Sylvia Olsen

Sylvia Olsen is an adult educator and facilitator specializing in First Nations housing. She married into the Tsartlip First Nation near Victoria, BC, and developed relationships with Coast Salish knitters through her family’s sweater shop. Olsen was inspired to explore the juncture of her English/Scottish/European heritage and Coast Salish life experiences, bringing to light deeply personal questions about Canadian knitting traditions. She is the author of over twenty books for adult and children, including Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater, which was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing. Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey is her cross-Canada cultural road trip.

Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey
Published by Douglas & McIntyre

Toques, mittens and scarves – oh my! A cross-country knitting road trip that unravels Canadian history, landscape, economy and social issues one knit and purl at a time. What does a knitting road trip look like? Why do it? Crafts such as knitting embody a rich history of the personal and communal, the practical and the artistic, the commercial and gift-giving economies. They contain local and outsider influences, reflect political nuances, and often involve the skill sets of women and marginalized communities – knitting is a unique lens into Canadian culture and history.

Six weeks on the road, over fifty knitting workshops (patterned toques!), forty communities visited, hundreds of Canadian knitters engaged with – Sylvia Olsen started her road trip searching for what Canadians thought about knitting and she returned home with a new and profound understanding of what knitters thought about Canada. She also discovered the oldest known sweaters in Canada (sweaters that brings history, Indigenous design, internment camps and more together).

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