OK, this post is waaayy overdue! I wanted to do it as a video, but it appears my skills as a videographer and editor currently leave much to be desired, so I have to resort to stories and pictures again.
The Amazing Canadian series of my Explore My Nation blog is to continue the spirit of my cross-country trip by meeting new people who are doing cool things and telling their story on my blog. My first interview was with Kirsten Atkins, (pronounced keer-sten), whom I met at the Nightmare Before Xmas market in New Westminster, BC.
Kirsten is a dressmaker, designer and costumer who owns and operates KLA originals. She began sewing when she was 6 years old and began her first professional business in 1988, doing alterations, mending and custom sewing projects. Her grandfather was a Master Tailor, and she attests that that is likely where she got her talent (as well as the most gigantic pair of shears I have ever seen!). Kirsten takes her grandfather’s talent one step further, though. In the words of her grandmother “He never had your imagination!”
For many years, Kirsten lived in Dawson City where she first established KLA Originals as a retail store. Not surprisingly, her main business was the design and creation of authentic turn-of-the-century costumes. With Dawson City being a National Historic Site, many businesses required their staff to be in period costume. Among others at the time, the gorgeous costumes of Diamond Tooth Gerties’ girls were benefactors of Kirsten’s considerable talent.
In more recent years, as an adult with 2 “tween-to-teen” daughters, she received a bag of clothing from a friend. In it were sweaters that the girls didn’t want and didn't fit Kirsten. This was the birth of her idea to upcycle sweaters into unique designs. The design of that first sweater drew so many comments and frequent “borrowing” by her daughters, that Kirsten decided to pursue the idea in earnest. Inspired by designers that she found online, she began to produce full-length and mid-length carousel coats, cardigans, boleros, fairy dresses, elf coats and hoodies. She uses sweaters that don’t sell at thrift stores because they “have holes in them, stains on them, or are just too ugly to sell”. She purchases them at discounted prices from thrift stores and a small number are occasionally donated. She sanitizes them, sorts them by colour and type, then cuts them into her required pattern shapes and repurposes them into beautiful and unique creations. Mostly, they are adult-sized garments, but once a year around Christmas she will produce kid size carousel coats and hoodies. In spite of the smaller sizes, the kids ones take way longer to make.
Kirsten uses every bit of sweater that can possibly be incorporated – reusing buttons and zippers, turning broken zippers into design elements and cutting out feature pieces for accents. It can take up to 8 sweaters to create one full-length carousel coat! Other bits and pieces are turned into hats and mitts. The hours of work put into these beautiful garments clearly indicate it is a labour of love as much as a business.
Kirsten’s designs can be viewed online at www.klaoriginals.com, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/klaoriginals/. She says Facebook will have a much broader variety of pictures than the website and she updates it more frequently. Product can be purchased from her website using VISA, Mastercard or Paypal. Keep in mind that stock may be low leading up to Christmas, (I'm speculating), but please check out her amazing designs, modelled by her beautiful daughters, and place your order for a truly unique, Canadian creation!
Thanks, Kirsten, for being on Amazing Canadians!