Ceremonial Salish Blanket

salish_blanket.jpgPhoto: Blaine Campbell (courtesy Brenda Crabtree Collection)

Twill woven with hand-spun natural colored merino wool and red rag woven through; this is a great modern example of the very rare traditional Salish blanket.

Salish weaving techniques go back thousands of years. Traditionally, these blankets were woven from the hair of mountain goats, soft fibers such as Indian Hemp and Stinging Nettle as well as hair from a now extinct breed of ‘wooly dog’. The remarkable skill and labor that went into producing blankets made them highly valuable – ceremonial blankets were not only symbols of wealth and status, but were often used as currency.

With the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Blanket and the introduction of sheep soon afterward, demand for ceremonial blankets began to diminish. However, the techniques did not disappear entirely and in time, Salish weaving traditions blended with European knitting to produce the Cowichan Sweater.

– Brenda Crabtree, Emily Carr University

– Elizabeth Flower Anderson Miller, “Wooly Dogs“. 2001, www.allfiberarts.com
– Olson, Sylvia, researcher. “The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters”. Dir. Christine Welsh. VHS. National Film Board of Canada. 2000

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