Oh Canada Part I – Bedazzled in Toronto

Italian Silk and Gilt Intarsia Jacket at the ROM

My quest to create a Knitting Heritage Museum kicked into high gear in June when I asked the Yarn Group of The National NeedleArts Association for a grant to cover symposium expenses. Much to my delight, the Yarn Group made a grant of $5000, $2000 more than I had requested. At the end of the meeting, Kathleen Kroeger of Bejeweled-Bedazzled  rushed up and invited me and Amy, City Knits’ manager, to visit Toronto to research how the Canadians treat their textile heritage.  Besides being an amazing hostess, she is the creator of glorious glass buttons, so light that they will work on even delicate hand knit sweaters.  I am  still digesting all the wondrous things that happened during our visit – both as a tourist and a researcher.

On Monday, we enjoyed a special tour of the Textile Collection of the Royal Ontario Museum  led by Mitzi Beale, long time volunteer with the ROM, and my traveling buddy from our life -changing 1996 Scandinavian Knitting Tour.

The Italian knit jacket was a breathtaking masterwork from the 1600‘s, knit of silk and silver gilt thread using the intarsia technique in an impossibly fine gauge.  We are still wondering about the drawer of knitted and crocheted bags and lace:  seven objects, but only six descriptions.  I guess that means another email to a curator, and another “crochet gets no respect” anecdote for the files. We were nourished in many ways by a delicious dinner hosted by our friend Norm.

Silk Oasis on the Silk Road: Bukhara - Exhibit at the Textile Museum of Canada

On Tuesday, we were gifted with an astounding mini-seminar at the Textile Museum of Canada/. Executive Director  Shauna McCabe arranged for us to spend an hour with three key curators. I still haven’t yet absorbed all the wisdom they offered. [I’ll summarize their advice in Part II.}Our hostess Kathleen was so generous: Bead store 101 for Amy at BeadFX, shrimp on the BarBee, swimming with silver globes under a silvery summer moon; bedazzling bra straps and creating jewelry at midnight, and soaking up personalized tours of the special byways that make Toronto such a wonderful city.


On Wednesday, after a shopping spree at Romni Wools, Toronto’s mecca for knitters,  we visited charming Cambridge, and fiber genius Kathy Fisher.

Hostess Kathleen Kroeger, Mitzi Beale and Kathy Fisher

She shared amazing insights about the modern chemistry of medieval plant dyeing, an introduction to Viking whirling spindles. I am in awe of her sheer energy and intellectual pursuits. Who knew that black walnut husks yield less dye if they have grown near the road in vehicular pollution, than trees grown in the cleaner air of the woods?

Wednesday evening Amy and I saw Camelot at the Stratford Festival was sublime, from the opening hawk flight (yes, a real hawk!), through the love songs with cunning lyrics, to the despicably evil Mordred who preyed on the human frailties of King, Queen and Knight, locked in a love triangle — all enhanced by the tour de force of costuming expertise.

Granny Square Jacket from the Stratford Festival Archives

Still the highlight of our Stratford visit was a tour of costumes, and props (Amy is a gifted designer, whether sewing or knitting), followed by our lunch with Stratford’s Archives Director, Dr. Francesca Marini. Though busy with founding a museum for the Stratford Festival,  she found time to share a very special costume from her archives with us: a bright green granny square suit, crocheted from fabric strips, as well as great advice for a start-up museum, which I’ll save for another day.

How wonderful to have so many new friends “up north.” I can’t thank you all enough. Can’t wait to return.

  • Up Coming Topics:  
    • Oh Canada! Part II – Museum Start-up Advice
    • Building the Board;
    • Selecting a Symposium Date;
    • What makes me think that I am the one to start up this Museum???

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