The Cowichan Knitter

The Coast Salish people of what is called British Columbia have many smaller peoples among them, the Cowichan among them. As the lore of their people tell, they have been weaving clothing for thousands of years using dog hair or mountain goat wool. They wove textiles from tree bark as well.

Canada has its own dark history with colonization and forced conversion and the Cowichan people were not immune to this in any way. And when sheep were brought to the Cowichan Valley as part of this colonizing project in the 1800’s the weavers learned to use this new fiber in their weaving. This is in no way a sunny ‘but a positive part of colonization was sheep wool for their weaving’ story. It isn’t. I’d venture that the Cowichan only wove with this new material to them because weaving was in their bones and this was what was at hand for them. Certainly they would give back sheep wool if they could have their lands and waters back as they once were. But here we are.

The woman in this four and half minute video shows a bit of the old process and skills to weave a wonder like these sweaters. I pray you notice that she mentions that the first sweater made needs to be given away and that this is a cultural understanding that generosity and beauty and gifting are part of the same cultural circuit. Also that the animals that are stitched into the garments are from where she is from and are not abstracted in anyway. They embody a lived experience with the living world around her.

Cows aren’t from North America. Bison are. Buffalo are. Antelopes are. Deer are. Elk are. Moose are. And those animals are ungulates who have deep relationships with the health of the land and the plants and other animals. Grass fed cows – like sheep in the Cowichan Valley – may not be originally from where they now live but can have a rich relationship with the land as these other animals have been sadly pushed from their habitats. And so like the Cowichan knitters, we here from Primal Derma do our best to make beauty and use from that which we find ourselves with.

So enjoy this lovely little story told and keep the wonder alive in your part of the world with making beauty with that which is among you and allow Primal Derma to help remind you of that. If you need some more please click the ‘shop now’ button below!

 

1 Comments

  1. Beth Doyle on July 11, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    So excited to see the Coast Salish Knitters movie and inspired by the work you all do. I am not a knitter, I am a dyer and spinner and would like to do two things, buy a sweater directly from you and give you a large amount of hand spun wool perfect for outer wear garments, much of which I have dyed myself. I do believe the border is still closed to me to come to Canada from Oregon, but you are just a few hours north of me. Looking forward to talking with you or at the least working with you soon. Beth

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