If you’re new to DECA Diaries, Danforth Gems are the great shops on our stretch of the Danforth that you may not have yet uncovered. Thanks so much to Gillian Grace for this installment about the The Wool Mill, east of Woodbine on Danforth.
Forget the Leafs—if Toronto wants a pastime at which it can really shine, try knitting. The city is known for its way with wool, even earning a special shout-out from Vogue Knitting for T.O.’s “unusual number of excellent yarn stores.” Danforth East is lucky enough to have one of those shops within walking distance. The oldest wool store in Toronto, the Wool Mill has been on Danforth just east of Woodbine for the past 17 years (current owner Wendy Mortimer used to buy yarn there as a child).
The Wool Mill stocks everything from the classics—Canadian-processed merinos from Mission Falls—and summery cottons to bamboo mixes and super-soft balls made from a mix of possum yarn and wool. As with food, Mortimer says, people are becoming more conscious of how the wool they use is produced; organic yarns with low-impact dyes are increasingly popular, as is fair trade. Buy a skein of Mirasol yarn, and you’ll be helping fund the construction of a centre for the children of alpaca shepherds in the Peruvian Andes.
Mortimer, an expert knitter, can advise on everything from the history of the craft to the best knitting podcasts. Her needlework has appeared in more than 100 movies, including a recreation of Martha Stewart’s get-out-of-jail poncho for Cybill Shepherd; the coat, booties and hat for Nicole Kidman’s dog in To Die For; and Hilary Swank’s high-flying knitwear in Amelia. Her toughest project was a sweater for Simon Birch, which was supposed to look “really bad;” it kept getting returned with instructions to “make it look worse.”
Mortimer—who started knitting for a Brownies badge, and says she’s knit “pretty much everything you can possibly think of” and made “every mistake in the book”—is also a (very) patient teacher. She can quickly decipher patterns that look more like a WWII-era code than a template for a sweater and get even the most tangled, dropped-stitch-laden projects back on track. A beginner’s class, starting in January, will have newbies knitting and purling a hat or an outfit for a baby; other regular week-night classes cater to more experienced knitters.
Most popular, especially around the holidays, are small, quickly completed projects such as socks, mittens, hats and wristers. But it’s not just a way to make impressive gifts—there’s something incredibly soothing about the act of wrapping the yarn, pulling it through, and repeating. “Knitting,” says Mortimer, “is like a meditation. It allows the body to keep itself busy so the mind can become more still.”
The Wool Mill – 2170 Danforth Ave. 416-696-2670
Hours: Mon – Fri 10:30 – 6, Sat 10:30 – 5
Gillian Grace is a freelance writer and editor.