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'You can't waste fabric,' so Millie Gruben made a coat of many colours for her granddaughter

You could call it a coat of many colours, or a Mother Hubbard-style parka cover, but for Millie Gruben it was mostly a work of love for her grandchild.

This grandmother in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., can sew anything, but there's something special about this coat

Millie Gruben made this patchwork coat of many colours for her granddaughter Lindsey Lucas. (Hannah Lucas)

You could call it a coat of many colours, or a Mother Hubbard-style parka cover, but for Millie Gruben it was mostly a work of love for her grandchild.

Gruben is an expert seamstress in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. Whether it's parkas, mitts, wind pants, or tents, Gruben says she can sew anything. 

Young Lindsey Lucas debuted one of Gruben's latest creations on Facebook, where CBC Northwind host Wanda McLeod saw it and decided to give the grandmother a call.

Gruben has now made a few of these patchwork creations for her grandchildren out of discarded cuts of fabric from sewing projects — both her own projects and others.

"You can't waste fabric," she said. "When you have a good fabric you might as well make use out of it."

She collects and washes the strips and pieces of fabric. When she has enough she sews the pieces into a large square, about the size of a large coffee table she says.

Then she lays a "Mother Hubbard" pattern on it and cuts out the parka. In all she says it takes about a week to make one of the pint-size parka covers.

Here Lindsey wears a different patchwork coat and boots made by her grandmother Millie. (Hannah Lucas)

"It's a lot of fun when you're putting things together," Gruben said.

And it was all worth it for Gruben when she saw the look of joy on her granddaughter's face when she saw the finished coat.

"You don't even know what to say," she said. "It's like you swallow your words."

Her inspiration for the coat came from one of her favourite songs, Coat of Many Colours — which she listened to while she sewed her granddaughter's coat.

Gruben says people ask her to make more little coats, but her arthritis makes it difficult for her to get around. She's not sure when she'll make another patchwork creation.

Despite the popularity of the coats, Gruben said she doesn't find much interest from others in learning her ways.

"I try to teach them but they're not interested," she said. "Nowadays — so much computer, eh?" 

"I like the old-fashioned way," she said. "You learn and you save lots of stuff."

Listen to Millie Gruben talk about her coat of many colours:

Millie Gruben describes what goes into making a patchwork coat of many colours in an interview with Northwind host Wanda McLeod. 6:02

Written by Walter Strong based on an interview by Wanda McLeod

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