Yarnia, Portland, Oregon

yarniaToday’s interview is with Lindsey Ross, owner of Yarnia, in Portland, Oregon, a wonderfully  unique yarn store where you design your own yarns! Now how cool is that?

Can you tell us a little bit about your shop? What is the atmosphere like? Is there anything that makes your shop different from other yarn shops?

Yarnia is a yarn shop with a very different approach than most. The “DIY” in our tagline, “Portland’s only DIY yarn store!” means that customers are able to come into the shop and create their very own custom yarn, by mixing different fibers, colors, and weights from our selection of “ingredients.” We sell this yarn by the pound, so that customers can purchase whatever quantity suits them for a given project, rather than pre-spun balls or skeins of pre-selected fiber and color combinations. (Although we do have our “house blends” too, which rotate frequently, to use for inspiration, suggestion, or just to buy as-is.)

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the history of your shop? How did you get interested in knitting/crocheting? How did you come to open or own a yarn shop? Readers will love to hear your story – so tell it!

The idea for my shop was originally inspired by a yarn shop that I frequented in Montreal back when I went to University there, which had a similar concept. (I’d been an avid knitter for 6 years at that point, so this was pretty much the most exciting thing I’d ever found when I first stumbled upon it!) Not realizing how totally unique this approach to yarn-making was until I moved back to the West Coast, I decided in 2007 to open up a shop with my own take on the concept, and sought out a machinist who could build me the machine I would need to execute my idea. After many months in my garage at home teaching myself how to use it, I stumbled upon the perfect space for my off-the-wall retail experiment, made the move, and opened up shop in February of 2008. Lucky for me, Portland seems to love the idea as much as I did!

Which yarns do you carry? Traditional yarns? Exotic or unusual yarns? Novelty yarns? Local farm yarns? Eco-friendly yarns? How large is your inventory?

100% custom yarns! We offer a huge selection of fibers to use when making your yarn (and in our own pre-made house blends), such as wool, merino, cotton, alpaca, cashmere, bamboo, silk, rayon, linen, acrylic, metallic lurex, and novelty yarns.

Most of the ingredient fibers we use to make our yarns come from the U.S., with the exception of a few, such as our alpaca which comes from Italy, and our merino wool, which comes from the U.K.

What, if any, classes do you offer at your shop? Do you offer any type of social gatherings for knitters and crocheters?

We offer a wide range of both knitting and crochet classes, which rotate seasonally and are quite affordable. We also have a monthly Knit & Crochet Night (free to attend, and all skill levels welcome), the second Wednesday of each month, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

What trends do you see in knitting in general, and yarn choices in particular?

Lately more and more of our customers have been asking for wool-free yarns, whether it be due to a skin sensitivity or just the desire to use more lightweight, breathable fibers. As a response, we’ve been stocking our shelves with multitudes of wool-free blends, ranging from cotton-bamboo, to alpaca-silk. The benefit to being able to design your own yarn is that if there is a particular fiber you love — or hate — you have complete control over how much of that fiber to include (or exclude) from your yarn.

Do you have favorite yarns? What do you use them for?

I personally love our bamboo, and use it as at least a partial component in every yarn I make for myself. It’s lusciously soft, has a beautiful sheen, comes in a huge array of bright, bold, and rich colors, and the heaviness and drape can’t be beat. Plus, it’s machine-washable!

Do you have a mail order business?

Yes, we do about 20% of our business online, both to customers overseas and in other parts of the country, as well as to our local customers here in Oregon, Washington, and California who don’t get a chance to make it into our shop in person too often.

If you visit http://onlineshop.yarniapdx.com, you’ll find an assortment of our house blends — the pre-made cones that we’ve created that are ready to go, as-is.

If you visit http://customyarn.com, that is where you can mix and match all the ingredients yourself, just like in-store, with a real-time yarn meter at the bottom that will let you know your price per pound, yards per pound, total cost, yardage, and weight as you go.

Do you have anything else you would like to share?

We have plenty of tools to help, no matter where you are in your process — if you have a pattern in mind, bring it in! We’ll help you figure out what yarn we can create that will be a good match for the pattern. If you need some inspiration, we have a pattern station (as well as hard copy in-house patterns) that we can use to help you come up with an idea. Or sometimes you just have to let yourself be drawn to a certain yarn, and then let it tell YOU what it wants to be!

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