Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to correct the number of tunics Evins designed for the T-200 and Iditarod.
An Alaskan scene plays out at the bottom of a woman’s tunic; an appliqué musher and her dogs journey across a dark blue backdrop while stars sweep across the back. A lighter blue fabric makes up the sleeves, hood and hem and blue fox fur trims the hood of the garment.
Susanna Evins, owner of Mountain Mama Originals, a Soldotna-based handmade clothing company, created the tunic with the appliqué designed by her sister Jo Watts, who is a graphic designer.
The tunic was designed and created for the first female finisher of this year’s Iditarod. Evins also designed a tunic for the Kenai Peninsula’s Tustumena 200 sled dog race, though that race was cancelled.
“I feel like Alaska has been really good to me, and why not give back to one of our heroes, our own female hero?” she said.
Watts met musher Aliy Zirkle, who placed second overall in the Iditarod, at the ceremonial start of the race in Anchorage where Watts told the 12-time Iditarod-finisher about tunic.
“I knew she was going to win (the tunic),” Watts said.
Zirkle was in position to win the race after then-leader Jeff King scratched, but stopped at the last checkpoint in Safety, Alaska due to inclement weather.
She and former Iditarod winner Dallas Seavey raced toward the finish line and Zirkle finished two minutes and 22 seconds behind.
Evins said she has only been in contact with Zirkle via emails but hopes to be able to deliver the tunic in person.
“She’s like the icon of what I make my clothing for,” Evins said. “I make active clothing. … It’s functional but it’s art.”
To cover the cost of making a tunic for the finisher and the photoshoot for the garment, Evins decided to auction off a second garment of the same design. The winner was a Valdez woman who bid $375 for the garment.
Evins said she wants to team up with her sister and design a new tunic for the top female Iditarod finisher each year.
Her favorite pattern is the tunic because it’s versatile, functional, warm and is flattering on all women.
“It’s like the new trendy kuspuk,” she said, referring to a type of long-sleeved hooded slip-on shirt.
The garment starting at $110 wears and washes well, Evins said. She wears one that is three years old and people comment that it looks like new.
Evins said most of her sales are made via Facebook, but she does have a few pre-made items for sale on Etsy — an online marketplace for crafters and vintage retailers from throughout the world. She used to travel to multiple festivals selling her clothes, but this summer plans to only travel to the Salmonstock music festival in Ninilchik in August.
Along with tunics, Evins has a variety of patterns for other clothing articles including vests, sleeveless tunics, cardigans and aprons. Until her new shop opens clients can continue to make appointments to visit Evins’ home to work with her to create personal pieces. Customers can choose from a variety of fabrics and buttons from Alaska and develop a unique appliqué design with Evins.
“Every piece isn’t just an off-the-rack piece. It custom fits you, your personality — the fabric the prints, whatever you want — it’s made just for you,” Evins said. “It’s an adventure in your own personality.”
During the last six months, Evins said her 12-year-old business has blossomed. While she currently works out of her home, she is having a store built on the same property as her Funny River Road home.
She plans to open the store in June followed by a grand opening in September with a cheese and wine party and 15 percent off fall orders.
To make an appointment to begin creating a custom piece with Evins, message her on her Mountain Mama Originals Facebook page.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.