From her sewing table overlooking the Northumberland Strait and the Mont-Carmel Catholic church, Colette Aucoin watches birds and fishing boats while working on her recycled denim projects.
"I see blue jays and I see finches and they sing for me," said Aucoin as she sewed a tag onto her newest denim tote bag.
The tag reads Boutique à Point, "a name that I took from my mother's business because she had a boutique and that was the name," Aucoin said.
Sewing has been a part of Aucoin's family for generations — and now she's passing it on to her daughter and granddaughters.
A pamphlet for Aucoin's mother's sewing business in Mont-Carmel, the original À Point Boutique. (Isabelle Gallant/CBC)
Her grandmother on her mother's side, Joséphine Arsenault, was a seamstress who helped found the Co-operative d'artisanat d'Abram-Village, a handcraft store in the Évangéline region of P.E.I. that is going strong after more than 50 years.
"She was a person that had this development aspect to her and she was really a community person," Aucoin said of her grandmother.
"She encouraged other ladies from the community to up their crafts to a higher level."
Becoming the family seamstress
Joséphine had 14 children, and Aucoin's mother Marie Anne was the fourth. She followed in her mother's footsteps and became the family seamstress.
"That was her job, so she had to dress the 14 children," said Aucoin.
Marie Anne passed her sewing knowledge down to Aucoin, who first learned to sew as a child and has sewed on and off throughout her life.
Aucoin began to focus on sewing about six years ago when she made heatable bags as Christmas gifts for her family.
She ended up starting Boutique à Point and getting a booth at the Summerside Farmers' Market, where you can still find her every Saturday.
"Sewing has become my priority and I always want to try to please customers and make new products," said Aucoin.
Aucoin works on one of her denim tote bags at home in Mont-Carmel. (Isabelle Gallant/CBC)
Her latest foray into recycled denim has proved popular with market-goers.
"People are really pleased that I'm keeping these jeans out of the landfill," she said.
"To me, this is a very important project. So anybody, bring me old jeans. Doesn't matter if they're all torn up, I'll use part of it."
Looking around Aucoin's home, it's clear she does use every part.
Piles of denim lie on her tables and countertops, alongside baskets filled with deconstructed jeans — belt loops, tags, waistbands, pockets, and more.
"Nothing goes to waste," said Aucoin.
Baskets of parts from recycled jeans on the counter of Aucoin's home in Mont-Carmel, P.E.I. (Isabelle Gallant/CBC)
'It gives us inspiration'
Aucoin's daughter Julia Aucoin, who now lives in Dieppe, N.B., is continuing the family sewing tradition, making dresses and everyday clothes for herself.
A recent handmade outfit included a tan turtleneck, a flannel plaid jacket, and high-waisted black pants.
"It's obviously colours that I like that I couldn't find probably in a store, and I can do adjustments to the pattern before I make it so I know it's going to fit perfectly," said Julia.
Growing up in Mont-Carmel, Julia's grandmother Marie Anne first taught her how to sew, a skill she picked back up during the pandemic.
Julia Aucoin, Aucoin's daughter, sews many of her own clothes, including this linen dress. (Submitted by Julia Aucoin)
Being able to connect with her mom over sewing is special, she said.
"We always compare our projects. Like, we're always showing what we made and it gives us inspiration," said Julia.
"It means a lot to have that with my mom and also my grandmother."
Aucoin is teaching her two granddaughters on P.E.I. to sew, and eight-year-old Adèle was recently working on a bag, said Aucoin.
"I saw her take her two fingers and start wiggling the corner. I said, 'Oh, you remember! I told you it's to make a pointier corner, that's what you do.' So yes, she's catching on," she said.
Aucoin's mother Marie Anne is now 87 and lives in Wellington at la Coopérative Le Chez-Nous seniors' home.
Her mom doesn't sew much anymore, said Aucoin, but is interested in her daughter's business.
Aucoin's granddaughter Adèle is learning how to sew. (Submitted by Colette Aucoin)
"Every Saturday I have to let her know how much I sold for, and she wants to know what I sold," said Aucoin.
Aucoin said her grandmother Joséphine would be happy to see the family sewing tradition has continued, five generations on.
"My grandmother was a very proud person. You know, she'd tell you how to act, how to behave and she would tell you, 'Make it yourself!'" said Aucoin.
This story arose from CBC P.E.I.'s community bureau in the Évangéline region.
Do you have a story from the region to share? Visit cbc.ca/evangeline