Only-in-YEG shopping list: Meet the mountaineer's seamstress

With deft hand, Betty Squires slides a large swath of fabric across the teeth of her sewing machine, the well-used contraption chug, chug chugging under the strain.

'Our gear has been to just about every peak that's been climbed'

(CBC Edmonton )

Finding the perfect gift can be a struggle.

The malls are packed with pushy shoppers, and trying to navigate online shopping sites can leave anyone feeling frazzled.

In attempt to ease the holiday strain, Radio Active , CBC Edmonton's afternoon show, is bringing you an offering of only-in-Edmonton gifts that are sure to keep you off the naughty list.

The YEG shopping list features the stories behind creations you'll only find here.

With deft hand, Betty Squires slides a large swath of fabric under the needle of her sewing machine which is chug, chug chugging under the strain.

A seamstress by trade, Squires is the owner of Kluane Mountaineering in Old Strathcona.

Inside her workshop, she creates down-filled sleeping bags, parkas and booties designed to withstand the harshest of conditions.

Her handiwork has travelled far, keeping mountaineers warm on some of the tallest peaks in the world.

"Our gear has been to just about every peak that's been climbed," said Squires. 

"I have a client that will be going to Antarctica and he was up on Everest. I've had clients go the North Pole, Kilimanjaro, and just about every peak in Canada and North America." 

The store, tucked away inside a basement storefront on Whyte Avenue, was established in 1971 by a group of  "outdoor enthusiasts who were fed up with the poor quality of outdoor equipment and clothing on the market." 

Squires started working there in the mid-eighties as a seamstress and later bought the business. 

Her gear is coveted, not only for its durability, but its affordability.

In her store, down parkas start at $300. Down vests are $175. When those same products are sold at major department stores like Barney's, they've marked up the asking price to double those amounts. 

Although Squires has no qualms about seeing her creations on the brightly-lit racks of far-away shopping malls, she much prefers her traditional way of doing business.

"I do realize that some of my gear has been in some of the better known, high-end stores in the world."

"I guess it's a compliment but I enjoy meeting my customers. I know there is some of my gear out there that I will never know where it went."

Not much has changed since the store opened decades ago. Everything is handmade with the finest products, including mounds of prime goose down and careful stitching. 

The designs haven't changed that much and neither have the colours, but Squires is fine with that.

That seventies flair has actually been winning her favour with a new set of customers; Whyte Avenue city-dwellers who are more likely to wear their gear to the coffee shop than on the edge of a cliff. 

"All those cuts and colours that were very popular in the seventies. All of that is coming back."