By Jeromina Juan
Often mistaken as the capital city of Canada, Toronto is the country’s largest city and the principal of commerce and culture. Toronto is home to a bustling blend of nationalities, making it one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cosmopolitan centers, among the likes of cities such as Chicago and New York. It is this very magnificent multiplicity that elevates Toronto’s rank in the world of arts, crafts, and design. Cultural communities make big strides to contribute substantially to the city’s artistic fabric. Shop owners hail from all corners of the globe, providing infinite variety in arty and crafty material. Whether you are a knitter, sewer, jewelry maker, paper crafter, artist, or art collector, there is an abundance of things to see, buy, and do in Toronto. Among scores of superb shops, here are just a few notable spots.
Craft Supplies and Studios
456 Queen Street West
(Queen West neighborhood)
A cozy haven for knitters, Americo is brimming with luxurious handspun yarns. You are greeted by skeins carefully coiled and piled in woven baskets or stacked neatly on shelves from floor to ceiling. Loose strands of yarn hang from pegs in groups of vivid and complementary hues, and it is difficult to resist strumming your fingers through each and every one. The yarns are spun by hand from the finest merino, alpaca, cotton, and silk. Americo carries an eclectic series of beautiful original patterns, of which the knitted bags are a must! Head to Americo on Sunday afternoons for free knitting classes.
446 Queen Street West
(Queen West neighborhood)
If jewelry making is your craft, follow the track of bead shops along Queen West, among which The Beadery is the most-prized gem. Many pieces of jewelry made at The Beadery have dazzled the pages of fashion magazines across Canada. The shop, with an impressive wall-to-wall assortment of beads, inspires you to create your own statement jewelry pieces. There is an extensive display of wooden beads in their stunning natural shades, such as ebony, or vividly colored with vegetable dyes. There is a gamut of gemstones, crystal, and handmade glass. It is a lot like being in a candy shop where, instead of sugary confections, each colorful morsel is a delightful, beautiful bead. Of course, The Beadery sells all the findings to match, as well as offering jewelry-making classes on weekends.
The Paper Place
887 Queen Street West
Many years ago, The Paper Place began as a shop selling mostly Japanese chiyogami, katazome, and washi. Over the years, the shop expanded to include a vast selection of the world’s most exotic and exquisite papers, such as Nepalese lokta and Brazilian marble. Today, The Paper Place is Toronto’s best and busiest stationery shop, selling invitations and envelopes, cards, journals, books, writing instruments, paper crafting tools, and of course, the latest and greatest paper designs in large and cut sheets. There may be plenty of racks of paper on display, but there is also far more than meets the eye – be sure to visit the order table where you can scour through binders containing hundreds of paper samples. Fill out a form, and an associate will be happy to bring you immaculate sheets of paper from the back inventory. The Paper Place also offers a range of workshops in origami, bookbinding, printmaking, and card making.
1340 Queen Street West
The Workroom is the first of its kind in Toronto. It is a fabric shop and studio where you can sew by the hour, equipped with the most durable Bernina machines and sergers, button presses, a laser cutter/engraver, an ironing station, and large cutting tables as long as eight feet. The shop’s shelves are stocked with the most colorful and striking designer cotton fabrics in solids and prints, as well as a collection of notions and patterns. Also offered are fantastic drop-in monthly programs such as the Stitch ‘n Bitch open forum (second Tuesday of the month) and Quilt Sunday (last Sunday of the month).
The Guild Shop
118 Cumberland Street
Toronto’s celebrity-studded Yorkville neighborhood was, for years (until 2010), home of the renowned Toronto International Film Festival. Yorkville is home to some of the most prestigious shops in Toronto, including The Guild Shop – a museum-caliber store housing the finest one-of-a-kind handmade gifts, crafted by Canada’s most prominent and talented artisans. At The Guild Shop, you will discover exceptional Canadian craftsmanship in a sizable collection of wooden, ceramic, and glass wares, quilted and embroidered wall decor, decorative sculptures, knitted scarves, hats, and mitts, and metal and beaded jewelry. You will also find a spectacular collection of Inuit and Native Canadian craft, including handcrafted moccasins, felted tapestries, stone sculptures, paintings, and prints. The Guild Shop is a member-based non-profit organization.
St. Lawrence Market: The Sunday Antique Market
92 Front Street East (north market: main building)
Antiques at the St. Lawrence
92 Front Street East (north market: southwest corner)
(St. Lawrence neighborhood)
Each week, troves of treasure are uncovered at the historic St. Lawrence Market. Rare finds include valuable vintage furniture, décor, fashion, jewelry, books, and a hodgepodge of cool curiosities and collectibles. Every Sunday, from 5am to 5pm, The Sunday Antique Market houses nearly 120 vendors who have sleuthed, scoped, and scooped up special bits of history for your taking. If you miss the chance on Sunday, you will find a small shop called Antiques at the St. Lawrence (found at the southwest corner of the building and hosted by three antique dealers) open in the afternoons from Thursday to Friday and throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. While you’re there, head across the street to the south market for a wild gastronomic adventure.
Blue Banana Market
250 Augusta Avenue
(Kensington Market neighborhood)
It is not that difficult to get lost for hours inside the lofty two-story Blue Banana Market, where nearly 200 crafters and artists converge to sell their beloved handmade designs. You can find everything from clothing, jewelry, bath and beauty products, kitchenware, furniture, home decor, paintings, prints, stationery, books, and food. After an exhausting stroll around the market, take a rest at the coffee shop where you will find a wide selection of brews, teas, frozen yogurt, and baked goods.
Wanda’s Pie in the Sky
287 Augusta Avenue
(Kensington Market neighborhood)
In the heart of hip Kensington Market, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is a delectable vegetarian dessert and coffee shop where award-winning cookbook author, Wanda Beaver, bakes and takes pride in the most delicious fruit pies made out of freshly harvested ingredients straight from Canadian farms. Wanda’s pies are handcrafted edible works of art. There is often a line of a dozen people waiting patiently for coffee and a slice of pie or cake, a cookie or two (or a dozen), or some savory vegetarian pastries. Even if you find the café packed with all seats taken, rest assured that the pies come in boxes so that you may take home a taste of Toronto.
About the Author:
Jeromina Juan currently resides in a suburb of Toronto. She is the creative mind behind the blog Paper, Plate, and Plane where she shares a slew of out-of-the-box crafting and entertaining ideas, and recollects her few-and-far-between globe-trotting experiences.