I need a cure for my pacific northwest love affair…

Or do I…It’s been about a week since we’ve been back home from our 12 day excursion up the coast to Portland.  I’m sad to be back.  Really sad.  I fell in love with the pacific northwest all over again (since we drove down the coast from Northwest Washington on our honeymoon three and a half years ago).  The rocky shores blanketed in fog captivate me and I can’t get enough of the dense, lush forests that line every road and frame each small town along the way.  As for Portland, the city is gorgeous, clean, and exciting.  The food is perfection, the people are unique, and very friendly and the neighborhoods all have something different to offer.  Not an hour away is the spectacular Columbia River Gorge and the Hood River Valley, not to mention the enormous Cascade volcanoes, Mt. Hood and Adams.  They rise over the city like giant snow capped watchmen.  Sometimes you can even make out the broken peak of Mt. St. Helens.  Not enough can be said in one brief knitting post, but I hope that if you ever have the chance to take a trip up the coast, you do it.  There are very few things quite that beautiful.

In this post, however, I’d like to highlight some of the knitting finds I happened upon on our trip, as well as spotlight a finished project and some that I really need to get serious about.

Our trip started in Laguna Beach (where we stayed with our best friends, Lauren and Hokuto–Lauren cooks up some delectable eats over at Dumb Blond Does Dinner) with stops in Monterey, CA, Eureka, CA, Coos Bay, OR, and then stopping for a few days in Portland before heading south through Bend, OR, Crater Lake, and down through Nevada back to Las Vegas.  Along the way I made sure to look for local knitting gems.  Lucky for me I found a few.  I also found time to work on a hat that I had started a few days prior to the trip.  I was dead set on wearing it in Portland.

Just shy of an hour outside of Coos Bay, Oregon is a crabbing and fishing port called Bandon.  We stopped to stretch our legs and explore their downtown area.  It was chilly and wet, but a pleasant change from the stuffiness of the Mini after several hours.  I never thought that I would happen upon any knitting finds here, because the area is so small.  Charming to boot, but just not where you’d expect to find a yarn shop.

 Granted, I never did find a yarn shop, but I did happen across some fantastic yarn sitting in a crate outside of a unique store called Gypsy Wagon.  It was unlabeled and made from recycled silk Indian saris.  Not to mention, a steal at $6 a pop!

The store is also lovely and the gentleman in the picture was very friendly and told me a bit about the store and all of the imports.  His wife owns the shop, but he helps out sometimes when he has a break from being a well known busker in the area and around the world.  He told me a bit about what he does and it sounded like a really cool way to see the world.  His name is John Gretzinger and he has a blog about busking over at Buskers Beat

After arriving in Coos Bay and taking the time to enjoy some clam chowder at a small fish market, I happened upon a store called My Yarn Shop on the main road, Broadway.  This store is adorable.

Not only does the store front lure fiber enthusiasts and curious shoppers with its street lamps and giant windows, but as soon as you walk in the door you are greeted by heaps of luxurious yarn in every color under the sun.

After walking around a bit, I overheard the sales lady tell another shopper if she knew about the back.  The back?  As far as I knew, what you see in the picture above was all there was.  I looked over towards the “back” and saw another shopper duck in through an archway.  I followed suit.  

You always assume that yarn shops have a back stock area, but you never expect to be allowed to rummage through it.  The walls were lined with skeins of yarn, tubes of buttons, pattern books, project kits, spools of lace, and all sorts of notions.  I was overwhelmed, to say the least.  I couldn’t possibly justify spending money for our trip on another skein of yarn, so I made my way back to the notions wall, picked out a set of needles for my recycled Sari yarn, introduced myself to the owner, had a nice conversation with a local knitter, and went on my way-satisfied with my experience and happy to have contributed to the local knitting scene in some small way.
Our next stop on our trip was Portland, Oregon.  When we were planning this trip, I learned that the city has an enthusiastic creative and crafty culture.  This explains the more than 10 knitting stores in downtown Portland alone!  I couldn’t possible visit them all (though the prospect was enticing), but I did take time to step into the modern looking and impeccable Knit Purl on the corner of Alder and 11th.

This is probably one of the most beautifully organized yarn shops I’ve ever been in.  The shelves were neatly stocked with oodles of luscious fiber from local sources and the sample pieces were displayed on a rack for purchasing or feeling.  
Again, I couldn’t justify another skein, so I settled on a Knit Purl pin instead.
Also while we were in Portland, I donned my new slouchy, lacy hat that I worked on on the road.  Talk about soft.  The yarn I used was a DK weight angora called Kimono Pure by Louisa Harding, knit with two strands held together.  The pattern (Angora Horseshoe Slouchy Hat) is easy and the repeats fly by!  The pattern is knit flat and then sewn up the side, but I much prefer to knit hats in the round so I made some adjustments to the pattern.  If you’re interested in the adjusted pattern, email me!

The next place I discovered along the way is actually thanks to my husband.  As we were driving through an area just south of the Columbia River Gorge called the “fruit loop”, Branden noticed a sign for Foothills Yarn and Fiber.  It was such a random area for us to stumble upon a new yarn shop because it was all farmland and fruit trees.  Surely it’s not unusual to imagine sheep and alpaca farms in the area, but a yarn shop?  I had to check it out!
After driving along a winding country road for about 10 minutes, we started seeing signs for Cascade Alpacas.  We were getting close!
Once we turned into the property, we immediately drive by alpacas grazing and pull up to a small red building with a dirt drive.  Before I ventured inside, I had to say hello to the alpacas watching me from the nearby barn.

This mama alpaca (I’m assuming here) is called Princess.  The curious little fellow in the background may be her little one. 
The shop is very nice and surrounded by a wall of green trees that diffuse the light and give the area a nice glow.

Once inside, we were greeted by two very friendly faces.  One of the faces belonged to Thomas Betts, one of the owners of the farm.  He was sitting at a loom, weaving a beautiful fabric out of some of his own alpaca fiber.
The girl in this picture works at the shop and her family breeds alpaca’s with Tom’s.  She was so very helpful and gladly showed us around the shop, allowing us to feel a bag of raw alpaca just sheered.  After visiting, I had written down her name on a business card, but have since lost it in the trip.  I am going to get my stalker on and call the shop ASAP to find out her name.  She was very nice and I would like to mention her here is I can.  Thomas, on the other hand, is fairly well known in the small business world.  Just recently he was interviewed by William Shatner on the subject of entrepreneurship.  His story is an inspiring one.  Hoping to find a place to escape, Tom and his wife Connie set their sights on the Hood River Valley.  Once there, they decided that they would try their hand at farming because of Connie’s previous experience from living on a farm growing up.  All that was left was a reason to farm.  A friend had mentioned to them that alpacas were very easy to raise, gentle, and can be profitable.  The Betss’s decided that they would get involved with the alpaca business and have been profitable ever since.  I was so pleased to be able to see their accomplishment first hand.  
Now I know that I have said repeatedly in this post that I couldn’t justify buying another skein of yarn, but I simply couldn’t resist.  I was enchanted by the idea of buying fiber that was sheered from one of the animals just outside.  Not only that, but hand dyed baby alpaca was so soft and luxurious that I had to have some.  The color I chose is called “alfalfa” and has several tones of green.  I think of it as a token to remember my trip up north.  Whatever I decide to make with it, the green hues will bring back very happy memories.

After giving our thanks and saying goodbye, we set off South towards Bend.  It was going to be about a four hour drive, so I pulled out my sari yarn from Bandon, and my new needles from Coos Bay and got to work on a new garter stitch cowl.  
I figured this would make for effortless road trip knitting that I could do while gazing out the window at the beautiful landscape.


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