Although I picked it simply because I loved it and wanted to knit it, I had hoped the pattern pick for the Fringe and Friends Knitalong this year (Pierrot’s Cowichan-style Geometric Vest) would stir up some interest in Cowichan sweaters — despite the fact that it’s Cowichan-style and not an authentic Cowichan. Happily, there’s been even more questioning and discussion than I had imagined. I have a Q&A coming up with panelist Andrea Rangel about Cowichan Valley and the people and their sweaters, which has always been part of the plan, but I thought I’d preface that today with a special edition of the usual Elsewhere links list: a Cowichan edition. These links should offer some background as well as some specific guidance for those planning to knit along.
Note, too, that I have a conversation coming up on Monday with panelist Meri Tanaka in which we talk about Japanese patterns, how to read them, and specifically how to read this one. So if you’re nervous or having any difficulty interpreting the chart, look for that on Monday. For now, some links—
— Cowichan knitting history at Wikipedia (somewhat flawed, as all Wikipedia entries are) which also talks a lot about the wool
— The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters
PLEASE READ BEFORE CLICKING: Panelist Kathy Cadigan told me about this documentary before the knitalong kickoff, and it’s been mentioned both in the comments here and on Instagram. This is a pirated film — it was based on knitting designer Sylvia Olsen’s thesis and is on YouTube without the filmmaker’s permission, so it is a copyright violation. Sylvia herself is conflicted about this, as discussed in this blog post of hers, because it’s apparently the only way to see it. Follow your own conscience.
— The Cowichan Sweater of Vancouver Island, a great piece on how things went terribly awry when the Vancouver Olympics committee tried to make a Cowichan the official sweater of their Olympics, shared by Alina in the comments
BOOKS TO CHECK OUT
I am not in possession of any of these, but plan to rectify that asap! Some are out of print, but used copies can be found—
— “Salish Indian Sweaters: A Pacific Northwest Tradition” by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts
— “Knitting in the Old Way” by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts (pictured above, photo courtesy of Jess Schreibstein)
— “Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater” by Sylvia Olsen
— “Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns” by Sylvia Olsen
HOW TO TRAP FLOATS
Several of you have seized on Kathy’s comment in Meet the Panel about trapping the floats on every other stitch, which is how true Cowichan sweaters are knitted. We don’t know of a tutorial online that’s specific to Cowichan, but this technique is also called the woven method of stranded knitting, and Kathy sent me two fantastic links:
The first — the two-handed Fair Isle technique by Philosopher’s Wool — is a great intro to the two-handed method of stranded knitting, in which she also demonstrates trapping floats every other stitch when working from the knit side of the fabric.
The second — Weaving two-handed Fair Isle in purl and knit by Jodie Gordon Lucas — shows how to work the same technique from the purl side, which you’ll do if you’re knitting colorwork flat.
A few people have asked where they can buy authentic Cowichan sweaters — i.e., from the Coast Salish tribespeople — or how to make a donation. I have googled but don’t feel good about linking to anyone selling Cowichans online without having a way to say for sure that they’re dealing fairly with the Coast Salish knitters. If anyone reading this does know of a sure, reliable resource that sells online, please let me know or leave a link in the comments below. And that goes for any links you think are worth sharing! This list is certainly far from comprehensive, so bring it on!
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IN SHOP NEWS: The time is right for my Wabi Mitts, and the kits are now back in stock in all 8 gorgeous colors of Habu’s incredible linen-wool roving. And if you’ve been looking for any of the sold-out sizes or colors of bone and horn buttons — either the narrow-rim or concave styles — look again! We got a bunch in this week. Get those and more at Fringe Supply Co.
Thanks for a great week, and please have an amazing weekend!