Knitting together a community

The Cowichan Intercultural Society
The Cowichan Intercultural Society's Françoise Moulin poses with a portion of 160 feet of a community scarf knitted by about 359 Cowichanians as part of a CIS initiative to create dialouge through art. The scarf was hanging in the Vancouver Island Regional Library, Duncan branch at the Island Savings Centre on Wednesday and would was planned to move to the Mill Bay library as well. from It will also be at Duncan's Royal Bank between April 10-17.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

It brought together the hands of 359 men, women, new and longtime citizens, leaders, activists, students and volunteers.

It inspired care, attention, and compassion among positive dialogue with complete strangers.

It is a scarf.

But it's not just any scarf. It is 160 feet of beautifully mixed material, knitted by Cowichanians as part of a Cowichan Intercultural Society project based on dialogue through art.

"Everywhere around the world people are knitting. The idea was to create a way new members of the community could meet with others," CIS community bridging and welcoming communities co-ordinator Françoise Moulin said.

Moulin worked with the society's Catherine Johnson to create the project that started in December and recently wrapped up. The scarf is now making its rounds through the community.

"The scarf project has been a creative undertaking, knitting our community together and offering a welcome to newcomers (immigrants) in the valley while creating a platform for dialogue," Moulin said. "The premise of the project has been to bridge locals with newcomers, fostering a sense of inclusion with conversation and a craft recognizable to most cultures.

"Sharing conversation over a communal project builds relationships and supports a sense of belonging, all the while creating visibility (of project and visible minorities) in the many venues where the knitting has taken place."

Moulin said knitting started a little slow at the end of December, but as people joined in on the project, word spread and participation spiraled.

"It took for people to actually see what we were doing and understand before it could grow," she said.

The group hosted 66 knitting sessions.

And Moulin can't thank the participants enough who made it possible.

Sessions took place all over the valley including two libraries, two community centres, Tim Horton's, Somenos Women's Institute, two churches, three schools, the Tzouhalem Spinners and Weavers Guild, ELSA class and ESL Cafe and Starbucks.

"Co-ordinators assisted in focusing the dialogue on intercultural relations during the knitting groups which resulted in warm and lively conversation among strangers (both immigrants and long-time Cowichan residents) who may not have otherwise met and shared personal stories."

Today, the completed colourful scarf is now taking a road trip across Cowichan. It was at the Duncan branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library on Wednesday and was to take a trip to Mill Bay's branch later in the week.

It was also scheduled to be hung at the Duncan Royal Bank from April 10 to 17.

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