I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been busy not only with a knitting project that got out of hand, but with a trip to Washington for the Inauguration, and one to California for a high school reunion, my 50th. Saying that out loud does make me a lot older than I like to think I am, but going provided visits with a group of the really terrific women with whom I’d attended a small girls’ school all those years ago.
The knitting project that got out of hand is, however, what you’re interested in, so be patient with this account:
Cascade had a new yarn coming in that seemed interesting: a 100% wool, lightly spun, called Soft Spun, that works to 4 stitches and 5 rows to the inch (for me, on #8 needles). I thought it would work to make a lighter, more flexible but still stout version of the thick Cowichan sweaters that are knit by the Salish tribes of British Columbia, and beloved by outdoorsmen in the Northwest and Canada.
Cascade sent me a batch of Soft Spun in natural colors. I swatched, thought, sketched, and went to work with my charting software to work out motifs that echoed but didn’t copy those of a distinctive craft. That’s where it all got out of hand. Doing charts is addictive, and one always has an idea after another.
If you want to know about Salish sweaters, the best account in print is contained in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’s and Deb Robson’s Knitting in the Old Way. Gibson-Roberts’s Salish Indian Sweaters, published in 1989, is out of print, but is being revised and republished with a tentative date, from Nomad Press, of early 2010.
My introduction to these sweaters came from one that my father brought back, many years ago, from salmon fishing up on the Fraser River. So mine had to have salmon, preferably a salmon run, so here’s the chart for the hem and the salmon run. It runs from the center back, mirror-imaged, because I was working on one-piece cardigan body. I think if I made it again, I’d work it out for raglan sleeves, too.
These motifs can be worked by charting them them against a graph for any sweater pattern than you chose, and they are done largely as jacquard, weaving in every three stitches or so as you go. It is easier to work jacquard in the round, but on a yarn this heavy, it’s better to work without steeks, which can give the finished garment too much bulk. The one I made was a gift to my eldest sister, who is 82, fragile, and feels the cold. She loved it, and her daughter gave her mother a big hug—not a great picture, but one that touches my heart.
You don’t have to stick to traditional colors. I’ve seen really nice neo-Cowachins done in navy blue on sage green, black and white and grey, forest green on cream, and navy on beige.
Have fun with these, and knit on!
What goes with salmon? Bears, especially in memory of the one who stole my daughter’s creel and chased her up a tree when she tried to retrieve it. I got the scale wrong when I placed a bear above each pocket, on the sweater as knit. Here is one in the right scale, if I make it again.
And what goes with both? Douglas fir trees, mirror imagined from the center back.
On the way to selecting these three motifs for this sweater, however, I charted any number of motifs, large and small, to mix or match.