Call me crazy, but I think this little guy is cute and quirky. Others may think he’s nightmare fuel.

IMG_4279bRawr! I’m fierce.

I also really like the Ojibwa coat…

coat copy

… and the silver and turquoise jewelry…


… and the moccasins…

rock the mocsI’d rock these mocs!

… and these wool leggings.

athabascan leggings - c. 1875Man’s Leggings, Athapaskan, Northwest Territories, Canada, ca. 1875
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

leggingsLeggings detail.

So with all those beautiful pieces in mind, I got to work on a pair of uninspiring, long, baggy corduroy pants and fairly ugly wool vest.

beforeLookin’ good…?

The pants were pretty easy. First, I took them in in the legs like I did with my blue Egyptian pants and then I took them in about an inch in the crotch. Then I chopped about 5 inches off the legs and hemmed them to fit my much shorter self.

Taking in the pants.

The vest was much more involved. I picked it up for $1 a few months ago, and I’ve been itching to turn it into a pair of leggings ever since. Now that the weather has cooled off I finally have my chance!

Vest detail.

I started by taking the vest apart. I could have used my seam ripper, but scissors were easier.


After fiddling around with some drawing paper and a ruler for an hour or so, I finally figured out a pattern. (I don’t have and photos of that though. Sorry.) I cut out all the pieces for the leggings, and was left with almost no scraps. Then I sewed everything together.

sewn togetherPutting it all together.

Once I had the pieces together, it was time to finish the two raw edges around the bottom and the side. (The top and the other side were the finished edges of the vest, and didn’t need any other work.) To to that I used some navy bias tape. Then I sewed six sets of snaps along each side to close the leggings.

finishFinishing up.

After I was done, it was time to kick back and relax.

IMG_4846bTaking a load off.

I wore my leggings two ways on Sunday. First, I paired them with a refashioned coral skirt (Which I forgot to post this spring. Whoops. You can see the unflattering before photo here.) and the scarf I made out of a pair of hideous gaucho pants last year, and headed off to church. Later that day I traded in the skirt and scarf for the new corduroy pants.

afterMFAM Week 9: Native American Art

I also wore some of my favorite earrings. I picked them up at an estate sale earlier this year for about 50 cents. I liked the Mimbres jack rabbit design. Possibly a residual effect from my love of rabbits when I was a little girl. (And yes, I did wear these earrings on Easter.)

What’s up, Doc?

Only one more project left! What will I do with my life after that? Maybe some Christmas projects are in order. I should probably brush up on my crochet reindeer skills.

Don’t forget to tune in next week for the next MFAM installment, and remember, please don’t touch the art.

Image credits:
Man’s LeggingsThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art


  • The leggings idea is just what I need. My legs hurt so bad when they are cold. My DH commented the other day that I looked rather silly (with a fleece throw wrapped round me like a sarong over top all my other clothes) So, now to look for something to become leggings. Embroidered or not! If the Native Americans could do it, so can I.
    Love the way you are getting inspiration, makes me want to visit your museum!
    Sandy in the UK

    • Elizabeth says:

      These puppies are very cozy! Sweater sleeves also work, and then you don’t have to worry about snaps. Good luck with your new project!

      - Elizabeth
      aka The Hungry Octopus

  • JJ says:

    Hopped over from Refashion Coop to get a better look! Way to see the potential in that vest! The leg warmers turned out awesome!

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