Coureurs Des Bois…….Masters of the Canadian Touque

Nothing is more quintessentially Canadian than wearing a Touque (or Tuque).  Sporting these tight fighting, rolled brim hats (plus or minus a pompom), with your favourite hockey shirt makes you the ultimate Hoser!


On a less ridiculous note, we have to give credit for the origins of the Touque to some much more courageous and innovative men, the Voyageurs of New France.  Also known as the Coureurs Des Bois, or “Runners of the Woods”, the Voyageurs were independent contractors who managed the trade between the First Nations people and the English and French Trading Companies.


The Voyageur ensemble consisted of the Touque, a “Capot” or blanket jacket with a hood, and breeches or trousers.  Most Voyageurs were pictured wearing an arrow woven sash, but we will discuss that later in the blog.


So, if you are feeling the need to bring out your inner Voyageur, try one of these Chapeaus!  We love the Plucky Knitter “Conversationalist” Touques and the free pattern can be found HERE on Ravelry


And what  could be better than a Touque with a big old Maple Leaf on it!  Amanda Kaffka has designed a wonderful “Canadian Slouchy Hat”…perfect for Canada’s 150th birthday! We have made up a kit for you (with proceeds to Amanda for her great design), in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Chunky.  Click HERE to order the kit


One unique Canadian community is our Metis population.  “The Metis people originated in the 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Aboriginal women, such as the Cree and Anishinabe (Ojibway).  Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Northwest.  Distinct Metis communities developed along the fur trade routes”.  The Metis have wonderful a wonderful intricate beadwork and weaving tradition.


Perhaps the most widely recognized symbol of Métis heritage is the Métis sash. Sashes evolved from the bright scarves of French Canadians which Voyageurs brought to western Canada. The finger-weaving technique used to make the sash came from Eastern Woodland peoples’ traditions. They had woven plant fibres for tumplines, clothing, and other household articles. Europeans introduced wool as a fiber and a sash worn as a garment to the Six Nations Confederacy, Potawatomi and other nearby nations of the Woodland peoples, and that combination of ideas resulted in the distinctive sash.
The sash served as a way to carry items, as a towel and washcloth, as a saddle blanket, rope, or bridle, was worn ornamentally, and also hinted at the joie-de-vivre which continues to be a prominent aspect of Métis culture. This display of tradition has influenced many histories and artistic works by non-Métis as well, including famed American artist and sculptor Frederic Remington whose paintings faithfully documented the lives of peoples in Canada and the western USA in the late 1800s.
By the late 20th century it had become a proud symbol of Métis identity.
And, you cannot think about Voyageurs and the Metis without a word about the Hudson Bay Company.  This Company started trade in Canada back in the 1600s, which is a really, really long time ago in our country!  One of the persisting symbols of this era is the Hudson Bay Blanket.


Much prized as a trading item, there is controversy surrounding this practice to today.  Many of the First Nation’s people were almost completely wiped out by smallpox infested blankets.  Other historians write about the HBC staff trying to care for and eventually immunize the Aboriginal peoples against this horrible disease.


Nonetheless, the Red, Green, Blue and Yellow stripes on the blanket are a much loved and recognizable Canadian treasure.  Knitters have reproduced the pattern and we have a suggestion for HBC knit.  Purl Soho has a wonderful, free pattern for a Hudson Bay inspired Crib Blanket.  If you would like to see our kit, click HERE for more information.  We have made it up in Berroco Vintage, a wonderful machine washable worsted weight yarn.

We must cherish our inheritance.  We must preserve our nationality for the youth of our future.  The story should be written down to pass on.

—Louis Riel—

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *