– – – – – – – – – – Crafty Dossier – – – – – – – – – – –
When: August, 2012
Where: Portland, OR
Why: To boldly go, where many a crafter has gone before
Who: Yours truly and my faithful sidekick Mr. McCluckin’
Alas, fair Denver had turned on the sizzle thus my rooster and I decided it was time to high tail it to a cooler locale. Of course we considered Alaska (the final frontier) and the thought of a return trip to Iceland came to mind, but Portland sang her siren song of cheap airfare and retro lodgings and we followed willingly.
Portland, Oregon is home to many a wondrous spectacle. There’s the public art that is far more quirky than any I’ve seen thus far, cookie happy hour (thank you kindly Blue Collar Baking Co.), rivers of ridiculously delicious beer, a city within the city built entirely of books, bridges galore, trucks filled with gourmet eats permanently located a block or two from you (no matter where you are), a constant bicycle palooza and of course coffee nirvana. With all this going for it, I am sure it comes as no surprise that Portland also has an absolutely spectacular crafty scene.
Once we’d made it through the city gates and settled into our temporary casa, it was time to explore the crafty goodness that is Portland. I always love a trip to the Saturday Market to whet my appetite. This bazaar hosts class acts from all across Oregon. Held under the Burnside bridge, the Saturday Market has been continually running since 1974, making it the most punctual of craft-splosions anywhere. Here you will find everything from prolific potters and witty woodworkers to whimsical weavers and smell-tastic soapsmiths. Anything and everything you can imagine made by the hands and hearts of Oregonians.
Mr. McCluckin’ and I always make it a point to stop and visit with the Hat People. Based in Oregon for over 30 years the stylish caps are sewn by a family and fitted to your head with an ingenious elastic band + safety pin mechanism. As prolific cap donners, the rooster and I can rarely pass up purchasing one of these lovely caps. The detail work is delightful and the fit is fantastic. Speaking with the happy Hat People you learn that this family created their patterns and sewed together just for the fun of it. Every hat you try on holds a bit of family history and a great deal of love. These days they have expanded to employ two seamstresses but it is still a family run business.
Moving through the booths and stalls of the Saturday Market you are sure to spy treasures. I was lured to the Bonus Pants booth by the witty signs exclaiming all the features of the boxers sold within. The bacon bedecked boxers held a sign saying “Thick and Meaty or Limp and Greasy, Suitable for anyone that can bring it home and fry it up or Guys named Kevin or Sir Francis.” I just couldn’t help myself, the advertising was luring me in (most likely with use of the dark side and its puns). Talking with the proprietress of Bonus Pants she said that her booth is 100% thanks to all of the fun new quilting cottons on the market these days. If it weren’t for donut covered cotton she would never stitch up the “Eat My Shorts” version of her hilarious boxers (perfect for anyone holier-than-thou). The crafters of Portland come from all age groups and respond quickly to the changes and themes of the craftiverse.
Next I was waylaid by reversible tote bags with more pockets than I had dreamed possible. I had arrived at Domestic Bias a mother and daughter run spot featuring the stitchy work of mum Wendy and the paper fun of daughter Jaime. Wendy and I chatted about how her retirement has become a never-ending stream of sewing delightful projects to sell at the Saturday Market and other craft fairs. From aprons and totes to kiddie play smocks and twirling skirts, Wendy just enjoys spending time with her sewing machine. She clued me in to fancy fabric on the cheap in the remnants and clearance department of Fabric Depot. Apparently this shop is gianormous and stacked to the rafters with fabric from every designer around. Wendy makes her bags with heavy duty material which can add up rather quickly, but shopping in the leftovers pile has saved her a pretty penny and helped her turn a profit.
Unusual fabric and materials for projects is a common theme in Oregon. In fact the good people at Mugwump specialize in finding items no one wants any more and sending them through a metamorphosis wherein they turn into accouterments you can no longer live without. With an entire wall devoted to bags made of old board games and business card wallets created by laminating and stitching together pages from discarded books, the Mugwump booth is very alluring.
Wandering away from the Saturday Market led me to discover that personalizing your space with the discards of others holds a special place in the hearts of Portlanders. On my many walks down to Hawthorne Street I came across Fort Awesome, a bench made of broken tiles and cement and a funny sign about macaroni noodles loving cheese; all of which seemed to be made from second hand items. This theme of making it your way is reflected in the food cart movement that is alive and well in Portland. By the by, food from carts is easily the best food one can eat while visiting Stumptown.
Inspiration was lurking everywhere. It seems that if you have crafty skills, Portland would like to recruit you. Downtown along SW 10th Ave hosts the Multnomah Public Library (a delight for even the out-of-towner) but also a chain of shops that carry the work of Oregonian artists and crafters. Here I spent hours enjoying Crafty Wonderland before popping down the way to Radish Underground. Walking along 10th, visiting several shops and learning about Portland artists from all sorts of genres blissfully ate one afternoon. Why would a few blocks in Downtown Portland create such a feeling of euphoria? Simply put, nowhere else has it seemed so stupendously possible to make a living as a crafty goddess.
With ideas aplenty zooming about my noggin I jumped at the chance to roam Josephine’s Dry Goods. This fabric, notions, and sewing class shop has been pedaling their wares for over 30 years in downtown Portland. The employees are true sewists. One staff member told me that they are the only fabric shop in downtown Portland, the others are in the suburbs but to be a successful business you have to root yourself in the community. She said they offer all sorts of sewing classes and open their doors for sewing nights to encourage others to stitch under their roof. Everyone in Portland was welcoming and spoke of the sewing and crafting community fondly. As though they were all one big happy family. Nowhere else have I seen such a commitment to DIY and DIWN (do it with a neighbor).
It’s hard to say I wasn’t tempted to up and move to Portland after this spectacular trip. Though more than anything it has convinced me that Denver has the potential to become a mecca of craft-happiness. I’ll just need a few friends, a bolt cutter, three yards of muslin, and some rivets to make it happen.
Bidding you adieu from the safety and comfort of my yellow armchair, this is Henny Penny signing off for now but not for always.