May 23, 2012

Cowichan Sweater Spotting

I have no idea, as I didn't look for tags of authenticity, whether these are real Cowichan sweaters or imitation.  Saw all of them on Vancouver Island.

I walked past a storefront in Victoria's downtown that had a display window full of Cowichan sweaters and I didn't take a single photo at all.  Sorry.  I was occupied, identifying the dancing deer motif and others mentioned in Olsen's Working with Wool.

By the way, Cowichan is pronounced like cow the animal, then like the word itch, then like the name Anne.  Put the emphasis on the first syllable, making your voice go up, then down on the next two the way you would when saying the name Christopher or Meredith.

I found a thrift store sweater that was almost certainly imitation because it was knit in flat pieces and sewn together.  Not to mention that twenty dollars is incredibly under-priced for an actual used Cowichan sweater.  It looked pretty wretched.

This sweater, below, is an example of non-Cowichan sweater that borrows inspiration.  It looks like it sports the infinity spiro motif you see on clothes from Vancouver-based clothing company TNA.  I saw this sweater in passing and another at closer quarters when I was on the ferry.  The yarn is thinner, the grey is flat and uniform as though dyed, and the placement of the motif doesn't give the balance of black and white that characterizes First Nations art.  Not that I expect the designers mind the differences at all.  They're going for another market.

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