Salish Knitting


A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a workshop at the Art of Yarn with Sylvia Olsen of Salish Fusion Knitwear. 

Sylvia is a Cowichan sweater historian, award-winning author, knitter, designer, and storyteller.

In this workshop we heard stories of the women who knit the Cowichan sweaters, the development of the sweater from the early years to what we know as the Cowichan sweater today, and we learned the technique used in the colorwork of these amazing sweaters. 

Here's a brief history;

The Coast Salish people were originally weavers who wove  blankets out of wool spun from mountain goat and a breed of small dog that is now extinct. When the Europeans arrived in the 1900's they brought sheep and knitting. The Salish people picked up knitting needles and began to create sweaters which evolved into the Cowichan sweater we know today.

What made these sweaters unique and sought after?

The sweaters were tightly knit with a handspun lanolin rich wool (the Salish women washed, carded and spun the wool themselves), the sweaters were knit in the round and had beautiful colorwork which was knit in a way that created a warm stretchy fabric with no stranding behind the work. (This was the technique we learned in class, it produced a beautiful piece of fabric both on the outside and inside. I will definitely be using this technique in my cowl knitting.)

Here is the hat we made in class,


If you would like to learn more about the Cowichan sweaters Sylvia has written a book on the history called Working With Wool. There is also a documentary which you can watch on YouTube The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters. She also has a beautiful pattern book which comes with short stories called Knitting Stories and finally she has written a children's book that my daughter loves called Yetsa's Sweater.

Sylvia's website is

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  • Thank you Dianne for the link to Sylvia’s hat pattern.

    Lol it does look like I redesigned the book :) I took a picture of my knitting of her hat on the book.

    Splat And Co on
  • Sylvia Olsen’s Salish Toque pattern is available on Ravelry here:

    I see you redesigned the cover of Sylvia’s book, Working with Wool…

    Diane on
  • Hi Cheri, the hat pattern we used was included in the class. If you contact Sylvia at she may be able to sell you a pattern or a kit as I know she sells some kits on her website. Unfortunately at this time I don’t have any patterns written up for sale.

    Splat And Co on
  • got a hat pattern?

    Cherie on

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