There is no better squirrels than the Kuskokwim Mountain squirrels- at least so far by my experience. These are thick and huge! I can’t wait to sew them together!
Any day after my regular 8 hour day – I start by soaking Arctic Ground squirrels, 6 at a time- cut off the hind feet with a scissor then rub the soap on the skin side until soft. Inside out the fur side and squeeze out liquid, dry with a towel and hang to dry.
After the fur side is dry, I stretch them with my hands and fingers and slide them carefully to a board for drying the leather part. I use baby powder to help with the drying and also to get rid of the stickiness of the leather. A few times, I accidentally pulled the heads off. I try not to ruin any part of the fur, even the head part that can be used for a hood project some day. The top heads are used for hood in other Inupiaq and Yu’pik traditional parkas – I am still trying to distinguish the styles.
Drying squirrels take time. Wait for the leather side to dry. If they are too drying they will be hard to remove from the board and might tear if you are not careful. Since I have been softening them, I have developed smooth hands but tired fingers. Stretching the leather and your tired and sore hands are important. For the last few weeks – this part has been my therapy and focus. By the end of this process I should have a number of how many there are and how many parkas these individual squirrels will make.
Remember to protect your families, stay home!