I found out about Stitches West last April, shortly after I started knitting. I remember feeling disappointed to have just missed it, but I think the timing was perfect. I can’t imagine going to a knitting convention just after learning to knit, no matter how obsessed one might be. I was pretty excited to attend this year.
My mom and I planned to go together early on. I really enjoy spending time with her on fun things like this. We wanted to attend the Market Preview, and that meant signing up for a class. I think the classes are a great part of Stitches, but it was tough to pick one. I wanted to gain general knowledge that would advance me as a knitter, instead of topic specific knowledge for a single technique. I found it difficult to know where things were going to fall on that spectrum. In hindsight, I think researching instructors more would be valuable for making choices.
The class I registered for had to be canceled, so I made a second selection and took Secrets of the Sleeve Cap with Patty Lyons. I recommend it, but maybe after you’ve taken a class on how to modify sweaters in general. Mom decided to take Nuno-felted Scarf with Judy Pascale. I didn’t see any spinning classes offered. I was really surprised and kinda disappointed by that.
Thursday Night – Market Preview
I dashed off after work to pick Mom up from the airport and drove an additional 40 minutes to Santa Clara. On the car ride down I discovered that my Mom had bested me, for once, on being organized for an event. She had found a map of the market with vendor names instead of just numbers. I had really meant to prioritize which vendors to see since I noticed posts on Instagram announcing booth numbers, but I hadn’t found time to do it after work. I felt like it was all I could do to get us there. (I bet if I spent less time looking at Instagram I would have made it happen.)
We showed up and walked in, ignoring the need for dinner. The place is huge and I was dazed. We had no objective, so I mentioned wanting to see YOTH at some point and we decided to aim for the back corner of the market. I was debating with Mom about calling it “yoth” or “yarn on the house” when we saw that there was a line wrapped around the place. I remember thinking, “I had no idea I had such great taste in yarn.” Trying to get through the line to see what they had was crazy, but everyone was nice and in good spirits.
At this stage I still had some restraint. A few of the colorways really caught my eye, but I wasn’t sure of what I would make with them or how much I should buy. I also felt like I could find yarn from them when I was ready to make the project that I wanted their yarn for. It was great to see it in person, and now that I look I don’t see as much listed on their webpage, so maybe I’ll think differently about it in the future. Mom found some vibrant greens an blues she couldn’t live without and she scored a cool tote bag while supporting the shop. I think we were about an hour in at that point.
As we wondered back, still not knowing where we were going, we passed by Miss Babs. They had quite the line as well, but I’ve seen Miss Babs mentioned more often so it didn’t take me by surprise. Mom stopped long enough for me to catch sight of the Biker Chick colorway (pictured left). It immediately reminded me of Tin Shed from LITLG, which I wish for to this day. As I held the massive 4-ply fingering hank in my hands a gentleman stopped to say it was a captivating colorway. He’d been eyeing it all night. He must of been a plant, because I decided right then and there to buy it out from under him and not feel a lick of remorse for it. All of my supposed wisdom and restraint had flown out the window.
Friday – Classes and Fashion Show
I liked my class, Secrets of the Sleeve Cap. I have knit one sweater so far, and failed at it, in particular the sleeve cap. I was in the process of knitting this sweater when I was notified of needing to select a new class. By that time, I was looking at the offerings in a whole new light and decided to learn more about sweaters.
After dissecting sleeve caps for 3 hours, I felt like I had gained an understanding of what a sleeve cap is and how it works. I also gained tools and references for how to design or alter sleeve caps when I’m ready. Patty has a lot of energy, and I’ll definitely check out some of her other classes in the future. I’m still learning general sweater construction, but I’ve got the sense that if you can make your way around a sleeve cap you can have complete control of modifying and constructing the sweater. I’m glad I found a class that will enable me to be a better knitter overall, even if I took it a little too early.
My mom enjoyed her class and her instructor, Judy Pascale. Judy was mentioning that it took a while to get the felting class offered at Stitches, but it’s been sold out since. It’s not for the faint of heart. Apparently there was water everywhere and you are standing and mashing most of the day to felt the scarf, but you do walk away with the product of your efforts. Again, Mom was happy she took it.
The Friday night fashion show was interesting, and it was the most at-a-yarn-convention experience of my weekend. It was comprised of the samples from the vendors being modeled live, with plenty of funny moments. Both of us felt like it was worth seeing, once. There’s also the unofficial fashion show of all the knitted things we wear. Both shows were impressive.
Saturday – Market Fan Moments
I was really excited that Hanna Fettig was going to be around because I had just been listening to Knit.FM and really appreciated her take on knitting and advancing the community of knitters. I also knew that a troupe of my local vendors would be around.
I hadn’t realized Dandoh would also have a booth. I found out about Dandoh when my mom picked up some cotton tape in a deep teal as a surprise for me from Vogue Knitting Live. I looked up what to make with it on Ravelry and discovered Yumiko’s designs. I love them. I bought an ebook and some pretty scissors. She complemented me on the color choice in my shawl. I thanked her for the complement and went on my way. It was so cool to have met her, why didn’t I get a hard copy of the book and have her sign it?! I went back to at least get a photo with her. She was really nice and willing to oblige.
I had my Home and Away signed on Saturday morning by Hanna. Also really cool to meet her and thank her for the work she’s done, because I don’t know how often we would cross paths being on opposite coasts. I was also beyond excited to see that she had a basket of buttons! I asked if she was selling them and she said I could take one. I took two and then realized an hour later that I was being greedy. Facepalm. I’ll just have to buy another one of her books soon to even out my karma. Did I think to take a picture with her? No. I blame the buttons. They distracted me.
I did make sure to stop by and say hi to Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep. She was the first fiber famous person I met, and I really enjoy her. I’d say we’re officially acquaintances now, as it’s the third time I’ve bumped into her. I saw Brooke the first time at Lambtown in October. It happened to be just after I caught her on the Woolful podcast and I decided to interview her for a personal project to get a local view of fiber. I suggest you take any opportunity you have to stop and chat with her. I’ll ask her what I think is a small question and get back an amazingly rich and articulate answer. I took a drop spindle class with her at Verb, and two of us were really interested in all of the theory and sheep breed information. I decided to hold back from asking more questions so that we all could keep learning how to drop spindle.
I also ran into Cecelia Campochiaro. I’ve mentioned before that she’s influenced me to be more mindful of my knitting, and that’s something I’m really interested in at the moment. She was very busy in the Ito booth, which is always good to see. I’m glad I waited it out to connect with her for a moment and thank her in person.
I wanted to diversify my stash and find yarns for my swatch projects this year. I was hoping to see more mini skein sets than I did. I also saw lots and lots of superwash from the hand dyers. I went by booths from dyers I’ve seen on Instagram and Ravelry to ask if anything was not superwash, but often the answer was no. Part of the reason for that is how superwash takes dye, but I think the fact that plenty of people are happy to buy superwash is what prevents the development of unique dye techniques in regular wool. I too bought superwash at Stitches, and it was the color that drew me in. There were also a few blends with yak, and that is a new fiber for me. I don’t know if I’ll notice the yak, but I wanted to try it out.
I did make a point to buy non-superwash yarn as well, and Quince does have the rust color I’ve been so in love with lately. Green Mountain Spinnery was one of my favorite booths. All the yarn looked so beautiful and authentic. Had I found their booth earlier, I may have spent more of my money there. The three yarns on the left are my non-superwash purchases, with a hank from Green Mountain on the top. The mini skein sets are superwash with one being 100% American made yarn, and the Habu on the bottom right is rayon.
The Habu Textiles booth was very fascinating. The yarn is very beautiful, and much of it is not wool. It was exciting to see other fiber types and it spoke to my goal for variety. I got some sample packs and a few hanks of rayon. I didn’t really know what rayon was, so I looked it up afterwords. I don’t see myself buying rayon again. Learning experience.
I did buy more than I needed, but I think I will enjoy these purchases for a while to come. I think I would have bought less if I didn’t make as many trips to the market. I learned a lot from the whole experience of being there for 3 days and going overboard. I can’t argue against the Middle Way, but sometimes I don’t know where the path is until I’ve definitely gone off it.
I fell into this trap of thinking that expanding my stash counted as expanding my knitting. I did have knitting goals in mind, but clearly purchasing yarn isn’t knitting yarn. Still, I bet I’m not the only one who’s conflated these two ideas. Since I’ve started this hobby my head has been way ahead of my hands. There is so much information available to consume that I get a little lost in it, again thinking that cognitive learning counts as tactile learning.
Now that I’ve swung back from the experience of Stitches, I’m feeling much more focused on doing instead of planning. I started out wanting to make something great every time, but now I’ve accepted the only way to make great things is to start with making okay things. I’m not as afraid to use the yarn I’ve got for that, because let’s face it, I’ve got plenty of it.