Delta Braid (truly called Delta Trim, but I'm using the terms interchangeably as they've shifted a bit over the years) is the trim that is used to decorate parka's in my region - the Western Arctic. It's a skill that has been passed on through the generations in our area, but like most traditional skills, it is starting to disappear. Delta Braid is a form of applique. Likely, its origins lie with the Inupiat of Alaska and Coppermine of Nunavut. In the early days, various types of fur and skin were used to add decorative and distinctive elements to clothing. When the fur and whaling traders reached the arctic, they introduced european fabric and trims.
Nowadays the trim is almost exclusively made by the Inuvialuit and Athapaskan's of the Beaufort Delta (Mackenzie River) region (and as well as some Inuit and Inupiaq communities). I love the whole idea of delta trim because it so clearly affirms the inherent artistic nature of humans - that we'll decorate just about and with anything. You can find some very nice histories in a variety of books by cultural anthropology expert Jill Oakes (aka Jillian e. Oakes) as well as in the more recent book Arctic Clothing produced by McGill-Queen's University Press.
Delta Braid/Trim is made up of geometric patterns from layers of multi-coloured bias tape and seam bindings. In the early days it was mostly done in primary colours - but as the bias trim industry expanded, so did the colour selection. There is a whole debate going on about when the changes between a purely linear look (Inupiat) shifted to the more complex geometric (Western arctic), but I'll digress. In days gone by, it was used mostly on dresses and parkas. These days you'll see it on Parka covers, gun cases and the odd pair of Mukluks. It takes ages (and SKILL) to make the truly beautiful stuff. That skill is so undervalued that it makes my head spin. My examples suck - so in the meantime you'll have to look at the following links:
- Olive Itsi's Delta Braid Square from the Quilt of Belonging Project
- Lillian Wright's Gallery at the Great Northern Arts Festival - Artist to Market Program
- History of vintage bias tape at Fabrics.net
- A beaded cap using Delta Trim as the pattern for beading - from Artefacts Canada
- From NWT Photos - a view of some delta braid on a parka
- Alaska Digital Archives - Close Up of Trim (not Delta Trim - but an example of linear and using fur/skin and beads)
It is hard to find information on this subject, but I did want to include some instructions - just in case anyone wants to try it. I just may have to force myself to explore this area as part of Sharon B's Take it Further challenge which started today (well yesterday in Australia)?
Tutorial On Delta Braid/Delta Trim
Materials Needed: Sewing Machine, Polyester/Cotton Thread, Bias Tape (varying colours), Rick-Rack (optional), Graph Paper, Pencil Crayons. Also Optional: Egg Carton for sorting colours
Before starting to create delta trim – draw a pattern out on graph paper. This will allow you to count the pieces required and determine the length of each piece. Measure the length of your material where the delta trim will be applied. You’ll want to cut your base piece of bias tape 1 inch longer then your material measurement. You'll also want to cut individual pieces of bias tape - approximately 1/2 to 1 inch long - in colours that match the design on your graph paper. This is where the egg carton comes in handy - because you can sort the sizes and colours of your bias tape. In my opinion, this is the finicky part.
Your first row will be the bottom row (a long plain strip of bias tape or trim a couple inches longer than the width of where it will be attached). You will attach your coloured trim pieces to this row. In the image below, we're pretending to attach a small piece of red trim to the longer white bias row.You can see in the second diagram below, that we're adding a second piece of trim a short distance away from the first. This is where your graph paper pattern will help keep you on track.
Once you have finished your first row (attaching the smaller pieces of trim) you will layer a piece of trim over top and then fold down the small pieces. Wash, Rinse, Repeat!
Other sources of information can be found at:
Threads of the Land - at the Canadian Museum of Civilization talks about the clothing styles of the inuit and athapaskans and you can see some examples of Delta trim in the photos of the modern parkas.
McCord Museum has a nice thematic exhibition on the Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing. While not much on Delta Braid/Trim - some of the work is beautiful.
This was a rough, off the cuff tutorial, but I hope it provided a little bit of illumination. I'll try and get a photograph of some Delta Trim in the next few days (people do tend to look at you funny when you take photos of their calves though).