Saturday, July 25, 2009


First, an update on the shawl. Thank you to everyone who weighed in with their opinions on fixing the color. I read all the comments, did further research on the internet, and I have come to the conclusion that it's not worth the effort to try and whiten this fiber. I don't want to ruin the lofty softness of the mohair and I believe that the yellow color is caused by a change in the fiber itself, not dirt or oil.

The point is moot because I have yet to finish the first half of the edging. The Irtfa'a pattern started off a bit tricksy, lulled me with peaceful knitting in the middle, and is now keeping me on the edge of my seat with the edging. But it's lovely to see it come off the needles. There's a generous wingspan and a fabric that floats on the breeze. This shawl is going to be a treasure.

And speaking of treasures, today I watched a video called The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters and it helped me rediscover one of Canada's national treasures. The movie let the native knitters tell their story in their own words, as they washed wool, carded, spun and knit. It was fascinating to watch these women work so swiftly with what seemed to me to be very chunky tools. For example, the spindle's whorl was the size of a dinner plate. Other juicy tidbits included an ancient carding machine, spinning machines made from an old treadle sewing-machine, and archive images of sweaters and knitters.

I tend to prefer fine gauge projects for their delicate details and in the past I had dismissed the Cowichan sweaters as being clumsy and kitschy, but this film has changed my mind. The women showed true artistry in their pattern placement, innovations and adaptability. I was astonished by the garments and moved by the stories of hardship. For many of these women, knitting was all that kept their families from starving. There is so much more to Cowichan sweaters than I had ever imagined!

In doing some research for writing this, I discovered there's been some talk about Canadian athletes wearing Cowichan sweaters at the winter Olympics. This gives me the idea that it might be fun to knit a Cowichan-inspired sweater during the Olympics. Here's a link for a free pattern written by a Salish native, Marjorie Peters, as a replica of the ones she knit for Charles and Diana when they were married. Or it would be pretty simple to knit a toque.

If you're in Canada, go borrow The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters from your local library.


  1. I, too, borrowed this from the library and spent an afternoon getting familiar with these sweaters and their beginnings!! We're twins!! I was so saddened by their hardships and how the Salish knitters were taken advantage of. I thought it was neat how they knit with those giant dpns in a circle. Another sad spot was when the new generation of knitters talk about getting acrylic really cheap at Walmart now. If I wasn't in tears halfway through the video, I was outright sobbing by this point. Now I want to go borrow it again!! Have you returned it yet?

  2. I've loved those sweaters since I was a kid & think knitting one during the winter Olympics is a great idea (somehow I think the number will grow once my retro boys see the first.

    Putting that video on my list of things to watch.

  3. Great story L. I was inspired to google ;o) An olympic knitting project is a super idea.

  4. Anonymous5:38 pm

    the link for cowichan sweater is in ravelry. however part of the pattern is missing

  5. If anyone ever finds the missing info on this pattern, I would love to know.