Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - New Hamburg, Ontario

The final stop on our Knitting Sprawl tour of Upper Canada was New Hamburg. Sonya was quite tickled at seeing all the German names of towns in this part of Ontario and was very interested to learn that, only a generation ago, German was the first language spoken at home for many families.

We spent the day traveling around this part of the province - Kitchener, London, St. Jacob. St. Jacob had been recommended to us by our innkeeper in Toronto but it turned out to be more touristy than authentic so we didn't linger too long there. Actually, we lingered long enough to browse some antique shops, of which there were many. Sonya found a copy of Mein Kampf translated into English among the used books in one shop. I didn't realize it but Mein Kampf is banned in Germany; it is illegal to own a copy of it. So seeing it sitting on a shelf was like finding some horrible, yet fascinating object for Sonya. I could tell she was alternating between total repulsion and complete attraction. The power of the forbidden fruit.

We also stopped into a bakery run by a Mennonite family who happened to have a bevy of daughters who all looked remarkably like me. It was a little disconcerting to walk into someplace totally new and see myself behind the counter and working in the back. Myself, if I wore a little white hair covering, homemade dresses and possibly a more innocent look on my face.

Naturally we immediately began speculating about how our lives would be if we moved to St. Jacob. I, of course, would take up work in the bakery. Sonya would work in the antique store. We would have Amish husbands and ride in buggies pulled by horses....and so on. Truthfully, we did this every single place we visited, and not on purpose. We immediately projected ourselves in to the landscape and community and built an imaginary future life - within seconds of arriving! It became clear to me that this kind of fantasy dream life needs to be more overtly part of the project because I think we are not so unusual in doing this. Indeed, I suspect much of the new development that we saw is the result of just this kind of fantasy.

Oh..and there was one more thing we saw in St. Jacob.

Move over Potato World!

After all these adventures - and more - we headed to New Hamburg and a shop called Shall We Knit located in the downtown area. May I just say that if you have the opportunity to visit this shop, please do. It was among the nicest I have found anywhere. It was a lifelong dream of the owner to open it, and she has really down an amazing job.

And there was a lovely knitting group there too.

They filled us in on this part of Ontario in general and New Hamburg in particular. One fascinating tidbit was that most of the downtown businesses are owned by women. There was solid agreement that this fact contributed strongly to the feel of community and welcoming in New Hamburg. Sonya and I had been asking most of the groups if they felt that the need to get together and knit was gender driven. Nearly everyone said no and listed some groups of men who get together and knit, but I am not so sure. It was very interesting to find a place where this impulse went beyond knitting and extended to businesses and, in fact, a whole community.

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