16 June 2011

Yarn Crawling Portland, Part 2: Eastside

Not only are there good yarn shops in downtown Portland, but there are good shops on the east side of the river. Once again, there were more shops than I could visit. I was not able to get to Gossamer, Yarnia, or Knittn' Kitten. While the downtown is readily served by the train, the east side of town is served primarily by bus. I probably should have made an attempt to visit Gossamer (a little over a mile from my hotel), but Yarnia and Knittn' Kitten (both about 4 miles away) were just too far afield.
Since I was staying at a hotel near Lloyd Center, I was able to walk to Twisted. Go to the north side of the Lloyd Center Mall and walk a couple blocks north to NE Broadway. There are lots of delightful shops and places to eat on this thoroughfare. Twisted is about six blocks east at 2310 NE Broadway St. As I walked in, a copy of Respect the Spindle was set up on a table, front and center. While this is primarily a knitting shop, there was a Schacht Ladybug wheel and locally dyed fiber from Black Trillium. Yarn choices included Schulana, Claudia Hand Paint, Debbie Bliss, Imperial Stock Ranch, Malabrigo, and Noro. (Search a full listing here.) There was a thorough selection of books, including Japanese pattern books. There was even an instruction book about needle tatting! And in the clearance book section were copies of Gathering of Lace and Unexpected Knitting. In clearance I saw a book I had never seen before, called Knit an Icon. It shows you how to knit little dolls that look like famous people -- Madonna or Einstein, for example! Cute! The person in the shop the evening I was there took extra time to help a regular customer with a stalled project. There are several signs -- including one with the Eye of Sauron -- reminding you that you are being watched and shouldn't shoplift. I guess it must be a serious issue in that part of town. I got the sense this store places their focus on their regular customers. And a bonus -- the shop also carries tea!

The last two shops I visited are both on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, just a couple blocks apart and near Ladd's Rose Gardens Circle and Squares. The concierge at the hotel was able to give me directions to use the #70 bus. The distance is just over a mile and a half, so it wouldn't have been too expensive by taxi, either.

The first place I went was Happy Knits. Do not be fooled. The store front is not wide, and while the window dressing is clever, it isn't over-stuffed. The shop is larger than it looks because it is deep rather than wide, with a nice large sitting and classroom area in the back. Several bookshelves are back there as well, with a solid selection of books as well as ArtYarns kits and a full line of Knit Picks needles and cables. The main floor in front has square wine racks of yarn, nicely organized and very shop-able. Yarn lines include Alpaca with a Twist, Aslan Trends, Cascade, Dream in Color, Fibre Company, Madelinetosh, Malabrigo, Mirasol, and Jamieson's. (Other lines can be found on this list.) This is a shop where the buyer is carrying a wide range in each of only a few lines but making careful, thoughtful selections about what are the best possible offerings. There isn't a poor choice in the whole shop.

I was at this shop not only to check it out, but also to meet Jay Petersen, author of the Fuzzy Logic blog and entrelac knitter extraordinaire! Jay was correct when he said this is one of the friendliest shops in Portland. I discovered Jay on Ravelry, where he goes by "yarnover." We had a lovely little knitting summit, with me stretching my mind to understand what Jay is doing. He is using entrelac three-dimensionally. Some of his creations are quite interesting, like cube with cables that ends up looking very much like a knitted version of a Japanese temari ball. Additionally, he is playing with combining entrelac and a variety of stitch patterns. Jay has discovered some interesting properties of how knits and purls do and don't mesh when picking up stitches. He had one swatch where the knits and purls lie flat where they meet, and a second similar swatch where they don't lie flat, thus creating a highly textured fabric. Jay and I are both interested in reversibility in knitting. We both agreed that while we admire the innovation in Lynne Barr's Reversible Knitting book, we feel that there's a need for a more complete antd thoughtful treatment of the subject.  Jay does have patterns for download and sale on Ravelry. I would dearly love to see articles or a book by him, as I think his innovations are worthy of being shared with as wide an audience as possible.

In addition to meeting Jay, I also met my West Coast counterpart, Jolie! Yes, there is a Jolie the Knitter in Portland! She's also an artist, as you can see from her work here. It gets more bizarre -- we were wearing the same Metropolitan Museum of Art watch! My husband works in aerospace engineering, and her in-laws work in aerospace engineering. I can see on Ravelry that we are both Aries. So my parallel universe doppelganger is alive and well and living, knitting, and painting in Portland, Oregon.

After the contact high of Happy Knits, Yarn Garden had a lot to prove. But first, Jay and I walked an extra couple blocks west to the corner of SE 12th Avenue and SE Hawthorne Boulevard. There's a nice little cluster of food carts, and we enjoyed Whiffies, which are deep-fried meat pies. Actually, I got the vegetarian version, which was quite good. I should mention that you can go totally vegan in Portland without realizing it, because there are equally attractive non-carnivorous meal options. There are people who like living in Portland because you don't need to own a car. I think you also might not need to have a kitchen.
Unlike Happy Knits, Yarn Garden has a very imposing street presence, as it takes up an entire block! Their address is technically 1413 SE Hawthorne Boulevard. I was wondering how two yarn shops manage to exist only a couple blocks apart. It turns out they are very different. Yarn Garden has room after room of yarn, and carries a huge range from many of the major national manufacturers. This is a shop that has all the price points and all yarn types, from sock yarn to novelties, practical acrylics to luxury natural fibers. Some examples: Berroco, Brown Sheep, Classic Elite, Schaefer, Prism, Koigu, Debbie Bliss, Filatura Di Crosa, Shalimar, Rowan, Plymouth, South West Trading Company ... you get the idea. Annie was minding the shop that day, and she was super nice and showed off a Stripe Study Shawl.

Between these two shops on Hawthorne Boulevard, if you can't find it, do you really need it?

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