Friday Mailbag
Girls Night Out

Oh, Canada!

At the holidays, I often write about my Swedish heritage.  That comes from my Dad's side of the family.

There's another side, of course. . .

My Mom is from Canada, and more specifically, from the Calgary area in Alberta.  She grew up in the small town of Innisfail, located in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. (Such a beautiful place!)  My Mom grew up skating and curling and tobogganing.  One summer during her high school years, she met a visiting "Yank," and, ultimately, let him convince her to come to "the States" to marry him.*  


When my Mom and Dad (the "Yank") got married, one of her cousins (a couple of times "removed" . . . we think) knit them what I've always called their "Canada sweaters" as a wedding present.  They didn't wear them all that much as I was growing up (the sweaters were rather . . . distinct . . . for 1960s northern Illinois. . .), but I do remember my Mom wearing hers whenever we went ice skating.

The photos in this post are me . . . wearing my Mom's "Canada sweater."  Very traditional.  Very warm.  And hand knit by a cousin, distantly "removed."


This type of sweater is known by several names -- Canadian heritage sweater, curling sweater, Cowichan sweater.  The roots go back to the Cowichan tribe in British Columbia, although there is a specific design and color palette for true Cowichan sweaters.  Although you can find "Canada sweaters" with all kinds of motifs, the most common include eagles, fish, deer (like my Mom's), totem, or winter sports (curling, hockey).  Probably the most famous "Cowichan" sweater is the one worn by the Dude in The Big Lebowski (although that one, technically, was a Pendleton).  There are kits and patterns to make these sweaters today, and there is quite a market for vintage Cowichan sweaters (as a quick look at eBay will show).

As for me, I'm thrilled to have this piece of my Canadian heritage!


* And THAT is a story for another day!


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Mary Maxim sold these as kits in Canada years ago and I think everyone in our family had one. My sister's had figure skaters on hers. They have now revived them in a limited way, with Canadian motifs like maple leaves, beavers, hockey players, polar bears and yes, deer.


She's just beautiful, Kym - you're so fortunate she has survived all these years - and it fits you perfectly! Just the perfect sweater for this winter that has outstayed its welcome many times over!


I love that!


I think that's awesome and I didn't know the history of the sweater so thank you for sharing. Dale, of course, has his own version of The Dude sweater. It's got pheasant on it with shotgun shells on the sleeves. It's actually quite horrific.


Excellent! Where's the other one? :-) And I can't wait to hear the story on another day!


Every time I see one of those sweaters, I think MARY MAXIM. The catalog was full of them. It's rare, but once in a while I see one in the wild... and am stupefied. They are even more amazing in person!

Cheryl S.

I have long had a secret desire to knit a Cowichan-style sweater. They look so cozy. I'll probably never do it, but now my secret is out.


Look how well it fits you! I can see you wearing it to one of Tom's curling events. Vintage as it looks, it's still very cool.


It looks like the distant cousin did a very nice job of knitting. And it has a zipper too! It makes me wonder if it is colorwork or intarsia...
Love the story!


Lucky you to have such a beautiful heirloom sweater. And lucky knitter to have her work honored in this way!

Lori on Little Traverse Bay

Love this! How lucky you are to have this sweater!

(One of these days I plan to knit Older Son the Big Lebowski sweater. I think it would be fun to knit AND wear.)


What a great sweater...with a story, too! The thought of knitting all that intarsia makes me twitch, but I love the finished piece!

Sharon R.

That's lovely. I had one when I was a kid. A hand-me-down from a daughter of one of my mom's friends. And a boyfriend in the 80s from northern Quebec wore one around the house. I wouldn't let him wear it out in public (with me, anyway!). It was knit by a relative of his.

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