One of Fernwood’s long-time businesses is ­retiring their store front after 15 years in the neighbourhood

›› Melissa Faye Reid

Steve Ashton, wearing a green patterned kilt with socks (called hose) landing just below his knees, walked into Little June café with wife, Bobbie Williams. Ashton is the owner and kilt maker and ­Williams is the office manager of Freedom Kilts. Freedom Kilts has been a landmark of Fernwood for 15 years, specializing in contemporary kilts which are a blend of traditional and ­utility kilts.

An unofficial Fernwood historian, ­Ashton quizzed me on my knowledge of the neighbourhood, which, I’ll be the first to admit, I knew very little in comparison. The building kitty-corner to Little June used to be the Imperial Bakery and if you look closely, can still see the name. The Fernwood Inn used to be in the original store front of Freedom Kilts before they moved into the Cornerstone building until finally settling into a house (formally a Buddhist temple) beside the Fernwood Community Association.

“I’m a maker—I make things,” says Ashton. Although Ashton has no ‘official’ Scottish genealogy, Ashton read “The Art of Kiltmaking” by Barbara Tewksbury and thought, I can do that! Since then ­Ashton, has been customizing and renting ­contemporary kilts (with pockets!) for the wider community—even former mayor, Dean Fortin, owns one of Ashton’s kilts. He also created a tartan specifically for the city of Victoria.

On the Freedom Kilts website I read a phrase, Swish + Swagger = Swoon. Williams answered my inquiry stating, “Women noticed the butts of men in kilts.” After years owning a retail shop, Ashton and Williams are retiring their store front. ­Ashton will still be taking orders, but from the comfort of his home. They are excited to announce the change of hand to Knotty By Nature, a fiber art business.

Fernwood will miss Freedom Kilts, but no doubt welcome Knotty by Nature with open arms. Until then, keep an eye out for Ashton’s book. As Ashton states, “every person’s time on this earth is finite. We are born, we live, love learn, and at some time, we all die. The strength of the human race is our ability, our willingness to pass on to the next generation that which we have learned.”

Knotty By Nature will be hosting an ­Indigenous Artists Winter Solstice Pop Up on ­Friday, December 20th (5:00 – 9:00pm) and ­Saturday, ­December 21st (10:00am – 4:00pm) at 1919 ­Fernwood Road before officially opening up in January 2020.