Unconventional Ribbon-skirt makers
- Kerry Benjoe | September 07, 2023
Two Chief Paskwa Education Centre students funded their trip to South Korea by creating and selling ribbon skirts.
Although Dante Ketchemonia and RJ Keepness weren’t able to secure summer jobs on their First Nations, they were willing to do what they could to earn some money.
Their grandmother Mary-Ann Ketchemonia, a retired school teacher and a talented ribbon-skirt maker, said when her grandson’s told her they were selected to be part of the Aboriginal Youth Community delegation travelling to Seoul, Korea she knew the trip would be costly.
“I thought if I taught them to sew they could make some good money and I would be able to send them off without them breaking their mom and dad’s bank,” she said.
The boys joined AYC, which is a ministry, two years ago because their friends told them about it.
“It sounded cool so we just decided to go with them,” said Dante. “It was cool we went to Vancouver.”
They are even more excited they were selected to go to Korea for three weeks.
Mary-Ann said her grandsons are good at mechanics and fixing things, so she thought they could transfer those skills into sewing and she was right.
The goal was to raise $1,000 they could split evenly.
Together the trio set July 14th as a deadline to earn the money.
Every morning the boys would arrive at Mary-Ann’s house to receive instructions on how to measure, cut, and construct the garments. After a couple quick lessons, they found their groove.
Dante is good at math so took on the job of measuring and cutting the fabric for skirts.
RJ, the quieter of the two, has an artistic eye and a keen sense of detail. He took charge of choosing the ribbon colours and sewing the skirts together.
“I think he’s found his calling,” said Mary-Ann. “He’s one of the best sewers that I’ve ever had in of the classes I’ve taught. He’s very, very precise.”
Dante worked on the kitchen counter ironing, calculating, measuring, and carefully cutting out the carious skirt patterns. While RJ occupied an upstairs bedroom that doubled as a sewing room.
Although Mary-Ann was concerned the boys might receive some backlash because they are boys sewing skirts, she said the opposite happened.
Several seamstresses purchased a skirt from the boys to show their support.
Mary-Ann said the boys took full control of the process and like a well-oiled machine they were able to make enough skirt sales to meet their target by their deadline.
Dante and RJ said they appreciated everything their grandmother taught them, and they enjoyed spending time with her before their trip.
Both say they would continue making skirts if they were asked because creating the garments was fun.
Dante is in his final year of high school and is considering his career options. He would like to learn a trade, maybe become an electrician.
RJ has a couple of years to decide but loves working with his hands and is considering a career in aircraft maintenance.
As for their trip to South Korea they were both excited about being in a new country, trying new food and learning about a different culture.
Although Mary-Ann was initially worried about them traveling so far from home, she would rather they travel and experience the world while they are young.
“Ive been a teacher for 30 years, but it’s about these two guys,” she said. “It’s been really, really beautiful having them around.”