Oops! I Did It Again or, My Excellent Adventure at Stitches Midwest
(Admittedly, on the Brittney Scale of Scandal, this is pretty much a non-event)
I bought more yarn. LOTS of yarn. Yarn enough to clothe a small nation (especially if they have cold feet) An epic amount of yarn.
Maybe it was the wool fumes.
Sponsered by XRX Publications (publishers of Knitters Magazine and many knitting books), Stitches events are held across the country throughout the year – West in the winter, Midwest in the summer and East in the fall (they’ve just added South starting in April of next year) They bring together knitting designers and teachers for a series of workshops and classes, and hold a market where vendors of all things knit-y and yarn-y show off their wares. Heavenly!
Stitches Midwest was held in Chicago (Schaumburg) this past weekend and happily, I was able to visit the market. My friend Chris, always the Good Sport, agreed to come along and navigate (I am a nervous Big City Driver and am not very familiar with Chicago) We had a great time and as a bonus, I think I’ve converted Chris into a knitter (she’s already requested an invitation to Ravelry)!
The Market is wonderful – and overwhelming. In fact, I felt panic pressing on me when I first walked in. However, Chris, ever Practical and Organized, suggested we start with Aisle 1 and methodically go up and down each aisle (there were 8!) Fortunately, I had seen a vendor list ahead of time and was able to do some research on who would be there, what kinds of products they offered and to think about how much yarn to get for specific projects. This helped enormously; it didn’t stop me from buying from other vendors, but it gave me some focus. It was still hard at times – to walk away from the gorgeous/expensive hand dyed merino at Knitting Notions (I’m saving up for next year), to pick the perfect shade of blue at Green Mountain Spinnery, to choose just two Cookie A patterns and limit the mitten yarn at Shelridge Farm, and even (though there is evidence to the contrary) not buy every sock yarn I came across.
I tried to buy things that aren’t available to me locally; even though many/most things are now online, it’s worth it to actually feel and hold the yarn and see the colors before buying. The bonus is getting to meet many of the artists, talk to them about their products, thank them for bringing us such beautiful things. It makes the yarn – and the end product (sweaters, socks and mittens – I hope) that much more special.
There were some wonderful discoveries (independent dyers of gorgeous sock yarns such as Aisha Celia Designs and MacKintosh Yarns), chatting with the charming Jennie of Jennie the Potter fame, and a jaw-dropping special treat – I won a door prize just minutes after arriving! And a really fabulous door-prize – a $50 gift certificate to the Mass Ave Knit Shop booth where I was able to indulge in some sock yarn I haven’t seen before as well as a charming sheep pin. The ladies there were super nice and they had oodles of beautiful things. Thanks Mass Ave Knit Shop!
In addition (yes, there’s more) there were hour-long classes held next to the Market floor; Chris took a free Learn to Knit class and had a great experience including receiving needles, yarn and a booklet to keep (she said there were about 18 people in the class which bodes well for the continued popularity of knitting especially considering that you had to pay to get into the Market itself) I dropped in on a free Demo (Provisional Cast-On) that was very good. The event site (Schaumburg Reniassance Hotel and Convention Center) was very nice – good parking, comfortable conference hall, healthy, tasty food at the concession stand. It was just a great day – Chris and I have already marked our calendars for next year!
The Market was pretty intense; if you’re lucky enough to attend one, I’d recommend setting aside a whole day just for the Market. That will give you time to see as much as possible, to stop and talk to the vendors and other knitters, to stop in on demos or the Market sessions (I’m sure the formal classes, which run 3 or more hours, would also be fantastic) Chris and I drove up the day before (a three hour drive for us) and spent the day before shopping at IKEA (worth the trip alone!) and Woodfield Mall, stayed at a nearby hotel and were rested and at the Market shortly after it opened the next day.
Oh, and bring your rolling suitcase (empty) and wear your best walking shoes – you’ll need them both!
Special shout-out to Chris for all the support and navigation – and welcome to the crazy/fun world of knitting!