By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
The Knittn’ Kitten is more than a yarn shop. It also carries a large selection of fabric, including vintage material.
Vintage means it is at least 30 years old, explained Ethel Stark, who owns the 10-year-old shop with her daughter, Rome Church. They don’t have used fabric, Stark quickly pointed out.
“It is pre-owned,” she explained. “We buy from the public. Usually it’s people who are moving, downsizing or have someone who has died. They have fabric they aren’t going to use. Somebody brings it in and we buy it. We don’t take anything on consignment.”
The small shop at 7530 N.E. Glisan St., also has a collection of patterns for sewing styles from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Next to the patterns is a collection of craft magazines for crocheting, knitting and other needle arts. Sometimes tailoring tools come into the shop, too, but they sell quickly, Stark said.
In addition to selections of yarns, the shop has buttons, beads, thread, zippers, laces and ribbons. Not all are vintage, said Stark, who detects age by packaging and content of the materials.
Collectors come to the shop seeking packaging for old snaps, buttons, yarn and other items, Stark said. They want the drawings made by artists before computer-generated designs became common on packaging.
“As far as we know, there’s no other store like ours in the Northwest,” she said.
The shop owners receive notes from customers who move and complain they can’t find another outlet like Knittn’ Kitten. The business also gains attention from across the country on the Facebook page, Stark said. Two magazines in Japan also have written about the shop.
However, the business gains customers locally by word of mouth and the sandwich sign displayed on the sidewalk during open hours.
A few weeks ago, the sign drew in Tana Wittwer, who was moving from North Portland to a home near the shop. The words “Vintage Fabric” caught her eye, Wittwer said.
During the 1970s, her family lived in Nigeria and Kenya where her father taught in American international schools. They returned to the United States with material in the colors and designs characteristic of each country.
Wittwer said she and her mother framed some of the batiks. However, she doesn’t sew and simply hung onto the remainder of the material. With her move, Wittwer decided it was time to get the authentic African fabric to someone who would appreciate it.
“The sign caught my eye,” Wittwer said, explaining what she had with Stark, who said, “Bring it in and we’ll buy it from you.”
A periodic customer is Kadie Maller, who recently drove from Banks with her mother, Renee Maller, to pick up vintage fabric she makes into bags, wallets, aprons, zipper pouches and other items. Like others who buy materials from the shop, she sells her finished products on Etsy, the online site for artists and crafters.
The colors and color combinations from past decades, Kadie Maller said, are different from current fabric. She also likes the feel of the fabric, which often is all cotton rather than a cotton blend.
“It’s unique,” she said. “People aren’t buying the same fabric at the same store in the same colors.”
Because Stark and Church have relatively low prices, some of their frequent customers are beaders, quilters and knitters who make items for charities.
“They can walk in here and find materials at a price that fits their budgets,” Stark said.
If someone has questions about a yarn or fabric, Stark said she and her daughter may have answers. Over the past decade, she said, they have undertaken research to learn more about items associated with knitting, sewing and other crafts that come into the shop.
Besides offering a range of materials at reasonable prices, Knittn’ Kitten is listed as a Metro “green” business.
“We really are recycling and making sure stuff doesn’t go to the dump,” Stark said. “We will treat things with respect. Staff at some of the non-profits (taking donations) don’t always know what it is and don’t know to treat it with respect.”
The Knittn’ Kitten
Address: 7530 N.E. Glisan St.
Telephone: (503) 255-3022
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday