Description: The Yanks went North in search of some hanks. Join us as we yarn crawl through the world's most diverse city, Toronto.
01/07/2009 - Romni Wools
By law, Romni Wools should be required to keep a de-fiber-lator behind the counter, since weʼre sure that more than one person has clutched his or her chest from a Yarn Attack upon entering Canadaʼs largest yarn store. You'd be hard pressed to find this much knitting and crochet stuff in one place anywhere else.
As the ownerʼs son led us down the long aisles, he wanted to highlight the shopʼs focus on natural fibers which stems from his motherʼs allergy to acrylic. When he tried to explain, “You know, you canʼt carry everything,” we tried as hard as we could to find a hint of sarcasm in his voice, since from our view it looks like theyʼve gotten pretty darn close.
The aisles are roughly organized by weight, moving from chunky to 4-ply, with a small island that the “Romnettes” have dubbed “SockLand.” Yes, this place is so big that socks get their own country. They carry a U-Haul truck's worth of Rowan and Debbie Bliss, also Handmaiden, Fleece Artist, Fiddlesticks, Katia, Austermann, Noro, Araucania, Pingouin, Colinette, Ella Rae, On Line, Mondial, Earth Collection, Misti Alpaca, Crystal Palace, Malabrigo, Nashua, Sublime, Louisa Harding, Regia, and countless others. They also have a house brand under their own name that makes wool and cotton tape. All that's just in the main room!
To the right of the entrance they had a discount and sale section (in its own right as big as some LYSʼs) with Kelly, Needful Yarns, Lana Gatto, Estelle and SRK among others. This room also had a small libraryʼs worth of magazines and patterns. If for some reason you canʼt find a yarn upstairs that appeals to you, (which would be highly unlikely), you can just head downstairs where they have a mass of coned yarns and raw mohair, cashmere, and chenille, plus a variety of wheels and looms from Louet and Ashford on which to to spin them. In fact, they recently hosted Richard Ashford as he taught a class on his newly designed loom.
It seems theyʼve thought of everything, but in case you need more (we're not judging you) Romni Wools is on the busy Queen Street, just past the main fashion district, so in just a ten minute walk you can come across a variety of shops where you can find all kinds of beads and ribbons to embellish your precious projects.
You could easily enjoy a day of yarn shopping in Toronto without every leaving Queen Street. If thatʼs your plan, then we recommend starting out on the far West side, where youʼll find Knit Cafe.
Weʼve been to a few places that have tried to combine tasty yarns with tasty eats but most of them tend to come up short on the culinary side, settling for some good coffee and biscotti of a questionable age. Knit Cafe goes above and beyond, serving vegetarian pizzas, quiches, blondies, and an array of teas and coffees.Their latte even comes highly recommended by the staff of Romni Wools, their competitor down the street, displaying some of that famous Canadian friendliness.
Knit Cafe carries a nice selection of books and Brittany needles, along with yarns from
Malabrigo, Lambʼs Pride, Cascade, Peace Fleece, Misti Alpaca, Sheep Shop Yarn Co., Noro, Handmaiden, Koigu, and Shibui. They have a little roving, and some cute kits from Fleece Artist.Itʼs a good spot to gather your strength for a big day of Toronto Yarn Crawling.
Heading back a little closer to the city center, our next stop was Lettuce Knit. We've noticed that many yarn shop owners simply can't resist the need to use a pun to name their shops with the word "Ewe" appearing with alarming frequency in shop names. This was a first for us, though -- a produce-based pun. We weren't sure what to expect.
Walking from the west, we were pleasantly surprised to discover a funky neighborhood emerge from what looked like a typical block of single-family houses. Those were quickly replaced by fruit markets, natural food stores, t-shirt shops, and the kind of graffiti that indicates the presence of artists rather than an indication that you need to hold onto your purse or wallet tighter.
Lettuce Knit has a young and hip feel, which is not surprisiing given its proximity to the University of Toronto. They seem committed to keeping things fresh, from their Blue Moon “Socks That Rock” kits, to their tiny but wonderfully handcrafted porcelain buttons, and stylish knitting bags and needle holders. They prefer hand-dyed yarns, stocking Araucania, Manos del Uruguay, and of course those lovely Canadians -- Handmaiden and Fleece Artist. They also carry Rowan, Habu, Noro, Louet, Hemp for Knitting, Green Mountain Spinnery, Blue Sky Alpacas, and Berocco among others.
Most of the shops we visited were along Queen Street, one of the cityʼs main drags, but Knitomatic is a cute one worth a visit just outside of the city center. We were won over by the little blue building nestled into a residential meighborhood. It might look small, but they still manage to host a variety of in-store classes.
Now, maybe itʼs because we were absolutely freezing and wanted to warm up, but our eyes were instantly dazzled by all of the super chunky yarns- soft colors from Wooly Bully, and vibrant ones Lamb's Pride. Other brands stocked include Canadian products by Handmaiden and Fleece Artist, as well as Mission Falls, Misti Alpaca, Nashua, Rowan, Cascade, Noro, Scheepjes, Wildfoote, and Manos del Uruguay.
If you need just one more reason (and it's a good one!) to head out to Knitomatic, a few blocks away (just across from the subway station) you can find an outpost for Leonidas, our favorite Belgian chocolatiers. Yum!
Knitomatic 1378 Bathurst Street Toronto, ON M5R 3J1 (416) 653-7849
Walking with our Canadian hosts around Dundas Square in downtown Toronto, they pointed up to the flashing neon lights and malls to let us know, “This is our Times Square.” The comparison is as inapt as it is unnecessary. Even though Toronto and New York City are both North American culture capitals, Toronto has a low-key charm that doesnʼt have to imitate anything else.
What else does Toronto have? Yarn, baby, and lots of it. Come along with us as we check out the yarn scene in the world's most diverse city.