Canada Day Long Weekend Store Hours
Wednesday June 30: 12:30 pm to 6 pm
Thursday July 1: CLOSED
Friday July 2: CLOSED
Saturday July 3: 12 pm to 4 pm
Sunday July 4: CLOSED
Monday July 5: 11 am to 6 pm
Normally around holidays I post a free pattern for a project that’s somewhat related to the holiday, and around Canada Day it’s usually something maple-leafy or involving a beaver or a Canada Goose. Recent events have me thinking about this holiday, and what our country’s birthday means in a broader sense. I wanted to feature designs by Canadian Indigenous designers of knit/crochet patterns, but disappointingly nothing turned up. My research was limited to a day and unfortunately I didn’t have the time to start digging below the surface, so if you know of any please send me a note and I’ll update this blog post and include them.
What I did manage to extract from the interweb follows ….
I found some gorgeous patterns by Jessie Mae Martinson, an incredibly talented indigenous designer from the US (I tracked her down through BIPOC in Fiber). She designs pretty little tops & bottoms, great for warm weather. Her patterns are size inclusive and priced on a “choose what you pay” scale. If you want a summer yarn to make her projects designed in fingering weight yarn, try Quince & Co Sparrow. For the DK weight I’d go for Kelbourne Woolens Mojave (no wool, it’s just super soft cotton and linen in gorgeous colours).
Canadian Indigenous Knitting Tradition
I also came across an older documentary made in 2000 for the NFB about the Coast Salish Knitters. I like this film, it’s older, but it addresses the complicated and often exploitative history connected with the makers of these sweaters. For us knitting is a leisure activity, but it’s important to keep in mind that for many of the families involved in the production of these sweaters, knitting meant the difference between starving and survival.
See the bottom of this page for a couple of articles on the Cowichan Sweaters of the Coast Salish people.
I also came across the book, Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns (2014) by Sylvia Olsen, which you can buy as a Ravelry Download or as a soft cover from Sononis Press. You can also download 7 of the patterns individually. Alexa Ludman of Tin Can Knits highly recommends the book!
Olsen is non-native, but has spent much of her life living in Tsartlip First Nation, where her children and grandchildren now live. She is also author of the very recently published Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey (2021) and Working with Wool (2010), which received the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing. She has several knitting patterns available as downloads on Ravelry. I’ve only just discovered Olsen’s work, but if you’ve read her books please let me know what you thought!
If you want to make the cowl above, I suggest using Cascade Heritage in colours 5742 Silver Grey Heather, 5631 Charcoal Heather, and 5672 Black. This pattern also includes a link to a video of Sylvia Olsen demonstrating Intuitive Colourwork (I don’t know what that is either, but it sounds interesting, I might have to buy the pattern to find out).
Should you now be feeling inspired to whip up your own Cowichan sweater, consider Canadian designer Jane Richmond’s West Coast Cardigan, which is not a real Cowichan sweater, but is respectfully inspired by the traditional style of the Cowichan Sweaters of the Coast Salish people. I suggest using Drops Andes, or for a more contemporary look try a blown yarn like Drops Wish.
For those who are academically inclined or just want more context, I also found a journal article from 2012: The Coast Salish Knitters and the Cowichan Sweater: An Event of National Historic Significance, by Marianne P. Stopp. You can download it HERE (it takes a few seconds to load the site) or HERE. I’ll be reading this over the long weekend!
And if journal articles aren’t your speed, I also found a nice little article in a lifestyle Magazine from Victoria: The Story of the Cowichan Sweaters.