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.
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, whichis 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.
There’s a nip in the air (and my niece & nephew need to be picked up from school on Tuesdays) so we’re rolling out our Fall Store Hours a week early! Starting Monday September 16 we’re back to our regular hours, and we will be open again on Sundays and Mondays.
We have someone new in the store! Erica will be working on Sundays and Mondays, so please give her a warm welcome and introduce yourself. It will take her a little time to settle in and get up-to-speed, but she is sweet and lovely and awesome and I know your are going to fall in love!
Additionally, the Sit ‘n Knit will only be on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons this season (see times below).
Fall/Winter/Spring Store Hours
Monday: 11 am to 6 pm
Tuesday: 11 am to 6 pm
Wednesday: 11 am to 8 pm (Sit ‘n Knit 5 pm – 8 pm)
We’re shifting over to our Summer Store Hours after the Victoria Day long weekend, so please note that the daytime Sit & Knit moves to MONDAY & SATURDAY, and we are CLOSED ON SUNDAYS. We go back to the regular store schedule the week of September 16th.