Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stitches West 2007: Yarn-o-rama

I've just begun to recover from my visit to Stitches West 2007, the biggest knitting conference on the West Coast. The event was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, as it was last year.

Taking Caltrain from Millbrae to Mountain View, and then the VTA Light Rail from Mountain View to the Santa Clara Convention Center could not have been simpler. The trip was only about 45 minutes each way. The VTA stops directly across the street from the convention center.

I remembered to print out my Market pass before I left home, so I didn't have to stand in line with about 50 other people waiting to purchase tickets. Inside, I felt the familiar trepidation, disorientation and excitement of previous years. The crowds can feel somewhat oppressive, especially near the front doors and at certain popular booths.

In addition to the regular door prize drawings, a Grand Prize drawing would be held on Sunday. Golden tickets awarded by vendors allowed one entry per purchase.

The first booth that caught my attention was
Skacel. I had been reading about the new Addi Lace needles and was pleased to see some samples right there on the table. The needles are hollow brass, with longer-than-average tapers. The points are extremely sharp, perfect for lace knitting. The reddish cable felt similar to Addi Turbo, and the rep said it was the same material. The joins were very smooth. Cable length ranged from 24" to 47". Two vendors at Stitches were the first to receive the Addi Lace needles: The Yarn Lady and Yarn Barn of Kansas. I found that The Yarn Lady does have them listed on their website; but Yarn Barn does not at this time.

These needles came about because a certain blogger made a suggestion to Skacel and then spread the word! Thousands of fervent letters were sent to Skacel, and these new needles are the result of the campaign. Thanks,

The bigger vendors like Yarn Barn, The Yarn Lady, Webs, and others took up huge booth spaces, and the lines for purchasing were long on Friday morning. By the afternoon, the crowds had dwindled.

Some of my favorite booths included Just Our Yarn and Tess Designer Yarns. Just Our Yarn dyes small batches of tencel, wool, camel down, and other lovely yarns. And Tess is well-known to Stitches attendees. Her booth was packed with people. The hand-dyed colors were gorgeous and the cashmere was the most lovely I had touched or seen at the show.

I made my usual stop at the Interlacements booth. I believe that big guy wearing the jester's hat was Judy's son Clay, who was helping customers. I picked up three different hand-dyed yarns for $20 each. In the photo, from left to right:

Dyer's Choice - 93% mohair, 5% nylon, laceweight boucle

Oregon Worsted II - 100% merino wool, worsted weight

Dyer's Choice - 100% silk, sport weight

I also bought some rosewood Holz & Stein needles for the first time. These needles are made from wood derived from the musical instrument industry, and they are beauties. Yarn Barn of Kansas had just a few pairs hanging on a rack with Suzanne's ebony needles. (I've also seen Holz & Stein needles listed at Catherine Knits online, although the shipments are few and far between. If she has some listed, you should call to check availability and to order.) In addition, Yarn Barn carried the super-fine 5-0 lace needles from Lacis. Lacis is only a short BART ride away in Berkeley, but I never seem to get over there. Into the shopping bag they went. Those two balls of wool are from JoJoland - it's 100% merino wool, fine laceweight. I noticed other vendors selling this wool with their own shop labels on it. I was curious about this "generic" wool, so I took a chance and bought it. When I have some experience using it, I'll report.

Shopping was just one enjoyable part of the Stitches experience. I was able to meet several designers and vendors. I saw again Cheryl Oberle, author of
Folk Shawls, one of my favorite shawl design books. I also saw again Ann and Eugene Bourgeois of Philosopher's Wool, whose two-handed fair isle technique I learned from their excellent video.

The biggest buzz was that Jane Sowerby, author of the new book
Victorian Lace Today, was giving a talk, hosting a fashion review based on the book, and signing books at various times throughout the conference.

My most memorable experience, though, was meeting Eugen Beugler. I have seen several of his designs, including the
Frost Flowers and Leaves shawl from the book A Gathering of Lace and the Spring Blossoms shawl. He is a regular member of the Lacy Knitters Guild and has attended Stitches in the past. This year, he was featured in the demo area, answering questions about lace knitting and showing some of his beautiful work. I was stunned by the lovely Herbert Niebling tablecloth he presented called Anemone. I have yet to find a photo of the pattern online. Mr. Beugler is 83-years-young, and as charming as his pal Lew, also of the Lacy Knitters Guild.

One of Mr. Beugler's patterns that I intend to knit is the Theatrical Lace shawl (pictured in purple, below) from the Best of Knitters Shawls and Scarves. Thanks to my knitting pal Nina, I am now the proud owner of this book filled with amazing lace patterns.


KnitNana said...

That's some haul! Can't wait to hear what you think of the Addi Lace Needles...I'm such a fan of bamboo (love their Naturas). Wish I could have joined you there!

knitseashore said...

Thank you for your detailed review of Stitches West! I'm envious that you met Eugene Beugler. I spent a lot of time with his "Lace Dream" stole last summer (from the book you have in the photo), and I am curious about him. He is so talented.

Eva said...

Has anyone out there actually knitted Eugen Beugler's Theatrical Lace stole out of the Shawls and Scarves book? I have restarted this multiple times now, and cannot seem to make the numbers come out right. Are there any errors in the pattern count? Usually I am a pretty good knitter, and this is getting pretty darn frustrating. I am about ready to give up! Would appreciate some thoughts. Thanks~ Eva

OceanKnitter said...

Hi Eva,
I do have Theatrical Lace on my endless to-do list. Sorry to say I haven't made this one yet. Errata on XRX books can be found here:
Good luck!