The ramblings of a working, knitting, writing wife and mother.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Things That I Saw At the Knitting Convention

Vogue Knitting Pasadena 2016

When last we checked in with our wool-obsessed heroine, she was staying up way too late trying to figure out what she should bring to the knitting convention.

Hmm? Knitting convention? Oh, you mean where you take your cup of tea to the bit of closet you have set aside for that Rubbermaid container full of yarn and sort through it, right? Taking stock of what you have and perhaps seeking out that one ball of pink sport weight to knit your toddler a hat? That’s a knitting convention?

No, sweet soul, that’s something else. I mean a full on, three-day, have to buy tickets in advance knitting convention. Now pick your jaw up off the floor. If there can be such a thing a toy train conventions and cat shows popping up consistently at my local mason lodge, there can definitely be such a thing as a knitting convention. I even go one step more and tell you that it was a Crowded Knitting Convention.

I went last year for the very first time. I took a class on how to cut steeks, how to sew in zippers, and a little workshop where we knit a little dragon and learned all sorts of interesting and helpful toy making tips. This year when I looked over the class schedule, there weren’t any that really jumped at me (plus my knitting budget is a little tighter this year). Mostly this year I wanted to spend an entire Saturday wandering around the Marketplace.

My original plan was to leave early in the morning, stop by the Pasadena Central Library for a book I wanted to read, then get to the convention site and knit until the marketplace opened at 10 am. Because it’s fun to get there early and watch the knitters trickle in from where ever knitters come from (there are so many, it’s kind of interesting that I never spot one in the wild), all wearing the most amazing things even though it is May in Pasadena and much too hot for them to be wearing them. Then I would wander happily around, taking breaks to just sit and knit and watch other shoppers, all the way until closing time at 6 pm.

Because, you see, my Saturdays are structured most of the time. T-ball, menu planning, grocery shopping, library, cat boxes and rat cages, vacuuming, sheet washing, and all of it done without spousal support because he’s usually at a training or something. So the idea of spending a Saturday just sitting in a random spot at the convention center, not doing anything at all but knitting and watching other knitters buy yarn, is just the sort of delicious treat that I had been coveting and dreaming about for a long time.

However, my plan didn’t go quite as it should. Because I know the deep struggle of keeping it all together on a Saturday by myself, I had a wrench of guilt leaving my husband that morning with a conflict of time. T-ball goes from 9 – 10:30 am. Ducky needs to be at his office at 10. Despite my ample warning time, he had not been able to find a solution to this issue, and I felt a twinge of marital responsibility to not abandon him. So I stayed home when I wanted to be leaving. Ducky took Meridy with him to the search and rescue station for his mandatory duty crew truck check. I took Ezri to the grocery store and bought peaches, pop, and peanut butter, then trucked her down to T-ball at 9. I watched her play – my favorite was the time she hit the foul ball and it landed perfectly in one of the batting helmets left upside down on the sidelines. Then we walked home and I quick as anything put together three lunches (one for Meridy, one for Ezri, and one for me), threw three knitting projects, my lunch, a soda, my wallet and phone, and my most important wrist band that would allow me into the convention into a pink rolling suitcase, and we were off.

I dropped Ezri off at Ducky’s office with their lunches, kissed my husband good-bye, and gleefully got back into the car, by myself, to drive to the convention center. I missed out on the first two hours and the library, but I did get to make Ducky’s life a little easier, and honestly, I knew I wouldn’t really need eight full hours of shopping. It was a healthy compromise.

The best part of a knitting convention is seeing that even though knitting is a rather solitary activity, I have a lot of spiritual friends who have very similar feelings toward sticks and string. We are an entire culture. It’s like being a member of a secret club – we know we’re out there, but it’s only in times like this, in places like this, where we can really pull all our dorkiness out into the open and have everyone else accept and cherish it.

That’s why it was cool when I chased down Wendy. I don’t know Wendy. I’ve never seen her before. But she was wearing an awesome jacket and I just had to have a picture of it. And not only did she not call the police on the strange, pregnant woman running her down to ask about her jacket, she seemed genuinely happy that someone had noticed her hard work and craftsmanship.

See what I mean? Great jacket. Too hot to wear it, but I’m glad Wendy decided to suffer a little so I could enjoy her awesome stitching. There was neat stuff like that all over.

At the marketplace, I got to see that there are knitters out there who have more time than I do for getting all creative.

There are crafters who have huge visions and make art.

And there is yarn for sale for knitters who take their knitting to the edge.

The Marketplace for this convention isn’t the biggest one around. I think that’s a good thing. Even in this small setting, I still needed a sort of grounding point. I walked into the show area with a couple ideas on what I wanted to come home with, a firm budget, and a few rules. The budget I’ll keep secret so you’ll all still think of me as a person of reason and restraint. As for the rest:
1.     I wanted a color gradient set with six colors, approximately 120 yards of yarn each
2.     I wanted to find the super soft organic cotton baby sets from last year that I regret not buying

1.     I would not purchase any yarn that I already own
2.     I would not purchase any yarn that I already have easy access to
3.     I would not purchase any yarn from any booth until I had already walked through the entire Marketplace
4.     I would not purchase yarn unless I had visited it more than once and had a sit down with my knitting to think about whether I really wanted it or not
5.     I would not go over my budget
6.     I would only buy yarn that had a definite use or pattern already in mind. I don’t want orphaned skeins all over my house that are heart-breakingly pretty, but useless as I search fruitlessly for a pattern that will capture their true potential. This is crippling, and I’m not doing it this year
7.     I will not touch horribly expensive fibers if I don’t have any intention of buying them. I will keep my hands to myself in the presence of cashmere, silk, and alpaca. If I see angora anything, I will avert my eyes and go in another direction

Rules and wants securely in place, I began winding my way up and down the booths. I saw knitting bags, gorgeous ceramic bowls to hold your balls of yarn as you knit. I walked past Twinkie-chan (she’s a person) giving a crocheting demonstration in one corner, surrounded by nodding enthusiasts and a very bemused looking cameraman. I saw oodles of trays of gorgeous buttons.

I noticed pretty quickly that super bulky yarn is really in this year. I can see the appeal of the biggest, coziest afghan in the world, and I know there’s a lady selling them on etsy for hundreds of dollars a piece, but I just can’t wrap my head around it. I’m not saying it’s not cool, but I have no use for it and no desire to try it. Knitting for me needs to be portable and there’s no way I’m carting around a ball of yarn like this:

and knitting needles like this

So I can knit up a square that will be heavier than one of my kids. I saw plenty of other knitters carting around big bales of yarn on their backs, though, so apparently I’m in the minority on this one.

I visited the Habu Textiles booth

Don’t you love it? Isn’t it pretty? I heard Habu once described as being the Matrix wardrobe of knitted stuff.  All their designs have this post-apocalyptic feel to them, mesh-like, drapey, monochromatic colors. Very Matrix. What you can’t see from this picture is that their yarn is a blend of wool and stainless steel, which gives their designs a unique look and texture. It’s cool and all, but again, not something I’m going to spend money on. I walked on.

And had to duck under another camera who was recording the fashion show. Yes, that’s right. There were fashion shows every hour with darling little models wandering up and down the catwalk with the latest in knitwear draped over their tiny shoulders.  Apparently I missed the baby one first thing in the morning. Babies! Wearing itty-bitty knitted baby things. Sigh. Maybe it’s better that I wasn’t there for that one.

I didn’t linger to watch them.  I had other stuff to do. Besides that, while so many crafters were distracted by the show, it meant that they weren’t taking up space in the booths or buying the last of some great kit out from under me. I turned another corner and there was Franklin Habit sitting at a book-signing booth, just sitting there all alone. I paused long enough to tell him that I loved his hat collection. This took him a second to process. He’s used to getting compliments all the time, you see, but mostly about his teaching or his books or his knitting designs. I’m not sure if anyone ever compliments him on his choice of head gear. But it’s true. I love his hats, and it seemed a good opportunity to tell him so. He was very sweet, had the presence of mind to thank me and look pleased, and then someone came with a book they wanted him to sign, so I moved out of the way and up the next aisle.

I visited some more yarn. Yarn that was hung on hooks in great loopy skeins of potential. There were tons of colors and textures, and I loved so much of it. If it had been a kit of some kind, I probably would have been powerless to resist. As it was, it didn’t list a price anywhere on it and there was not a single hint as to what one might do with it, so I took its picture and left it there.

I found a booth specializing in the exotic fiber department. I took this picture, but I did not touch the yarn.

I know what you’re thinking. Yak? Oh yes. It’s so much softer than wool. It does not itch. It does not felt. It’s crazy expensive. To make up for resisting the pull of the yak, I did take one of these guys down to pet for a little while.

These little guys are made from clean, carded alpaca wool, naturally colored. They were so sweet, and it’s just the thing to do with alpaca fiber if you are not a spinner (which I am not). They had more alpaca roving to spin with, but mostly I just fondled the little bears. I may have gone back to this booth and pet the bears many times, but no one will tell you the number of times because I bribed the booth owner into keeping it a secret. I barely made it out of there without one or two of these tucked into my suitcase.

By the time I’d made my way through the whole exhibition hall, I realized that I hadn’t yet spotted the booth for A Wall of Yarn. I’d been told by my knitting teacher just the day before that the dudes who own the Wall of Yarn shop in Freeport, Illinois, had driven themselves across the country for this event. The last time I was in Illinois I stopped by their shop and bought some Fairies and Elves Opal. I was wearing the socks I’d made from one of their skeins.

I turned around for a few minutes, disoriented, until I saw a little corner of the hall, behind the lady at a table doing knitting nail art, that I’d missed in trying to duck around the fashion show set up. A whole corner I hadn’t been to yet, and there they were.

I approached them quietly because I wanted to see what they had first and if I wanted some of it. Because I didn’t want to get into a conversation with them and then drift off into the crowd without giving them at least a little business. Because that’s a long drive, right? That’s also a dangerous way of thinking in a place like this because all these vendors have worked hard to be at this event, paid money to have some space in this room, and if you think the way I was thinking about the Wall of Yarn, my budget was in deep trouble. Still, I tucked myself into the booth while they were attending to another customer.

I shouldn’t have worried so much (but I’m like that). They were sweet guys and their booth was stuffed full of Nordic yarn. Colorwork everywhere. Neat bags put together with breath-taking pictures of the potential awesome inside on the fronts (but no price tags, sneaky yarn guys). And they were running through their inventory at a pretty good clip, to be honest. I followed their conversation to their center table and realized it was piled high with Kauni.

Oh, Kauni. I’ve always wanted to try knitting with it, but somehow it always seemed too hard to obtain or too expensive to mess with and what am I going to make with it anyway? Kauni, for those who don’t know, is a rather rustic wool made in Denmark that has a long color change throughout the skein. The change is so gradual that it’s impossible to tell all the colors included by looking at just the outside of a Kauni ball. But the yarn guys had a plan for that and had helpfully knit up a sample of each of their multitude of colors and had the whole wooly package sitting on the table to paw at and enjoy. I watched someone go through it and then my eyes wandered to the side of the booth where they had hung a shawl. A very Nordic looking shawl. Then I overheard one of them telling another shopper about the kits for that very shawl and how he could put one together for her in a minute from the ingredients on the table. One ball of Kauni. Three balls of a contrasting solid color. You pick.

And that’s when I broke the rule about visiting yarn more than once before buying it. (Does it count that I’ve pined over Kauni online for years?) I spoke with the booth owners, told them who I was and the friends (Hi Audrey! Hi Rachel!) we had in common. They laughed at how many people used to live in and around Freeport that they were meeting today. Then we all looked through the sample packet together until I found my chosen color. EMH (how could I resist a color like that?) All three of us started looking around at the balls of yarn on the table (because it’s not always obvious just by looking at them if it’s the right color or not what with the changing thing going on). We picked balls up that had gray in them, but they weren’t my gray. We looked under balls and on the other side of the table and we started to get a little worried. The yarn guys mentioned that there was a possibility, what with the popularity of the little shawl kit I wanted, that they might be out of that particular color. I wasn’t as worried. There were plenty of other colors I could fall back on, and I’d had a hard time choosing in the first place so having to choose something else wasn’t going to be the end of the world for me just a slight narrowing of my choices (I secretly wanted them ALL).

But then I picked up a ball that was exactly under my hand, without moving an inch, and that was it. The last ball of EMH. Then we all trucked over to the solid contrasts and they even got down on the floor with me to help me choose a good one, plucked three from the shelves, and packaged it all up with the pattern for me.  See?

I said my good-byes, they went to other shoppers, and I teetered out of their booth giddy and dazed, the Kauni mine at last in my suitcase, and the ice broken for the real purchasing of the day to begin. Right, time to hunt some gradients.

For knitting, there are two types of yarn referred to as gradients. The first is when you have one continuous yarn dyed different colors that shifts from one shade to the next. Sometimes the colors are all of one family, say blue, or sometimes it shifts from red to yellow to purple with long stretches of each color flowing one to the next. Kauni is a gradient.

The second kind is a gradient set where you have several smaller skeins, sometimes all shades of the same color, or sometimes complimentary colors, all bagged together because they look nice nestled next to each other. This is a gradient set, and that’s what I was looking for so I could make On the Spice Market – a shawl I’d seen not too long ago that I was getting desperate for. There are kits available online for this shawl, but I wanted to see if I could find one at the marketplace for a little less than what they were being offered for.

I found a very miniature set with the six colors I needed, but not near enough yardage. I should have known that when a package is called Gumballs, that’s not going to be enough yarn. I found some great sets at the Forbidden Woolery that were within my price range, had six colors, but fell just short of the yardage requirements for my shawl.

I didn’t take a picture of the Forbidden Woolery, but I should have. Their yarns were so dusky and dark and jeweled. And they all had great names like Pride, Gluttony, and Lust that makes your yarn habit seem just a tiny bit sinful, but in a surprisingly tasteful way if that makes any sense at all (hint: to most people none of the yarn makes sense. Just go with me). Good marketing, that booth. Pretty yarn. Just not quite what I wanted.

I hauled my rolling suitcase into the Knitting Tree booth that was taking up quite a bit of real estate. I stayed in that booth for a very long time and was very pleased to learn that their actual store is within driving distance to me. I can go back to them whenever I feel the need. The Knitting Tree had gradients and gradient sets, but again falling short of the yardage. I almost bought one anyway – it was so cute. They also had these fantastic tiny skeins called Unicorn Tails from Madelinetosh – beautiful 52-yard skeins of fabulous that probably would have come home with me if they hadn’t been housed right by the cash register and I thought I would be too much in the way of people making their purchases to paw through them the way I wanted to.

The Knitting Tree also had my cotton baby kits! Except, too many people had gotten to them before I did, so there were only a few and they weren’t what I wanted. I remember a pair of pants and a sweater with a tasseled hood being the objects of my desire last year, and there were none of those. I did figure out the name – Appalachian Organic Cotton Baby kits – so now I can track them online and maybe someday even purchase one.

There was a trunk next to the baby kits full of a gradient baby blanket kit. (Is anyone noticing a theme for this year? I might have a gradient fixation.) The sample was delightfully soft, the colors were cute, and I spent quite some time figuring out if I wanted the blue, the gray, or the green. I don’t know how I put them all away and left without them, but I did. They just weren’t quite right for me, and I reminded myself that I had the yarn for my son’s blanket already with me in the suitcase and it was going to be just fine.

I did buy stuff at the Knitting Tree booth, though. Two things. They had a sweater on display that was to die for. I did not buy the yarn to make one, but I did pick up the pattern. It’s knit with about five skeins of Malabrigo, which I do love, but I’ll have to save up for that one and I definitely wasn’t going to pick a color just from the selection they had in the booth. The pattern gives me the power to enhance my color and yarn choices, and it’s going to be great someday. I also picked up a skein of Ancient Fiber Arts yarn from their Meow Collection.

Remember when I knit that realistic looking cat? I knit it from the Tabby Cat color of this Meow Collection, and I had always thought that I might want to knit another one. Well, seeing the Calico in person was enough to remind me that I still was cat-less, and wouldn’t a little sleepy calico look great in my office. I’m rather sad I didn’t get the gray tabby too, but that’s ok. This is yarn I can get anytime, now that I now The Knitting Tree is closeby, and I don’t have to pay shipping, and maybe I can go though their Unicorn Tails the way I want to – slowly and out of the way.

I took my stuff and stood in line to buy them, right behind a woman who was also clutching a skein of Calico. I asked her what she meant to make with hers, and she didn’t have an answer. She just loves calico cats and knew she had to have the yarn. I showed her a picture of Jingga, which she complimented, but feels is beyond her skill level. She thinks she’s just going to make a shawl.

The fashionable man at the cash register looked at my rolling suitcase and told me that was a fantastic idea. He also noticed that it was far from empty and told me I was doing a great job in the shopping department. I thanked him, but refrained from telling him that over half the yarn in the suitcase was stuff I brought from home to work on while I was thinking about buying other stuff. Then I zipped it up and went on my way.

I picked through the items in the Delicious Yarns booth. I love the way they package their kits. Check out this little latte cowl thing:

Their colors are nice, and I like the yarn, but I would not want to make anything with it. I don’t know. It’s too pink and fuzzy? I have no need for cowls? (just huge Nordic shawls – I know, I’m nothing but inconsistent) Whatever the reason, I am pulled to their kits, and then I always leave with nothing from them. But aren’t they just precious?

The next place I spent money was so eye-catching that I almost ran over someone as I walked over to it. It was a moth and flame moment for me; I felt horrible about being so focused on a yarn beacon as to run over innocent passers-by. The only thing going for me was I wasn’t the only one. I’d noticed several collisions already because people are not looking at people, they are totally distracted by the Koigu linen stitch scarf kits or the fashion show or a bag. Not the best way for people to walk who are also carrying pointy sticks, but so far so good that there hadn’t been any injuries.

After making my apologies, I ducked safety into Gecko Yarns where I scooped up the most luscious sock yarn. It was dyed in such a way that when I knit it up, it will make me a pair of watermelon socks. Watermelon Socks! With enough leftover to make a watermelon baby hat. And since I’ve been craving watermelon the most this pregnancy, I have decided that it will be my labor knitting. I always start a pair of socks for myself in something tasty when I’m in labor, and these are just the ticket. This yarn was meant for me, and the dye job is so rich and lovely. And next to the watermelon sock yarn was a delightful little cake full of colors I adore and a pattern suggestion right next to it. Kaleidoscope to make a trendy little scarf – shawlette thing that will only take a minute and will transform me into a creature of fashion and style. I picked the richest color and paid the dyer. Then I carried my little skeins in my hands for a bit because they were just too pretty to zip up into a suitcase. So, so pretty.

Then I walked some more. I visited more gradient sets that were either short an entire color or didn’t have enough yardage or cost more than the original online kit. I had my hands massaged with an aloe sort of lotion that felt wonderful. I had a nasty jolt when I offered the lady my right hand and saw under the bright lights of the marketplace just how many scars I have on that hand. The masseuse didn’t flinch a bit, but I sure did . . . at my own hand, for heaven’s sake.

There were other kits, tons of pretty things, and I had all but given up on the gradient set when I found myself back at the Inner Yarn Zen booth. I’d been there a couple times before, but they had been very crowded and I couldn’t do much more but glance at their stuff before the wave of crafters had pushed me back out into the marketplace sea. This time there was an opening, and I took it. (There are advantages to a huge pregnant belly and a rolling suitcase, just saying.) What was the pull of the Inner Yarn Zen booth?

Mini-skein grab bags for one. Cheap ones too. Little bags full of tiny little skeins of yarn in beautiful colors. I thought about getting one so I could make hexipuffs for my beekeeper’s quilt out of them, or maybe a crazy stripey sock, or maybe just to hang them from a string and keep them forever looking beautiful. But when someone leaned down next to me on the floor so I had to turn my head a bit, I immediately put down the grab bag and snapped up what was next to them.

It’s no secret that I’m a geek of the highest order. It is also well known that I am a big fan of knitting kits. Can’t get enough of them, ever. This bag was labeled Outlander Binge Watcher’s Kit. Now, I don’t watch Outlander, but I have read the books and I did enjoy them. And the colors! They were so pretty and rich and deep. There were six of them. Six mini skeins in beautiful colors, and one huge skein of Parchment nestled in with them. It’s practically a Spice Market kit all by itself and on accident. The only issue, the tiniest issue, is that the mini-skeins are 90 yards, and one of the mini skeins for the Spice Market needs to be 120 yards. I asked the owners what they made with their binge watcher’s kit, as I noted that there is no pattern included. Stephen West’s garter stitch Jag was the answer, so I looked up the pattern on my phone and it’s awesome all by itself.

The Outlander kit was the last thing I bought. I totaled the damage and realized that I was within a dollar of my budget. How about that?! I’m awesome! I took one last tour of the Marketplace, visiting all those things that I had considered before, and turned them all down. Then, content with my purchases, I went outside and tucked myself into the steps to knit for a couple hours before going home.

It was hard temptation not to start the watermelon socks immediately – I even had the needles and the pattern already in my head. But I was a good girl and knit on my son’s baby blanket instead. At various points, knitters would stroll past from the Marketplace building to the classes building, trucking huge bags of yarn and sometimes even those enormous knitting needles. Some of them commented on my choice location. One woman paused to take a video of me knitting on account of I am rather speedy. I finished my soda and ate my sandwich and knit and knit until I remembered the library and the dinner I was supposed to attend that evening.

I made one last stop at the library which was very close to the convention center. I’d never been to this library before, but I’ll definitely return. It’s old fashioned and everything is wood. It’s dark, but not too dark. There are four floors of books and if I had known I would have taken my knitting there for the last several hours of my free Saturday. Perhaps someday I’ll get another. I walked right up to my chosen book, on the fourth floor, checked it out, and made it home right in time to go with my family to dinner.

All in all, I was very pleased with my day. I have great new yarn, all of it already had a pattern, and when I knit it all, I’ll have five (or six with a baby hat) things that will stay with me, and I stayed perfectly within the budget. Great day. Can’t wait for the next one!

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a beautiful, perfect day at the marketplace! Now I want to make that Kauni shawl, too.