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Pick up and purl: Knitting community begins new chapter with Tigard yarn shops

Longtime Tigard yarn shop closes, another opens


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Piles of yarn stack the shelves at Nitro Knitters on Scholls Ferry Road. The yarn shop and school is one of several in the Portland area that hope to bring the hobby to more people             For more than 30 years, Tigard has been home to a small yarn shop just off Pacific Highway.

Inside lies row after row of brightly colored yarn on tables or hanging from the wall.

It’s surprisingly large, with skeins and balls of yarn hidden in seemingly every nook and cranny of the store.

It’s a familiar sight to shoppers, who have been coming to All About Yarn in Tigard Plaza for decades.

But the store is closing later this month with the retirement of owner RaNaye Hoffman.

“It’s time to pass the torch,” said Hoffman, 63. “One day I woke up and realized it was OK to say goodbye.”

Hoffman purchased the store 11 years ago, with little experience in knitting, and none in running a small craft store.

“I was in real estate,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman stumbled across the store and took a few classes, when she heard the owner was thinking of retiring and closing the shop.

“I said, ‘You mean, like, close it gone?’” Hoffman said. “I went home and told my husband that I want to buy a yarn shop. I didn’t know a thing about it.”

The store’s closure leaves a hole in the yarn community, said longtime shopper Adela Basayne

“It’s sad that this is going,” she said as she looked around the shop. “There haven’t been that many (yarn shops) on the Westside.”

Beer, coffee and knitting

All About Yarn is one of dozens of yarn shops scattered across the Portland area, but the Westside has remained largely untapped, with only a handful of yarn shops scattered from Forest Grove to Beaverton.

Portland’s knitting community is large, with plenty of local shops, designers, dyers, knitters and crocheters.

Portland knitters are a force unto themselves, weaving a tight-knit group out of the once solitary pastime.

Portland Knitters have formed local guilds, as well as an organized a knitting 'crawl' once a year with local shops.

“We had a guy in here yesterday from back east who said that there are more yarn shops in the Portland area than all of Manhattan,” Hoffman said.

Anne Laird, a longtime Portland knitter and teacher, said she could believe that. Portland has three real loves, she said: “Beer, coffee and knitting.”

Communities of local knitters have cropped up around the world. Knitters even started their own social network, Ravelry, in 2007, which today boasts more than 4 million members.

‘We want people to love knitting’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - All About Yarn owner RaNaye Hoffman is putting away her knitting needles this month, closing down the store she has run for years on Pacific Highway. The shop was the only shop exclusively for knitters and crocheters in Tigard. Laird, who co-owns Nitro Knitters on Scholls Ferry Road, has worked in Portland’s knitting community for decades, teaching newcomers and experienced craftsman the tips and tricks to making the perfect item.

Along with co-owners Elisabeth Kierkegaarde and Charlene Fedor, the trio have been running Nitro Knitters since February.

The shop is all about spreading the joy of knitting to as many people as possible, Laird said.

The shop — which calls itself a “knitting school” — is all about getting knitters to interact with one another and learn everything there is to learn.

And knitters are always willing to teach one another something new, Laird said.

“Sometimes yarn stores can be a little bit serious, but it’s supposed to be fun,” Kierkegaarde said. “It’s a happy thing to do.”

The shop hosts several classes during the day, as well as free social events in the evenings where area knitters can get together and socialize.

“We teach to each person’s level and make them better,” Laird said. “There are some incredible knitters in this area.”

Laird said that despite being open less than two months, the store has already generated a great deal of buzz, with classes filling all the time.

“We want people to love knitting,” Laird said. “That is the goal.”

Service knitting

In addition to classes and get-togethers, Nitro also hosts once-a-week sessions where volunteers can knit projects for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Laird calls it “community service knitting.”

Volunteers make items for the children in hospice or undergoing chemotherapy at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, as well as hats for soldiers overseas, blankets for local animal shelters and items for Beaverton School District’s homeless population.

“It’s important that we give back,” Kierkegaarde said. “And knitters want to do it, people come in with items, and we tell them. We will find a place where it will be appreciated.”

The hand-made items make a difference, Kierkegaarde said.

“When you are knitting something, you incorporate some of your good energy into that project,” she said. “When you give that to someone, that energy passes along to help that person. That sounds cooky, but I believe it. Something hand-knit is a gift, and you put a lot of love and energy into that.”

Hoffman said the stereotype that knitting is for elderly women just isn’t true anymore.

“A 16-year-old girl who comes in all the time designed and came up with this crochet pattern for us that has gone gangbusters,” said Hoffman.

What attracts people to the hobby? Hoffman said it’s the magic of creating something new.

“It’s soothing,” she said. “You just take string and work at it, and pretty soon it becomes a scarf or a hat.”



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