Mary Vallis Cowan of Canadian Stitchery is busy. Very busy. As the holiday season rapidly approaches, she is hard at work putting the finishing touches on a series of Nutcracker ornaments, tiny cross stitches packed into a laser cut birch frame an inch wide for her Etsy shop as well as a number of makers markets she will be attending in Toronto this November and December.
The delightful eccentricity of her pieces is lovely to look at. Indeed, Mary’s cross stitch work is at once both whimsical and simple, modern and traditional, especially with her line of Toronto and Canada inspired Christmas ornaments and accessories. “They are unabashedly Canadian themed” she explains. Mary started Canadian Stitchery in same year that Canada celebrated its 150th birthday, designing an entire line around Canadian ideals, flora, and fauna.
However, she is not surprised that her best-selling items are from her line of Instant Pot adornments. A huge cult success, and a Canadian invention, the Instant Pot has an enormous amount of cooker obsessed followers both here and in the States. “I stitched the first one very quickly” she says, holding up a delicate, miniature cross stitched keychain. “I made it as a joke for my husband who loves his Instant Pot, and then it went crazy. It got picked up by Google shopping, and online it is my most popular piece.” The keychain is no more than an inch wide with hundreds of tiny stitches making up a distinctive Instant Pot shape. “People are constantly looking to accessorize theirs, so my keychains fit into the handle and the magnets stick to the side. I’ve received photos from the States of people using their Instant Pot accessories, it’s wonderful.”
For Canadians, her rainbow maple leaf pieces are extremely popular because of Pride. But by far at Toronto craft shows, her raccoon is the most popular piece. “People see the raccoon as a symbol of urban Canada and really get a kick out of celebrating it. I cannot make enough raccoons” she laughs. Her line also includes other Canadian staples such as fiddleheads, reindeer, Mounties, and blue jays.
Asked to pick her favourite Christmas markets for those visiting Toronto, she is brimming with ideas. “There are so many places to pick up something unique and special” she explains, “and because of the buy local movement, you will find so many great gifts that are made with care here in Toronto with sustainability in mind.” Sustainability is also part of how the Canadian Stitchery operates. The wood she uses is sustainable, laser cut Baltic birch, and the fabrics are all natural fibres. And if you ever wanted to try your hand at cross-stitch, you can pick up kits that contain everything you need to make a little piece of Canada back home.
Mary’s picks for shopping handmade and sustainable when visiting Toronto:
- The Handmade Market in the Niagara Region is set in a winery, and you can sip and shop as you browse the 200 vendors. Their large Christmas market starts on November 9th, and is very supportive of great Canadian artisans and crafters.
- Evergreen Brickworks Winter Market is something I do every weekend leading up to Christmas. They have a wonderful atmosphere and Canadian vibe in a very unique venue.
- Withrow Winter Market is a farmers market that comes indoors during the colder months and features some amazing local goods.
- Missing the markets? You can always find Mary’s Canadian cross stitch pieces online at her Etsy store.