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Peigan Crafts Ltd. now 35 years old

BROCKETT, ALBERTA – Peigan Crafts Ltd. was incorporated in 1973, noted primarily for crafting moccasins, although also making mitts, mukluks and pillows. Competition, and the slow loss of seamstresses due to age, is now causing the company to start looking at diversifying its products.

Lisa Old Crow, Piikani, now manages Peigan Crafts. She said the company has been a part of the community for a long time. “My mother worked here and my husband’s mother also worked here at one time. Within our community we have ties to this place so that’s our history as well.” All those who work here are Piikani members.

At one time the daily production of moccasins was 250 pairs a day. That’s now been reduced to about 60 pairs a day. “We lost a lot of our seamstresses within the past couple of years,” she said. “They are getting older, their hands get sore and they’re not able to sit for long periods. If we want to be successful and stay open we need more skilled people.

“We are keeping the training program going; having the younger generations coming in to train, at least during our slow seasons, will help. I don’t want to send out moccasins that aren’t up to quality standards. We’re looking at it as a business that has quality work. We have very good quality moccasins. Our moccasins last a lot longer than other moccasins, that’s what I get told quite a bit from customers.”

The moccasins aren’t done in the historic way of using brain-tanned buckskin, but have been done in the current style since the company opened, so it’s now part of the tradition of this community. Cow leather is used and each moccasin is cut and sewn on sewing machines within the building. The vamps, the part over the top of the foot, are sent out to local beaders in the community, who bead directly on the vamps, and return them to Peigan Crafts to be sewn to the rest of the moccasin. The beadwork uses authentic designs and traditional colors.

Peigan Crafts wholesales to stores throughout British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the United States, plus a customer in Norway and a couple in the U.K. About 40 percent of Peigan’s customers are in Alberta. Those numbers will likely change, as they’re hoping to expand the market area. There is a small retail store in the front of the factory and the company is looking to purchase a retail outlet.

The diversification will include embroidered material. A new embroidery machine has been purchased which will allow Peigan to embroider logos on caps, shirts, jackets and sweaters.

Another new line in the implementation stage would be doing star blankets, but in Blackfoot style and using traditional colors and significant symbols.

Pillows were discontinued, but will likely be produced again in a slightly different way. They were attractive, with beadwork sewn to the front panels of each pillow, but sales were never high. Customers may have been concerned that lying back against the beadwork would cause the beads to break away. The current idea is to replace the beading with embroidery, but retain the traditional designs.

There was a garment business in the building at one time, but since its departure, half the building has been vacant. This will provide the room for diversifying into the embroidery business.

Peigan Crafts Ltd. can be contacted at P.O. Box 100, Brockett, Alberta TOK OHO or by e-mail at peigancrafts@telus.net.