The Cowichan sweater is a Canadian icon. There is much written about the history of this beautifully crafted garment and its heritage interwoven with the Coast Salish people of this land. The project pictured above is NOT a Cowichan sweater. It could be described as a riff on the techniques for sure, given that it is a super bulky wool being used, with stranded motifs placed on it. This was a commissioned piece, a long wished for project that I have finally got round to doing. It’s a bit of a departure, as I don’t usually use such thick wool, nor do I usually do requests, but this is special. (Requests for sweaters just make me nervous. I would rather teach someone to knit, and then have them knit their own.) Anyhow, in future posts I may talk further about the motifs – just note that they are all hand charted, using a lot of different resources as inspiration. This is to be a vest adorned with Buddhist symbols important to the wearer. Stylized waves are what can be seen here.
There is a terrific book devoted to Cowichan sweaters, and to Salish weaving called Working with Wool, A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater, by Sylvia Olsen. This beautifully written and photographed book is both a personal account and a thoroughly researched history of the craft, and I heartily recommend it if one is interested in the topic. It is a lovely book if all one wants to do is look at the photos. For Canadians of a certain age, (ahem, sort of my age and older,) the replica Cowichan, or an original if we were lucky is a part of our childhood. My mom knit up the replicas – I vaguely remember a blue one that I wore till the armpits were too tight and hurt. Kind of a scratchy happy memory.
The yarn pictured above is Briggs and Little Country Roving, a five ply loosely spun wool that warms in the hands and as it does so the smell of lanolin emerges. I have to keep a wary eye on the cats as this yarn has been known to drive cats to distraction with them wanting to eat it, or roll in it. So far, the fur balls are indifferent.