Elizabeth and I had a lovely afternoon.

A few weeks ago, I freudiantly made a mistake when setting the schedule for this Saturday's staffing. There would have been just too many of us in the store on a sunny afternoon during the May long weekend. I had long wanted to spend some time with an Elizabeth Zimmerman book- getting to know more about this doyenne of the knitting world to whom we all owe so much.

Today was the day! Now some of you may know that giving me a day off can be a bit unpredictable, considering that the last time I was let loose on my own, I had myself tatooed. But today I have been behaving myself and have had a wonderful visit with Elizabeth Z. (a copy of whose book The Opinionated Knitter providentially arrived yesterday in the store) and imagine that there will be references to this fruitful day in the posts to come.

I just want to mention that I really felt that I was talking to an old friend when I read her Newsletter #5 from the fall of 1960, where she gave directions to knit a "Cowichan Sweater". My own knitting history is fondly yet shamefully connected to the Cowichan sweater from the 1st Nations people of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. When I was in my early 20's and we lived just north of Victoria, I was looking for a way to make some money (my recent Bachelor's degree in Religion did not come in very handy in this regard. Go figure!) As all knitters are likely to do, I found every yarn store within a 50 mile radius and spent more time haunting them than looking for a job. One day, one of the stores in Victoria was looking for a knitter so I gave it a whirl and we got along fine and I made $25/sweater. Not enough for groceries but to a devoted knitter, what do such mundane things matter?

Those of you who have visited Victoria will recognize the Cowichan sweater as the natural coloured bulky knit sweaters which are as prevalent in that city as Anne of Red Hair is in Charlottetown PEI. It didn't take long before I realized that the fastest knit sweaters and the easiest money was to be made by knitting these popular souvenirs of the rich and chilly. I felt like a knitting prostitute but consoled myself that the ones that I was commissioned to knit had raglan sleeves (unlike the traditional sweaters which are made in 1 piece with no seams -
3-needle cast off shoulders and picked up sleeves) and really tacky pictures on them. So I figured that anyone who was silly enough to buy these deserved to get the knock off, knitted by some transplanted Ontario pretender.

I always loved the REAL Cowichan sweaters and spent a lot of time trying to figure out just how they got those shoulders to look like that - before I knew what a 3-needle cast off was.
Zoom ahead 28 years: a few weeks ago, one of our regular customers came in wearing the layered look to deal with the crazy "spring weather" that we've been having. I could see that one of her layers was a traditional Cowichan sweater. I got so excited and wanted to see it. As she took off her coat, she said: "Wait till you see this..." and proudly displayed a magnificent vest that her mother had made her of Noro's glorious BLOSSOM yarn. She was a little confused when I didn't pay any attention at all to the vest but was all over the Cowichan. "I got this at a thrift shop a few years ago," says she. "I think I paid 6 bucks for it."

Life certainly has a way of putting everything into perspective. What does the value of something really mean?

"Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises." Elizabeth Zimmerman