Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stitches to Remember

Ah, now, what will I remember about this year's Stitches?

Well, quite a few things. The first -- before we even got there, actually -- was, for the first time in quite a few years, having to do homework! Maybe this is perfectly ordinary for those of you who have often taken knitting classes. But I'm mostly a self- and book-taught knitter, and the idea of doing homework to bring to a class is like an almost-forgotten memory of school days. Apparently I hadn't forgotten the part about doing some of it at the last minute, though. I finished knitting the last of my required swatches in the car on the way to Baltimore. And, no, I wasn't the driver. :)

The next impression is of arriving with my friend at the convention center, comfortably early, to register and get situated for our first classes, and seeing the place liberally be-sprinkled with knitters. Everywhere, at tables and chairs, on couches, sitting in groups on the floor, engrossed in their projects and conversation. They knitted in the registration lines and in the Starbucks lines and some of them knitted right where they stood, at the head of the stairs or some other landmark spot, perhaps waiting to meet someone by pre-arrangement.

Luckily, we had equipped ourselves with portable projects, thinking of evening knitting time in the hotel. So once we got our coffee and pastry and got settled, we too were able to whip out some knitting and feel like we belonged.

I started work on a pair of socks in Colinette Jitterbug yarn, in the Kingfisher colorway. As you can see, I didn't get very far. I was too distracted, looking around at all the knitting on display, both in progress and on the backs of knitters. But the important thing was being a part of it all, not getting a sock done!

Checking into the hotel a little later, it seemed that even the hotel management had gotten into the act. Hanging on the soaring wall alongside an escalator was a large, dramatic piece of art. Up close, it appeared to be an array of ropes hung side by side, arranged with the direction of their twist alternating from one to the next. From a distance, it looked like nothing so much as a giant ragged-edged piece of stockinette-stitch knitting. Perfect for the occasion, as, being so close to the Convention Center, the hotel was overrun with knitters.

Soon enough, the time came to find the classroom for my first class. I found a seat near the front. Bubbling with anticipation, I looked around. Across the room was a face that seemed somehow familiar. I looked again, harder. I started thinking, gosh, maybe... could it be? The person in question probably began wondering why someone was staring at her. Not having glasses on, that I need only occasionally, I squinted to try to see the name on the nametag. I couldn't read it from where I sat, but it was a short-ish name; a promising sign. Finally, I asked from across the room, "is your name Bess?" "Yeeeesss?" she said, not knowing what to expect. I went charging across the room to introduce myself. Aaaa! Aaaa! It was Bess, one of the wonderful on-line friends I've come to know through their blogs but have never met. And she was wearing one of her projects that I'd read about, to boot. What fun it was to meet her! That was a Stitches memory I will certainly treasure.

The classes themselves were really enjoyable. I learned some great information, and it was quite an experience just being around my fellow students. Some of them were much like me; others were clearly a couple of notches further toward the "must-knit-must-knit-NOW" side of the spectrum. Some were relatively new knitters. Others were yarn-shop owners, designers, tech editors, or test knitters. Sometimes just hearing their questions and interactions with the teachers was an education in itself.

One of the classes I took was taught by designer Melissa Leapman, the author of Cables Untangled and the just-released Continuous Cables (among others). I was very entertained by her puckish sense of humor and her perfect control over the class. I'd seen her previously on TV, as the featured guest on an episode of the DIY channel's Knitty Gritty series, but that was simply not the same. It was well worth having a chance to be in her class in person. She had also brought some of the sweaters that appear in her books and used them to illustrate some of the design features she was talking about. One that I always liked, from the book Hot Knits, is a red cardigan with cables down the sides that curve in and then out again, giving an hourglass effect. She'd brought that along, and it was interesting to see it and hear her comments about it.

And of course, there will be plenty of memories of the Stitches Market. One mildly terrifying one was of finding, when I returned to the hotel room Thursday night, that some of my purchases were missing. It ended well, as I did manage to locate the truant yarn the next day. But it made for some anxious moments as I scoured the booths that I'd visited the night before until finally hitting upon the one where I'd lost it. The vendor had found the bag I'd left behind and set it aside, hoping its owner would eventually come back. I felt much better after that and bought some more items in a celebratory mood. :)

I tried not to overdo it, as my house is overstocked and groaning as it is. I don't think I did too badly; I only bought one yarn in a sweater quantity.

Here's a peek at most of what I did buy.

On the right is that sweater- to- be, a bag of Noro Silk Garden yarn. Way down in the lower right is some Jojoland Harmony lace- weight yarn, with the slowly undulating colors characteristic of the brand. Just above it is a skein of sock yarn from Miss Babs, an independent dyer based in Tennesse, in an overdyed colorway called Russet Shadows. Just to the left, two skeins leaning on the Noro Mini Knits book are semi-solid merino superwash sock yarns labeled as Happy Feet. The periwinkle-colored skein just to the left is a precious skein of bulky-weight Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere, in the Hydrangea colorway. Then, although I've just loaded up on spinning fiber at the festivals, I couldn't resist one little Blue-Faced Leicester roving from Lisa Souza Dyeworks in Slate. And I found I really needed a couple of skeins of her hand-dyed "Sock!" superfine merino yarn in the Atlantic and North Sea colorways.

That's all of it. Pretty much. Well, mostly, anyway. There may be one or two things that didn't make it into the picture. A couple. Oh, what's that big pinky red thing in the center? Oh, nothing. That's just my pretty new Namaste knitting bag. I needed it.

Just a little something more to remember Stitches by. :)


Robin said...

LOVE your purchases!!! Glad you enjoyed your classes. That Jitterbug color is so pretty. I'll have to look for it. Really though, I love ALL those Jitterbug colors!! :o)

Bess said...

On - it was such fun to see you too, face to face. I'm amazed at your shopping restraint. My own purchases are still shocking me but then - there was a lot of discounted alpaca in brown and orange. my two best colors.
Happy knitting!

Knittin' Diva said...

Wasn't Melissa Leapman wonderful??? I took her Celtic Cables class on Saturday, and left so inspired! She has a quirky sense of humor that was quite charming. I've already ordered Cables Untangle and Continuous Cables. Can't wait to get them in my hot little hands ;-)