With the arrival of the European settlers to Vancouver Island around 1860 came the introduction to the domestic sheep and a simple form of knitting. The Coast Salish women adapted and combined centuries of weaving skills to this simple knitting style and in turn transformed it into a very distinct cultural art form. The water-resistance of Cowichan wool used for the sweaters attracted fishers and others working outdoors and eventually sportspeople. Traditional Aboriginal designs and natural colours of the sweater have become a British Columbian icon popular around the globe.
These Saiwashi kutsushiita (socks) were hand-knitted by Shio Yabuno. “Saiwashi” is the word used by Japanese Canadians to refer to local First Nations, from whom they bought handmade socks and jackets. Japanese Canadian women eventually started making socks on their own, using the technique they learned from the First Nations knitters. Those socks were knee-high and very thick—suitable for fishermen to keep themselves warm on the sea.
The Howe Sound Women’s Institute was formed in 1926 with 34 members. It lasted until 1990. The summer quilt (Howe Sound Women’s Institute guilt) was a fundraiser for the Institute.
People paid 10 cents for their name to be embroidered on the squares. There are 511 names, and the central image is of the Women's Institute Hall (built in 1929 and still standing!). The Hall was restored and became the Heritage Playhouse. It was declared a Heritage Building in 1989.
Membership in the HSWI cost 50 cents, and there was a sub-organization for young girls aged 12-18, who were known as "Associates."
The quilt was an ongoing project- the Minute Books of the HSWI show that in February 1926 they made the decision to make a signature quilt. In October 1927, they record that they are not sure the quilt will be ready in time for the Fall Fair. And in January 1929 they declare that the quilt must be finished at once!