Keeping myself busy while out here in Toronto hasn’t been a problem so far to be honest; I have been exploring the city, taking in new sports, shopping and generally being a tourist. Even when I am not out and about, I have enjoyed relaxing in many ways too, such as reading, hanging out at the apartment, using the spa and swimming. But me being me, I am always on the look out for new things to do and ways to meet new people.
That is when I decided I would give knitting a go.
My Nana used to knit when I was younger and I have vague memories of my Mam with knitting needles too so I am sure I will have been shown how to knit at some point in my childhood, I just have no recollection of the actual process. I am a huge fan of knitted items though, most of the clothes and accessories I have brought with me for this visit are knitted, just not home made. Well, apart from Nana Randle’s jumper of course 🙂 Being able to acquire a skill where I can choose any colour, any fabric, any pattern and be able to actually make something very individual appeals greatly to my creative side.
As well as learning a new skill, I liked the idea of the chance to meet some new people in the process. I had googled knitting classes in Toronto, and it seemed to be a lot more social than I ever expected. There are lots of big specialist cafés and groups where people get together and knit. Which seemed pretty cool, but massively daunting.
So when I came upon Ewe Knit, a newly opened, small yarn shop and café offering classes for absolute beginners, I instantly knew this was the place for me. I signed up to the class and headed off on the subway to Bloor Street.
Ewe Knit was very easy to find, located on a cute little side street filled with retro shops and colourfully painted fronts, it looked warm and welcoming as I approached which I was pleased about, as I was really nervous for some reason. I think I was feeling a bit intimidated and scared that I would be totally out of place, as I suppose is only natural when starting something new and arriving for the first time.
I needn’t have worried. As soon as I walked in I was greeted by the owner Claudia, who was friendly and very helpful. I explained I was here for the beginners class and she took me through to look at the huge amount of wools and other yarn they had in stock so I could choose my favourite that I wanted to use in class. The walls were covered in all different yarns, brightly coloured, different textures and thickness, it was hard to know where to start! I adopted the word yarn straight away, we don’t really say this back in England, that I am aware of anyway, not that I have had much need to say it in the past mind I will be honest, but I like it, as weird as that sounds. Yarn – cool word 😀
Walking round the shop is such a textile experience that you just want to reach out and touch everything, and so we did! Claudia talked through the pros and cons of lots of different kinds of yarn, and how they would be suited to a new starter. She asked what I intended to make, and when I told her I would like to make a scarf she offered some more great advice. We found a gorgeous dark red, almost maroon, Berroco yarn, 87% baby alpaca, with a flicker of sparkle running through it which I loved. It is a very wintery colour and I think would look great made into other accessories too, like some mitts or hat.
We then went to choose my knitting needles. Now the last time I saw knitting needles they were long and plastic or metal, so I thought that is what we would be looking for. Instead I was shown some very modern looking stainless steel small needles, joined by wire. Snazzy! Claudia explained that they were easy to use and I bowed down to her expert knowledge.
The class was $25 for 2 hours, excluding materials, or $50 with materials for use in the class. Since I wanted to be able to have this as a hobby away from the class too, I decided to buy the yarn and the needles. It costs extra initially, but they are yours to take home and everyone likes to have their own first set don’t they? So we cashed in my 3 bundles of yarn, needles and class fees, coming to a grand total of $82.32.
Claudia span my 3 yarns together into one ball, then made me a gorgeous cup of tea (although she was really worried about making tea for an English person, it was lovely ;-)). As there was an hour until class started I sat down with Denny, the instructor, for a cuppa and a chat. Natalia, a Ewe Knit regular, came in and joined Denny and I chatting. She introduced herself and before long we were all chatting away about her big news, she had finally asked the boy from the butchers shop out on a date! The comradery and familiarity between the three friends was lovely to watch, and I never once felt like an outsider, which is a rare thing in these situations. It is a really homely environment, and although I was brand new to it, I was welcomed as if I was old hat. I enjoyed sitting back and watching the three of them, while still feeling part of it all, it made me smile.
Another lady came in near to starting time, and introduced herself as Dale. As there were only the 2 of us booked on to the class we moved through to the back room onto a big wooden table with our equipment to start the lesson.
I really liked Denny’s style of teaching, it is very similar to my own actually. She explained that she started out firstly teaching children to knit, so made songs and stories to help them remember. Although we weren’t treated to any songs 😦 we did get to hear all about the two frogs on the log when learning how to cast on 😀 This first hour or so of the lesson was the most difficult, just getting used to how to correctly hold the needles, and letting yourself get to grips with the whole feel of them, as well as trying to remember the awkward little loops and swishes and pulls it takes to cast on and make your first row. But when you achieve it, it really does feel good. Rather a proud moment I must admit!
Then it was the biggie… how to knit! It looks easy when you watch the experts going clacking crazy with their needles, but it is much harder than it looks. Getting the hang of how to transfer the yarn from one needle to the other (taught with another great story about Newfoundland, which was made all the better by the fact that Dale, the other student, was originally from there) takes lots of practise, and between the two of us we had Denny running from one side of the table to the other, helping us when we dropped stitches, somehow ended up with more than we should or just generally got into a tangle.
Just then, another lady arrived. She introduced herself and apologised that she was late. Denny started from the beginning with her, showing her everything that we had been shown in the last half an hour or so. During this time, while still practising our knitting, Dale and I began to chat.
She asked whereabouts in England I was from, I answered Sunderland just assuming she wouldn’t know where that is, as nobody else here in Toronto had so far. But to my surprise, and delight, she DID, and she didn’t just know where I came from, she knew all about my beloved football team and the English Premier League! At last, a Canadian footie fan who didn’t just follow Man United or Chelsea! Never been known! Dale supports Fulham, and was very knowledgeable about them, and the sport in general too. She gave some great advice on where to go to watch the games, in exchange, I gave her advice about blogging. She is thinking about starting up her own blog and was going to stop by for a look, so hi Dale if you are reading 🙂 Well done on the draw at Chelsea!
Time had flown over, and the class was already nearly at an end. Denny kindly got some action shots of me knitting before we stowed our needles and packed up ready for home.
I was very proud of my few little rows of knitted scarf and proudly thanked our lovely instructor for all her help, wishing her well in her recovery from her mouth operation, and arranging to see her same time next week. I said my goodbyes to the other ladies too then sat on the wall outside waiting for Phil to collect me. I only had a couple of minutes waiting in the snow until he arrived.
I can honestly say that the knitting class was a lot more fun than I expected, and it was great to meet some new people and arrange to see them again. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before I turned up in all honesty, as stereotypical as this sounds, knitting is generally looked at as a pastime for older people and I suppose I was worried that I would be like a fish out of water, totally in the wrong place with the wrong crowd. But luckily, it was the complete opposite and I came away happy and excited to go back and learn more and see everyone again.
When I got home, we had our tea and I told Phil all about it. As soon as we were settled in on the settee in pyjamas, I got straight back to work on my scarf!
I stayed up to do ‘just one more row’ when Phil went to bed at half 11, and the next time I looked up it was 2am! I had made quite a big mistake out 10 rows up, leaving two gaping holes (not just little ones, I don’t mind them so much, always gonna happen) that I had no idea how to fix, and so feeling adventurous and with casting on still fresh in my mind, I unravelled my knitting so far and started again!
I woke up the next day aching in my shoulders, arms, hands and fingers as if I had done a weights session at the gym! I think it must be the tension when you are concentrating that does it. The better I get I assume the less that will happen! At least, I hope. The ends of my fingers are a bit sore as well, although I think that also has something to do with the fact that my laptop keys are broken, and it hurts to actually type on it, but some of that pain is down to the knitting, of that I am sure! I sat out on the balcony for the morning, knitting some more and practising, as we all know practise makes perfect!
I am now finding myself, in advert breaks or while Phil browses the web, picking up my knitting needles and doing a few rows. Even getting in a quickie in before sleep! Although I am not sure knitting was the kind of quickie Phil signed up for as a newly married couple!
It is coming on quite well I think!
There are parts that look as if a mouse has had a little chew on it, and it goes a bit wonky half way up, but hey! Give the girl a break, I am new to this and just a trainee knitter, mistakes are gonna happen. But I will tell you what… wonky, holy, warts n all, I can not wait to finish so I can proudly wrap it round my neck and keep the Toronto frost at bay!
So if you see a girl walking along with a scarf that looks like it came from the faulty bin, don’t mock her, give her a pat on the back, as chances are she slogged long and hard over that!!