The old area of Quebec City is split into two sections, the upper and lower. There is a natural bluff where the city was originally founded at a narrow place of the St Lawrence River, and the fort or Citadelle is located at the top, front edge of the bluff looking over the river (actually two rivers join near here, the St Lawrence and the St Charles). Fortified walls connecting to the Citadelle ring the upper part of the town and enclose most of the civic buildings and churches. Today there are many hotels, restaurants, and shops in the upper town, but historically commerce was centered in the lower town which was outside the walls, down hill, and connected to the port or dockside of the river.
The day I wandered down to Lower Town I found a delightful store called Charlevoix Pure Laine. Charlevoix is a region in Quebec Province and “laine” means wool. The shop was filled with yarn and wool products local to Quebec, so local in fact that most of them are made right in the store. They have a knitting machine in the back, and the shop assistants had hand knitting to entertain themselves between customers. They use undyed natural wool to create mostly accessories — socks, hats, scarves, cowls, mitts, gloves and some decorative pieces. They also use what I call factory ends, bits that often go to waste in large scale production, for their smaller projects. It is a great story.
Another great story is the other meaning behind “pure laine”. Literally ‘100% wool’ but also interpreted as ‘dyed in the wool’, “pure laine” is used to refer to Quebecoise whose ancestry is exclusively French-Canadian, or 100% from New France settlers. Pride in their French heritage runs strong here. Very strong.