Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stitches West 2007

Okay, this is gonna be an insanely long post. You've been warned, and feel free to turn away at any time. I can't promise it will all be interesting for everyone. There are no pics of actually being at the conventions - no photography was allowed in the market, and I felt it just rude to take pictures during class. It was a great weekend, lots happening, and I'm exhausted. I'll try to break it down and keep things mostly organized, but no guarantees that there won't be any tangents.

First off, driving isn't really my favorite thing in the world, but there are worse ways to spend a couple afternoons than driving up and down the 101, along the California coast, with your favorite tunes blasting on the radio:

Forgive the pic, it's hard to use a camera and drive at the same time. This one was actually taken on the way back home this afternoon, since none of the pics from the drive up turned out and I wanted to start the trip out with a road pic. I'm keeping it for color ideas in the future. The 101 has to be one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Someone disagree with me - what, I'll get hammered with more pretty pics? =)

I didn't actually get a chance to leave Santa Maria until after 3:00p Friday, due to work. I finally got the hotel around 6:30p, with a headache and the vague idea of changing into pj's, getting room service for dinner, vegging in front of the tv and hopefully falling asleep early. Apparently it was St. Murphy's Day and I didn't realize it. I didn't pack my laptop not expecting to have the time to use it nor expecting to have an internet connection anyway. I got to the hotel and...there are ten channels on the TV: three local channels, ESPN, HBO, three "hotel" channels (one of which is static, another is the tv menu/guide), and two Spanish channels. In other words, nothing to watch on TV. They have a nice desk area for a laptop, complete with complementary WiFi. Sigh. To top it off, not only am I now completely bored and not used to going to bed at any time before 2:00a especially in a hotel, but my room is next to the laundry room and I spend most of the night listening to laundry carts roll back and forth. Double Sigh. However, I did wake up at *groan* 6:00a.m. the next morning. Room service breakfast is a great thing, particularly when you can order it the night before. The hotel provides complimentary shuttles to the Convention Center, so I arranged for a ride and was on my way! For the record: You early birds who love the peace of the morning and the beauty of the's all yours. I don't like going to sleep in the dark and waking up in the dark. There has to be some psychological impact to that, I think.

Stitches, Day One:
I arrive at Santa Clara Convention Center and promptly get lost in the building. The convention is in the Center and in the attached Hyatt hotel. The market is on the center side, most of the classes, but not all, are on the hotel side. I finally find the right place to check in, get my packet and name tag and an extra cup of coffee, and set off.

8:00a First Class
I have my first ever Stitches class. Well, first class of any kind that has anything to do with crafts. "Design Your Dream Sweater" with Leslye Solomon, owner of Woolstock Yarn Shop. I cannot recommend her highly enough. She was funny, energetic, and extremely informative. She walked us through the design of a basic sweater, and then helped us through any changes or adaptations we might want to make to the basics, like different necklines and shapings and sleeves. It was great. She helped us chart out designs and figure out measurements, using some design graph paper she sells at her store. It's oversized sheets of knitters graph paper, with space for project title, date, and planned gauge, sketches, and a chart of some common measurements at the top. She gave out chocolate. The three hours sped by.
11:00a First Market Experience
Overwhelming. That's all I can use to describe walking into the Market for the first time. It's colorful, noisy, and crowded. You want to touch everything you see. And you see books, buttons, beads, spinning wheels, drop spindles, looms, garments, irons (irons??), knitting machines, patterns, fleece, and, of course, yarns. Of every possible color and fiber I can think of. I'm pretty sure I saw camel. I know I saw dog and cat. No cameras are allowed in the Market, so I cannot fully express this in mere words. I fell completely and totally in love with a cashmere scarf at one of the booths. Not the scarf itself, although it was gorgeous, but the fact that it felt like soft warm air. It was so silky soft. Ah, I think I'm in love! But, at $30 for an ounce, it was a little dear for me. The Market is huge, and the way the exhibit rooms are connected and laid out, it's kind of L-shaped and easy to get turned around and lost in.

I wandered into the Philosopher's Wool stall and met Eugene Bourgeois, one of the owners. He was extremely nice and gives off the air of extreme patience and gentleness. He let me ogle all the sweaters and kits, and when I mentioned that I'd seen their video and had used it, but had trouble with tension, he grabbed his needles and gave me a quick tutorial. How cool is that?! I thanked him profusely and had to leave before the wool fumes from the gorgeous kits overcame me and I blew all my money in one place. I love the colors and the patterns, but I thought the yarns themselves were a little rough and scratchy.

The next thing I remember, I was at the Yarn Barn stall, with all their books and fibers around me. They had totally cute kits made up for a bunch of the Fiber Trends toys: penguins, lambs, bunnies, and, of course the Huggable Hedgehog.

There was only one Hedgehog kit left, in blue yarns, of all colors, and I was afraid that if I waited, I wouldn't get one. So I managed to get my greedy little paws on it (pattern and required Lamb's Pride yarns) and moved to the end of the aisle to get in line. I practically trip over the lady sitting at the end of the aisle, with a stack of books in her hands. I look down to apologize, and she has a stack of Inspired Cable Knits in her hands. And is signing them. I just practically knocked over Fiona Ellis. The DESIGNER of the Short Row Striped Pullover. Doh! She was very gracious and asked what colors I was working the SRSP in when I mentioned it. She thought it sounded great and said if I needed any help, to be sure to contact her. After she was that nice, I had to get her book, and she signed it for me!
I grabbed a quick bite and watched a little of the Style Show. Then I escape the Market's evil clutches with just my hedgehog and book and go to my next class.

1:30p Second Class
My second class ended up being in the room right next to the first class, but of course I find that out after wandering the building again. I got a lot of exercise this weekend. This one is "Two Handed Knitting: Basics", with Susie Hodges. Susie was quiet and gentle, and extremely patient. She gave us a handout and first had us learn and practice the opposite knitting style that we usually do. Then she demonstrated two handed stranding and weaving techniques. It was...exactly the same as what I taught myself two years ago when I did the Christmas stockings. I still have the same tension issues, I'm assuming because I rarely practice. It was a good time and fun to practice, though. I ended up helping a few other ladies who were sitting near me. I do think Susie is a great teacher, though. I just need to practice. And I figured out how to purl Continental, which, to be blunt, is a bitch. Purling English is much easier.

4:30p Second Market Excursion
The wool fumes lured me in a second time. This time through, I ran into the Blue Moon Fiber Arts stall, which I somehow completely missed the first time through. The mediumweight STR was completely out by this point, and there were only a few skeins of the lightweight left. There was still a bit of the heavyweight left, and they had a bunch of the Sock Candy and Seduction and a few others left. I love their colors, but didn't get anything. I have too much sock yarn, and nothing was talking to me. I also found Full Thread Ahead's stall, owned by HoJo over at KR. She carries Ceallach Yarns by kdcrowley, also from KR. I didn't get to introduce myself, but I was the one roaming around in the bright blue Rogue sweater on Saturday, and the Lady Eleanor today. Beautiful yarns, but again, the skeins were silent. I got a roll of Leslye's sweater design charts, and some blocking wires, and left.

I caught a ride back to the hotel, crashed on the bed for a little bit (remember, I'd been up since 6:00a, me!), took some Advil for the headache the wool fume hangover gave me, and drove down to Monterey and had dinner with AF Guy. Honestly, if I had realized it was so far a drive, I would have pled exhaustion and stayed at the hotel, but hanging out with him turned out to be exactly what I needed. It's good to have friends to just hang out and talk with. He's one of the few people I can truly tell anything to, and vice versa, which is always necessary. And I found a Borders near where we met up, so I stopped in just before they closed and picked up a crossword puzzle book, a Dilbert book, and the Spring 2007 Interweave Knits. I probably wouldn't have gotten the magazine, except for this:
Entrelac Socks! Dudes! I've heard such things existed, but this is the first pattern I've seen. I was excited.

Sleep, after more than 18 hours of new information, nerves, crowds, yarns, colors, and general overload, on about three hours of sleep.

Stitches Day 2
Get lost driving myself to the convention center. Finally get there, find the classroom, grabbed a banana and a vanilla frappacino, and went to my third class.

8:30a Third Class
Edie Eckman is another great teacher, and taught "Where Do They Get Those Numbers?", a class about how designers figure out measurements. I think it would have been great, except I'd just had most of this the day before. It was also, as Edie pointed out, not the best class to do on Sunday morning, after people had been bombarded with new information all weekend and were exhausted. But it was still fun. She again walked us through getting measurements for a basic sweater pattern and how to adjust for individual sizes and gauges. It was nice to have all that information again, though.

11:30a Third Market
I went back to the Market to make one last swipe through, drool over the Philosopher's Wool kits, grab some lunch, and maybe stick around for the Grand Prize Drawing. I finished up my Stitches Stash.
I found some phenomenal hand cream from Honey Lane Farms, it moisturizes like crazy and doesn't leave your hands feeling greasy. It doesn't get all over your fiber and needles, either!

I went back to the Philosopher's Wool stall to drool. I convinced myself that I couldn't afford a full kit, and contented myself with the beautiful patterns in their book.

I, er, didn't make it to the Grand Prize drawing, so I hope they didn't call my name. I instead got snared in the evil trap of an impromptu drop spindle spinning demonstration by the booth across from Full Thread Ahead. The lady there showed me how to park and draft again, and suggested that I switch hands with it. It makes sense, I had been holding the fiber in my left hand and spinning with my right, which is opposite of how I knit. She suggested holding the fiber with my right and spinning on my left. It feels a lot better and is easier to control the drafting. I picked up their book on spinning, too. I can't remember the name of the shop for anything, though. Nancy Bush walked by and chatted with the spinning demonstrator, and I'm pretty sure I saw Cookie of Pomatomus fame in the aisle right afterwards.

Despite my not finding The Yarn for my Sweater, I did look. Desperately. But if it was the right color, it was too rough. If it was the right color and the right texture, it was most likely cashmere and way out of my budget reach. I really fell for some alpaca, but an alpaca sweater on the Central Coast is a little, well, can we say "Overkill"?

And despite resolving to not buy anything that I could get anywhere else, I did come home with two skeins of...erm...cough...Bearfoot. It attacked me, I swear! I was chatting with another lady who was having some trouble deciding on sock yarns, and there was a skein that had fallen on the floor and come unwound. I had to pick it up and put it back, of course. I couldn't leave it laying there to get dirty and stepped on, now, could I? It was the colorway I have been drooling over since I was very first introduced to Bearfoot and was even more beautiful in person. I know, I was blind to walk into such an obvious trap, but I couldn't pass that up! And, as I was bidding the lady goodbye and turned to walk to the register, my bag bumped the table, and another skein fell on me. Now that's just mean, don't you think? Sneaky little bastards.

I also actually saw the Entrelac Socks from IK at their booth, and picked up the pattern for the Melinda pullover from White Lies Designs.

And after spending far more money than maybe I should have, but not more than I had planned on, I picked up my toys and went home. The TeddieCat yelled at me for about an hour for leaving him home by himself for a whole two nights, but now is apparently over it. He is not impressed with the Stitches Stash, although apparently Dad's Socks make a pretty good pillow.

I learned several tips and tricks this weekend, but I think what I learned most is, at the risk of sounding completely arrogant, I underestimate myself as a knitter. This is around the time I learned to knit, three years ago. This weekend, while I had three terrific teachers, I took beginners level classes - I think the Fair Isle class was maybe the next step up. Except for the first design class, I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know. I've done lace, entrelac, cables, short rows, sweaters, socks, mittens, hats, colorwork, felting, dpns, 2 circs, magic loop, continental, English, two handed, two colors in one hand...I've pretty much taught myself a lot over the past three years. I guess I felt like since it was self-taught, or informal, it didn't "count" or something. I ended up helping several people this weekend. I saw some gorgeous knits this weekend, and got compliments on my own stuff from people whose things I was drooling over. It was a little weird, but illuminating. I need to hold myself to a higher standard with my knitting, because I can do this.

Now I'm going to give you all a break from listening to my ramblings. Mostly because I'm hungry again - convention food, while better than what I was expecting - there were salads and fruit cups and hard boiled eggs and apples and bananas and paninis and stuff as well as the regular trash - is not particularly good for you or filling. And I want to get some sleep since I have class tomorrow.


Amie said...

yay! for you!!!! Now you come to MD, if you want, I'll take you to Leslye's shop for real (though there are much better in the area) and no more underestimating yourself!

I'm self-taught too, only less than six years ago. And I've been teaching more than two years. You can do it all!

I'm so glad you had fun - you deserved it!

Ceallach said...

Wow, I can't believe you posted already! I am just now thinking about posting, and probably won't get to it til this afternoon.

Glad you saw the yarns....and the woman you met at the spinning booth was probably Morgaine of Caroline Homespun....tall, long hair? that's her! She's a doll.

I completely understand what you mean by underestimating yourself as a knitter, but I think I also do it on the design side. My sunday class was also a disappointment mostly because I probably could teach the class, and I think Susan was just annoyed with me because of it. Whatever. I mean it's not my problem if she says African mudcloth is Kenyan when it really is made in West African Mali! The good news is that I am actually going to try making an ethnic sweater and bought some black yarn to do it with. YAY!

I met Leslye too....had dinner with her on Thursday evening. She IS really nice.

Coleen said...

sounds like you had a blast! Like Amie said... come to Maryland and we'll take you to Lesyle's shop. There's also this crazy thing here called Maryland Sheep and Wool!

AR said...

That hedgehog is going to be so cute!

Wow, you almost injured a famous person. hehe

Sounds like you had lots of fun. :)

Teri said...

I followed your blog link from Knitters Review. I've been knitting for about 3 years myself, but have never been to a Stitches event. So thank you for a great rundown of the event.
I tend to doubt my skill level too (knitter for 3 years) so I can relate to your epiphany of sorts. Happy knitting.