Oh, Portland, Oh, Oregon,oh Yarn
My daughter goes to school in Portland, Oregon, so her dad and I went to visit her a few weekends ago. We love Portland, but, then again, we're foodies, we like good wine and we love Alex - so of course we love Portland. That said, Portland loves knitting. They must have at least 8 stores now with a new one just about to open.
While there, I had a chance to visit 3 stores. Mabel's Knittery, Yarn Garden and Knit & Purl. The first two blend food with wine and have an established coffee shop or bar area in the store. Yarn Garden (www.yarngarden.net)is gigantic and the store, which is a series of linked stores and storefronts, basically takes up a city block. The Coffee Shop (aka "The Sippery") is located in the end shop and it's large, airy and lovely. Tables(end, coffee, work,etc.) plus couches and chairs are sprinkled throughtout the room. The work table is surrounded by chairs and located toward the back of the room so that a class can be conducted while another small group sits up front (see photo up top) Sophisticated finished projects decorate the walls (including China Dreams - the Kaffe Fassett beauty) and and the front window of the coffee shop has clothes line strung across with hundreds of finished hats clothespinned on the line. The other "stores" that comprise Yarn Garden carry every national and international brand you can think of, plus local brands, as well. It's very impressive. The store at the other end of the line-up is just for patterns, books and instructions. You could get lost there for 5 days and never be hungry for food or inspiration. It's a resource dedicated just to knitting.
That said, I LOVED Mabel's for very different reasons. (www.mabelscafe.com) The atmosphere is authentic old time charming and while it's not as large as the yarn garden and it doesn't have as many yarns and accessories to offer, it's more my cup of tea - or coffee, if you will. The lighting is low, so seeing yarn in any kind of accurate light can only be done by going outside - but the spirit is good and the owner, Cait, is completely committed to her neighborhood - you can feel it. Besides, the place is named after her mom (Mabel) and I have a Mabel in my family, too. I saw things there that spoke to a certain kind of inventiveness and love of the craft that I did not see anywhere else. One is not better than the other. It depends on the knitter's frame of mind.
Knit & Purl is elegant, sophisticated and cool. (www.knit-purl.com) It's fairly new and totally lovely and warm without being "cute". There's a no-nonsense but friendly feel to the place. I thought the new owner was wonderful in her enthusiasm and she's a real knitter. All of the proprietors I met obviously loved the craft and that makes an enormous difference.
I then got the best treat (for me). I spent a morning with the neat people who own Lantern Moon. (www.lanternmoon.com) That's the company that imports all the wonderful knitting related baskets, needles and silks from Vietnam. They are doing a healthy business thanks to their commitment to the people of Vietnam, quality products and good design. I had the best time in the world. All I can say is check them out on line if you want to see their neat products. You'll probably recognize them since they are in many of the better knitting stores and there's lots of them these days - knitting stores that is.
On the needles, Catherline Lowe's wonderful short row muffler (fall 2003 - Vogue Knitting) and a new little Manos de Uruguay number in Stria. Yes, I know, I know. The Falkenberg is waiting. So am I - for the heat to break. Look up top to see the two goofies that I really went to Portland to be with. I like them a lot - even if they don't knit.