Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cowichan Knitting - Fleece questions

I wonder what type of sheep fleece were traditionally used for Cowichan Sweaters. Judith MacKenzie McCuin, spinner extroidinaire and author of a couple of recent spinning books, told me years ago that she thought the sheep were a mixed breed of down sheep, that had adapted to the Cowichan Valley area. They would produce fibres that had a lot of crimp which would produce yarn that is light, holds insulating air, hence very warm and bulky without the weight. They also had a lot of lanolin which was kept in during the spinning to make a very rain resistant garment. I remember her telling me that a friend, Marg Meikle (who took the photo on the left), also known as Canada's Answer Lady (from the CBC) had researched Cowichan knitting and had written a small book on the subject.   So I contacted Marg. Marg has had Parkinson's for over a dozen years now, but that hasn't infected her famous 'need-to-know' drive. Marg told me that she had uploaded her book to wikipedia, and sure enough, there it is (all 78 meg worth). But in Marg Meikle's book that accompanied a Cowichan Sweater exhibit that traveled across Canada in 1986, it was mentioned that traditional sweaters were very heavy and that helped prevent commercial knitting machines from replicating the Cowichan knitting. I wonder if they really were heavy or if it was the lanolin that prevented machines from duplicating the yarn? Anyone know?
If you'd like to download Marg's book, click on this link and ignore all the ads as you don't have to buy anything to download it, you just need patience for it to start downloading. After a 30 sec pause in which they hope you will have second thought and buy something, it will start downloading but beware, it is 76meg, so if you have a slow connection it will take a while.


  1. Isn't that a wonderful book and so generous of Marg Meikle to share.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Thanks Fran and yes, it was very good of Marg to do that. By the way I just LOVE the pictures of your lambs! What great expressions they have. And were you able to find an upgrade kit for your Lendrum?