Elsewhere: Cowichan edition

Elsewhere: Cowichan links edition

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


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

Thanks to @kathycad and @thekitchenwitch for the recs.


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!

. . .

Wabi Mitts kits are back in stock at Fringe Supply Co

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!


PREVIOUSLY IN #fringeandfriendskal2015: Meet the Panel! (full series here)

Good reads

Good reads

There have been a lot of good books piling up on my table lately—

Home & Away: Knits for Everyday Adventures by Hannah Fettig
I loaned Hannah a few Fringe Supply goods to be used as photo props for her latest book and she sent me a copy in return. I couldn’t be happier to be associated with it — such a beautifully photographed, beautifully produced book! It’s a collection of 8 sweater patterns (and 1 hat) but it’s also a compendium of all the basic info you need if you’re new to sweater knitting — from choosing your size to picking up stitches for the edgings.

Madder Anthology 2: Simple Pleasures by Carrie Bostick Hoge
I bought the digital version when it was first announced and forgot a print version would be landing on my doorstep one day. Great collection — as I raved at the time — and another gorgeously produced book.

“Nordic Knitting: Thirty-one Patterns in the Scandinavian Tradition” by Susanne Pagoldh
This is the out-of-print gem mentioned in my post about Jules’ Faroese shawl. My friend Kate brought her copy to Columbus for the trade show in May so I could have a look at it, and wound up sending it home with me — on loan, mind you. Her last words to me that weekend were, “You have to send that book back.” And I better do it soon, but will definitely be acquiring my own copy.

“Worn Stories” by Emily Spivack
This was sent to me by a very kind reader (another Kate!) and I am beyond in love with it. Spivack asked sixty-some notable people (from John Hodgman to Rosanne Cash and Rachel Comey) to tell her the story of a single garment in their wardrobe — “memoirs in miniature” — and they’re SO GOOD. Each day when I need a little brain break, I open the book and read the next one, and I’m sad I’ll run out of them in a couple of months’ time. Probably the appropriate thing to do when I reach the end is to send it on to the next person, but this one will be on my shelf (or maybe my bedside table) for life.

Fix Your Clothes by Raleigh Briggs
I bought this little zine from Have Company and it’s the most charming and useful thing — all handwritten and illustrated, of course, and covering everything from emergency fixes to proper mending and darning techniques to dealing with buttons and zippers. Love.

Yokes by Kate Davies
My admiration for Kate Davies is well-documented and naturally I bought her new book when it published a few months back. The subtitle is “Eleven signature designs, with stories of the sweater that changed the shape of modern knitting,” and it starts out with an incredible history of the yoke (across regions) that I can’t wait to sit down with someday soon.

Similarly, I’m incredibly eager to get may hands on Susan Crawford’s book, Vintage Shetland, which isn’t published yet. Crawford — a self-described “knitting anthropologist” — has spent four years painstakingly creating patterns for 25 pieces from the Shetland Museum. The patterns and writing and photography (of Shetland, the museum pieces and the pattern samples) are all done and the printing is being crowdfunded. Her Pubslush campaign started today, so you can find out lots more over there.

On Seattle and Shetland

On Seattle and Shetland

I’m on a plane to Seattle today — tending to some very important FSCo holiday business, being a guest at Tolt’s Stitch Night (Thurs 6-8, are you coming?) and seeing a pack of my favorite knitters, some of whom are also in town for Tolt’s anniversary celebration this weekend. I’m sad that I have to board a plane on Saturday at the same time Gudrun Johnston is giving a talk at Tolt about the history of Shetland knitting. If you have to choose between going to Tolt when I’m there and when Gudrun’s there, you should totally choose Gudrun! She’s signing her new pattern collection, The Shetland Trader Book 2, in the morning and then the talk is from 1-3. For those of us who are going to miss all that, at least there’s the book, which she was kind enough to send me, and which is lovely. It was shot by Kathy Cadigan (whose photography skills, coincidentally, are the chief purpose of my trip) at the end of that Grand Shetland Adventure I wailed about missing out on a few months back.

The book contains nine patterns: four pullovers, a cardigan, a tank, a hat (two variations), a stole and a cowl, and it’s heavily Shetland inspired — from the yarns to the stitch patterns. But as Gudrun explains in the Foreword, it was also very specifically influenced by Belmont House, where the photos were taken. The house is on Unst, as far north as the Shetland Isles go, and the restored 18th-century estate lent its color palette to the garments as well as the photos. So there’s a lovely symbiosis about it all. My favorite patterns are the ones pictured above: Northdale colorwork pullover, Snarravoe twisted-rib and lace pullover, Hermaness Hats, and the Sandwick striped cowl for being so unexpected. You can see them all (and get the book for yourself) at Ravelry.


One quick note: DG will still be here packing the Fringe Supply Co. orders while I’m away, but today is Veterans Day, so there’s no mailman to hand off today’s orders to till tomorrow.

The Japanese pattern books have arrived!

Cable Fashion Drama — Japanese knitting pattern collection

I’ve teased you on Instagram about these, but FINALLY the Japanese books I ordered last month are available at Fringe Supply Co. Regarding the one above, I’m just going to repeat myself here from the shop page:

If I could only have one book of knitting patterns, Cable Fashion Drama might very well be the one. And it would keep me busy for a very long time! Built around a Japanese take on American cable knits, it includes patterns for 5 pullovers, 6 cardigans, a vest, a wrap, 3 scarves, 3 hats, 2 bags and a pair of fingerless mitts — all of them amazing.

The book is written entirely in Japanese, but there are full-garment charts, extensive schematics, step-by-step photos for working various stitches, and so on. So knitting from it is doable! It requires a little extra intrepidness. But even if you never knitted a single thing from it, it’s an absolute gem and so inspiring. I’m keeping it on my coffee table.

I’d seen the cover image around the Internet before and never knew it belonged to a book. When I saw and flipped through it, I died. And when it arrived and I could really sit with it, it was even better than I’d realized. I’ve also added two others — equally amazing, a little more specific. They are Cowichan Knitting (a Japanese take on traditional Cowichan sweaters), which also has numerous sweaters I’m coveting, and a crochet book, White, Ivory and Beige Goods, which could not be more beautiful. I lack the skills to knit most of the contents, but boy does this book make me want to improve my skills. Plus I could just gaze at it all day — it’s that lovely.

Cowichan Knitting and Japanese crochet

I was only able to get a handful of copies of each of them, and won’t be surprised if they sell out pretty quickly. I do have more on backorder, so if you miss out on this round, don’t despair! (But do act fast.)

Also, the perpetual favorite High-fiber tote is back in stock, and I’ve added more of the bone DPNs and Indian crochet hooks. I’m also thrilled at the response so far to my little leather stitch marker pouch — thank you so much for the warm reception you’ve given it! AND, last but not least, Pom Pom 8 is now available for preorder.

In stockist news, the Yarn Pyramid can now be found at Handknit Yarn Studio in Hamilton, Ontario, and at A Grand Yarn in Spokane WA — both also now have totes on the way, as do Abuelita’s in Pasadena CA and Unwind in Burbank CA, so look for bags in those locations next week. See the Stockists page for more amazing stores carrying Fringe goods.


Thank you, too, for all the amazing responses to the Q for You this week. I’ve read and loved them all but haven’t had a chance to respond. Clearly I need to get myself a commute and a lunch hour! I’m envious of so many of you.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’ll be working on my Slade. What about you?


Q for You: What are your favorite knitting pattern books?

Best knitting pattern books

This Q for You comes from rachelalise in the comments, who is looking for recommendations on the best knitting pattern books:

I have an (unrelated) question for you and your most wise readers as I work out my Christmas list: do you have any favorite pattern *books* that a knitter should own? I realize that I almost exclusively knit from online patterns purchased one-off, and I’d love to build a collection of books that I can return to that contain patterns. (I have a good set of what I guess I’d term “technique books,” and all the most wonderful EZ books, but nothing else that is exclusively dedicated to patterns.)

I’m rather in the same boat and share her curiosity. For me, in my admittedly narrow experience, there aren’t a lot of books that have enough good patterns in them to warrant the cover price. So I have only invested in a few. Here are the ones I’m happiest to have bought, in no particular order:

1. “The Knitter’s Book of Wool” by Clara Parkes. Not “exclusively dedicated to patterns” — it’s about half education and half patterns, but both halves are well worth owning. (I believe the same is true of her “Knitter’s Book of Yarn,” but I loaned it to someone and never got it back, so can’t say for sure.)

2. “More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts” by Joelle Hoverson is the book that made me a knitter, and it is just wall to wall with excellent patterns.

3. Pom Pom Quarterly is like a really good pattern book that happens to be sold in installments.

4. Pioneer by Martin Storey. They may be classified and sold as periodicals, but the one-off editions of Rowan are actually slender, beautifully produced, paperback books. This volume (which I originally raved about here) contains more patterns I want to knit than any other bound object on my shelf.

5. “Knitting by Design” by Emma Robertson. Just published a few weeks ago, and I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with it. It’s very young and bright and funky, not designed or photographed like any other knitting book out there, but contains several wildly adaptable patterns. E.g., a knitted tank sweater happens to be white and dip-dyed, but you could make that tank a million different things by changing the yarn/color, dyeing it or not, etc. Same with the colorblock mittens, the adorable vest, etc.

6–8. “Knit One Knit All,” “Knitter’s Almanac” and “Knitting Without Tears” by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It takes a little imagination to see how some of EZ’s garments and accessories can look modern, but they can. I did a riff on this in Street styling Elizabeth Zimmermann (a year ago today! how weird), but just look at Abigail Chapin in her light grey Icelandic Overblouse (from Knit One Knit All), which is just like EZ’s original and looks perfectly current.

Those are the ones I’m most likely to knit from, although when it comes time to browse patterns, I do turn to my PDFs. I’ll also mention that one book I really want but don’t own yet is “Fair Isle Style” by Mary Jane Mucklestone. So let’s hear it, please: What are your favorite knitting pattern books?


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you join a new ball of yarn?

The book that made me want to write about books again

Lena Corwin's Made by Hand

You may not know this about me, but in the aughts I ran a site called Readerville, where for nine years I covered books from every possible angle — from reviews to cover critiques to author discussions in the once-booming forum. I knew from having worked several years at Salon how many review copies of books are sent indiscriminately to the addresses of people who publish book reviews, but didn’t grasp what a … shall we say … mixed blessing it is to be on publicists’ mailing lists until the mountains of books began landing on my own doorstep. It took me years to get off some of those lists — not even an unannounced change of address could stop them! So as much as I’ve wanted books to be a part of the mix here at Fringe, I’ve been reluctant to risk finding myself back on those lists. But lately there have been a few books that are just too good not to write about, and first among them is Lena Corwin’s “Made by Hand.”

The story goes that Corwin, an illustrator and textile designer, used to host classes in her New York studio, with her various creative friends teaching their various creative skills. (Including Cal Patch — hi, Cal!) Reading about it makes one envious of everyone who got to teach and/or attend those classes. They ceased a few years ago, but luckily someone had the bright idea to recreate them in book form. So what lives between these covers is twenty-six projects, “taught” by the original slate of instructors, plus a few new ones. I say projects, but really each one is a lesson in a technique — from braiding a rug to tie-dyeing a pillowcase to coiling a bowl — that can be extrapolated and applied in as many ways as you can dream up. Some of them are what you would think of as large-scale undertakings shrunken down to kitchen-table scale, most notably a technique for using a rolling pin to simulate the action of giant rotary fabric-printing machines. And while there’s soap-making and beading and candle-making, nearly all of the projects are fiber-centric: printing and resist-dyeing fabrics; knitting and crocheting everything from socks to garlands to cat toys; weaving on improvised “looms”; sewing; embroidery; braiding; fabric origami; the list goes on. And the book manages to be extremely beautiful without failing to be useful: Every project is accompanied by copious step-by-step photos, diagrams and patterns, along with the materials lists and instructions.

Ever since I first stumbled across Jenny Gordy’s blog posts about her socks, I’ve been wishing she’d publish her pattern, and here it is! But there are so many wonderful, fundamental skills to be learned here, it’s hard to decide where to start.

Lena Corwin's Made by Hand