Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


Coast Salish textiles from the Pacific Northwest (northwest Washington state and southwest British Columbia) are relatively rare and unknown yet are masterpieces of sophisticated weaving and spinning techniques. Coast Salish blankets and robes, and the tools used to make them, have been the subjects of a few seminal works (Gustafson 1980; Loughran-Delahunt 1996; Marr 1979; Vanderburg 1953), but other than the occasional recording of the direction of twist, the spinning characteristics of the yarn itself have not been the focus of research. This gap is curious, given the uniqueness of Coast Salish spinning tools, the corresponding techniques, and the fibres used. Notable examples are the Salish large spindle, which employs a tossing motion (Kissell 1916) and was used with mountain goat and dog wool, and the Indian Head spinner, used to produce Cowichan sweater yarn (Gibson-Roberts 1989) from local sheep's wool. The Coast Salish have exhibited a renewed interest in recreating traditional textiles and developing contemporary textiles based on traditional robes and blankets. This research project set out to look at what, if anything, the spinning characteristics can tell us about these traditional textiles and to provide modern Coast Salish spinners and weavers with more resources to make choices in textile design.