shop local gift guide

While handmade items and vintage items are, to me, the best gifts to give, I also believe that shopping locally, at an independently-owned business, is important. I live where I do because I like being able to walk to a small coffee shop or to a bar owned by girls my age or to a vintage store a few blocks away. It's just something that means a lot to me.

As it is, shop owners in Canada have huge hurdles to overcome in terms of access & duty, and most likely a whole host of other things I know nothing about. If I can support anyone at all, I would prefer if it were a local small business owner. I was raised by a local small business owner who repaired equipment for other business owners, after all. I know that sometimes me and my friends get a little blasé about all the new restaurants and bars and shops that are constantly opening in Toronto, but keep it coming, please.

I recently asked a few of my favourite Toronto bloggers and business owners to help me compile a "shop local" guide. I'll post their submissions over the course of this week, but for today, here are mine. I have to apologize in advance because I know that Toronto is so vast and spread out and most of my suggestions fall within a 10 kilometer radius -- but it's just what I know!

I recently asked Micah at Russet & Empire if she could order a Diana Mini in white for me (I gave my first Diana Mini camera to a friend -- I'm not just hoarding cameras!). I could have ordered it online, but it would have arrived overpackaged for sure & I would have been annoyed. Besides, it gave me the chance to go in to pick it up and have a nice chat. She doesn't ordinarily carry this camera but she does have lots of other Lomography supplies, as well as a box full of vintage fur scarves & stoles. 

Duluth Scout Pack, available at The Future of Frances Watson.

Kuro soap from Mjölk. The Ace Hotel in Portland provides charcoal soap for use in its rooms (made by Pearl+) and it's honestly the best soap I've ever used. This particular charcoal soap is handmade in Denmark by Sort of Coal and would make a nice, luxurious gift.

I always seem to miss out on this & think of registering long after the spaces are filled, but the Natural Dyeing class at The Workroom would make an excellent gift. I've seen people do beautiful things with the knowledge they've gained in this class.

I've had this one on my wish list for a while, but Sonja's Eyelashes print from Magic Pony would look pretty amazing in my apartment, and probably the apartments of your friends as well.

I have no shame about finding gifts at sample sales held by local designers; last year I bought some Virginia Johnson shawls and a pretty Jessica Jensen portfolio clutch at sample sales. It's a nice way to be able to give someone a present that might ordinarily be beyond my means.

Animal shapes paper clips from The Paper Place! Totally adorable. I've definitely picked up a few sets of the cat clips to send to my cat ladies.

I also love to give food gifts. Some cheeses & imported chocolate from Chabichou would make a lovely gift, as would sausages from Sanagan's Meat Locker, especially if the recipient is someone who loves to entertain. If you happen to snag a Bûche de Noël cake from Patachou and bring it to your holiday parties, you will be the favoured guest for sure. A tin of Dreidels & Donuts from Tealish is also perfect. This tea is inspired by Hanukkah and includes real chocolate chips. I've been drinking it daily lately.

Totally cute glasses tights from Hansel from Basel, available at Robber (look closely!).

Geoff's pick is a poster from Doublenaut. These are available online, but you can also pick them up at City of Craft. They're really amazing posters -- we saw them at the Kid Icarus sale this weekend, Handmade Holiday.

Ironically enough, I don't actually buy too many gifts at Christmas. Geoff & I usually exchange presents, but my favourite thing to do around the holidays is to share a meal with friends. It fills the weeks before everyone heads home to be with family (this is Toronto, after all) with so much happiness. A meal at The Atlantic, drinks at Henhouse, afternoon tea at The Windsor Arms Hotel, a syphon coffee at Sam James Coffee Bar. Best.


nath: Oh you! Thank you.

Kate: Hooray! Yeah, they're actually not that grey, I guess? I mean, I guess they kind of seem to change colour when they're on my face. But I love them. And ha! I guess that's one of the benefits of having an enormous face!

kater: Oh wow, thank you! Good luck with your glasses-hunt! It took me years.

m.bardeaux: Thank you! Aw, that's nice to hear, but that sucks about your glasses! Who steals glasses?! I hope you can find a new pair to love.

Caroline: Aw, thank you! It's kind of crazy that I haven't been to Montreal in so long -- it's so close! I think my mom gets her glasses at Costco, but they won't do vintage frames (I asked once and they were mean about it).

Sarah: Thank you! And yes, I don't think I can cut it.

Jessica: Thank you!

Shallow Mallow: Thank you!

lisanne: Thank you! Yes, I will take a look! Your glasses are very nice and yes, that is a great price.

KERRY: Thanks for saying hello! Thanks for all the sweet words.

Hollie: Aw, dude, so nice! I still feel like a total glasses impostor even though I have absolutely terrible eyesight!

anna: I'm so glad you found some! I saw the Worn table but I only got there at about 4, pretty close to the end. And thank you!

Moorea Seal: Oh man, one of the reasons why I have such a hard time wearing glasses now is because it was brutal to have them during puberty! As if I didn't feel horrible enough! I think I'm finally ready to go back. As I said to Hollie above, I still feel like an impostor, even with -5.25 vision! Thank you!

Katie: Oh no! Yeah, I've definitely had some bad contact lenses experiences, such as the time I used my brother's solution and had to go to the eye doctor -- turns out I didn't let it sit long enough, but it burned and I couldn't open my eye! Makes you wonder what is in this stuff that we put on our eyeballs. Thanks so much!

Hannah Percyowl: Thank you! Oh, you are lucky if you don't need glasses, actually!

Casie Jean: It definitely takes a lot of effort to make it to all the sales! I hope you made it to at least one of the events -- the Kid Icarus one was particularly lovely. Thank you!

MOD* Vintage: Thanks so much for making such cute frames available!

Dreaming of Palm Trees: I love it too!

hila: Thank you! Luckily I have a very large face so I can wear larger frames. And high cheekbones are most definitely not a flaw! Funny how some people will go to ridiculous lengths to be passive aggressive! Thank you for the award -- I hope I will have time to fill in the questionnaire.

Anonymous: Thank you for the links!

etre-soi: Thank you so much, I certainly don't feel gorgeous!

Jennifer: Thank you! It took me a very long time to find glasses I liked. It can be so hard!

Juli: Thank you! Haha, I watched Home Alone last night, it's cool. See you so soon! I'm really looking forward to all the events next week.

Barbara: Thank you!

Kennedy: Ha, girl! You're so funny. Thanks!

tara-lynn: Thanks, lady! I'm so glad my hair is finally long enough for side braids.

Cassie: Thank you, and thanks for saying hello!

Jenny Morris: Thank you! Yeah, there's information about what to look for (i.e. if the plastic is coated in certain substances, etc.). I think it might even have Toronto vintage glasses resources. Spectacle on Queen specializes in vintage frames but they tend to be rather pricey. But they would do a great job. Good luck with the hunt!


  1. wonderful round up, Anabela. you've got such a good eye! go independent business owners go! i am a fan of anything that Doublenaut does as well.

  2. That's it! I'm buying some of that tea tomorrow!!

  3. you always post the most wonderful things! i found the summerland shop because of your blog and it's now one of my favorite online stores. i hope you have a lovely holiday.

  4. This was so good! I wish I were lucky enough to have all these amazing shops near me. Do you know where to buy the soap online? I am intrigued!

  5. Oh- and I'm sure you already know this, but Duluth Packs are made in my town! It's been so fun to see them all over the blogosphere because they're so normal around here. Children to adults wear them all the time.

  6. Anonymous6.12.10

    I can think of several friends who would love those animal paper clips. Thanks!

  7. So many amazing things in this post! I'd love to visit Toronto eventually, one day. The natural dying looks incredible. & thanks for your sweet comment. I feel such strong connections to those types of books that I can't help but bring them home with me.


  8. great, great post Anabela, and such great finds. I agree, buying local is always a nice idea. I tend to covet things on the internet, but most of my shopping is done at little local shops. Our range is somewhat limited though where I live and I keep wishing we had the type of larger local handmade community that I see featured on so many blogs.

    p.s. I've done my own wishlist/gift guide, even though I really shouldn't since I'm Jewish - no Christmas presents for me, boo!

  9. Great post! So many inspiring ideas!

  10. In response to your response to my comment (which has nothing to do with this beautiful gift guide), did I mention the time one of my contact lenses had a small tear - very tiny, like probably 2mm - and the moment it touched my eye I thought I was going to go blind? Gosh, just recalling gives me the creeps.

    The tights are super cute1

  11. I'm so glad I found your blog!! I love it! You caught my eye with your profile pic of the shironeko holga, as I did one just like it a while ago because the front is so cute! Yours look fantastic! :)

    How do you like the Diana Mini?

    Hope your okay xox

  12. Ohh, making me yearn for Toronto already... We moved in to our Philadelphia apartment on Sunday, and we're a bit homesick, but I can't wait to find out all the great things this city has, too!

  13. Love it! I have to visit Russet and Empire soon, it's so close to J's place. I also did not know Duluth Packs were stocked in Toronto, that's perfect. That Dreidels and donuts tea is delicious, I've had a cup or two everyday since we picked it up. :)

  14. i just love your blog. what a great post. you make me love my city!!! i am especially enamoured by The Workroom. who knew? You!
    Thank you for what you do

  15. These paperclips are great! Things like these make me aspire to be an organized person.

  16. Oh wow, that vat of dye makes me think of tea and then I scroll down and see you have included a photograph of tea like how I imagined. Was that intentional? Little magic juxtapositions.

  17. hear hear to shopping local!

  18. Thank you so much for your support again A. I love how you shot the camera ON the fur!