“A Stitch is Lost if its End is Unknotted”
– Italian Proverb
“The quality of yarn matters not if the stitches are dropped”
– D.B. Dean
My husband and I just returned from the 2010 Stitches West Knitting convention. Our cover story, a novice knitter who told her husband it was a car show. We played our parts convincingly. I wore a hand knitted wrap, knitted by yours truly as a gift for my mother. I had to borrow it for the day because it’s the only thing I have finished. He wore his typical car guy clothing and kept asking me in front of other people where the cars were. The women would giggle when they realized I told him it was a car show to get him there. The truth is he wanted to come and see what kind of people were as nuts about yarn as his wife.
I had never been to a Knitting Convention. It’s a lot like a sporting event. You line up to get your tickets, you shuffle through the doors like cattle and go and find what you came to see. Just like any other big event, but only if said event is frequented by 98.99999% women, the occasional reluctant husband and a few more artsy men. The gender of the convention goer isn’t the only difference. The overheard “excuse me’s” and “thank yous” that abound as you try to shoulder your way through the monstrous regiments of women clustered around the aisles mark it apart from your typical crowded event. I have never encountered a nicer mob in my life.
Stitches West is part social gathering, part shopping trip and a whole lot of sensory over load. Colors and textures abounded as far as the eye can see. Scents from the food court mingled with hand lotion and women’s perfume. Having never been to a knitting convention I wasn’t sure what I would find. I had a few pre-conceived ideas and a few things I wanted to look at:
1) deals – I was hoping to find better yarn than my local store carried, at discount prices
2) new and different – i was hoping to find Buffalo and Bison yarn in its natural colors and state
3) naturally dyed yarns – using flowers or something – I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to see, but thought I would know it when I saw it
4) I wanted to buy a wooden, hand-made yarn bowl to hold my yarn as I work on a piece.
While this show had a lot of yarn and no doubt I could have found numbers 1 – 3, I came away without them. Having never been to a convention of this sort I made a rookie mistake. I didn’t do my research before hand.
Imagine a huge convention hall, packed with hundreds of thousands of skeins, balls and hanks of yarn. They are hanging from the walls, stuffed in bins and everywhere. How in the world could I look at and read every type of yarn in this place? The staff, while very helpful in the booths have been doing this for years. They would use words and mention people I had never heard of. They would say “Go talk to Suzie of Suzie’s Wool Works and she might know of somehow who does this or that”. With a restless husband in tow who still hadn’t seen any cars, I wasn’t able to hunt down Suzie.
The Discount booths were packed with women and disorganized. I am not a “Meryvens Day” sale type women to begin with. I am not willing to wade my way through a crowd of women and discover the perfect this or that. I guess I just am not that competitive. The two main discount booths didn’t have anything I wanted to work with at the top of the bins and so I gave up.
I did talk to “Yvette” with the Yak fiber, who told me to ask “Bill” about the bison fiber. “Bill” sent me over to the only place in the convention that had Bison fiber. What I found was yarn that looked much like other yarn, except it was three to four times as expensive per yard. It’s not what I imagined. I wanted something earthy, natural and back to basic. Something that would give me a connection to my native american ancestors. I don’t think they knitted but I liked the idea of making something out of buffalo or bison fiber. I was disappointed. A coworker had given me some on spun buffalo fiber and it was warm and soft. That is what I was looking for in my yarn. I didn’t find it.
I had thought people would have signs boasting of Natural Dyes – or “the hues of mother nature”. I found only a few hanks here and there but nothing that I couldn’t get at my local Cottage Yarns (www.cottageyarns.com). In fact I found myself drawn to and picking up yarn brands that Cottage Yarns carries.
Lastly – my wooden bowl. I didn’t see anyone carrying bowls for yarn. Probably because you can stick them in any bowl and it works just fine. But I wanted a wooden bowl, smooth and hand-made. Something that was artwork in itself. I almost missed it among the yarn. I had walked up and down rows 100 – 700 and couldn’t find a single booth that carried such an item. I was tired and despite my husband having never uttered a word except, “Whats the total” as I purchased my balls of yarn, I had this feeling that perhaps he might be getting tired. I mean, all the lanes we walked, none of them had even knitted car patterns, much less the real deal. As we walked up the aisle, I look over my right shoulder and into a booth that I had no intention of walking in to and there they were. Behind the booth owner, on the second shelf, behind the Knitting Needles, the bowls. Mahogany, cherry and oak, each one hand turned. Thick and deep, thin and shallow, natural wood in hues and colors only mother nature could produce. I ran my hands over them then handing them to my husband. You could see he appreciated the craftmanship. Perhaps for the first time during the day he found something that he could identify with. The shop was Knitting Notions (www.knittingnotuonsonline.com) and the owners husband and made them. She said she did the dying of the wool and he did the wood work. After handling each of the bowls I settled on a lower edged bowl of a deep and beautiful cherry wood. It was exactly what I hoped to find.
I guess one out of four isn’t bad. My tips for future rookie knitting convention attendees is this:
1) Wear comfortable shoes
2) Do you research before hand.
3) Know who will be at the show and what they carry. Have some back up vendors selected in case who you want to see doesn’t show
4) Make a List of the things you want to buy and things you want to see. There is so much there you can easily spend all your money before you ever reach the back of the show were the vendor is that carries yak fiber.
5) Pack your Patience. There are a lot of people there. They WILL stop and chat directly in front of you with a friend they havent seen in years. This means that you will be stuck behind them as they block the aisle. Not only will you be stuck but the hundred people behind you will be stuck for a bit. Relax, enjoy the fibers and if you get a bit stressed, stop and smell the hand lotions.
6) Lastly, Keep an open mind. I went to the convention with preconceived ideas of what I wanted to buy and didn’t find most of it. But I did meet some wonderful women from Brooks Farm Yarn out of Lancaster Texas (http://www.brooksfarmyarn.com and http://www.brooksfarmyarn.com/wordpress/) . I purchased enough yarn to “wrap a good lookin man up with” . Some beautiful blue green Solana superwash wool and some chunky forest green wool that has sections of brown and gold. I also bought some beautiful turquoise cotton yarn and threw caution to the wind and bought the matching lace top pattern. I don’t know how to knit lace yet but I am sure I will get there.
All in all, It was a wonderful learning experience. I met friendly people who love to knit as much (or possibly more) than I do. I learned what to do and not do next year. I was on a fiber high for days afterwards. And, now I have something to work my way up to (that lace shirt).
The only question left is, can I get my husband to go with me next year?