Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Dear Bess,

Like you, I packed up a friend and visited Stitches for the first time this year. We went only for a day trip to the Market floor, but that was amazing enough! We took a couple of Market Sessions (good fun, and a break from shopping) but no serious classes. Next year!
That KR post, by the way, was actually what led me to your blog. Thanks for making me so welcome; I feel as if I've been invited into your living room and offered a nice cup of tea. :)

By Anonymous Cathy in Va., at 11:21 PM  

Ohhhh, Bess! 'Stitches' is now on my Wish List...but I'd have to make it 'Stitches West' to even remotely afford it. I'd know no one, being a solo Canuck...but oh! If the atmosphere's the same... Perhaps in a few years!!!

Looking forward to Installment 2!


By Anonymous Marg in Calgary, at 1:09 AM  

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Monday, October 15, 2007  

First Stitches, First Day

Looooooooong post - another one tomorrow

I first heard about Stitches in about 2001 and oh how I wanted to go. Back then there were only 2 yarn shops within 100 miles of me and I knew only one other knitter plus the 7 people I was teaching to knit. In the past 7 years I've seen the LYS situation grow to 8 LYS in that radius and maybe more – who knows? I've discovered on-line shopping, learned to spin, won prizes at FFF, been to MS&W 6 times, KRRetreat since it began and a smattering of other fiber related classes and events. Life is vastly different, but I still hadn't been to Stitches.
But not any more.

I've been. I've seen. I've conquered – any doubts that it is one ton of fun or that there wasn't really room for additions to the stash.

When I knew November at home was going to stake a claim on me, that I wouldn't be able to attend the KRRetreat, I decided I'd go to Stitches and asked my friend B to go along with me. B is a magnificent quilter. Artist quality. She doesn't just do the big Hampton show, she goes to Houston for the Real Big quilt shows, so she's big time show savvy and reined me in from registering for EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN. I already knew that my brain would hold only so much new skill/knowledge and had already decided to register for only 6 hours of classes and nothing else. Lawsee there were a lot of classes I wanted to take, but my first pick was Dive into Design, taught by Fiona Ellis. Registration had been open quite a while, but we weren't so late I didn't get into my first choice.

So, Friday, B picked me up at my house. Here she is cleaning FFF red clay dust off her windshield on the inside!

And we tooled on up the highway
to Baltimore.

“Don't you have a map?”

“No. I figured I'd just follow the signs.”

Well, there you have it. Every family travels differently. I always take a map. Mrs.SurveyorCartographerWifeQueen.

We stayed at the Days Inn a block from the convention center. I always have to watch it when I visit big cities, even Richmond, my home town, can bring out the rube in me. It's really hard for me to not walk around staring up in the air, with my mouth open, gawping at all those big tall buildings. This was the view outside my window. Ordinary cityscape for many, BigTallSkyScrapersWowEE to me.

That's the Bromo Seltzer clock. It's lit up blue at night and was reflected in this building into my window – which I kept unshaded all night. Once in this crystal clear weekend, I saw 2 stars. Poor city folk.

We arrived in plenty of time for lunch at our hotel, where the most delicious green beans ever cooked were served in the lunch buffet. I wish we'd gotten in 15 minutes earlier because I could have made my whole meal out of them. But there – this was not a gastronomic weekend, it was a knitting weekend and I had a class at 1:30. B's classes were all on Saturday, but mine was 6 hours of creativity, spread over two days. We had enough time for me to poke around the market a bit – sans camera, since I was told we weren't allowed to take photographs.

At the entrance to the market, B just stood, slightly quivering with overwhelm. The convention center is mighty big. There were booths and booths and booths of spending opportunity and as I stood there, picking up on B's sense of being kiboshed I realized that I wasn't going to even try to hook up with anybody. I'd hoped maybe to call A and have dinner with her one night, or to meet up with M or really anyone else I already know in the Baltimore/DC/NoVA area, but I suddenly realized that taking in the whole stitches experience; classes, shopping, big city, new surroundings – was going to be all I could handle. I apologize to my dear ones I might have had fun with. We will just have to gather again another time.

The market didn't begin to take up all the space in the show room and the lobbies around the classes on the second floor were vast and never really crowded. Even inside the market, at the height of the shopping activity, it was not too bad. I've survived MS&W. I know crowds. Somebody bumping into you with her large round bag full of yarn is not a crowd. Waiting in line for 6 people to make their purchases is just a snap. I have stood in line at Little Barn! This was just a gentle crowd with a lot of stimulation. Not sardine packaging.

The first thing we did was drop our names in the door prize barrel. B is unusually lucky with door prizes. I've seen her at a weekly meeting where there was a weekly drawing and she would win 1 week out of 3. Sure enough, she put in 3 little slips and won 2 prizes – one of them, Socks that Rock sock yarn from Blue Moon!!!!! lucky lucky woman. We agreed to meet at 5 at the door to the market and I strode off to my class.

Interestingly, back in mid September I wrote a short essay on Knitters Review Forums about why I don't finish projects that concluded with the postulation that I suffered from a certain lack of technical and design skill which I ought to conquer with swatch knitting. Interesting how things work out, for our class was all about stimulating our creativity with something and swatching out ideas. Not making sweaters, not designing garments, but swatches – in and of themselves, swatches to fiddle with ideas, swatches to come to knowledge and expertise. Swatches as the avenue through which creativity and beauty, pleasure and knowledge could be born and grown, could lead and mislead, always teaching us things regardless if we had set out to learn them or not.

The classroom was large and bare. Our teacher wore plain black. She had none of her samples and swatches and designs laid out – no color in the room beyond what each of us wore, and the stack of photographs on the table. We each chose one, were given some strips of white paper to limit the canvas, give emphasis to different sections of the overall design and told to knit what we saw.

The absolute neutrality with which Ms. Ellis approached each student's creation was wonderful to witness. I often found myself wandering over to listen to what she was saying to another student. She'd ask you what you were trying to convey. She'd wait for you to ask for instruction in how to actually do something, once in a while she demonstrated a technique. But she offered no comments beyond such encouragement as “Yes. I see where you are going with this.” There were 10 of us and 3 folk chose one picture and 2 chose another. When we got back together on Saturday we had a little more time to wrap needles with thread, then Ms. Ellis asked each of us to explain what we chose and what we did with it ... and what we learned.

Here's my picture.
Here are the yarns I had to swatch with.
Here is what I came up with.
Here's what I learned!!

I didn't learn this all at once, of course. I thought about it and ripped and tried again and thought I really ought to be crocheting my swatch, not knitting it. But when I came away with what I think would be a beautiful front of waist shaping I felt triumphant.

And I also came away with the understanding that if I want to be able to make my knitting go where I want it to go – I really need to practice. I need to treat swatching like I treated scales and etudes when I studied music. I need to pick up a book or a photograph or go someplace new each week and knit myself a swatch of it. Ms. Ellis told us that what we did in class last weekend was what she did every week for a year, her first year in design school. Practice. And that's just what I plan to do. I am hereby registering for a weekly session with Creativity. I think Friday mornings would be a good time for getting my assignment and the task will be to spend 3 hours each week, swatching something based on a given inspiration. It might be a photograph, it might be an actual stitch pattern I want to learn, it might be something I'm remembering. It will be interesting to see where I am one year from now!

But on Friday, at 5:00 (after a lovely complimentary coffee break from Starbucks) I met up with B again outside the market. She had only a small bag with what looked like a broom handle sticking out of it.

“You've got to see these lint rollers!”
“Mmmm hmmm. Nice.”
“No. Really.”
I did buy one, btw. She was right, they really do pick up lint. Sticky plastic. You wash them off and they get sticky all over again)
“I've won a door prize!”
“I always said you're one of the lucky ones.”
There was an hour to look around the market. I wasn't buying anything yet. Still trying to stick to the budget but also just wanting to have a look see. I knew that I'd miss so much the first time through, and of course, I did. I picked out the booths I had to come back to. Not Just Plain Jane Knits, Gita Maria, Hunt Valley Cashmere, Decadent Fibers. There were others, but in an hour you can't absorb everything and it never occurred to me to mark down come-back places on the program. Well. Not much beyond the buzz of excitement really registered, except those shawl kits from decadent Fibers really were a bargain and NJPJK patterns – well. Well. Well they just sucked my knitter's soul out of my body.

But I knew I had all afternoon on Saturday to wander the aisles by myself, muttering, thinking, fondling, deciding. Except for a single pattern picked up at Just Our Yarn, I left the market empty handed.
We'd enjoyed our lunch at the hotel and the crowd at the micro brewery pub restaurant places across from the convention center looked daunting, so we opted for dinner in-house. It was fine. It was also cheap. There was no wait. Afterwards, we wandered out into the night on a chocolate quest – for I know myself that I need that chocolate period at the end of the day to make me feel like I”m done with eating. There was a Baskin Robbins up a block and over one. The night was pleasant. It wasn't really too late. The postprandial stroll was the perfect ending to our happy happy First Day at Stitches.
We were back in our room by 9 and asleep by 10, with a wake-up call ordered for 6:30.

posted by Bess | 6:51 AM