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Where the 'wool hits the road'

The Traveling Ewe puts together fiber-focused adventures -


Alpacas, lunch, yarn and wine — a day trip with The Traveling Ewe is all that and more. In fact, it is where the "wool hits the road,” said J.J. Foster, owner of this new business, dedicated to taking fiber-arts enthusiasts on daylong “wild and wooly” adventures.

by: PHOTO BY MICHELE BERNSTEIN - Thomas Betts, co-owner of Hood River's Cascade Alpacas of Oregon, demonstrates the ins and outs of weaving with alpaca wool.Foster and her mother, Linda Bell, opened Wynona Studios, a fiber-arts studio/shop in downtown Oregon City in 2010. It closed last year, so Foster began kicking around ideas about what to do next.

The Traveling Ewe evolved, “because a lot of knitting excursions can be expensive and lengthy, so I thought it would be really fun to do little day trips, and keep them under $100,” Foster said.

She started talking to people about possible destinations, and realized that there is an “embarrassment of riches” of yarn shops and fiber farms in the Pacific Northwest.

by: PHOTO BY MICHELE BERNSTEIN - A mama alpaca hangs out in the pasture with her babies at Cascade Alpacas of Oregon in Hood River.In late June, Foster took a group of 25 people on what she called the Columbia Gorge Adventure — and it was a huge success.

The group met in Gresham, where they boarded a chartered coach, which “serendipitously had a license plate that said 'yarn,'” Foster said, and the bus headed out for Hood River.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - J.J. Foster, founder of The Traveling Ewe, never misses an opportunity to knit; here she is making a black sock.First stop was Knot Another Hat, a family-owned yarn shop, dedicated to providing yarn-arts enthusiasts with quality products. Half the group shopped there, while the other half ate lunch at nearby Celilo. Then the groups switched places.

The next stop was Cascade Alpacas of Oregon, owned by Thomas and Connie Betts.

“As we pulled into the driveway, we saw a pasture full of mama and baby alpacas. Then half the group listened to Connie talk about raising alpacas and half watched Thomas give a weaving demonstration,” Foster said. Alpaca yarn was available for purchase at the shop.

“I had to pull people away from there. It was the highlight of the trip,” she said.

The final stop was the Hood River Winery for wine tasting, then the group gathered inside the coach for the trip back and showed off their purchases.

Michele Bernstein, who has a knitting blog called pdxknitterati, said her favorite thing about the trip “was the easy camaraderie among the participants. Several people came with a friend, but I didn't actually know any of the people except for J.J. We were all chatting and knitting like old friends as soon as we boarded the bus.”

She added, “J.J. did a great job choosing a nice mix of places to visit for interesting activities, and the pacing was perfect. We had just the right amount of time to enjoy each stop without feeling rushed or out of things to do.”

Civil War trip

Foster is calling her next fiber adventure the “Civil War trip, because we are going to Corvallis and Eugene on Aug. 16,” she said. That trip will leave from Wilsonville and costs $99, which includes “everything but the yarn,” Foster said.

Spots are still available, but Foster advises people to register early.

“On the bus, we will have Happy Rock coffee from Gladstone, and Marsee Baking pastries. Our first stop will be Stash, a darling shop in downtown Corvallis, with a nicely curated collection of yarns, including the new, hip yarns,” Foster said.

Next stop will be Day Spring Farm, owned by Linda Hanson. If the weather cooperates, Hanson will do a herding demo with her sheep and sheepdogs. Yarn from Bellwether Wools will be available for purchase.

Then group will head into Eugene for lunch at the Cannery, and stops at Soft Horizons, an older yarn shop in a Victorian house with more traditional types of yarn, and Textiles a Mano, which specializes in hand-dyed yarns.

“We’ll do show-and-tell on our way home,” Foster said.

Future plans

Foster, who has been crocheting since the fifth grade and knitting for years, already is planning a fall adventure in the metro area in October, call “Behind the Skeins.”

She will take the group to Ashland Bay, a yarn wholesaler in Tualatin, and to the Knitted Wit, a studio on Sandy Boulevard in Portland, to visit with a young woman who is an independent dyer.

Foster is in talks with another site, where the owners import yarn and yarn accessories and have a “sustainable business model,” she said.

She also is thinking about setting up house parties, where she and the group will rent a large house on the coast and have a casual weekend with knitters, crocheters and instructors in a nonstructured environment.

“It would be less expensive than a knitting conference and would be a great way to hang out,” she said.

Although Wynona Studios has closed, Foster teaches at Yarntastic in Sellwood and works on Thursdays at Wool ’n Wares in West Linn.

Visit her webpage at thetravelingewe.com to register for upcoming trips and more information.