Don't mix your knitting with your politics

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on


But do you see a theme in the photos in this post? Three generations of Trudeaus in Cowichan sweaters. Pierre wore his sweater in this 1981 Christmas card photo. It’s only one of several pictures I’ve seen of him in his sweater. The part of this I like so much is that his sweater is not new. His wardrobe people didn’t choose something for him for this widely distributed photo. Pierre reached into his closet for something comfortable, something Canadian, something he loved—of course it would be his reliable old Cowichan sweater.

We were so impressed by his choice that we at Salish Fusion decided to reproduce Pierre’s sweater for Justin, his son, when Justin was running for the Liberal leadership. Adam asked Elizabeth May to find out Justin’s size so she asked him on Parliament Hill. Without knowing why he told her his approximate measurements. Joni mapped out the pattern from Pierre’s Christmas picture and together we knit a new sweater for Justin. We used finer wool and added buttons. We made the sweater longer and sleeker for the much taller and more statuesque Justin.

We knit in a hurry because we had one chance at giving it to him when he was in Victoria on his tour. Adam and Joni went to UVIC for his speech and chased him down as he was making his escape. When they gave him the sweater he put two and two together and finally realized why Elizabeth needed his measurements.

He made time to put the sweater on—it fit perfectly—and posed with Adam and Joni for the photo. Afterwards, just in case you didn’t notice, Joni shared, “He is very handsome up close.”

Yesterday my sister sent me a Thanksgiving photo of Justin and his little boy. This morning I looked it up and found more. As a student of Cowichan sweaters I’m going to guess that little Hadrien is wearing his dad’s old sweater or at least a hand-me-down Cowichan. It is already well worn and it is still big on him. So unless the boy never wears anything else I’m thinking his sweater has a story.

I am pretty up-front about my politics. I have Elizabeth May stickers on my Smart car, my bike and my kayak. I love what she (and many more) has done for this country. My son Adam is the interim leader of the BC Green Party. I love what he (and many more) is doing for this province.

But these pictures are wonderfully Canadian and right now I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the hopeful country I thought we had—the country that was set to heal its indecent past relationship with indigenous people and open its arms to new people and possibilities. This post is my prayer for Canada…with every knitted stitch a thought, a hope, an incantation.

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