Monday, April 03, 2006

Portland, Socks, and Lots O' Yarn

For our first full day in Portland, we got up and headed to Multnomah Falls, along the Columbia River Gorge east of the city. There we did a hefty loop hike past not only Multnomah Falls but also up to Wahkeena Falls, which is part of the same system but much less well known. Not only did we see some lovely waterfalls and do some pretty strenuous hill hiking, I finally got to test out the waterproof qualities of my new jacket, purchased specially for the so-called rainy Northwest. Finally, the area lived up to its reputation, since it was drizzling during much of the hike. Not to mention, anyone will get a little damp standing this close to a 620 foot waterfall!

Of course, the Sockapaloooza sock (which had by now been to its third state) needed to emerge to see the sights as well.

Our long hikes generally end in the same way: we spend about the last hour talking about what kind of food we will want to eat when we're done hiking. Usually it's cheeseburgers (I get this bizarre craving for red meat when I've been out in nature--maybe its the hunter/gatherer thing kicking in), but at Multnomah Falls, hiking through the cool, damp greenery, we both wanted soup. French onion soup, to be specific. So what are the chances that the Multnomah Falls Lodge at the base of the waterfall would have exactly what we ordered? Pretty good, it turns out. We had a wonderful lunch (by the fireplace, which dried out our clothes quite nicely), with a bowl of soup, a basket of bread, and a terrific pint of Walking Stick Stout. Yum.

By this point, I was thoroughly ready to return to civilization, in the form of yarn shopping. For a city of its size, Portland has a really large number of good yarn shops, and Stephanie had given me a pretty good idea of which ones to go to and how to get to them. We drove downtown and spent the afternoon perusing shops.

First up was Knit Purl, a good sized yarn shop just outside of downtown. Lots of windows, bright displays, and a good selection of interesting yarns, some of which I hadn't seen in person before. The Alchemy yarns on display, particularly their silk yarns, were breathtaking. The store also had a great selection of sock yarns--I bought some Lorna's Laces, Koigu (the Koigu selection was really broad) and some Socks that Rock. Apparently I am now committed to being a sock knitter! The store was having a great sale on Addi Turbos, but of course I didn't have my needle inventory with me, so I passed on those. The salesperson at Knit Purl was really friendly and helpful, and there were lots of chairs for sitting and perusing their fairly extensive book selection. I could see why this was one of Stephanie's favorite shops!

We tried heading next to Knit Knot Studio in the Pearl District, but at that time the owner was taking a break and had closed the store. At first I was hesitant to return, but I'm glad I did take time to come back later in the afternoon. The owner was so nice and helpful when I explained that I was from out of town. She pointed out some of the unique yarns that I might not be able to find so easily back home. I ended up buying some gorgeous variegated 100% alpaca worsted weight in really subtle autumn colors--it'll end up being a hat for next fall and winter. I also picked up some Trekking XXL sock yarn in almost the same colors. The store itself is very small--it reminded me a lot of Circles yarn store outside Boston--but still pleasant, well organized, and easy to browse.

Also in the Pearl District was the brand-new Dublin Bay Knitting Company, which had just opened in January. I hate to say anything negative about the store, since it is so new, but the whole time I was there, I was asking myself how the store will survive. The yarn shop scene in Portland already seems like it's nearing saturation, and this new store seems like it's at a competitive disadvantage. It's right on the very edge of the Pearl District, not really near anything else, so people would have to make a special trip to go there. It's also got a huge square footage, but compared to the other yarn stores in the area, it's very dark--dark woods, not great lighting (also not good for really getting a good sense of yarn colors), and even though there were huge windows, the awnings in front didn't let in much natural light. The owner was also not very friendly--she just sat behind the counter and knitted the whole time I was there, not offering much help or asking questions even when I volunteered that I was out of town. What a huge contrast to Knit Knot Studio! Since Darren was already carrying bags from several yarn shops, it should have been evident that I (or he) was in the mood to spend money on yarn, but she didn't go out of her way to show me any of the special or unique yarns in stock. That being said, the store did have some lovely things. More Alchemy (drool, drool), some Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn. I was tempted, but I managed to leave without buying anything.

Finally, I made it to Lint. It's definitely the hippest shop we visited, with cool seating (great for browsing their pretty extensive book selection), really neat displays (they use things like old armoires and library card catalogs for storage and display), and a pretty eclectic mix of yarns. I almost picked up the Blue Sky cotton I wanted for a sweater for my sister, but by now I was seriously worried about the space in my luggage, so I resisted. Instead, I picked up two back issues of Interweave Knits and a Sushi Wallet kit from Pick Up Sticks. I confess, though, that I was a little disappointed by the customer service here as well. One of the salespeople was relatively friendly, but the store had a very cliquey feel. There were several young women (including the staff) sitting right near the register gossiping loudly and talking about who got drunkest at whose birthday party, etc. I guess if you're in the "in group," it's probably a fun place to go, hang out, and knit. But the atmosphere is certainly not very welcoming to outsiders! Plus they didn't have a very good sock yarn selection . . .

I was hoping to make it over to Stephanie's favorite yarn shop, the Yarn Garden in SE Portland (across the river), but by now our hosts were already waiting for us to go out to dinner, so I guess I'll have to save that for the next trip to Portland! Tomorrow I'll hopefully have a photo of all my new loot.

We did make it out to dinner, back in the Pearl District. The restaurant was very cool: a nuevo Peruvian restaurant called Andina. Since we didn't have reservations, we had to sit in the bar, but we weren't complaining; we still got a booth, we got to listen to live guitar music, and both the food and the service were outstanding. I also highly recommend the Pisco Sour, made with the traditional Peruvian grape brandy. Yummy. Can you tell that the food was one of the highlights of our trip?


Blogger Lotta said...

The pictures from your trip are so gorgeous!! Makes me want to visit the Northwest right now! And all the cool yarn stores... I'm so jealous... :)

5:06 PM  
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