Coast Salish Wool

We went to this temporary exhibit at the Hibulb Cultural Center in Tulalip today.

Here is a woven cedar basket from 1850 at the beginning of the permanent exhibit.  With their basket weaving history, it makes perfect sense that they would be good at weaving other fibers.

And a more modern woven cedar basket from 1955.

They also made woven dolls from cedar bark.

And articles of clothing

There was other interesting objects in this exhibit like this harpoon tip found near Tulalip from the 1700s.

And here a description of portions of their diet. I am familiar with almost all of these items except the blackcaps and soapberries. I will have to try to find these.

I had no idea Eddie Bauer sold knitted items made by Tulalip Indians. I have a long history with is this company including my grandmother working for them but somehow missed this.

Then we went into the temporary wool exhibit. For us it started with older photos of Tulalip women spinning wool.

Then they had a description of a traditional Salish loom and two were there with warp on it. The warp was wrapped around the two horizontal beams. It is ingenious.

I am fascinated by the story of the native woolly dogs since I first learned about them from the Skagit County Historical Museum. This poster talks about the transition from goat and dog fibers to sheep’s wool.

Here are some Tulips fiber tools.

And I love this spinner.  It appears to be a converted sewing machine table.  It looks remarkable similar to my electric spinner. But the bobbin is not straight which I find interesting.  It likely holds more wool this way, but I wonder if the twist stays consistent.

And here is a description of the evolution of spinning in the tribe.

It is interesting that knitting was unknown to the tribe before the Mission but became marketed as traditional Indian knitwear only a short time later.

The last Eddie Bauer sweater:

More traditional fiber arts tools.  I find the shell they used to shear the dogs fascinating and the use of diatomaceous earth for bleaching.  They also boiled their fiber.

This describes the fibers used in their traditional blankets.  In addition to the goat and dog fibers there can be nettles, fireweed fluff, duck down, and cedar bark.  This also describes the dyes that were used.

Here is a handspun sheep wool woven blanket with some moss dye used.

Here is a gorgeous wool woven shawl using traditional techniques.

Here is a 1914 photo showing tribal woven wool clothing.

This is the story of two teenagers that found parts of a 200 years old loom in the Skagit River delta.

And recreations of those pieces.

And here are old photos showing what may be the now extinct wooly dogs.


Here is a description of how the Hudson’s Bay Company contributed to these dogs’ extinction.

Here is a pelt from one of these dogs from the Smithsonian.  I am wondering if there might be extractable DNA that could be used to recreate this dog.

And here is the presentation of an actual goat and dog fiber traditional woven blanket.  there is not much of it left but it is nonetheless amazing.

More information of the woolly dog.  I am totally fascinated still and wondering if you mix a Pomeranian and a Samoyed if you could make something approaching a woolly dog….

So this exhibit is really interesting to me.  Any local fiber or history enthusiasts really should visit this center near Marysville.  Totally worth it.  If you cannot visit, here are a couple of videos about it:

PS  I got a senior discount for the first time at this museum.  Kind of upsetting.

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8 Responses to Coast Salish Wool

  1. Janice Johnson says:

    Hi Donna – great blog and so interesting about the wooly dog. Thanks.

  2. Denise says:

    that is really interesting. I didn’t know about the keeping of woolly dogs or that Eddie Bauer sold authentic native knits.

  3. Jeanne says:

    Wow! That is super-interesting! I’m coming back to read it again! I’d love to see it in person! Thanks for sharing it!

  4. Patti gobin says:

    Thank you for visiting. My grandmother was one of the women that knitted for “Eddie”.
    She was 91 when she passed on and the way she made money to survive on, was knitting her whole life. She was a beautiful coast salish knitter…she was a proud Tulalip tribal member. Thanks again. Patti

    • Donna says:

      How incredibly cool! I hope her knitted garments were cherished my their owners. So glad to hear the history of your grandmother and Eddie.

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