cowichan knitting

As well as having a huge interest in Fair Isle and Shetland knitting, im also interested in any other type of Native knitting. One of my most recent obsessions is Cowichan Knitting.


These warm and cosy looking ladies are all wearing traditional Cowichan sweaters, a type of style from the Vancouver Island area of British Columbia in Canada. The jumpers and cardigans are knit using fair isle and intarsia techniques. They are usually knit with thick pencil width roving (quite like J&S comb tops as far as i can make out..) You’ll not be surprised to hear my obsession was futhered by a recently purchased Japanese knitting book..


Unlike Fair Isle and Scandinavian knitting which has a lot of books written about it, i cant find too much about Cowichan Knitting, i found one book on Amazon which is winging its way from the USA now..

Some of the information i have found which is quite suprising (silly really) is that there is a Shetland link with Cowichan knitting.

‘In time, Cowichan knitters began to embellish sweaters using the Fair Isle technique. The teaching of patterned sweater knitting is generally attributed to a settler from the Shetland Islands, Jerimina Colvin. Mrs. Colvin settled in Cowichan Station in 1885, raised sheep, and hand-spun and dyed her own wool. She probably began to teach knitting by the 1890s, and added patterns as she learned them from other Scottish settlers.’  

found here

 Like a lot of Shetlanders i have relations that emigrated to Canada and my Granny who was much closer to these relations went over to Canada quite a few times, so really it makes sense why i feel a strong connection to this type of knitting! The next step would be to make one.. im think J&S Shetland Aran would make a nice thinner substitute.

But i wont be starting one til after my busy couple of months is over… maybe..

13 thoughts on “cowichan knitting

  1. Yes, Gudrun, I am her great-granddaughter. Jerimina did not teach the local ladies to knit, but she did teach them stranded work. These were her friends, and they met for knitting sessions regularly. She also helped them improve their spinning for this type of work, and to develop a product they could sell. (There is a good article in a recent Piecework about this). The best commercial yarn is a stranded singles unspun, Briggs and Little makes one called “country roving”. And Custom Woolen Mills makes 6 Strand Bulky. Both the companies are in Canada.

  2. There is a wonderful book on the history of Cowichan knitting you might enjoy. It is called Working with Wool by Sylvia Olsen. And I second Barb Brown’s recommendation for using Briggs & Little country roving.

    1. I saw that on amazon but it seemed to be out of print, the one I ordered was too expensive so when it comes I’ll see if it has much information in it, thank you though. Xx

  3. Sylvia Olsen’s book is wonderful, and she also has a book for children, Yetsa’s Sweater about Cowichan knitting. Yetsa’s Sweater also tells of the lifestyle of the Cowichan knitters and the amazing gift of passing the joy of working with yarn through generations. Ruth

  4. Sylvia Olsen’s book, Working with Wool is fantastic (and not out of print – you can’t trust what you see on Amazon). You can buy directly from her publisher in Canada who specialize in world-wide shipping:

    Sylvia also has a new book out (2014) called Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns:

    Sylvia is a close friend of mine – she was in Scotland last October (2014) – I know she would have loved to meet you! If she ever goes again, I’ll let you know so you can connect!

  5. I’m from the Fraser Valley, BC Canada and when I was a teen lots of people wore these sweaters as a working/outdoors coat, not really as a cardigan. My dad had one for getting wood for our wood stove. It rains a lot here, and the unwashed wool with the lanolin still in, made this garment virtually waterproof. It rains a lot here.

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