How does a fibre media artist with a day job in Toronto’s corporate world end up dyeing yarn in a pre-Confederation era log cabin? According to Christopher Walker, owner of Cabin Boy Knits, it all started around seven years ago with a search for property east of the Ontario capital. Mission accomplished, more or less.
“We were looking for waterfront,” laughs the soft-spoken and amiable Walker, noting the home he shares with partner Jamie Godin once stood elsewhere in Ontario, before its rebirth and reassembly in Oak Hills courtesy of the previous owners. “Instead we ended up in a cabin in the woods.”
Still, their Bay of Quinte area digs have everything this pair of yarn aficionados could want, from a saltwater pool to a workshop for dyeing wool. Even better, many of the materials used to create the natural dyes for Cabin Boy Knits yarn and kit-selling business can be found right outside the back door. For two guys who love hiking, perhaps while foraging for sumac, acorns and other dye ingredients, it doesn’t get any better.
“If I use well water instead of rainwater, it can change the colour,” explains Walker, his passion for experimentation grounded in his own artistic roots, as well as an interest in science he fondly recalls sharing with his kids. “It’s very satisfying.”
A quick perusal of Cabin Boy Knits’ website offers excellent descriptions of both the types of sheep and the natural contents of dyes used in the business. Their “about us” page acknowledges key values important to the duo, from land acknowledgement to sustainability. A member and staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community, Walker reports a hefty percentage from the purchase of various yarn kits goes to support a fellow knitter and avid bicyclist raising funds in the annual U.S.-based Aids/Lifecycle charity event.
BEYOND THE BOQ
When half of your clientele lives outside Canada, you forge friendships and connections everywhere. Cabin Boy Knits deals with customers from all around the globe, as well as with wool brokers here, in the UK and in the United States.
Walker first joined the Upper Canada Fibre Shed just to learn more about wool and ended up briefly becoming a board member. Revelling in the strong sense of community offered by everyone from sheep farmers to those interested in yarn and fibre crafts, the artist happily describes festivals and workshops from Denmark to Montreal to nearby Amherst Island where the couple has presented demonstrations at Topsy Farms.
People clearly matter to this pair. Walker speaks with equal respect when discussing customers like well-known Nina Chicago in the windy city itself, or the people who carry Cabin Boy Knits products in the village shop a few kilometres away.
It seems the world is definitely Cabin Boys Knits’ oyster, but make no mistake, Walker and Godin love the Bay of Quinte area. Walker claims he’s rarely left his idyllic cabin in the woods since March 2020, but he’s chuckling when he declares it’s been a wonderful place to spend the time.