Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cities with Fiber

Cities with fiber... I don't claim that this list is in any way comprehensive or anything even close. Not at all! It's totally based on only the fact that these are cities that have been popping up continuously. There are only two here, for starters, because they offer a nice parallel, and happen to have the same name.

The first one is Portland, ME. I've never even been there! So this is completely presumptuous of me ––though I have been to Maine a bunch of time. BUT! Portland seems to be a hidden gem. Maine is full of small-scale sheep breeders and fiber farmers, including of course the wonderful people I bought my fleece from, Nash Island Wool and the Starcroft Fiber Mill. The Common Ground Fair does a wonderful job of supporting not only farmers in general, but fiber producers specifically (check out the amazing, HUGE fiber tent if you're ever in Unity, ME for the fair). It seems that Portland is a center of crafty people making things by hand, like the folks at Quince & Co., who make beautiful yarn and design awesome patterns. Check out their blog here. Eli Phant is kinda neat, too. And here, oh cool, is the Portland Fiber Gallery and Weaving Studio! Then there are the people who have the best of both worlds, Stephanie and May, who write on real paper and online from both Portland, ME and Portland, OR (crafty center of the left coast). Look at their offerings (feast you eyes) here.

When I was in Portland, OR this winter I didn't have much of a chance to explore the crafty side of the city. We were, honestly, to busy eating and book ogling at Powell's Books (which is definitely not to be discounted as a virtuous activity, especially when it drizzles, rains, and drizzles again, followed by fog, and more drizzle, as it does in PDX). I did have the chance to visit two neat stores, Bolt (fabric) and the knitting store next door to it (sorry, the name escapes me), both on Alberta Street, which is anyway already über-hip and trendy. That just goes to show: craftiness is so in, it almost hurts. Coming from here, I still often feel like we're still on the less trendy and more utilitarian side of the crafty spectrum. Both sides are good places to be, though honestly, I prefer to make things that work, can get dirty, left out on a fencepost (though this is extreme for a handmade thing, even by my farm-type standards), patched up, embellished, forgotten, and re-loved again in a whole new decade (Timeless, perhaps?).
What I love about Portland, OR is the colourful, vibrant, almost explosive love for all things crafty. Like the Land Gallery, which isn't strictly craft focused, but is stocked with neat t-shirts printed with West Coat witticisms, indie letterpress cards, chapbooks, zines, and other treasures and trinkets.  They support indie artists and crafters, which isn't only über-hip, but is also über-cool and über-essential if small-scale, kitchen-table type artists and artisans are meant to survive and thrive (and we mean for them to do both).
Another thing that seems to have turned into an institutions is Craftywonderland. I've never been, and I only barely spotted the pop-up store through a rainy window on the Portland MAX this winter ––my Portlander friend Hannah would be more of an authority.

Portland and Portland are two of the obvious cities, I suppose. I want to give a nod to everyone and everything in between, too. Handmade Nation does a better job of this than I do, most definitely.

I also love people who live on islands and raise small flocks of excellent heritage sheep breeds. Maybe I love them because I wouldn't mind being one of them myself.

In the meanwhile, I'm just about to assemble another sweater! Here's a sneak peek at the pieces. It does look odd this way, doesn't it? Soon to be worn, in the last few days of cool spring...

A sea of daffodils for you!