I wake up with designs for things to knit, dancing in my head. Last fall the design for a blanket danced with the Cowichan sweater designs. It began with the Salmon and the Eagle and meandered to the geometric and through to the more heraldic. The blanket was quilt-like in its form and it spoke to me as a cohesive item, designs from my life now.
We live on Okanagan Lake and every day you can watch the osprey and the eagles dive for the Kokanee and trout that live in the lake. They sit on the trees and poles on our land and eat dinner, lunch or just snacks often leaving the desecrated fish unfinished hanging on a branch or rotting on the ground. I sometimes pick up the carcasses and bury them in my garden to feed the vegetables.
The whale showed up later in the design for my sister Jane. I remember her sweater from the 70’s, there was front and back whales swimming above the salmon. The snowflake design, or what I came to see as compasses, were on many sweaters when I was growing up and they continue to be a classic.
Linda McLean, who works with us at the Twisted Purl, is a master knitter and she has knitted many Cowichan-inspired sweaters. Traditionally we used the six ply unspun wool from Custom Woolen Mills in Carstairs, Briggs and Little or earlier in the 60’s-70’s Buffalo Wool Co. After some consideration we decided that the blanket should be knitted with worsted weight wool and we used the 3ply yarn from Custom Woolen Mills. It is lovely yarn to knit with. A little bit soft, strong and still filled with the lanolin, natural wool, so the stitches slip easily on and off the needles
To create the designs I began by reading and looking at the graphs of the old Buffalo Wool Patterns. There are many on the internet for sale and I have been collecting from second hand stores for years.
Linda and I decided on the size of the squares and I created some graphs on paper for guidelines. Linda and I knit very differently gauge-wise. My knitting falls loosely while Linda’s is tighter. Wetting and blocking the squares made everything work. We knit long, 3-inch borders, giving it a quilt-like look and sewed the squares together. For the top border I was inspired by a graph and design from a Japanese pattern. I liked the birds “kissing” at the top of the blanket overlooking the whole scene.
What fun it was to create this blanket from dancing designs to a warm wool blanket that relaxes my soul. Thanks Linda for trusting my dreams and knitting along with me.
Here’s to creating from where you live.