Lost and found at Stitches West

Lost and found at Stitches West

My whirlwind trip to Stitches West was a punch in the gut and a slap on the back. Flying into Oakland — looking out the airplane window across the whole of the bay — was more emotional than I expected. And then it was like Old Home Week being back in that convention hall, at the first knitting convention I ever attended as a knitter, the first I ever sold at as a vendor. It was a joy to see so many of my industry friends, longtime customers, new faces, IG acquaintances, former students, well-loved totes and Field Bags, and so on and so on. I can’t say thank-you enough to everyone who stopped to say hello to me. It can be a weirdly isolating thing, writing a blog and/or running an online business, and to have people with actual faces take the time to stop and tell me what they like about what I’m doing is the just the sort of encouragement a girl needs sometimes, you know? So thank you from the bottom of my heart — and of course thanks also to everyone who bought off the Fringe shelf in Verb’s beautiful booth. And to the Verb crew for making me feel like part of the family,

This might come as a two-part surprise to you, but A) I knitted some log cabin mitts and B) I bought some yarn. The California Rambouillet, Range, that Verb has used for their pretty Log Cabin Mitts kits, which is what I was knitting in the booth, was such a beautiful and surprising yarn that I had to have a few little skeins. And sitting next to the indigo-marl Pioneer of theirs that I’ve been coveting from afar left me incapable of leaving without any. I couldn’t decide what I might want to make of it, garment-wise, so I was a good girl and bought a single skein. For now. From my dear friend Brooke of Sincere Sheep, I bought naturally dyed US Cormo, special stuff, for my niece’s hat. And I also couldn’t resist buying a skein of Plucky Knitter’s new Yakpaka. (If Susan Anderson hadn’t been cleaned out of the worsted weight of her Wisconsin Woolen Spun by the time I got there, some of that would likely have followed me home as well.)

On Preview Night, in YOTH’s booth, I went straight to the display of Veronika’s project for the #fringeandfriendslogalong (FO post coming soon) and the yarn she’d used for it. Dubbed “Neighbor,” it’s a collaboration between YOTH and Abundant Earth Fiber mill in Washington state. I have a couple of skeins of Abundant Earth yarns in my stash — one I purchased at Tolt long ago, and one I kept from that time I sold a tiny batch of Wensleydale she’d milled. In this case, YOTH had dyed the wool and Abundant Lydia had milled it, and it was completely irresistible to me, in a slubby, true faded-denim blue. So I bought a SQ (I know!) plus one skein of the marl. And on the way out of the hall after the show that night, along with so many other vendors, learned of the terrible news about Abundant’s booth. On their drive down for the show, their entire trailer had been stolen off the back of their truck, with all of their yarn inside. It was so heartbreaking to read the sign posted in their otherwise empty booth explaining the situation. But it ended with “we’ll be back tomorrow” and I’m so impressed with how they handled it. Rather than letting the booth sit empty and licking their wounds, they filled the display panels with photos and text, spent the time telling people about what they do (from the mill to their new Wool Tinctures) and taking online orders. Such a brilliant show of resilience — my hat’s off to them.

It’s never possible to sum up a thing like a weekend among knitters (and there’s never enough time to see everyone!), but suffice to say I’m grateful for the experience. I only wish I had taken more photos!

p.s. If you’re the lovely woman who embroidered the Woollelujah! tote pictured above, please raise your hand — I didn’t catch your name!


PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: Scene at bought at Rhinebeck


Big fun: Tunisian crochet

I’m on a flight to Portland, typing on my iPhone, so this won’t be my most tightly edited post, but I want to tell you about Tunisian crochet. Ragga Eiriksdottir‘s Sunday morning class was easily the most fun I had at Stitches West, in part because she’s delightful and in part because this is such a breeze to do and I was really ready for something breezy by then. And having a new skill, of course, means a new creative outlet. So: big fun.

If you haven’t seen Tunisian before, the basic stitch, called Tunisian simple stitch, creates a really interesting fabric somewhere between knitting and weaving. And it’s fast. The washcloth-sized swatch above was done, with no previous experience, in a little over an hour. (The spots that might look like mistakes are where we were learning increases and decreases. And the edging is Tunisian purl stitch.) I was working with the Shibui yarn seen in yesterday’s post and it turned out to be a great combination of yarn and stitch pattern.

Anyway, I am really in love with this technique. I’ve already done a prototype of (you guessed it) a fingerless mitt, working out a pattern. And if I have time later between my meeting and my return flight, I’m going to Knit Purl to look for some really luscious yarn for a cowl. There are basically two methods for working Tunisian in the round, one of which Ragga taught us and the other of which will allow me to use that giant double-ended hook in the previous photos. So you’ll be hearing more about all of this.

Stitches West: What I bought

malabrigo yarn arroyo rios aguas
I know all you guys really want to hear about with regard to Stitches is what I bought. That’s the easy part. If you refer to that haul shot, this is clockwise from top right:

  • 4 fat quarters of African cloth. This was my favorite booth on the floor — a striking departure from everything around it. Two women selling mud cloth and beautiful straw bags all made by women in a village in Africa. Unfortunately, I’ve lost track of the slip of paper with the specifics, but I love to support co-ops like this one. And look at those prints! Don’t know what I’m doing with them yet.
  • 1 skein Malabrigo Worsted in Natural.
  • 1 skein Sincere Sheep Resolute in Aegean — hand-dyed in Napa.
  • 1 skein Malabrigo Arroyo in Prussian Blue.
  • 1 skein Shibui Merino Alpaca in Abyss.
  • 1 skein Shibui Merino Alpaca in Ivory.
  • A pink Knitter’s Pride Tunisian crochet hook, size J with 35-inch cable. Needed it for my class and pink is what was on offer! I admit I kind of like it. (The plain bamboo one I had ordered online showed up yesterday.)
  • 1 skein Malabrigo Arroyo in Aguas.
  • 4 skeins Malabrigo Rios in Aguas (the fourth being mailed from the store). I can’t get enough of that mottled, murky, blue-green. Literally. If you know anyone who has another one (or two) please let me know — I intend to make a sweater of it.
  • And last but far from least, a 22-inch, double-ended Tunisian crochet hook, size O, handmade by some fella in Ohio.

fat quarters of african mud cloth
shibui merino alpaca ivory and abyss
malabrigo worsted arroyo natural prussian blue sincere sheep

Stitches West: Recap

stitches west recap malabrigo tunisian crochet top down sweater

I had the best intentions just moments ago when I typed that post headline, but I have so much to tell you about my time at Stitches West that I don’t know where to start. On top of which I’m completely exhausted. I’ll have to dole it out as I process it, but for now I’ll say that it was worth every mile — I drove back and forth all three days — and every penny. For me, the market floor was almost superfluous (or the icing on the cake, I guess). What made the experience for me was all six classes and everything I learned, through instruction and ambiently. Which isn’t to say I’m not thrilled with the tangible things I brought home as well. More on both to come …

I went to Stitches

malabrigo yarn colors

I spent the day — and yes, a pile of dough — at Stitches West today. I blame the bulk of the expenditure on the the great wall of color at the Malabrigo booth. Plus I was weak by that point! One of my classes today was an hour session on Continental knitting and I have never been so exhausted. I didn’t realize until the hour ended that I had been holding tense every single muscle in my entire body.

Saturday I’m in an all-day class on sweater construction. Sunday, for fun and the chance to meet her, I’m taking Ragga Eiriksdottir‘s Tunisian Crochet class. Then sort of as a curiosity, a one-hour class in knitting both directions. Hopefully that will all keep me off the market floor.

Today I ran into my new friend Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep and the adorable Jaleh from my nearest yarn shop. If you’re there over the weekend, let me know — I’m doing this all alone!