Thursday, June 19, 2008

O Canada

When I was a little kid, my mother's parents lived in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit is, of course, mere spitting distance from the Canadian border. I thought that was fascinating. There was sign: BRIDGE TO CANADA. Grandma's American television caught Canadian broadcast signals; I became quite a fan of "Mr Dress Up." In any handful of change, you were bound turn up a Canadian penny with a picture of an honest-to-goodness queen on it.*

It was all impossibly exotic and alluring and I wanted desperately to go visit the strange (and reputedly very tidy) country just a few minutes away. We never did.

I finally saw it in person for about an hour when I was sixteen. My family, including our dog, had been on the road in a van for a month, driving from California to our new Air Force assignment in upstate New York. We made a brief detour north to look at Niagara Falls. They were wet.

But now I've really been to Canada, and really met Canadians. All the good stuff you've heard is true. In fact, there's a lot of good stuff you haven't even heard about because the entire country is way too modest. Or maybe they just don't want the Americans to know, for fear we'll move up there en masse. Heaven knows I was tempted to stay.

I remarked several times that as an American I found it relaxing to spend a bit of time in a country that is not concerned with what Mrs McCain thinks, if she can be said to think, of Mrs Obama; that has long been accustomed to high gasoline prices; and that is not suffering what honestly feels like a new natural, political, or economic trauma on a daily basis.

I found it positively titillating to walk down the street in country where I could, theoretically, get married. Not domestically partnered or unionistically recognized or surreptitiously blessed but actually married. Mind you, my heart's rather spoken for at present and no proposals were forthcoming; but it was exciting to be so close to the action.

The reason for the visit was, of course, for a 1,000 Knitters shoot at Toronto's own, dear Lettuce Knit.

Lettuce Knit surprised me. It's located in Kensington Market, a divinely scruffy neighborhood full of artists who put their mark on everything in sight, from the sidewalks to the rooftops. The shop itself is tiny. Somehow, given the reputation, I'd expected room after room. No. Two tiny, packed show rooms in a Victorian row house, with gorgeous yarn spilling right over the threshold and onto the front steps. Behind these, a small kitchen/storage room with access to a back garden. Nothing more.

Interior, Lettuce Knit

I had come to shoot in this remarkable location thanks to the creative thinking and beneficence of two right-on women, Rachel H and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The latter writes a pretty good blog. You should check it out some time.

They enlisted the help of their friends to make everything work, and work it did. I owe enormous special thanks to these six folks.

Toronto Six

Top row left to right: Rachel H, whose talent for planning is such that she could arrange world peace by next Tuesday, given the opportunity; Denny, who is...forget it, I'm not going to try to describe Denny; Megan, who owns Lettuce Knit but let us play with it for a whole day.

Bottom row left to right:
Juno, whom I long have admired from afar and now know is even wiser and funnier in person; Ken, who kindly housed me during my visit and also made sure I got from Point A to Point B without wandering into the woods; and Stephanie, who as I mentioned before is a blogger of some note. [Note to self: I think she writes books, too. Double-check before posting.]

They had planned everything so well that all I had to do was show up. Ken understood my neurotic need to always arrive early and we got to Kensington Market in time to savor the local cocoa.

Coffee with Ken

(I don't drink coffee, which puzzled the natives. When they found out I also don't drink beer, several heads exploded.) Ken's working with some of that new Noro sock yarn, which I have not yet tried but feel I soon must.

No sooner had we opened the doors than the knitters began arriving and the scarf, which already took up a quarter of my large suitcase, began growing again.

Toronto Twelve

In this batch, there are a few folks you might know including Debbie New (second row, center) and Amy Singer (fourth row, right). Debbie, whose previous knitting projects include a lace boat (you don't believe me? read the book), spent the time before her portrait knitting a windmill. That's what she said, a windmill. Amy, who is famously allergic to wool, graciously donned gloves so that she could work with the same yarn as everybody else.

The steady stream of knitters never slowed. Stephanie made sure I paused between sitters to have a bite of this or that, knowing full well that left to my own devices I would eat nothing and die. Every so often, I would hear screams from the front of the store as Rachel and Denny drew the winners of hourly prizes. Two winners got sock yarn in a colorway I'm particularly excited about...more on that later, though.

Toronto Fifteen

In the sampling above, the second row from left to right shows Stephanie's daughters Sam and Meg, and their charming friend Maddie. Stephanie's friend Rams (third row, left) showed up all the way from America as a surprise, and brought along her lovely pal Vicki (third row, center). Just below Rams is the delightful Fiona Ellis, who I hear writes books. So prolific, these Canadians. Must be nothing else to do in the winter.

And we had an American writer on hand–Leigh Witchel, who took notes and is writing up the day for Vogue Knitting. Leigh is a friend of mine, based in New York, who has been trying to get into the series forever. But I was away when he came to Chicago; he was away when I came to the East Coast. We missed each other just slightly in California and Pennyslvania. Finally, we intersected in Toronto.


If that doesn't confirm Toronto's reputation as Knitting Crossroads of the World, I don't know what could.

By the end of the day I was flying on adrenaline and cupcakes, and got everybody who was still hanging around to do something I've not done before: try on the scarf. All at once.

Scarf People!

How could I not have enjoyed a day with that lot?

Usually the morning after a shoot I fly home, but this time I got a bonus day to spend with Stephanie, Juno, Rams, and Vicki; and in the evening Ken, Rachel H, and Steph's whole family. Aside from getting hassled by a roving mariachi gang (I'm serious) it was a perfect way to ease down from the high and prepare myself for re-entry.

It's always good to come home, but part of my heart's up there in Canada. I think I left it behind the Chesterfield at Stephanie's hoose.

*American money has a portrait of a queen, too, but only on the ten dollar bill.


Anonymous said...

The scarf that launched 1000 knitters...SueF

Anonymous said...

And I won Franklin's sketch of Dolores. YEA. I could have auctioned it off right then and there but, sorry, didn't want to. I wants it.

What a great day and having a knitting daughter with me was a bonus.

Come again, soon.

Susan Edwards

KatieMcG said...

How sad is it that I had to google to find out who is on the ten-spot, and I'm American.

Stephanie said...

You, mon petit ami, can come anytime.
It was a pleasure and an honour to play hostess.

Kath said...

What fun! Now is it all Canadians that know how to throw such a grand party? Or just the ones in Toronto?

I'm guessing you've heard...but you can get hitched in my part of the U.S. Yayyy for California! (And the little "Island of Romance" that I call home.)

Sandra said...

You can come and stay anytime. If Ken can't house you, I will. Loved meeting you, hope we can meet again soon. Next time I'll were the Venus shirt. Promise

myboringblog said...

Did you used to live in Plattsburgh? That's my old hometown. :-)

Sue said...

what a lovely little shop! It looks like a lot of fun was had.

shyknitter said...

Please come back anytime!!!

Leigh Witchel said...

What a delight, and thank you for a flattering picture. Toronto is a wonderful city, this only made it better.


Sarahfish said...

If ever you come back up this way I'll be there. In a flash. It was a completely wonderful day, and I am so glad to have met you. Maybe I'll come stalk you in the States some time!

Thanks again!

crazyknittinglady said...

Hoo-ray! What an awesome time. I am so tickled to see me & Venezia up there. But even without the photo it would have been such a fantastic experience. Come up to Toronto again some time, I'm sure Dolores left broken hearts all over town...

indigodragonfly said...

I know I was there for the whole shoot on Saturday, but it's still a little surreal seeing my friends in the classic "1000 knitters" format on your blog! You've captured us all so beautifully.

And you were a delight...and have left your mark on everyone you met that day. Please come back soon!

(second photo block, bottom middle)

indigodragonfly said...

PS - As a Mr. Dressup fan, will you join our campaign to have Ravelry's Casey don a photo of Mr. Dressup's Casey as his avatar for Canada Day? :)

fleecyknits said...

I love Canada. I would move to Montreal in a heartbeat and I'm sure if I visited Toronto I would feel the same. And so many knitters. :-)

rams said...

STALKED by mariachis. Bizarre, but memorable. Thanks for immoralizing the day. (You spell it your way, I'll spell it mine.)

Bobbi said...

Jealous, jealous, jealous...

Stacy said...

Thank goodness you're back, safe and sound, and they did not keep you...although I'm sure they wanted to - just as we did. I hope the metal nest in front of Lettuce Knit fit into your suitcase okay and you didn't have to leave anything behind - when shall I expect it? :)

Julia said...

I'm so glad I got to be a part of this project! You remind me how lucky I am to live in Toronto (and Kensington Market to boot!) You definitely have to come visit us again sometime!

CrazyCatMadame said...

It sounds like those Canadians sure know how to throw a good knitting party.

Franklin, do you have any public shoots scheduled in the Chicago-land area in the near future?

S.Kate said...

A question out of curiousity: Are you/will you be one of the 1000 Knitters? (You should be.)

Andrea R said...

Next time you come to Canada, you'll have to knit a toque. :)

and come East, we love you out here too. :)

May said...

*American money has a portrait of a queen, too, but only on the ten dollar bill.

I nominate that for Best Line Ever. I <3 you.

Lynne said...

Thanks again for a delightful experience. You are on the short list of photographers that didn't terrify me!

Alwen said...

I remember being taken to Taquahmenon Falls when I was a kid. They were wet. The water was brown. I got candy at a five & dime and made it last all day until my brothers were ready to kill me off in order to eat it.

anne marie in philly said...

wait just a ding-dong minute...alexander hamilton is GAY?

who would've thunk it? :-0

now if you had said james buchanan...the only president from PA...THAT I could believe...

looks like you had fun in toronto. but the philly crowd is STILL the biggest! (not that I am prejudiced or anything) yea for us!


Sara in WI said...

Thanks for sharing your Canadian adventure with us. Next time please take me?

Teyani said...

lovely. particularly the last photo.... divine.
Can't wait to see the vogue write up about you - you're astonishingly awesome. such a fabulous idea.

jeanie said...

WOW!!! What FUN:)

Denny and Delores sitting in a tree...k..i...s...s.. said...

I've met Mr. Dress Up. He bought me a bubbly drink at a fashion show one time. I was a mess cause I had a piece in the show,and he knew it and bought me a drink, a very sweet man indeed. Hey your easy to be nice not shitting you.x0x0x0x0x love denny

Anonymous, too said...

You live in Chicago and you don't drink beer?!?!?

My head just exploded.

(P.S.: Did Dolores manage to sneak a Mountie home in her luggage?)

the scarlet piglet said...

I am just emerald with envy at the great time you all had - I spent WWKIP day on planes and in airports which are both my absolute most feared/hated places to be. The knitting helped, though. Beautiful pictures. Beautiful scarf. Beautiful people. Happy people are always beautiful, aren't they?

Re: the guy on the ten-spot... really?! How 'bout that! (and how do you know??)

So when are you coming to the Big Bagel?

angelina in oakland said...

more beautiful pictures... wow! I so hope that the project becomes a book!

Kathleen said...

Don't worry Franklin, I don't like coffee or beer either, and they've let me keep my Canadian citizenship so far without any quibbles.

Your photography skills are to be lauded to the heavens, as the photo of me does not blow chunks. Actually, it's rather nice. I can't tell you how happy I am about this! I'm even more happy to have been a part of this project of yours. Never did I think I'd be one of the thousand! ( I'm having a Watership Down flashback...)

It was really lovely to meet you.

Steph said...

That looks like such a cool group of people... wait... they must be if they're Canadians! ;)
I am secretly in love with Canada.

Sarah said...

Looks like a totaly fabulous time was had by all

Jennifer said...

Wow. I'm speechless. It seems like you might have to rename this project 1000 family members. Your photos and descriptions are so touching that it seems like you're all one big happy knitting family. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful bit of hospitality and exuberance. Makes us all feel a little part of it.

Angie said...

I have to agree with you about Canada. I spent some time in Vancouver a few years back, and they had to drag me out kicking and screaming (well, there may have been more to that story, but... whatever)

By the way, if you ever want to get married here in the good ole' US of A, just move out here to Massachusetts. We've had same sex marriage for years and apparently the world has not ended (much to the surprise of some of our residents!)

Laiane said...

I'm a native Michigander, and Canada has always been a "presence" for me, too (growing up and now, still).

I love the signs in Detroit that say TUNNEL TO CANADA. I always interpreted them in the imperative and would think to myself, "Start now; it's a long way."

kasiaiscarly said...

I grew up in Detroit and had no idea the rest of the country didn't get CBC on their TV :) I also didn't know 'eh?' was considered Canadian as everyone I knew said it too! Now, living south of the Mason-Dixon, I get odd looks when it sneaks out!

divy said...

Franklin, it was a pleasure to meet you. You said I photographed well, and I think I glowed on that compliment for the rest of the day!

Mr. Dressup *sigh*- My two cats are named Casey and Finnegan.

Thank you. Just thank you!

(wearing the scarf next to Steph)

CarolineF said...

How marvelous. Clearly I don't get to travel enough.

Every time I hear Stephanie mention the 'chesterfield' I think it has a familiar ring as a name for a large thing to sit on. It just came to me that my mother's parents, who lived on Chesterfield Road, used to call that large thing to sit on a 'davenport'. I wonder what regional origin that has.

Sorry to free associate in your comments. I would love to move to Canada and if I was 20 years younger and not encumbered by home, stuff, beloved kid, and beloved cats, well I'd be up there already.

TraceyinMichigan said...

*Sniff* You made me homesick for Lettuce Knit.... Oh sure- I'm an American in the suburbs of Detroit... But once you becomes a bit of home.... agree 100%.


Hi Everybody! And Kim: New haircut is cute--- also--- Dang, I do not believe we've ever in blogdom come that close to seeing Harlot's'sa generally laden in knits;)

Erin said...

So, how many more knitters do you need?

AngeliasKnitting said...

A wonderful post. As always, you make me laugh. And the queen on the $10 bill! :-) Thank you for blogging!

Anonymous said...

I think I read too many knitting blogs and books. I am beginning to recognize people on sight in photos.

And Franklin, please, please, please come to the NYC/Westchester/Fairfield County area for a shoot.


Rocketbride said...

hey, i'm famous! this is much better than the time that my butt showed up on steph's blog, and about as good as when i was knitting on the back of amy's scooter. ;)

thank you so much for coming! i was scheming my way to chicago when stephanie gave us all the gift of you. so sorry that i couldn't stay longer...looks like it was way fun! and i'll add my voice to the call for a book. i want something i can brag with!

Dr. Steph said...

So fun! It's great to see our knitting world from the "outside" like this.

Thanks for coming. I had a blast.

dale-harriet said...

I'm with May - that IS the best line ever. I have to admit, it's a source of Great Pride that you, Franklin (and of course our candidate Dolores, et al.) are "OURS" -- living in the Midwest is what does it. "Where do YOU live, Dale-Harriet?" "OH," says I, "about three hours north of FRANKLIN". I'm glad you got to visit Canada (I'm a big fan of New France - did you know you and I live in the same place as Stephanie?) but you DO belong down here by us. Did you mention to Dolores that she probably can't sit in Parliament in Canada? At leas if she had a good time there, we'll maintain our good relations with our Neighbors to the North when she's President.

Courtney said...

Upstate NY... were you guys stationed at Griffiss. I grew up a stone's throw from there. Sadly the AFB is closed and they are trying to turn it into an industrial park/tech incubator thingy, but not being very successful at it. I live a few hours away now and happily knit for my family and others.

Fibra Artysta said...

I live in Detroit and almost always have canadian coins in my change purse. Being on the border, a lot of people commute back and forth to work each day between the two countries. No one here flinches and every store just takes them with no question.

When I was in Chicago in April, I had some and, without thinking, tried to pay for some chocolate at the Hershey's store with a couple canadian coins. I was promptly told "it wasn't money."

I guess Detroiters are used to our Canadian friends and don't think twice on it! :)

Anonymous said...

That is the best, prettiest, most relaxed picture of Stephanie I've seen - much, much better than her book cover photos.

Of course there was the beer...

Very nice work.


And, by the way, you can get married here in California, too, as of last week.

lizbon said...

wonderful, just wonderful.

jelife said...

what a great post, Franklin. Now I am homesick, again. Thank you for re-acquainting me with my fellow knitting friends at LK

Shannon Okey said...

Now you know the wonder that is Denny. Isn't your life all the better for it? And now do you understand why Lettuce Knit is my favorite yarn store in all of Canadia-land?

marsha said...

I would be so honored to be one of the 1000. Are you coming to the DC area anytime? or anywhere on the east coast?

Anonymous said...

Franklin - I love reading your blog... but have you been knitting lately? What are you working on? Wedding Ring Shawl? Can we see?

Patti said...

when I read your blog, or Stephanie's, I am proud to be a knitter and to belong to such a wonderful group of people.

TO in SP said...

I love it when you say "titillating"

ColorJoy LynnH said...

I'm in Lansing, Michigan. It's only an hour and a half to Canada from here (though in Detroit you can look SOUTH and see Canada which is the part that I adore). However, it's more like 5 hours to Toronto. Sigh.

Missed you in Lansing (evil flu) and then again in Toronto. Well, Chicago is only 3.5 hours if only timing would work out...

And yes, Niagara? Wet. Very wet. I felt drowned after the Maid of the Mist. Never again.


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