Sunday, November 18, 2007

Before We Leave the Beautiful Northwest...

From Seattle, we headed down to Portland and Eugene, Oregon. World's-most-patient-husband is a major fan of track and field and needed to see the most vaunted of all track venues, the University of Oregon's Hayward Field, where the U.S. Olympic trials will once again be held next year.

We stayed busy enough to miss out on actually setting foot in any Oregon yarn shops, though we had a near-miss at one in Eugene called Soft Horizons. Thankfully, though, we did not miss out on one of the local brewpubs. It was just a bit too late in the evening when we got to the yarn shop, but it looked like a nice one. It's in an old Victorian house with a wrap-around porch, which I clambered up on to take a peek inside. It looked warm and colorful, with turn-of-the-century-style chandeliers. There were also signs of potential spinning supplies. I could see a spinning wheel in there, the cute little Louet Victoria, which, as I learned chatting around at a festival earlier this fall, is pretty portable at only six pounds!

With my suitcase bulging with yarn from the shops I'd already hit, it really wasn't all that tragic to have to just admire the shop and move on. Especially with Powell's City of Books waiting for us back in Portland. When I went for the first time to Portland on a quick business trip a few years back, Powell's is the first sightseeing stop people recommended to me. Can a bookstore really be that amazing in this day of enormous stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble everywhere? Yes, it can. Of course, you can buy from Powell's on-line, but it's just so much better to be there in person, to lose yourself browsing around in those huge rooms, with all the new and used books shelved together and never knowing what might turn up. Stack after stack of tall shelves of knitting books. Sigh. I kept it down to four and felt virtuous.

Near Portland in Washougal, Washington, was a real treat: a factory tour at Pendleton Woolen Mills. Note the rainy, depressing November weather we'd been hearing so much about. :)

If I'd gone a couple of years ago, I might not have been that excited. But since I've taken up spinning, it is absolutely fascinating to see how it's done on a commercial scale. Wool is still wool, and has to be dyed, carded, and spun. Of course, this is 250-pound bales of wool. Imagine having to dry all that after soaking it in a dye-bath! Carded batts of fiber are still batts, and roving is still roving. Of course, these batts are continuously generated and are probably miles long. And this roving is spaghetti-thin, so they can make the very fine gauges of yarn used in commercially woven and knitted goods. The strands being spun sometimes break, just like at home, and marvelous little machines rush to repair them. It's really something. If you do visit some time, the tour is free, but be sure to buy something in the mill store afterwards, to help support it.

The factory is tucked right alongside the Columbia River Gorge, an unbelievably beautiful place, with lovely sights like this. It's the upper part of Multnomah Falls, even more postcard-perfect with the changing foliage. We had lunch in the stone lodge at the base of the falls, next to a towering window, watching the play of the water and mist.

It's also salmon-spawning time, and you can see them right there as you walk across the footbridge near the bottom. They were surprisingly a gorgeous dark crimson in color. Repeated attempts to get pictures were foiled by the movement of the water surface beneath which they swam.

One thing that struck me as being very different from here on the East Coast is the moss. Here, trees may have light dusting of moss on the north side. In the Northwest, the moss is so thick, it's shaggy! And in this case, it's helped along by the ferns growing in it.

All in all, it left me wishing I could come back again next year, perhaps for the Black Sheep Gathering or the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. It's probably not going to happen, but it never hurts to daydream, now, does it?

1 comment:

Mary said...

Hi Cathy,
I found your blog from a comment you left on my friend Bess Haile's blog, and have been enjoying reading about your trip to the Pacific NW. I spent a couple weeks in Portland a few years ago and fell in love with that region of the country. I, too, visited Powell's books and Multnomah Falls, and a few other places, and decided that the region was on my top-five list of places I'd be willing to relocate to, if family ties here in Richmond weren't so strong.

I have a dear friend who has moved to Bellingham, WA, and I haven't gone to visit her there yet, so am trying to figure out a way to do that, plus work in some fiber-related site-seeing (and let's face it -- shopping) along the way, and perhaps a foray into Victoria, B.C., if possible. Perhaps next summer!

Thanks for the inspiration! :-)