10 ways to make a one-of-a-kind souvenir in Portland

Honor the city's maker culture by becoming one yourself

By Lois Alter Mark,

Souvenirs are a great way to bring back memories of specific trips and experiences. The best ones remind you of what made that place so special. 

So, a fridge magnet from Portland just isn’t going to cut it. 

Renowned for its unique and innovative makers scene, Portland is a mecca for creativity and entrepreneurship. If you really want to capture its essence, you should take advantage of one of the city’s amazing makerspaces, like ADX Portland, founded by Kelley Roy (who literally wrote the book on Portland Made), where collaboration rules and you can learn to create anything from clothing to jewelry to home goods. 

Here are 10 ways to make some unique souvenirs – and, while you’re at it, some great memories. 

Edison bulb lamp class | ADX Portland

The Edison bulb lamp class at ADX Portland is a brilliant idea! — Photo courtesy of ADX Portland

Make your own lamp using the the trendy and retro-cool Edison-style bulb.

This two-hour class is taught by local maker, Josh Mabry of MadebyMabry.com, who creates amazing lighting with wood. He'll teach you basic tool usage, woodworking and electrical wiring, and you’ll go home with your own desk lamp that’s lightweight and small enough to fit into your suitcase.

Portsmith tote class | Klum House Workshop

Create your own Portsmith tote at Klum House Workshop — Photo courtesy of Klum House Workshop

Looking at this gorgeous bag, it’s hard to believe it’s considered a Level 1 sewing class with no sewing experience required, right? 

But, in three hours, you'll have learned to sew with heavyweight canvas on a home machine, sew an envelope base, attach metal hardware, attach a base layer for reinforcement and leather straps for easy handling.

You'll have actually made this tote with your own two hands – something which you'll rightly be boasting about for years to come. 

Rocking knives class | Bridgetown Forge

Forge a set of rocking knives at Bridgetown Forge — Photo courtesy of Bridgetown Forge

You may have seen Bridgetown Forge’s double bit axe on TV in Grimm, but it’s the Japanese chef's knives that are blacksmith Arnon Kartmazov’s real passion. And that's exactly what you can learn to make yourself – with his help. 

Forge your own six-inch rocking knife, a practical tool that is as sharp-looking as it is sharp. It’s unique because it’s forged out of one piece of high-carbon steel, presenting a great learning opportunity in manipulating hot steel.

You’ll stamp it with your initials, harden it, temper it and hand-hone it on a water stone. No previous blacksmithing experience is required. Just plan on mailing your masterpiece home or wrapping it carefully in your checked luggage. 

Leather belt class | ADX Portland

Wear home the leather belt you make at ADX Portland — Photo courtesy of ADX Portland

Learn how to properly size a belt, cut leather using a strap cutter, bevel and burnish edges, thin leather using a skiving tool, use strap-end and hole punching tools, secure hardware, and dye and finish the leather. 

You'll design, finish and style your very own leather belt all in one evening. And you’ll be so impressed by your new skills, you won’t want to take it off when you go through airport security! 

Drop catch bottle opener Craft + Sip Session | DIY Bar

The drop catch bottle opener is one of many Craft + Sip sessions at DIY Bar — Photo courtesy of DIY Bar

At DIY Bar, you can choose any craft you like from their extensive project menu. Rather than take a class, you settle in for a three-hour self-guided Craft + Sip session, following a user-friendly tutorial which walks you through each step. You also have access to a craft-tender who walks around, providing tips and answering questions.

Opt for the super simple drop catch bottle opener, which does exactly what it says – it opens bottles and catches the tops. It’s probably so popular not just because it’s practical and easy to make, but also because you can use it immediately for the local beer served while you work. This is a craft bar, after all. 

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Private sewing classes | Portland Apparel Lab

Take a private sewing class at Portland Apparel Lab — Photo courtesy of Portland Apparel Lab

If you want to try your hand at making your own clothes, this is the place to perfect every aspect of the process from collars and cuffs to zippers and pockets.

Founder/pattern making teacher, Dawn Moothart, and sewing instructor, Heather Treadway, offer a variety of group and private classes so you can focus on bringing your dream design to life. Instead of spending your time shopping for a cute outfit, come in and do what the Portland makers do – learn how to make it yourself. 

Kumiko speaker class | ADX Portland

Make your own kumiko speaker at ADX Portland — Photo courtesy of ADX Portland

Traditional Japanese woodworking is famous for its precise joinery that requires no hardware or glue to maintain strength. This technique is also used to create intricate, wooden, functional artwork, known as kumiko, which is featured in Japanese design to create a stunning atmosphere. 

In this four-hour class, you'll make a small, powered speaker which will make you proud every time you listen to your music. 

Wildwood dopp kit class | Klum House

Make the Wildwood dopp kitt at Klum House Workshop — Photo courtesy of Klum House Workshop

This 2.5-hour beginner-friendly sewing workshop teaches you how to sew a zipper, create a boxy pouch, insert a liner, set metal rivets and work with waxed canvas in your choice of rich, juicy colors. 

The resulting dopp kit is so good-looking, you won’t believe you created it yourself. It makes a really special gift or a stylish way to bring home all those hotel toiletries. 

Intro to Letterpress workshop | Independent Publishing Resource Center

Take the Intro to Letterpress workshop at IPRC — Photo courtesy of Darius Kuzmickas

This introductory class covers the fundamentals of letterpress printing over two days, teaching you how to set type by hand with IPRC’s extensive collection of lead and wood type fonts.

You’ll learn this traditional craft through demonstrations and hands-on experiences, gaining a basic understanding of the printing process. Materials are provided for you to create a small edition of your own exclusive prints. 

Japanese woodblock carving and printing class | ADX Portland

Get creative at the Japanese woodblock carving and printing class at ADX Portland — Photo courtesy of ADX Portland

Japanese woodcut techniques date back to the 8th century when printing methods were shared by Chinese Buddhist temples. The traditional tools and techniques have not changed since then and are now taught worldwide. Quick to learn but difficult to master, Japanese woodcut printmaking is a safe and economical way to make unique handmade works of art. 

You’ll leave class with a block you carved, prints you printed and the knowledge you need to practice at home. This relief printing technique is done entirely by hand and with minimal tools, making it possible to complete prints from start to finish almost anywhere.