Oregon is a needleworker’s paradise. Yarn everywhere, quilting shops in every town with a population over 800 (I’m not kidding; it’s like they have a law about it or something), and more bead shops than I’ve ever seen in my life. Given thisâ€”and given that Melissa and I were foolishly engaging in non-knitting pursuits like visiting friends and trekking through nature’s majestyâ€”I had no hope of completing anything but a haphazard survey of a handful of shops. So I humbly submit my report on Oregon’s LYSs, incomplete and quirky as it is.
1005 West Burnside, Portland
Okay, so Powell’s isn’t a LYS. Nonetheless, Powell’s does have the biggest collection of knitting books I’ve ever seen in one place. While Melissa wandered the art section and our friend Ellen browsed poetry and recent releases, I camped myself out on the floor in front of the knitting shelves and got to work. My first go-through I picked about a dozen must-have books, which I toted off to a quieter corner (the knitting section was hopping) to sort through. After much sighing and sifting, here’s what I chose.
No-Pattern Knits (Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer) struck me as one of those books that goes beyond offering a group of patterns to opening up a new world of possibilities. Each chapter focuses on a different modular shape and strategies for using it in multiples or combining it with other shapes. On the one hand, I’m dubious about modular knits because of all the joining, but the possibilities this technique offers are so endless that I know I’ll go there eventually, yarn needle in hand.
Like No-Pattern Knits, Debbie Bliss’s Knitting Workbook focuses more on opening up possibilities than on producing a specific set of garments. If you look at the table of contents you’ll see that the beginning chapters contain material that can be found any number of places, but the last few chapters struck me as unique in their approach to particular topics. I can’t wait to play with the information about “Embroidery on Knitting” and “Edgings on Knitting.”
The IK special issue on felting needs no explanation, I’m sure. And the remaining two books went to gratify another one of my passions: embroidery. The sampler book was on sale for six dollars and offers a concise, well-illustrated history of sampler-making. I’ve repeatedly checked out my local library’s copy of Elizabeth Bradley’s Needlework Animals, so when Powell’s had it at a significant discount (regular price thirty-five dollars), I figured some higher power was giving me a sign and that I’d better buy it. If you like needlepoint or counted thread embroidery, look for a copy of thisâ€”the colors are rich and the designs are detailed and striking.
I am pleased to report that Damian gave my purchases his paw of approval.
The Yarn Garden
1413 SE Hawthorn Blvd., Portland
Count the awnings in the picture. They’re all Yarn Garden. This store takes up the better part of the front half of a city block and offers a dizzying array of books, tools, and yarn, yarn, yarn. And, oh yes, a cafe (perfect for Melissa to sip tea and sketch in, while I drooled over yarn). The yarn is organized room-by-room by weight and within rooms by manufacturer.
The selection is so overwhelming that I wound up buying very littleâ€”I was afraid of what might happen if I really let my acquisitiveness get going. I left with materials for two small intarsia projects (I seem to have had colorwork on the brain during much of this trip, perhaps because the cool weather got me thinking about winter and caps and gloves and the like): two skeins of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted and two of Ella Rae (a new brand for me) Classic.
If you’re coming in from out of town and are starved for variety in your knitting, this shop would make an excellent stop.
Mabel’s CafÃ© and Knittery
3041 SE Division, Portland
If I lived in Portland and had to choose a “home” yarn shop, Mabel’s would be it. The inventory isn’t huge, but it’s much more than adequate, with a wonderful selection of affordable, natural-fiber yarns. The staff here is welcoming, and the shop supports an active community, not only of knitters, but of readers, as well. Mabel’s even has a Book Club that allows knitters to gather, needles in hand, to discuss non-knitting reading. Mabel’s also offers several free weekly classes. With lots of open space, you can spread out to knit, read, and eat.
I dug a bit more deeply into my pocketbook at Mabel’s. They have the full line of Cascade Yarns, and I picked two skeins of 220 Heathers (more colorwork). Also finding their way into my basket: some Bartlett Yarns‘ wool (again with the colorwork and another new brand for me), Drops‘ Alpaca in a great yellow-green heather, and Crystal Palace‘s Kid Merino in Kiwis-Mangos and Escorial. (If I hadn’t already started Mystery Stole 3 in Brilliant, the Escorial would be a great choice.) My final purchase at Mabel’s: twenty-five cedar balls for only five dollars. Santa Cruz moths, beware!
7530 NE Glisan, Portland
The Knittn’ Kitten is really a thrift shop, not a yarn store, though it does carry yarn.
If you’re looking for new, top-quality yarns, you’ll probably want to skip this store, but if you like digging through bins of acrylic to find that rare vintage wool or enjoy sifting through piles of old embroidery transfers and boxes of jumbled buttons and beads, this shop will delight you. If you’re the patient type, you can leaf through rack after rack of 1950-1980 needlework magazines. A back room features vintage linens.
131 West 2nd, Cannon Beach
Melissa and I just took a quick stroll through Coastal Yarns, and I managed to leave without any new purchases, but if you’re driving down the coast and need a yarn fix, a stop here could do the trick. Our favorite feature was the armchair in the back room with a rack full of guy-type magazines to distract vacationing husbands while their wives shop for yarn.
Latimer Quilt Museum and Textile Center
2105 Wilson River Loop Road, Tillamook
The Latimer Quilt Museum and Textile Center focuses on quilts, but features other needle arts as well, including knitting, weaving, and spinning, and is well worth a stopâ€”so when you see the signs for it on Highway 101, prepare for a small detour. One room holds a collection of looms (there are weekly demonstrations on these), another displays vintage quilts, while a third offers contemporary quilt exhibits. The exhibit we saw featured the work of Kathy McNeil, whose mix of piecing and appliquÃ© results in striking nature quilts.
This is where I picked up the hand-crafted yarn that’s up for grabs in the Guess-Our-Mileage Contest.
Happy Kamper Yarn Barn
8854 Highway 101, Florence
I should have known by the sign on the door that this shop would be my Knitting Shangri-La.
Sadly, they do not have a web site, but trust me. If you pass through Florence, You Must Stop Here. I would seriously consider retiring to Florence, just so this could be my LYS.
The Happy Kamper Yarn barn offered a wonderful (and thorough) mix of both familiar and new yarns. Look to your left as you enter and you’ll see shelf after shelf of sock yarns. I fell for Universal Yarn‘s (yet another new brand for me) Ditto in a self-striping, black-red-grey colorway. Wander through the several rooms this shop fills, and you’ll be unable to keep your fingers to yourself. This shop has every color of both Patons‘ Classic Wool and Plymouth‘s worsted-weight Encoreâ€”so much nicer than looking at the one-inch square swatches in a mail-order catalogue. Patterns are displayed alongside the yarns they feature, rather than being shelved separately, a very helpful arrangement.
Happy Kamper Yarn Barn featured all sorts of brands I’d never encountered before: Wisdom Yarns (I bought Poems); Dark Horse Yarns (I picked some Magic Life, which has a cozy-spongy-bouncy texture); NuMei Yarns (I was smitten with Jubilee); and Lane Cervinia (my pickâ€”Softer). Wisdom is owned by Universal; Lane Cervinia by Plymouth.
Brutus sits in an armchair just inside the front door and greets all arrivals.
The Wool Company
990 2nd St, SE, Bandon
We made our final Oregon knitting stop at the Wool Company. While this store carries a wide range of yarns, it specializes inâ€”what else?â€”wool. I saw skein after skein of alpaca I wanted, but limited myself to a bit of Berrocco‘s Ultra Alpaca. I also fell for some Shetland Spindrift by Jamieson’s (back to thinking about colorwork) and Queensland Collection‘s Kathmandu Aran. The Kathmandu is a wool-silk-cashmere blend that is wonderfully soft and equally wonderfully affordable.
If you stop here, be absolutely sure to check out the hand-crafted, enameled buttons next to the register. They’re pricey, but the detail and craftsmanship will take your breath away. I limited myself to choosing three (no picture of these; we’ll have to remedy that), but could easily have racked up several years’ worth of debt, if Melissa hadn’t pulled me away just in time.
Having had all this fun in Oregon, I decided it would be a sound fiscal policy to grit my teeth and drive past any California yarn shops I spotted. Now that I’m home, I’m wishing I had all the arms of a Hindu deity, so I could begin half a dozen new projects at once.
Tomorrow: a break from road trip news to fill you in on the San Francisco Stitch ‘N Pitch.