Fort Nelson First Nation seamstress sharing her work one stitch at a time

Shirley Jagodics Harrold shares her love of life one stitch at a time.

For over 20 years she’s designed traditional and contemporary one-of-a-kind creations.

The Shuswap and Hungarian artist lives in the small community of Fort Nelson First Nation, northeast British Columbia.

It’s there where she began sewing regalia for family, but when word spread of her talents, the orders started coming in and haven’t stopped since.

“I dreamt about petal-ribbon skirt and then the next morning I got up and had to make it because I was looking for something different,” Jagodics Harrold said.

Her home base warehouse collection packs a punch, stockpiled with vibrant colours and dynamic textures made from lace, fabric panels, bias tape, jacquard, ribbon, beads and such.

She creates everything from men’s grass dance outfits to jingle dresses to ribbon skirts to rendezvous attire to moose hide vests and more.

While there’s no limit on creativity – there is on supplies in the remote corner of B.C.

“I needed something to take me into my old age, so I decided to make my own fabric corner and my machines when they break down, I’m the one that has to fix them,” Jagodics Harrold said.

Heart and soul are poured into the work and while no two items are alike, the artist isn’t in the business for the money.

“Can you afford a $2000 jingle dress? I try to keep mine $500 and lower, but people will say oh you’re lowballing us, no I just want everyone to afford a dress,” she said.

The seamstress walks a fine line of respecting tradition and incorporating contemporary flair into her work

“What I do isn’t traditional, but they can be turned traditional,” Jagodics Harrold said. “It’s 265 jingles on a dress and you’re supposed to do a prayer for every jingle on your dress. Or certain ribbons go to certain tribes they must be a certain way I get it.”

Her goal; is to be proud of her work and ensure her clients are proud while wearing it, a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s just amazing I’ve made one [a jingle dress] for someone who wanted to be buried in. There are no words to explain making something that special for them,” she said. “I have ladies who have bought the red jingle dresses for MMIWG who walk into the pow wow proud because they were jingle dancers younger and still want to go out for the free dance.”

Her artistic expression is shown in the eye-catching mixing and matching of patterns and bedazzled details.

“I like rhinestones. I call them suncatchers. Someone told me it’s all about the sun glaring off you and you getting the attention of the creator and the more bling that you have going the more he is going to see you better.

Fort Nelson First Nation
‘I can learn other traditions from other parts of Canada, which is really neat’ says Jagodics Harrold. Photo: Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs/APTN.

Garments are sent across the country and into the United States.

Jagodics Harrold has just completed her first batch of “round skirts,” for Mi’kmaq clients.

“I can learn other traditions from other parts of Canada, which is really neat because they are so different, but sort of the same in a way,” Jagodics Harrold said.

The designer explained the rush an artist gets when seeing their work worn in public.

“I was at a pow wow in Kelowna and said, ‘holy smokes those are jingle dresses I sold a few years back.’ People were stopping and getting their family around them to take photos with,” she said.

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