Found this on the Iditadod site sounds like fun . I'm going to try to find some patterns .
Hey Glacier got any patterns or ideas where to start looking?
The Bootie Brigade Finds a Need and Fills It
by June Price
Sixteen dogs with four feet each, each foot needing protection.
That adds up to 64 booties per Iditarod dog team.
Of course, that’s just for one wearing. Booties have a tendency to get lost, have holes poked in them, or get wet, necessitating repeated changes along the 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail. Most mushers will use anywhere from 1500 to 2500 booties per race. At a minimum of a dollar a bootie, that adds up fast.
Enter the Bootie Brigade.
While many fans sew booties, this group of fans has come together to combine forces in an organized fashion. Their goal is to provide as many booties as possible each year to mushers in need by making them themselves.
Why do they do it?
"I make booties because this is a sport more than any other where doing your best counts," says Tara Van Dyke. Van Dyke is a former school teacher from Kimberly Wisconsin who is involved with the Bootie Brigade. She explains. "The teams with the worst records in professional sports aren't applauded--the weakest players are traded and the coach is fired. With Iditarod, everyone is a winner, no matter what place they finish in."
Another Bootie Brigade from Bath New York, Francine Dimmicks echoes this sentiment. "Since I am unable to get to the Iditarod every year, this enables me to really keep in touch with the race even though I am thousands of miles away!"
"Making booties for the mushers is a way to become involved with the Iditarod," agrees Annie Myers, a long time race volunteer. Annie has arthritis in her hands but although she’s no longer able to cut out the booties for sewing, other volunteers have done this part for her (and others), allowing her to complete the booties. It’s also allowed even those who don’t sew to become actively involved. Team work is just as important here as on the trail, it seems.
The Bootie Brigade is headed by Rachel Curtis, a working mom who’s never attended the race in person. She has, however, met and worked with a variety of mushers via the Internet in her quest to help coordinate the supply of volunteer made booties. One wonders, perusing the group’s message board, if Rachel knew what she was letting herself in for when she started. She regularly deals with trying to figure out who has extra material or Velcro, who needs more material or Velcro, whether they need hook or stretch Velcro, who can sew but not cut, who can cut but not sew, who can be called on for more booties at the last moment and a host of other issues.
"We average roughly twenty to thirty participants per year," says Rachel, "who come from all over the Lower 48." She notes that not one of them lives in Alaska.
It might also be noted that while it’s cheaper to make booties than buy them, it isn’t cheap either way. Postage alone is a tremendous expense. How do they do it?
To a large extent, they count on the good will of fans unable to sew. "We’ve gotten donations not only from around the United States, but from Canada and Australia." Rachel says. "In addition, some of the sewers purchase their own supplies." Many, of course, can’t afford this expense and can only work out of the collected funds.
To help offset this expense, the group has formed a working relationship with Arrowhead Fabrics (AKA dogbooties.com), which has been beneficial for both. Arrowhead provides the materials needed at a cut rate and, in turn, the group buys all their materials from them.
"They’ve helped us over the years a great deal," acknowledges Rachel, who’d never made a bootie until beginning this group. Louise Russell, of Arrowhead/Dogbooties.com, has provided them with not only the purchased materials but also patterns and information, both to the group and in response to individual phone calls. Louise’s ability to ask you how many you want and then tell you exactly what you need to complete the project saves many a headache. Let’s just say, I know this from personal experience.
Overall, the Bootie Brigade has provided over 10,000 booties to date.
"We average 1000 booties per musher," notes Rachel, "although that number can also vary from year to year." Bottom line, it depends on the level of donations. "This year we hope to cross the 15,000 mark."
How many mushers have received Bootie Brigade booties?
That’s a difficult question to answer. As the bootie seamstresses have gotten to know the mushers they’re sewing for, many have developed a working friendship with them and want to help them out each year. Although that wasn’t the intended goal, which was to focus strictly on rookies, that has somewhat changed the direction of the group.
It’s also, in many ways, made it far more satisfying for those involved. True, some mushers are better than others at responding to emails and answering questions but it gives the BB’s, as they’re known to many, a chance to get to know an Iditarod musher. Teachers and classrooms have gotten involved, too, with students writing messages of encouragement on each bootie that their donations have helped provide.
Jane Strayer is one of those involved in the classroom.
"I’ve made booties twice," she says, "and my 6th grade students signed them prior to their being shipped to the mushers. One time we knew to whom the booties would go, so the kids personalized them with messages, phrases such as ‘Cold noses, warm toeses [sic]’ and ‘Run like the wind.’"
Her daughter signed a few booties with the phrase "Hoosier Hospitality." Imagine their surprise to get back one of those booties after the race from the musher involved, a bootie that had obviously seen trail use.
"I don't know how he kept it separated - I'm ruling out the lucky shot event - but it was obvious the bootie had been used. Much of the permanent marker was ‘run off’ by the dogs and there was even a doggie smell and a few dog hairs attached," recalls Jane, laughing as she remembers her students’ reaction to smelling a trail worn bootie.
Thus, although the master plan is always subject to modification, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
"Depending on our budget," says Rachel, "we want to try to help at least three to five mushers." They’ve extended this help to Junior Iditarod mushers in the past, too.
One thing that never changes is the difficulty of deciding whom to help.
"Every year, there’s been a waiting list of other mushers who have asked for help, too," sighs Rachel. "We are simply physically and financially unable to assist everyone, unfortunately." As simple as booties may look to the average fan, it takes time and skill to sew them and shipping time must also be worked into the equation.
"Problems we have faced vary widely, but are usually centered on raising funds for materials, getting completed booties sent to the mushers in time to be packaged into drop bags, communication, having mushers withdraw prior to the race and not pass along their booties, size errors," that sort of thing, she says. "Most of these problems can be dealt with and rectified, however, and each year we get a little better and a little more savvy."
Last year was one of the more disappointing years for Bootie Brigade members. Several of the mushers helped wound up having to withdraw from the race before it started. While no one begrudged them the booties made and sent, it was still disappointing not to have their booties on the trail.
No one can guarantee that all who enter will start the race, of course. Iditarod Musher Frank Sihler’s gracious move to pass along booties he’d received to Kelley Griffin, a Yukon Quest veteran but an Iditarod rookie, was applauded when he withdrew. As a result of Frank’s actions, booties made by the Bootie Brigade saw action not only on the Iditarod Trail but in the Yukon Quest, which Kelley ran, too.
"This year, instead of being sent to each individual musher, the booties will be shipped to a central location to be distributed by a retired musher," notes Rachel. "In this way, we hope that one final face to face discussion can take place to ensure that this musher really will be entering, and if not, if it’s at all possible, that their booties will be passed along to someone else who needs them."
This is something group members have really struggled with. Again, while no one begrudges the mushers who are unable to complete their quest to run the race the booties, the goal is for everyone to be able to follow "their" booties up the trail, too, not just provide them. It makes it easier to get volunteers and donations, bottom line, when those involved know they can "follow" their booties up the trail with a specific musher. It allows you to feel a part of the larger whole. It’s also plain fun.
Campbell California’s Randee McQueen’s dog club became involved, and she agrees. "Our group is a Siberian Dog Club that also sleds. We started because of my niece's Girl Scout project and everyone has had so much fun that they look forward to it each year."
"There aren't too many sports where fans can directly contribute to the game," points out Tara Van Dyke. "I mean the Green Bay Packers haven't called me up to sew them new uniforms!" she laughs. "So it is pretty cool that we can sew booties that actually run in the race that we fans love so much."
Of course, it works both ways. The mushers are just as glad to be a part of it as the Bootie Brigade and it isn’t just about the financial help.
Iditarod Musher Bill Borden, one of the first to benefit from the then fledgling Bootie Brigade, summed it up best. "One of the best things about the Bootie Brigade and getting those booties delivered is knowing that there are fans out there taking the time to care about what we are doing for the dogs, and to have them participate with us in this great sport."
Bill, who is from Georgia and ran last in 2002, continues. "It's great to have fans stand at the start and cheer, but to know that there are fans aware of all the preparation it takes for months just for you to get to the start makes it extra special. It truly is a blessing, sort of God's way of saying, "Hey Musher, you and your family are not in this alone."
Note: Donations may be sent to the Bootie Brigade at: Rachel Curtis, 1107 W. Roosevelt Rd, Wheaton, Ill. 60187
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