Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey, by Sylvia Olsen [Book Excerpt]

31 March 2021
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Excerpt adapted with permission of the publisher from Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey, by Sylvia Olsen, ©2021. Published by Douglas & McIntyre.

Over the years, when questions about design and knitting techniques made me think of distant places, my mind kept circling back home. What about Canada? What were Canadians knitting? Was there anything about Canadian knitting that was particularly Canadian? I wanted to know what Canadians were saying about knitting and what knitters were saying about Canada.

Maybe by exploring knitting in my own country I’d find out something about my Canadian identity, I thought. Canada is a huge collection of regions that has been struggling to find an identity since the nineteenth century, when a group of European men stood around a table and decided there should be a federation. The idea of discovering Canadian identity through knitting sounded far-fetched even to me.

As we made final preparations, it became clear that the book tour would be a storytelling tour, as well. It would let me wed my passion for knitting and my obsession with stories. I designed a simple toque to use as a teaching tool. Joni made kits for me to take on the road. Once we posted the news on Facebook, we were committed. The knitting tour was launched.

Image description: the cover of Sylvia Olsen's book ....

We set off on April 30, 2015, heading for more than forty knitting destinations, with fifty-two scheduled classes and almost nine hundred participants. Tex McLeod, world traveller and my indomitable partner (now husband), and I packed up our old red Dodge Caravan and set our sights on spending June 15 in Newfoundland.

I hoped to come home with a deeper understanding of knitting, a fresh appreciation for Canada and a renewed sense of being Canadian. Along the road, I intended to find my people.

Featured image courtesy of Douglas & McIntyre.

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