Tag Archives: Knit Wutth’els

After years of exploitation, the iconic Cowichan sweater is being protected with a new fair-trade program

Editor’s note: Prior to the colonial era, Coast Salish Peoples used mountain goat wool, dog hair and plant fibres in their woven textiles. Cowichan sweaters were produced after the arrival of sheep and European two-needle and multiple-needle knitting techniques. According to Marianne P. Stopp, The first documented instance of Coast Salish knitting took place at the Sisters of St. Anne Roman Catholic mission in Duncan, in the Tzouhalem district, which opened in 1864.

By Mike Graeme, Indiginews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The art of knitting Cowichan sweaters has been in Zena Roland’s family for generations.

Her grandmother knit sweaters for the likes of Bing Crosby — and Roland herself has been practicing the craft almost her entire life, for more than 50 years.

But although the Cowichan sweater has become an iconic symbol of the West Coast, cultural appropriation and the exploitation of artisans has made the craft unsustainable for many knitters who need to make a living.

“We weren’t getting a good price for a while and it wasn’t worth doing,” Roland said.

Now, Roland is part of a group of Coast Salish knitters who are reclaiming their work crafting Cowichan sweaters, with a new initiative that pushes back against the unfair wages and design theft that has stifled their practice for decades.

Continue reading After years of exploitation, the iconic Cowichan sweater is being protected with a new fair-trade program