I’ve discovered that, as a knitter, it doesn’t take very long in a new place before you start wondering where the local yarn stores are. Where can I pick up some darning needles? A new project bag? Where can I fondle some yarnporn? I was looking to expand my stash with some sea silk, and knew there would be ample selection in the chic downtown Portland stores — Knit Purl, Happy Knits, and Twisted (a few personal favorites) — but my sister lives in the Tigard/Beaverton portion of Portland, and I wondered if there were any stores local to her that were worthwhile.

For future reference, there are some questions that are just too silly to ask.

The first stop was proof that I’d become a yarn snob. Half of the store was a selection of acrylic yarns, and specialty yarns (eyelash, boucle, and things that you can apparently knit into necklaces. I didn’t want to know more). Wool and wool blends were stored along one wall and I realized there wasn’t anything there that I was excited about trying. A conversation with the saleswoman didn’t prove terribly fruitful, and the only place to sit down was at a small, cramped table. I’d hate to take classes there. Sea silk? Not an option. I bought a project bag and we moved on.

Oh, but the second stop! Less than five miles from TheProgrammer’s house, and we struck gold. A beautiful shop called For Yarn’s Sake that carries hand-dyed yarns from local northwest artists. Perfect! Light, airy, and packed to the gills with natural fibers with lovely specialty luxury fibers as well. Comfortable couches and chairs made it clear knitters were welcome to sit and knit (obviously they were set up for a weekly knitting group!). A long table and chairs proved they were serious about offering classes, too. Oh, and the yarn — a fabulous selection, with beautiful samples to inspect and love. I found three patterns that I will be adding to my collection. It was a shame we only had an hour there. The thing I liked the most? Being able to have an intelligent conversation with the salesperson, because she could tell me things I didn’t know. Sea silk? Certainly; four different types, and when I got to the counter? Oh my. This was where I discovered qiviut.

Have you ever heard of qiviut (“kiv-ee-ute”)? Yeah, I hadn’t either. Here’s the skinny:

Qiviut is truly an amazing fiber. It is the delicate underwool of the Arctic muskox. It is one of the most sought after fibers in the world because of its rarity, softness and warmth. Qiviut is softer than cashmere and is light as a feather. It’s an insulating fiber and is comfortable to wear in any climate.

Qiviut is eight times warmer than sheep wool. 100% qiviut is non-shrinkable, non-felting and safe for people who suffer from sheep wool allergies. Unlike wool, qiviut is not scratchy. The more you handle and wash qiviut, the softer it feels.

ZOMG. The feel is amazing, and I was hooked. I was trying to decide on a couple of colors, and as I bent down for one more look through the glass, I saw a sign with a number on it. 142. What was that — a dye lot? No, that was the price. ONE HUNDRED FORTY-TWO DOLLARS. *blanch* Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. And I couldn’t put it away fast enough. Holy shit. $142. For a skein. OF YARN. Yes, it was laceweight, and yes, it was 437 yards. But dear god. It must be collected from the ballsack of the muskox and spun with gold and fairy wings.

Now, to be fair, I was looking for an upscale yarn shop, and I definitely found it. And they also have an amazing selection of — well, just about everything. And, while I actually did spend that much in the store, I really couldn’t justify it all on one single skein of luxury. Instead, I got a number of new things I’ve never worked with before: two skeins of sea silk, differing weights (one that was custom dyed for the shop, a delicious concoction of champagne, silver and gold), a skein of malabrigo rios, a spontaneous impulse buy of madtosh prairie, and some baby lace weight dream in a gorgeous exclusive club dyed periwinkle-gray that came with a lovely hat-scarf-cowl-mitts pattern. I really think it’s fabulous, and sadly, now I’m enrolled in the monthly Dream In Color option. Because, you know, I need people to make it EVEN EASIER for me to buy yarnporn. Dammit.

On the bright side, my sister has decided to take a class here to get her past the cast on curse that she’s encountered. I’m hopeful for her, because a class gives you the support you need to make progress. It also means she can make her own stuff, rather than stealing mine. (Okay, so I offered my Rose Red to her, but how can you say no to “Can I have this?”) I’m not sure it will take the place of her quilting, but it is definitely more portable. And perhaps I’ll take another peek at that qiviut the next time I’m there.

From 40 feet away.

2 Comments

  1. Just found your blog! I bought qivuit in Alaska this summer. By far, best yarn I have ever worked with. You can find some cheaper than what you saw, it has a much smaller percentage of musk ox fiber. I saw you live in Pa. Me too! I am a new resident. Are you in Pittsburgh? I’d love to do a stitch and bitch with you!

    • Michelle, welcome to my mayhem! Funny that I’ve lived in Anchorage but that was BK — Before Knitting — so I really wasn’t tuned in. I’m sure there’s other places to get qiviut cheaper; it’s now on my lookout list. :) I’m in State College, not Pittsburgh, but you might be close to one of my favorite shops: Natural Stitches. They are fabulous and have a weekly knit night over there too. Bon knitting!

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