Posted on October 21, 2011 at 9:38 am
Takoma seems to have struck a chord with a number of people. My blog stats are higher than they've ever been, and I have an email box peppered with stories of long lost daddy sweaters that sound a lot like mine. A nostaligia lives at the heart of my own knitting; it's lovely to hear that I am in plentiful company.
There's a few things that I want to acknowledge about Takoma: where I found inspiration and information in knitting it.
It took me several months of looking for patterns because while I knew I wanted a traditional cardigan, I also knew I wanted something a little different from that. And all of the patterns out there in the world use what I call a shortcut collar, rather than the constructed shawl collar that I knew belonged on this sweater. A shortcut collar calls for casting on a few stitches, then increasing at the end of every other row until you reach a desired stitch count, knitting for a little longer, then reversing the shaping, then lashing the whole thing to the neck edge and calling it done. This works fine enough, but it lacks the shaping or the body of a proper Cowichan which has a series of shaping tricks that build the collar up across the back fo the neck and then combine with the collar flaps from the front to create a cozy and softly structured shape.
I consulted Priscilla Gibson Robert's Knitting in the Old Way, and then finally got my hands on a copy of her out-of-print Salish Indian Sweaters (there are rumors of a pending reprint but I have been hearing this for so many years now I have given up waiting. If anyone knows differently, please let me know). Both were terrific resources, and I couldn't have conceptualized how the collar worked without her guidance.
Meanwhile, for my own interests, I got my hands on a copy of the National Film Board of Canada's documentary The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters for a lesson in the hardscrabble cultural context these sweaters come from. I am in the middle of reading the very interesting book, Working with Wool: a Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater, by Sylvia Olsen, which is additionally enlightening about the spiritual considerations of the Cowichan knitters. I am also interested to learn about the special Cowichan spinners (also known as Indian Head Spinners) improvised from sewing machine parts and an enlarged flier. (Image borrowed from Island Weavings, where there is more info about this particular machine)
Meanwhile, I was inspired by the apparent return of Cowichan inspired sweaters to the mainstream, and the frequent attention fellow knitters were calling to the Granted Clothing website or vintage Mary Maxim patterns on Ravelry. There's even a Cowichan Inspired group over there.