A close-knit family effort on the Saanich Peninsula

25 knitters meet weekly to create toques, scarves for Adam Olsen’s campaign.

BC Green Party candidate in Saanich North and the Islands

Rather than buying up lots of ads, putting large signs up with a giant face plastered onto it, one political party is taking a different approach — knitting.

A group of 25 knitters in support of Candidate Adam Olsen of the Green Party having been meeting once a week to knit as part of the campaign.

The idea was that of Adam’s mother, Sylvia.

“I came up with this idea because I have this little interesting notion that knitting for social change is as old as the French Revolution, maybe even before that,” she told the PNR in a recent interview.

She referenced a story by Charles Dickens about the women in the French Revolution who sat across the front row when there was executions taking place.

And those women, she said, were knitting the names of the people who were dying, recording history.

Sylvia also happens to have a large interest in knitting.

After doing her research on knitting, Sylvia found an interesting story she heard from an elderly First Nations woman from Chemainus.

The woman said they used to bring their knitting baskets to the airport when their chiefs were going to Ottawa in the 1960s and ‘70s, as they didn’t have any money to send them.

They would sit at the airport and knit, seeling them until they had enough money to buy a ticket.

“The knitters have always made things happen,” said Sylvia.

Adam said it’s also about bringing it back to their family, as they knit through their business, Salish Fusion.

This isn’t new for the Olsens as they also happen to come from a long line of knitters and wool workers. Adam said there is also a lot of integrity behind it, as they actually come from knitters that not only knit for change, but for food to raise their families.

“My dad was raised in some part to the knitting that his mother did long into the night burning the midnight oil to buy food …” he said.

There’s also the fact that Adam is bald, said his mother, which is why he often wears toques.

Adam said there has also been an awareness piece to the toques and headbands as well, as people are noticing around the community the bright colours.

The design was put together by Sylvia and they purchased their wool the same way they’ve always gotten their supply — from a company out in Alberta called Custom Wool and Mills. They dyed the wool green.

“It’s actually the colour of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders …” said Sylvia, adding that it’s why the green is available.

After putting out an email to their volunteer list, they received 10 to 12 people in the first couple of weeks. That number has now gone up to 25 knitters.

Besides Sylvia, also taking part in the knitting group is a Sidney resident named Lily Charles, who sometimes goes by Lil Charles.

Charles, who has been a knitter for a long time, hasn’t done a lot lately and wanted to do something for Adam’s election campaign.

“I’m not a person to go out knocking on doors, so when I heard about this knitting thing, I thought ‘hey this is great, I can do something and its something I enjoy doing,’” she said.

She added it’s also something that’s really different.

By knitting for Olsen’s campaign, Charles has also learned a new knitting technique that she can expand in her own knitting processes.

Another knitter, Linda Brown, said it’s nice to knit in groups when you’re knitting with a purpose.

“With this particular group, there’s a common sense of purpose, you’re knitting for a cause …” said Brown.

Sylvia said so far they’ve raised over $5,000, after expenses.

“I often get feedback as a politician about signs,” Adam said. “They’re annoying. So one of the pieces about this was that we’ve got these toques and people are now starting to put the pieces together of what they are, what they’re being used for. They’re kind of like a bit of a walking endorsement.”

He said one of the party’s primary goals in politics is building community, not just outside of the political campaign or political party, but within the party itself, creating a pool of strong supporters.

“So this was a really unique way I think to pull our strongest supporters who also knit together, and I’ve received very strong, solid, amazing advice for just being there on the Wednesday night and listening to the conversation,” he said.

Knitters meet at Sylvia’s home in North Saanich regularly and will be working on scarves next for when they go door to door.

The knitted products are available at adamolsen.ca/store.

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