Knitter’s guide to Portland—the S.E.

I didn’t get a chance to spend much time exploring the SE neighborhood because I was too busy at two of its yarn stores: Happy Knits and Yarnia.

Happy Knits looked quite unassuming from the outside. I’m not sure if they were in the middle of a window change but the display made such little impression on me that I don’t recall exactly what it looked like other than that there was one lonely dresser. I almost thought I should check out Yarn Garden down the street but walked in anyway…and was I glad I did!

The store was brightly lit and bigger than expected, with tall ceilings and a wide room that kept going further and further back. It was modern, neat and organized. What I noticed first was the wall of vintage buttons right next to the window—an awesome array of buttons in all kinds of materials (glass, plastic, leather) and colors. The packaging was attractive and crafty—something I’d expect to see from an Etsy shop with singer sewn labels on subtly, Japanese-esque patterned paper.

Next to these were walls full of KnitPicks needles. Then came the cube shelves full of yarn arranged by weight. At the very back of the store was a large room where classes are probably held and where patient husbands could grab a bit of shut-eye on comfy reading chairs while their wives wandered the store for hours. This room also held books and printed patterns for sale.

Oddly enough, I didn’t end up buying either yarn or knitting supplies which were plentiful here. Instead, I bought a mug. I bought two of the same mugs, in fact—one for me and one for my knit sister. Seeing it brought a smile to my face and still does every time I sip my coffee while knitting (or blogging) away.

Further east, closer to the Hawthorne/Belmont area we were told to visit, is Yarnia. This was the one store I HAD to go to while in Portland. With the tagline, “Portland’s only DIY Yarn store!”, I needed to see what DIY yarns even meant.

Situated in a the lower level of a small strip of stores on a quiet street, Yarnia was surprisingly tiny—just one small room with a slight alcove for the machine that turns several strands of chosen “string” into different weights of coned yarn. There were huge cones of yarn but the yarn itself was so thin—more like thread than yarn. They are thin so shoppers can choose several different threads and mix them (up to 6 strands) to achieve the weight and mix of color/material in the custom blend of yarn. And they sell it all by the pound—not by the yard or grams. A frugal knit designer’s heaven!! Here are the cones I ended up making and buying:
I went for a tonal theme in neutral colors and natural materials (superwash merino, wool, alpaca, bamboo, silk, cotton) but they also had colorful, man-made yarns.

The woman who helped me was super patient and knowledgeable, walking me through my options and making suggestions when I wasn’t sure what to do. Here she is threading the yarns onto a cone for me:

Knitting with yarn that has multiple threads that aren’t plied or cabled together in any way can be challenging. I’m knitting up Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Aranami Shawl with the grey cones and it was slow going at first but I’m really liking the end result. I’m not sure if I could order from Yarnia online without seeing and touching the yarns first but I think I’ll have a while before I have to find out—these cones should last me for some time! But if Yarnia was closer, I’d be in big trouble.

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