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High end fashion at Place Kensington

(photo: Robert Galbraith)

Most people think that fashion shows are about haute couture but the Kensington Knitters would disagree. For them it’s about having fun and displaying their knitted creations.

“We model, we're not very sexy but you get the idea,” said Miriam Berger, founder of the Kensington knitters club. “All of this goes to Father Johns, for the street children,” she said as she pointed at the stacks of blankets, hats and scarves that were to be donated to Dans la Rue (an organization founded by father Emmett Johns, serving youth living in the streets or youth at risk).

Residents, Berger and Elinor Cohen organize the Kensington Knitters who meet weekly to knit blankets. “The two of us are retired professional social workers,” Berger said. “We try to develop leisure time activities with a purpose. We're helping Father Johns.”

“This is one of the few groups that supplies us with blankets,” said Father Johns. He explained that Canadian Tire used to donate blankets to the homeless but then someone from the Old Brewery Mission went public saying that the homeless don’t need blankets, they need housing. “Nobody said that they didn't need housing, but when they're cold, a blanket does pretty well.”

“Its hard work but it’s worthwhile,” Cohen said. “The street kids walk around with them on their shoulders.” This isn’t only about the kids, Berger said. “Socially it's wonderful. We get together and have tea and cookies, we talk and we fool around with knitting.”

Cohen explained that the residents knit squares and then she sews them together and crochets the edges to make complete blankets. “Every blanket is a combined effort. Each square is made by an individual.”

Every November the knitters model their “fashions”. This year, they had less residents participating than in previous years but the atmosphere was still jovial. “Not as many residents get involved because the age group is older now,” Berger said. “There are more resources in the community so that they can stay in their own home longer, rather than coming into a senior's residence.”

This year there was live music and a witty MC while the models strutted along the catwalk with their blankets draped across their shoulders. The auditorium was filled to the brim with residents who turned out to see the show. “Everybody who knits gets a flower, formal speeches are made and then we have the parade.” Berger said. “The mobile residents model and then we pick a couple of waitresses who offered cause not everyone can do it. So many of them are on canes and walkers.”

“I'm getting kind of used to seeing all this beauty but the first time I saw the fashion show, I was going to rush down to Holt and Renfrew and say I've got an idea for you,” Father Emmett Johns said. “They quite appreciate these. We love our kids, but we're not able to give them the warmth that a good knitted blanket does in the middle of a winter's night.”

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