Wool store plays host to international designer

Laura Cummings
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Local knitting enthusiasts will get a taste of the international this week, as a British knitwear designer visits Orléans' Wool N' Things to spread the word about a growing global fair-trade project.

Wool store plays host to international designer

The store, which opened in the fall of 2004, is currently the only wool shop in Ottawa east of the downtown core, according to owner Gisèle Goulet. A former independent IT contractor, Goulet says she decided to open the store after enjoying knitting and crocheting as hobbies for many years, even working part-time at a wool shop through some of her IT career.

The store carries mid- to higher-end yarn, hosts a Knit Café – a knitting club held on Wednesday afternoons and Thursday evenings – and various knitting and crocheting lessons, and offers other items like pattern books and accessories. "I expanded this summer, so the store is much bigger than it was originally," Goulet explains. "I try to specialize in stuff the other stores don't have, like in the recent magazines, for example. There are a lot of knitting magazines out there now, and a lot of those yarns were not available in Ottawa before, so now they are."

She also tries to bring a designer to the store annually by working with distributors, Goulet adds. Last year it was Debbie Bliss, a well-known British designer, she says. And this year, Jane Ellison – a British freelance knitwear designer – will bring her unique background and experiences to Wool N' Things on Sunday, Oct. 14.

Ellison has published several collections of knitting books, as well as designed for a number of British, French, Italian and Japanese yarn producers and distributors. She now designs for the fair trade-based Mirasol Collection, which takes a percentage of every sale of Mirasol Yarn and invests the money back in the Peruvian community it comes from to help establish and operate a boarding-house for local children. "This Mirasol Collection is such a good cause, that for me it was a thrill to get her here," says Goulet. "There's a percentage that goes back to the people that grow and work there, because it's a very poor country. There is so much money that exchanges hands that goes to all these millionaires and billionaires, so it's nice to know that some of the money goes back to people that really need it, that work for it."

Ellison will also appeal to the shifting demographic of avid knitters – which now include many young people – and to those potentially looking for a career in the field, Goulet continues. "It's very good to have somebody closer to the age come in and talk about it," she says. "(The designs) are really young; they cover a very nice range. I think for knitters, especially new knitters, it's fun to meet somebody that actually does it for a living. She talks about her background, her education, and it shows you there's another way to make a living besides sitting at a computer all day like I did … it's much more fun."

Ellison will be leading a workshop on how to knit a pair of gloves from the Mirasol Collection, and will participate in a book signing and trunk show, Goulet adds.

While previous guests to the store have focused more on their patterns, yarn and design inspirations, she continues, Ellison will be able to offer a unique perspective – including tales of her recent trip to the Mallkini ranch in Peru where the project originates. "This is different because of her experience with the Peruvian people," Goulet says. "She's been to Peru herself, so she has the hands-on experience. (The Mirasol project) makes us realize how well-off we are and how bad of shape some people are in that we can help." For more information about Wool N' Things or Jane Ellison's upcoming visit, please call 613-841-8689 or visit www.woolnthings.com.

Geographic location: Ottawa, Peru

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