Warmth in the time of COVID

November 2020

That first winter in the New World must have been a harrowing one for the people settling Ste. Croix Island in 1606. Ill-equipped to face the harsh Canadian winter, Champlain’s men were under-clothed, under-fed and under-experienced. Disaster loomed.

Fortunately, Samuel de Champlain was a man of great foresight, and he created the Order of Good Cheer to help stave off impending doom. The men were divided into groups, and each group was responsible for hunting and gathering food, preparing meals, organizing activities and entertaining their fellow settlers. The results were impressive, and Champlain’s men made it through the winter to begin the new colony in North America.

Champlain couldn’t have possibly known that a pandemic would hit Canada more than four hundred years later, yet the lessons learned from his ordeal are still valuable today. With a long, cold winter of physical distancing facing us, life might become difficult for many, but, take heart, Thunder Bay, there are ways and means to inject a little good cheer into all of us. Here are a few suggestions:

Warming Your Hands and Feet

The cold winter can force people into a prolonged hibernation, so dressing warm is paramount to getting outside and avoiding the winter blahs. Wool toques, mittens, socks and scarves are useful items for anyone, and what could be better than knitting those accessories for yourself? Rohnda’s Knitting Room and Wool Shop, at 805 May St. North, has a variety of programs that can suit anyone with the desire to create their own warm wear. Individual and small group lessons are available to people of all ages and levels of experience, with a wide variety of project ideas. Rohnda also offers drop-in classes for up to 10 people on Thursday evenings. It’s a Covid-free, friendly environment where you will be greeted as warmly as the socks you knit!

Rohnda also offers needle felting, a unique craft that allows you to create cute, stuffed animals from wool. Needle felting starts by rolling up a small amount of wool and stabbing it with a needle. When the wool is stabbed with the felting needle repeatedly, it pulls the wool into itself and the wool, with its tiny scales, locks together and becomes felt. Continued stabbing and turning produces a firm round shape and wool is added where it is needed to form a sculpture.

If you are pressed for time, Rohnda is available for one-on-one lessons with her knitting machine, where a sweater can be made in as little as 8 hours. She’ll also knit for hire and will take on almost any project for those who want a unique gift but don’t have the time or patience.

For more information go to www.rohndasknittingroom.com or contact the store at 622-7585.

Warming Your Mind

Keeping your hands and toes warm this winter will be important, but it is also important to keep your mind warm and active. The Thunder Bay Public Library offers free on-line language lessons via the Transparent Language program at www.tbpl.ca/learnalanguage. With over 100 languages to learn and 1,500 to 2,000 words and phrases for each, you can keep your mind busy and develop a valuable skill. All you need to do is start your own account using your library card number, and the program will keep track of your progress. The site promises “a flexible learning structure, including supplemental learning material and dozens of learning activities designed to engage your brain for rapid learning and maximum retention.”

Warming Your Heart

Another warm activity can be found at Circle of Friends Quilt Shoppe, 218 Tupper Street. Proprietor Luci Andreacchi says that her store is open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 to 4:00 by appointment or for curbside pickup. The store is also busy with individual and small group classes the rest of the week, in which you can learn how to sew jelly roll rugs, placemats, table runners, baby quilts and virtually anything else that requires a needle and thread.

For those who can’t get out during the winter, Andreacchi can create custom bundles and pre-cut kits for any level of quilter and/or sewist. “We have a fabricoholic’s paradise here with over 8000 bolts of fabric in a rainbow of colours and designs,” Andreacchi boasts. “And sewing is always therapeutic as you watch your creation come together.”

For more information go to Circle of Friends Quilt Shoppe on Facebook, or contact the store at 344-2625.

Putting Some Warmth on Your Bookshelf

A good novel can warm your heart, and a book nook can add to that rosy glow. A book nook is a diorama of a novel setting, nestled between the books on your shelf. Imagine a scene from a favourite book, miniaturized to shoe box size, and you will have a good idea of what Jamie Young has to offer. He has already made dozens of creations employing his many skills in engineering, lighting, and illusion. A quick look at his Facebook page and you’ll see how fantastical Young’s book nooks are: a waterfall lit with glowing blue lights, a life-like Italian café and a green ghost suspended in mid air via the illusionary effects of mirrors and glass.

If you’re interested in creating your own book nook, Young offers tutorials on his Facebook page and links to step-by-step instructions on YouTube. He’s also available on messenger if you need advice or help on your project. Finally, Young can create a book nook for any book/movie/film/scene you request for a very reasonable price. It’s a great gift that will warm the heart of any reader – or movie goer – on your Christmas list.

For more info go to https://www.facebook.com /BookNookAlleys

Sew, Sew Warm!

Katrina O’Neil’s shop, Sew Flippin Creations, is as unique as its name suggests. Filled with practically every device a seamstress could want, Sew Flippin Creations not only offers the use of specialized sewing machines, but also provides lessons on how to use them. It’s perfect for people who don’t have the equipment or the space they need for their sewing projects.

O’Neil says that things are almost back to normal since Covid hit in the spring, although sessions have had to be downsized to 5 people per class. Projects being offered this season include an embroidered apron, a cross-body bag that is ideal for shopping and travel, and embroidered Christmas stockings.

The store is located in the County Fair Mall, across from Fabricland, and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 5:00 or by appointment. Classes are held throughout the week, both weekdays and weekends, and the average cost of each class is $40, including materials. Dress making classes are also available where students can make as many as 4 dresses in 6 weeks.

For more information, go to www.sewflippincreations.com or call the store at 767-2646.

Warmth and Cheer to Last the Year

If you are looking for something to take your mind away from the cold and snow, Gallery 33 at 4 Balsam Street is bursting with classes for adults and children during the winter. Gallery owner Kristen Wall promises a no-stress, come-as-you-are-and-enjoy atmosphere as you tap into your creative side!

Adult classes include a DIY Welcome Sign workshop, a Blue Silhouette Paint and Wine Night, Charcoal Drawing, and an Introduction to Watercolours with local artist, Ken Crawford. Two children’s classes, including Kids Paint Too: Santa Clause, and Kids Paint Too: Unicorn, are offered to children and youth between ages 5 and 16 to experience the fun of “Paint and Wine Nights,” but in a kid friendly atmosphere and with instruction geared to them.

For more information including dates and costs go to their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/gallery33.tbay.

All class sizes are small and pre-registry is requested and encouraged. Private bookings for some classes are available. To Register go to gallery.33.thunderbay@gmail.com or call 286-4233.

That first winter in 1606 must have surely tested the mettle of Champlain’s men, just as this winter will prove to be a challenge to many people in Thunder Bay. But, if we take advantage of what our city has to offer, and we use our time to pursue new things, then we will come through these hard times better than ever before. Try your hand at painting, knitting or sewing. Learn a new language or build something spectacular for your bookshelf: whatever you choose to do, you can create pleasure for yourself, and add to the good cheer of others.

And, for Champlain and for us, that’s what it’s all about.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at www.DonnaWhiteBooks.com

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