The launch and beyond

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on


I have started this post five or six times trying to get the right way to describe the last four days. How do I describe a knitting tour? Should I start with the people at the workshops? Women; they have been all women except for two, Walter Qwan, at the launch, and, Ryan, the shop teacher from Cowichan High School, broke the trend. The participants were all ages although we haven’t had the very young; I’m hoping to find them in the schools and connect with them later.


Maybe I should begin with the enthusiasm. These are people who love knitting, of course, but they are excited to acquire a new technique, hear stories, visit old friends and meet new ones, and to listen to stories and learn something new. There is a lot of good energy in the rooms, lots of creativity, understanding, and serious smarts.

Or perhaps I’ll start with the workshop; it is about two things. First, I help people learn about what I call Coast Salish colourwork. It’s not because the Coast Salish invented it that I use the name, but because it’s the technique Coast Salish knitters use exclusively. Some people at the workshops have already learned the technique on their own…it’s not hard. What I do is break the technique down to its principles and then each knitter uses her own knitting method to make it happen. It works; pickers, throwers and everyone in between are successful. Second, I tell stories about knitting, especially Coast Salish knitting, the knitting tradition I’ve been involved with for more than 40 years. Knitting isn’t just about doing; it’s about thinking, creating, and understanding ourselves and others.

I could have started with the travel…first the launch at my sister Heather’s beautiful home in Deep Cove, then Cowichan High and the increasingly cool town of Duncan and then Vancouver.


Tex and I had a wonderful evening with his friend Marilyn and at Granville Island being amazed at the installation art on the concrete silos—can you imagine? Someone commissioned Brazilian graffiti artists Octavio and Gustavo Pandolfo to cover the boring grey eyesores with beautiful whimsical creatures for the Vancouver Biennale.


How about I start with the hats? Maybe the real story is the hats themselves. There are going to be almost 1000 hats knit across this country. There isn’t much to them. They have been designed as a teaching tool so participants can get the plain ribbing part done during the stories and have time to practice the colourwork.


They are not a fashion piece. Monique Lapointe sent me her hat from Cowichan. Patti Beyers from the launch…thank you thank you. Sons, husbands, fathers, sisters, daughters, grandkids will be getting hat presents I am sure.

And I haven’t forgotten the stories. Knitters all have stories and I’m not sure what I love the most, the knitting or the knitters’ stories. I’m thinking about the woman from Vancouver who went home from the workshop to ask her husband, again, about his Cowichan sweater. The sweater is dozens of years old, and his favourite—he wears it all the time, but he refuses to tell her where he got it, or more importantly who gave it to him. There is a story in that sweater.

And the woman whose husband wears a ratty Cowichan in spite of her efforts to persuade him to dress up a bit. Now, she says, it’s impossible. Lately he has been getting so many compliments “Oh I love your sweater!” from complete strangers that he is ‘getting all fluffy’ about it and won’t wear anything else.

In truth I should have started with Tex, my partner, driver, financier, navigator…but that’s too long and Tex will be a post all on his own.

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  • How can you say the hat is not a fashion piece? I was at your workshop in Camrose and finished my hat the next day, and everyone I’ve showed it too loves it and wants one. It is a marvellous hat! And if there are 1000 hats knit in the workshops, there will be several thousand by the time all the participants make a couple more for family and friends.
    Your workshop was the best knitting class I have ever taken! Thanks for sharing your passion.

    Kathy on
  • Hi Sylvia. I just finished the hat I started yesterday in your class at Wet Coast Wools. It looks great but now I’ve begun another to make sure the pebbling inside is perfect. I still haven’t quite “gotten” the technique but the result is beautiful (it’s just drying). Thanks for the challenges and the wonderful history lessons.

    Anne Vulliamy on
  • good luck on the rest of your tour – love from patti CHIAPPINI

    patti chipppini on

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