IU on the road: Lisbon’s Retrosaria Rosa Pomar

I’m sure it’s no surprise that after learning that I would be visiting Lisbon, Portugal, in early February, I headed to Google to scope out the yarn scene there. Through my research, I learned that the place to go was Retrosaria Rosa Pomar. I checked out the location, bookmarked the site and filed the information away.

After seeing our packed itinerary — which included trips to the Jerónimos Monastery, Pasteis de Belem for the famous custard tarts, the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and Pena Palace — I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it but, after an inaugural tram tour around the city, the group was leaving to check into the hotel and we had some free time before dinner. I realized, with a quick consult of Google Maps, that the tram let us off on Rua do Loreto, right down the street from the shop. (Incidentally, while we were on the tram, one of the women in our group spotted another retrosaria, the Portuguese name for a haberdashery, and of course let me know — I was the knitter on the trip.)

Rosa Pomar opened her namesake shop in a former mannequin factory in 2009. It dovetails nicely with her work researching Portuguese textiles and is beautifully curated, with a mix of fabric, ribbon, notions, tools and, of course, yarn.

Much of the yarn here comes from some of the 14 breeds of Portuguese sheep, developed via collaboration with small factories and breeders associations; some are also handspun in small villages around the country. While some of the yarn felt sheep-y (read: rough for my somewhat princess-y skin) I was particularly drawn to the Beiroa, a DK-weight yarn made from the wool of the Bordaleira Serra da Estrela sheep, with a beautiful marled look and a promise of post-blocking softness, and the Zagal, a soft Portuguese Merino wool that Rosa designed a hat for, with a simple colorwork pattern inspired by a traditional handwoven blanket.

Gorgeous and inspiring colorwork samples filled the shop, and there was also a nice selection of books from some familiar faces, as well as Rosa herself. What also struck me were the yarn tags and ball bands, many of which featured illustrations.

Aside from yarn, I also took home a beautiful handwoven rag pillowcase (the exact one in the photo), made in Portugal out of old clothing. I was bummed that the shop had sold out of the tote bags with an original illustration found on the tag for the shop’s Larada yarn.

While I am so glad I paid this shop a visit — I could have spent all afternoon here — I was bummed that I didn’t get to meet Rosa herself, who is busy managing both the shop and a toddler. For now, I’ll just lose myself, and revisit Lisbon, via her Instagram feed.

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