Aug 13, 2007

Stitches Midwest Recap

Elsebeth Lavold
SMW Yarn 005

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Stitches events, these are large annual knitting conventions that are held at 3 different locations around the country, and sponsored by XRX, the company that publishes Knitter’s Magazine, hundreds of knitting books, and puts on annual knitting course retreats called Camp Stitches. The events take place in the spring, late summer and fall in the West, Midwest, and Southeast. Some of the event involves what you might expect from a convention – vendors fill booths from one wall of the convention floor to the other and they have colorful and tempting displays of yarn, raw fiber, needles, spinning wheels, and drop spindles. There is also a huge amount of knit and crochet wear accessories – buttons, purse handles, shawl pins, and beads – oh my! A feast for the eyes. To supplement the eye candy, there is brain candy too. Talented teachers and knit celebrities teach 3 and 4 hour classes covering everything from the basics to the most advanced techniques. Since this is a widely promoted event, you just don’t know who you might run into, take a class with, or learn from. It’s a delight.

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This year, I chose to attend Stitches Midwest, and decided to do it right. See, the first time I went – I was a very new knitter and I fell into ALL the pitfalls you would expect. I bought WAY too much yarn (that’s to be expected, it nearly climbs into your bag the instant you pass the registration desk); I bought on impulse, so I got one and 2 skein wonders that I still haven’t been able to align with a project (but goodness me, they are pretty); I didn’t take any classes, which meant that once I got home, I didn’t know much more about knitting than before I went there. There was one thing I did right though, and that was to attend with friends, but also reach out to complete strangers. It was a great time of affirmation that this is not in fact a strange hobby, and that the diversity of my knit sibs is a great thing to behold. So this year, I did what I could to do a little better and to relish the experience even more because of it.

Homework Swatches

I registered for two classes – Advanced Finishing, and Overcoming the Fear of Cutting. I can’t say enough good things about my instructors Margaret Fisher and Nancy Bush (yes that Nancy Bush). It was a major bonus to know that I could now understand the techniques that were being taught to us, and it was a joy to see the lights go on for my classmates around me, just as they were going on for me too. One of these days, I’ll share a couple of the techniques I learned with some more photos so that I can pay forward what I gained from that experience. Fiber celebrity sightings were plentiful too. We had our photos taken by Franklin for his 1,000 Knitters project, and we were fortunate enough to get bumped in line by Sally Melville and Nancy Bush - hey, who wouldn't let them get cutsies??

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Shawl Pin 001>

As for the yarn buying? Well – let’s be honest, this trip was planned since February, and the yarn budget was outlined and secured even before food and transportation were considered. Did I buy more yarn than last year? Nope. Did I buy more sweater quantities of good stuff this time? Yep. Did I buy with specific projects in mind and check quantities, content and gauge? You bet. Did I completely indulge and succumb to some pretty scrumptious goodies that I have no idea what I'll do with? Come on people, I’m a knitter. I will say this, I’m writing this on the plane on the way home, and I think that whether or not my hubby is actually going to come and collect me from the airport is going to depend on whether or not he takes a peek at the old checking account before he leaves out. If you don’t hear from me for a while, I’ll be at Gate C12 fondling the yarn in my carry-on. ETA: Made it home, but the unpacking was done covertly. I'm no fool.

O-Wool Cotton Yarn Barn Alpaca DK
Another benefit of attending Stitches Midwest is that the Chicago area and surrounding burbs are a GREAT distraction from yarn overindulgence. We met up with a few other friends, locals and out-of-towners and enjoyed some of the sites and tastes of the city. Fabulous breakfast at Anne Sather (see the featured menu item from my last post); a picnic in Millennium Park listening to Mahler’s 5th symphony; a long overdue return trip to Chix with Stix to hang out with KK from the KnittingHelp Forum; and the best chicken wings I have ever eaten (bring on the cornbread, please) at Famous Dave’s BBQ.

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The icing on it all was sharing it with KR, who is a wonderful travel buddy, navigator, and roomie. She surprised me with the most gorgeous shawl pin for my CPH while I was distracted by some Rowan Big Wool. Thanks Kat!

KK & Chix 003

What else can I say, except, if you can plan for it and attend one of these, I highly recommend it. There is such an instant and genuine kinship that you could just stroll around for hours admiring people’s projects, or you can sit and knit at a table of complete strangers, and not feel strange about it in anyway, or you can fill your days with classes and courses for the things that you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t.

As for me, my 14 month yarn diet begins now. I feel really happy with what I brought home, and I’m going to commit to turning it into things that I will love even more. If it works out well, I’ll be attending Stitches East in Baltimore next fall. Maybe I’ll see you there?