Ontario is a big province

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

It seems like weeks ago that we were driving across the north end of Lake Superior. The lake still had ice in many places and when we bought a blueberry pie in Rossport and dipped our toes in the lake we were told that the water temperature was 35 degrees.  

By the time we got to Huntsville it was sunny and warm. When I tested the water in Mary Lake it felt warm enough for a swim. In Ottawa it was muggy, 26 degrees and felt like the middle of summer.

We drove the 401 with a million transports, lined up with a million cars on Don Valley, and drove around the block a million times at the Eaton’s Center trying to find a parking space. We went on a driving ‘adventure’ down almost deserted country lanes and through sleepy old Scottish settlements around Maxville and Dunvegan—a must tour for McLeods like Tex.

I can’t think about one word to describe Ontario other than that it is enormous and diverse. Oh yes, and chip trucks—BC needs chip trucks.

We started meeting knitters (more than 160 altogether in the province) in Sioux Lookout, then we went to Thunder Bay, Huntsville, Coldwater, Barrie, Scarborough and Ottawa. The yarn shop owners, like the ones we have met across the country are incredible women. They are creating spaces and communities unlike anything I have experienced in other retail sectors. 

Pat Uren has returned to Sioux Lookout after a brief ‘retirement’ from her at- home wool shop and there is no question another shop will emerge. Even though it is a tiny town, the knitting community is strong and they will have their yarn shop again. Driving through Thunder Bay we were struck by the abandonment of the inner city. We found Threads in Time amongst empty shops. Yet on Sunday morning we met Lynn at the door of the beautifully inviting shop and by starting time every possible space was filled with enthusiastic knitters. Even little villages like Huntsville and Coldwater brought knitters from miles around. The Purple Sock felt more like Lynn’s living room than a commercial shop. We were told that downtown Coldwater had been struggling for years and the yarn store was one of the first shops to make a significant presence on the main street. The knitters think their shop can take some credit for the now bustling town centre.


 We found Eliza’s Buttons in a suburban strip mall in Barrie, a completely different style of building and room. Without the old world charm you might think it could lack the vibrancy of the quainter shops. That’s until you meet Elizabeth and the crowd…almost standing room only crowd…she gathered. The same can be said for Creative Yarns in Scarborough where Nina’s charm, hospitality, knitting smarts and creativity are a magnet. She has an amazing choice of yarn and collection of samples. And if you attend a workshop at there Nina’s generosity means you have a great chance at a quality door prize.

I felt at home when we got to Wabi Sabi and Carol told us the name of her business refers to a Japanese esthetic of beauty that comprises ideas of imperfection and impermanence—ideas that I have always gathered from old Coast Salish knitters. Her business is as much an art studio as yarn shop and had a feeling of productivity. I finally found cashmere that may work for my emerging cashmere fingerless glove kits…more on that later.

Our last stop in Ontario was at the Nepean Centrepointe Library with a great group of knitters from the Ottawa Knitting Guild. Appropriately the session was shortened by 10 minutes when the storm cut the lights as if to say “Enough now, Sylvia. You can take a break.”

But in spite of what sounds like a grueling schedule, Ontario is Tex’s home and we visited many friends along the way.

Heather and Cris at Lake Scugog.


James hamming it up for Tex in Ottawa.

We also had time to stop at knitting points of interest—the Textile Museum, in Toronto--Mary Maxim, in Paris—Paula Lishman in Port Parry (see photos of my new raspberry, knitted beaver)—Yama’s sweater in Scugog—stories for another time.


 Me and my Paula Lishman.

After re reading this blog and thinking about all the people we met, the miles we traveled and the country we crossed I’m probably more tired now than I was during the trip itself. Ontario is a pleasant place with good people (but aren’t knitters good people everywhere?)

Oh, you say, but wasn’t the driving excruciating? No, but don’t forget I’m riding, not driving. I’m knitting, sleeping and listening to The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay on audio books. Even driving in rush hour wasn’t tiring for me. I’ve told you before, the secret to this road trip is that Tex is driving, not me, and he is a road warrior.

Wait, I’ll ask him, “Was the driving excruciating?”

“Umm,” he says. “No. I think we should turn around after visiting Newfoundland and drive back. Just think you could do more workshops and we could visit the places we missed.”

Umm, no, Tex. I don’t think so.






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  • So glad you had a great time at the Purple Sock in Coldwater! You described Lynns shop perfectly!, it is just like her livingroom!!! I love her shop and am a “regular”.. I was so sorry to miss your class but I was in Denver visting my grandson, cannot wait to see what Lynn and the girls did from your class!!

    Debbe on
  • I loved this post and photos. You make your journey sound like a wonderful journey. I enjoyed meeting you and Tex very much.
    Bryce Courtney’s ‘The Power of One’ is an amazing story. Have you finished it?
    Lynne, Thunder Bay

    Lynne Willette on

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