Driving from Victoria to St John’s was one thing. Driving north to NWT and the Yukon just didn’t fit into the schedule. Our country is too big for a six-week road trip. Thanks to the librarians in Fort Smith and Hay River I was on a book tour last week and was able to fit in a knitting stop. It was like an hors d’oeuvre to what is shaping up to be an amazing banquet of knitting experiences.
Thank you Rosie Wallington for a great dinner of slow cooked caribou and homegrown carrots, and for a gathering of knitters. Later we had a wonderful evening with a full house at the library (thanks Christine Gyapay) talking about books, sweaters, history, more knitting and stories.
At the end of the evening an elderly woman told me:
We were in a refugee camp in Lithuania after the war. If there was an old sweater my mother would pull it apart, even if it was in tatters. She would bleach the old wool in hot water. I remember standing at the stove stirring the pot; it was really smelly. Then she would dye the wool again, dry it and tie the pieces together so she could knit something new. You could tell the sweaters that had been made that way if you looked at them inside out—they have little knots all over. (Note to us: What an incredible historical document! Does anyone have such a sweater?)An elderly woman told me:
I had a sweater that was stripes of red and navy. I wore it all the time. I was so proud of that sweater. I have one picture of my school class from those days. For years I looked at that picture and thought it was such a chubby little girl.
And then one day not long ago I looked at the picture again and saw my sweater on a girl standing next to the chubby little girl that I had always thought was me. I said to myself, “Oh, my, there is my sweater. The one I loved.” I wasn’t the chubby little girl after all. I was the girl standing next to her in the red and navy striped sweater.
We all wore hand knitted sweaters. We would pick the balls off and put them in our books. All the children did that; collect different colours of wool balls. When my mother caught me doing it, when she found my collection, she got angry. She said wool was too precious to be picking it off the sweaters.
Thank you thank you thank you…I did not get your name but now we all have your story.
I have always been interested in knitting. It is intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, creatively and physically challenging and I love challenges. But maybe my love for knitting is as much about my love for the stories that emerge from knitters and their experiences. Though until now I had never imagined the immensity of it…and I am only beginning.
I am feeling small right now. I wonder if I have the capacity to experience the hugeness of what I have planned. I am feeling overwhelmed by the privilege of it all. I am thankful that I can share it with you…it makes it worthwhile.I also got a glimpse of the immensity of Canada and its diversity. Slave Lake is like an ocean, there are seemingly a million miles between tiny villages like Fort Smith and Hay River…the beauty of the cold wind, long sandy beaches, enormous northern lake fishing boats, discussions of growing carrots in the short northern summer, scruffy little trees that make up their forests…and people who love love love the north.
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- Tags: Adam Olsen, Coast Salish colourwork, Coast Salish knitting, Cowichan Sweater, Diane Morris, Fort Smith, Great Canadian Knitting Tour, Hay River, Knitting Stories, Knitting tour, NWT, Rosie Wallington, Salish Fusion, Sono Nis Press, Sylvia Olsen, University of Victoria