Handmade Portland: Knit Shops

Contributed by: Anne Prahl, Curator of Collections, Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

 If you think of all things hip and innovative, challenging and quirky when you think of Portland, the knitting scene in our fair city does not disappoint. If you are connected, you have already checked out the Portland Metro Area Ravelers forum on Ravelry.com. Or you might have checked to see if there is a Meetup.com gathering during the SAA conference. There are regular meetings of crafters, including knitters, all over the city. You only need to plug in.

Perhaps you are hoping to browse some local yarn shops (I know my best souvenirs are the ones I made myself from materials purchased wherever I have traveled). There are dozens of shops in the metro area. I have compiled the few that are easiest to get to either on foot or by public transportation. Each has its own, unique atmosphere. Some feature a group of regulars whom you will find cozily drinking tea and knitting together. But I’ve never been turned away from one of those klatches. Just pull up a chair and whip out your knitting bag and you are one of the in-crowd.


Pearl District and Downtown

Pearl Fiber Arts

428 NW 11th Aveknitting 1
Portland, OR 97209

(503) 227-7746

Just a few blocks from Powell’s Books (which you are certainly not going to want to miss). Really nice selection including some exotic fibers (yak!) and helpful staff.


Dublin Bay Knitting Company

1227 NW 11th Ave
Portland, OR 97209knitting 2

(503) 223-3229

Small and sparsely stocked, it is still a calm and friendly place to drop in. Great yarns from the British Isles as well as organics and Fair Trade and more standard fare as well.


Knit Purl

knitting 31101 SW Alder St
Portland, OR 97205

(503) 227-2999

Not my go-to shop. They tend toward the exotic, locally sourced, and hip. And the staff is kind of hipster, too. But if that’s your scene, definitely check them out.


Northeast Portland

Close Knit

2140 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211

knitting 4

(503) 288-4568

You were going to go up to the Alberta Arts district anyway, right? Lots of galleries and DIY shops, bakeries, tacos, and a Salt ‘n Straw ice cream shop. And while you are there, drop in on Close Knit where there is always someone shopping, someone knitting, and someone to offer great advice.


knitting 52310 NE Broadway
Portland, OR 97232

(503) 922-1150

My personal favorite shop. Can’t say enough about the awesome staff (who remember names!) and are always earnest and thoughtful, even with the most insipid questions. They also sell tea and welcome knitters to their comfy couches and work tables. Especially fabulous selection of sock yarns.

Southeast Portland

Happy Knits

1620 SE Hawthorne Blvdknitting 6
Portland, OR 97214

(503) 238-2106

Super-friendly and customer-oriented. Smaller selection but they make up for it in great classes and … did I mention the nice people?




North Portland

The Naked Sheep

knitting 7

2142 N Killingsworth St
Portland, OR 97217

(503) 283-2004

A little off the beaten path (unless your path takes you to North Portland.) I haven’t found the owner particularly welcoming, but if you read the Yelp reviews, there are plenty of happy people who disagree.




The Wonderful World of Powell’s Books

Contributed by: Cris Paschild

Cris Paschild is the head of special collections and the university archivist at Portland State University Library.  As a local high school student, she cut class on a regular basis to roam the aisles of Powell’s.  

Powell’s Books: “the largest used and new bookstore in the world”


A visit to Portland would not be complete for any book lover without a visit to Powell’s. In a city that has undergone great changes, Powell’s Books remains a constant.  Founded in 1971 by Walter Powell and later purchased by his son, Michael Powell, its flagship store has been at its current location since 1979.   Dubbed Powell’s City of Books, it fills an entire downtown block.  The labyrinth of its color-coded rooms and its three levels, home to 3,500 subject sections, are best navigated with a map, available in print at all entrances.  

The shelves of Powell’s hold almost as many used books as new.  Locals still sweep their home for books to bring to the buying counter, only to find themselves walking out with bags full again, unable to resist picking up another round of titles immediately after.  There are seemingly endless temptations for all, whatever the interest.  The Orange Room hosts rows and rows of cookbooks of every cuisine and for every technique.  The Yellow Room, home to the Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Thrillers and Manga sections, may be the best for book cover eye candy, rivaled only by the immediately adjacent Graphic Novel section.  For those looking for an extra special souvenir, the Pearl Room on the third floor is home to the rare book room.  

As online shopping boomed and corporate entities rose to dominance, the always independent Powell’s had to respond accordingly, establishing a retail website.  Nonetheless, as larger bookstore chains like Borders fell, the long-term fate of Powell’s appeared uncertain too.  However, as the market stabilized, so did Powell’s and today the store is busier than ever.  And while it has recently added more gifts and tourist-focused bling to its inventory, books are still its heart and soul.  The space itself has also managed to retain much of its old school Portland feel.  The main aisles may become congested with out of town visitors but quiet spaces for browsing and on-the-spot reading still abound.  

If you find yourself wanting to linger, there’s a coffee shop onsite.  Or you can take a break at one of the nearby restaurants, bars or bakeries.  McMenamins’ Zeus Café, two blocks up Burnside, is a good choice for a relaxed brunch or lunch in a building that holds its own share of Portland history.  

And as July gets closer, be sure to check out Powell’s calendar for visiting authors and other book-related events.   

The Perks of Staying at the Hilton Downtown

Contributed by: LauraDenise White, Consulting Archivist for the Digital Manuscripts Collection at the Genealogical Forum of Oregon

One of the greatest things about the Portland metro area, especially central downtown, is the accessibility of everything from over a dozen places to get a quick breakfast scone, coffee, or tea before jumping on a bus or Max train at the Portland Transit Mall for your morning commute, to food carts, Powell’s City of Books, countless tucked away brew pubs, three movie theaters (Fox Tower 10, Living Room Theaters, and Pioneer Place, two local farmers markets (one Wednesday, the other on Saturdays), the Oregon Historical Society with the Portland Art Museum across the street, slow and fast sushi joints, and skyscraper rooftop restaurant lounges, not to mention the west side river plaza, all within a seven block radius. (See below for a full list of Portland’s downtown hot spots.)

Regal Fox Tower 10

(Fun fact. Did you know that Portland city blocks are half the size of typical city blocks? This means that in New York, for example, 10 blocks would be a full mile hike, but 10 blocks in downtown Portland equals just a half mile, accomplishable in 10-15 minutes, depending on your walking pace ambitions.)


As the SAA Hosting Committee, we know how intimidating a new and strange city can be, especially if you’re trying to find parking while tentatively navigating the confusion of one-way streets in a foreign downtown metro area. So if you’re trying to decide whether to take advantage of one of the SAA conference block of rooms at the downtown Hilton Hotel, we’re happy to proclaim that Portland is easily the best no-car-needed city you’ll ever find, especially if you’re staying in the heart of downtown.

City Bike

Let’s walk through what a typical day might look like for an SAA Annual Meeting attendee, let’s call her Midge, staying at Portland’s downtown Hilton. Let’s say Midge wakes up Wednesday morning to the beautiful view outside her Hilton hotel window overlooking the pink and orange sky fading gently behind the stark steel blue edges of the majestic Mount Hood as it stands at attention over the sleepy city of Portland with the Willamette’s hushed current reflecting the sky’s colorful ode to the first lights of the new day. Not bad, really. Midge has done quite well for herself it would seem.

Let’s then say that Midge has until 11 o’clock this unrealistically gorgeous morning before her first scheduled SAA conference meeting of the day. Given her overabundance of free time, she finds herself heading out from her downtown Hilton hotel room on SW 6th Avenue (between SW Taylor and SW Salmon) at 8 a.m., and makes her way two blocks west, just past the downtown Portland Transit Mall, to pick up a coffee at City Coffee (corner of SW 4th and SW Salmon). She then continues another four blocks west past the World Trade Center to the waterfront park trail, which she then leisurely follows south for three blocks before turning east again to emerge back onto the now somewhat busier city streets.

Finding herself now on SW Jefferson, she meanders farther east again, aiming for the Wednesday morning farmers’ market (open 10am to 2pm) she read about on the SAA Hosting Committee’s blog. On the way, she notes the ridiculously close and convenient location of the Oregon Historical Society (on the corner of SW Jefferson and SW Park Ave*) where the SAA social scheduled for Thursday evening would be held. After picking up some fruits and a mini packet of Mio’s Delectables at the farmers’ market, Midge walks north along the length of the park blocks, past the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, then the Barlow Artisanal Bar, and Regal Cinemas Fox Tower 10 on the edge of Director Park.

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Let’s say that after her full morning of exploring the blocks around her hotel, Midge takes a right at the northeastern corner of Director Park, and walks east on SW Yamhill for just one more block until she finally finds herself at the Pioneer Courthouse Square Max stop, part of the Portland Transit Mall. She also notes at this point that her hotel room is situated one block south of the eastbound Max stop. If it were any closer, she’d feel downright lazy.

With service every 10 minutes, she remembers she can take either the blue or the red lines for an 11-minute ride to the front door of the Convention Center, or she can take either the green or the yellow lines from across SW 6th Ave on the northeastern side of the Pioneer Square’s block to reach the same front door of the Convention Center in just under 15 minutes. Validating one of her $5 All-Day Trimet passes (these are available in packets at the Visitor Information Center in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square, and are good for all buses, trolleys, and Max trains in Portland) at one of the metal machines at the stop, our lovely Midge then hops on the next available train and settles in to enjoy her ride over the Willamette river.

Later that evening, let’s say Midge and a few of her colleagues grab a table for sushi at Shigezo (calling ahead to reserve a table for larger groups is advisable, but not absolutely necessary as a rule) on the west side of SW Salmon and SW Park, after which they stop at Departure Restaurant and Lounge to sip cocktails from the rooftop of The Nines Hotel on SW Morrison and SW 6th while watching the sunset over the West Hills.


Here’s a complete list of hot spots downtown we recommend you take advantage of while staying at the downtown Hilton.


Imperial and Portland Penny Diner

Try the Imperial for a sit-down gourmet brunch, and the Penny Diner next door for a quick lunch sandwich to go. Located at SW Broadway and SW Stark.


Kure Juice Bar

Kure Juice Bar

If you’re looking for a healthy but light breakfast or snack, this is a crazily great place to grab a smoothie or one of their famous acai bowels.


Veggie Grill

Veggie Grill

Located on the corner of SW 5th Ave and SW Taylor, this lunch spot is complete with eclectic salads, bowls, sides, and shares.


Qdoba Mexican Eats


Whether you have an hour to sit and mull over your tacos and burrito bowl, or just a few minutes before the Max train or bus across the river, this is the perfect lunch spot, located on the corner of SW 5th Ave and SW Taylor, just across the street from Veggie Grill.


Pizza Schmizza

Pizza Schmizza

By the slice pizza! Located on SW Taylor just west of SW 5th Ave.


Portland Transit Mall

Located along SW 5th and SW 6th Avenues. The rest of Portland is at your fingertips, literally right outside the downtown Hilton’s front door for heading to any of the SAA Repository Tours in NW or NE Portland, and one block east on SW 5th for any tours in SE Portland, like the Genealogical Forum of Oregon’s Manuscripts Collection, just a 10 minute bus ride on the #4 heading to Division Street.


Barlow Artisanal Bar


Take a journey back to the 1920’s at this glittering corner bar, across the street from the Arlene Schnitzer Hall.


Yard House

Yard House

With over 100 beers to choose from, and just a block and a half from your room at the downtown Hilton.


Jakes Grill

Steak, seafood, wines and beers in an upscale but relaxed atmosphere. Located on the corner of SW 10th Ave and SW Adler Street, just six blocks from the downtown Hilton.


Habibi Restaurant

Family owned Lebanese cuisine, with wonderful outdoor seating. Located on SW Morrison, just west of SW 10th Ave.


Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

Luc Lac

The best Vietnamese in the city, located on SW 2nd Ave just north of SW Taylor Street. This one’s counter service, so it can be a few minutes’ wait, unless you want to order food to-go on the north side of the bar in the middle of the restaurant where you can have a beer or cocktail while you wait.


Sushi Sakura

Nothing’s more fun than a sushi train, great when you need a quick lunch or dinner. Located at SW 6th and SW Washington.



*SW Park Ave is synonymous with SW 8th Ave, and in the same vein of rational thinking, SW Broadway is synonymous with SW 7th Ave

Escape From Portland: Day-Trips Outside The City

Escape From Portland: Day-Trips Outside The City


Gwen Amsbury, City of Portland Archives and Records Center

If you think there are a ton of places to visit in Portland, once you step beyond the city limits the options feel endless. Whether you like touring historical sites, visiting small towns packed with things to do, or just getting out in nature and exploring trails (especially the latter), there’s a day-trip for you!


Just Outside of The City


Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (30 minutes) – Technically in Sherwood, this is a great place to quickly get away from the city (and people) and go for a relaxing nature walk.

Fort Vancouver (20 minutes) – Just across the Columbia River, this is a national park that includes four historical sites: Fort Vancouver, Vancouver Barracks, Pearson Air Museum, and the McLoughlin House.

Sauvie Island (30 minutes) – Fruit picking, fresh produce and events at both Kruger’s Farm and the Pumpkin Patch, as well as $6 you-cut lavender at the Sauvie Island Lavender Farm. You can walk out to the Warrior Rock Lighthouse (Warrior Point Trailhead) and there are multiple options for beach access including Collins Beach – where you can find the Sauvie Island UFO. (There’s also a nude beach in case you were wondering.)pic3

Mount Talbert Nature Park (20 minutes) – With a four-mile trail network and picnicking area at the trailhead, this is an easily reached place to go wandering if you don’t want to drive too far.

Champoeg State Heritage Area (40 minutes) – Fishing, hiking, the Newell House Museum, living history in a pioneer log cabin, and yurts!


A Little Farther Afield


Enchanted Forest (1 hour) – Oregon’s second oldest, continuously operating theme park is a piece of living cultural history. Enchanted Forest never disappoints with its DIY animatronics, rickety rides, and unique flare (and, yes, they do have churros).

Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary, Library and Museum (1 hour)– Visit the abbey to see their world-renowned library and an eclectic museum that includes taxidermy and a mineral collection. You can also take a hilltop walking tour to enjoy the grounds and the views.

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (1 hour) – Home of the Spruce Goose, the museum offers a wide variety of aircraft and artifacts from aviation history.pic-5

Mount Hood National Forest (1 – 2 hours)Wildwood Recreation Area is a close-in favorite to hike and picnic. Or continue on up the mountain to visit Government Camp or (up near the summit) Timberline Lodge. Bunsenbrewer in Sandy is a great stop on your way to or from the mountain. If you have the time to drive a little further, and don’t mind paying day use fees, be sure to visit the breathtaking Lost Lake.

Willamette Valley Oregon Wine Country (.5 – 2 hours)– The website for Oregon Wine Country has a helpful map to search for wineries and other places to eat and drink along (and just off) the I-5 corridor all the way down to Cottage Grove.


The Columbia River Gorge


Hikes and Waterfalls (varies) – Sometimes it feels like you’re trekking through Middle Earth when you explore the trails and waterfalls in the Gorge to the east of Portland. Horsetail Falls, Oneonta Falls, Angel’s Rest, Dog Mountain, and Coyote Wall/Catherine Creek are among a few to try. Many of the trails are short enough that you can do multiple hikes in a day and see the waterfalls along the Gorge. For example, go out McCord Creek and you can take a marked fork to visit Elowah Falls. For those who don’t want to hike, just driving I-84/Highway 30 you can see a number of waterfalls and include a stop at the famous (but usually crowded) Multnomah Falls (seen below looking a bit like Rivendell).


Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum (1.5 hours) – Takes an interactive approach to showcasing both the natural and cultural richness of the Gorge and Wasco County. Outside of the museum you’ll find walking trails and scenic overlooks.

Maryhill Museum of Art (2 hours) – Including both Native American and 20th century European art, there is also a sculpture garden and the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden. There is a lot packed into the museum so I recommend going to the site for a full picture of what you’ll find.


The Coast


Coastal Nature Areas (varies) -There are plenty of short, close-in hikes along the Oregon coast to explore. Cape Lookout State Park offers a variety of trails, picnic areas and beach access. If you enjoy a good tide pool, take a look at the Oregon Tidepools Map for locations and tips on visiting. Saddle Mountain, on the way to the coast, offers a view of the ocean to those who reach the top. The Siuslaw National Forest stretches along much of the Oregon coast and their website allows you to search by area to find hiking, day use areas, and scenic drives.

North Lincoln County Historical Museum (2 hours) – Among the museum’s exhibits is a permanent display about the long-gone amusement park Pixieland. While in Lincoln City there are secondhand book stores and antique malls to peruse, and tasty restaurants including The Sea Hag.

Tillamook Cheese Factory (1.5 hours) – Like cheese? Then you’ve probably heard of Tillamook. On a visit to the factory you can get a scoop of ice cream, tour the factory, and sample cheese to your heart’s content. Next door is Blue Heron if you haven’t had your fill of dairy (they also have tasty clam chowder).pic9

Astoria (2 hours) – There is a ton to do in this small town. Museums, restaurants, the Astoria Column, a riverfront trolley, the Garden of the Surging Waves and (of course) the Goonies house. You can spend days exploring the town and surrounding area, but it’s close enough to take a short jaunt up to see some of the points of interest. The Columbian Café is one of the best places to eat in town.

Manzanita (2 hours) – This is my favorite coastal town and a great place to get a cute close-to-the-beach rental. If you’re just there for the day be sure to visit the Nehalem Valley Historical Society, get a bite to eat in any of the town’s fantastic restaurants, and trek along the beach or through the nearby Nehalem State Park.


Gwen Amsbury is an Archives and Records Management Specialist at the City of Portland Archives and Records Center. Currently Gwen is serving as Secretary and Membership Coordinator for Northwest Archivists, Inc.  She spends her spare time reading, metalworking, and searching for abandoned amusement parks.