Portland Shop reviews, part 1

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I'm trying to hit as many yarn shops in Portland as possible, while still giving a fairly in -depth review. You can find lists of shops and websites, and individual shop reviews, but that's a lot of legwork (mousework?) for a relatively simple request.

Portland has a LOT of yarn shops; I'm considering moving here, and I must admit, that plethora is swaying my judgment just a smidge. Today I visited three: Knit/Purl, on 1101 SW Alder was the first. In terms of location, I love it, because it's very close to Josephine's Dry Goods, a Portland staple sewing store with an amazing collection of buttons (I bought some). The shop is not huge, but airy and pleasant, with lots of windows and excellent lighting. Knit/Purl carries a good amount of harder to find yarns, especially Fleece Artist (thrummed mitten kits and BFL, no sock yarn), Handmaiden (Sea Silk), Koigu, Lorna's Laces (nearly all the lines in a good variety of colors), and their own line Shibui. The Shibui sock yarn is especially nice; it's solid, but a kettle sort of solid with rich colors and a soft base (the same base as medium Socks that Rock and Koigu). It costs about the same, however. They do (or did?) carry Blue Moon Fiber Arts, but pickings were scarce since it was all 40% off. I did manage to score a hank of their 100% silk laceweight in Farmhouse and two skeins of semi-solid Sock Candy for pretty cheap, but it didn't seem as though they would be getting more. The shop is a high-end one, but not necessarily in a bad way. The service was still VERY good (and I'm young and wasn't particularly well-dressed). One of the girls offered to wind my 1200 yards of laceweight silk, and when it tangled, she spent the rest of the day untangling it. Some places won't wind lace at all, so I was really happy with this service. (Of course, on a busy day, you may have to wait a while.) The yarns were not overpriced which happens in so many urban shops, and even though they carry almost all higher-end yarns, they're all of good quality - cashmere, merino, silk, alpaca, angora, etc. I would definitely recommend this shop if you have a good yarn-shopping budget. There's also a room downstairs that has yarn that's on sale. Today, it was hanks of llama dyed by Blue Moon. :)

Next, I hit Dublin Bay, at 1227 NW 11th. It's at the VERY end of 11th, so don't give up if you don't see it right away. Inside they have a big-screen tv and comfy chairs for anyone with you who doesn't "get" yarn shopping (I had one today, and it was appreciated). They carried most of the RYC line, some Fleece Artist (Kid Aran, some Sea Silk), lots of Cherry Tree Hill (supersock, baby loop, ribbon, alpaca lace, etc.), Rooster Almerino, which is mostly just found in the UK and compares to Cashmerino, and lots of Regia, among other things. The shop itself had a rareified air to it; very quiet except for the tv and the click of needles. The woman at the counter smiled at me, but I have admit.. I prefer to be talked to beyond just a "hello" and back to the needles we go! I walked around for about 10 minutes and left. No "what are you looking for?" or anything like that. I just found it too quiet. I prefer yarn shops where people talk and laugh, music plays, etc. If you really would like some peace (or it was a slow day for her) this shop may suit you better. I would have preferred that they carry the sock yarn by Fleece Artist since they carry other yarns by the brand, and they had room in the cubicles. All together, I wasn't crazy about it. They do offer coffee and chocolates from 2-4 on Sundays, so perhaps that would be a good time to visit for the first time, rather than right before they closed. They also had a good selection of the RYC books and good quality baby yarn, FYI.

Lastly, I hit Mabel's Cafe and Knittery, on 3041 SE Division, across the river. In a house, with a coffee bar that also serves beer and wine (good pinot noir, btw), Mabel's carries a small but well-chosen selection of wools, cottons, alpaca, and most of Debbie Bliss' yarns. There are paintings on the walls by local artists (I wanted the large cream house painting, but couldn't afford the still-reasonable price tag.) There are couches and tables, good for a spouse or friend who'd rather take a book or journal along and sip while you shop. The woman at the counter (who I am not sure was the owner, but she seemed very comfortable so perhaps so) greeted me several times throughout my shopping. She was never pushy or nosy, just pleasant if I had a question. They carry a good collection of Manos and Manos Stria, Bartlett Yarns, Plymouth Alpaca (Brushed, Suri Merino, and Grande) and lots of Opal, including solids! I liked the place so much that I bought 4 skeins of Debbie Bliss Pure Silk in 12 (Poppy/Coral) to make something dressy and beautiful. I love that Mabel's has long hours, open til 9 pm Monday-Thursday, and til 8 pm Friday-Sunday! The number of tables and the cafe would make it my choice for an after work SNB. If you're in the the area, check it out, though if you only get to hit one LYS you might skip this one since the selection is more limited.

Tomorrow: Hopefully, I'll be heading to Yarn Garden (if I can figure out how to get there via mass transit), Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks, Lint, and Knit Knot (though I must admit I've heard that Knit Knot is quite snotty, I hope to find out for myself and report back!)