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.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gracie Shawl ... and more yarn

I wasn't going to buy any new yarn before Stitches West, the knitting convention at the Santa Clara Convention Center on February 22-25, 2007. But ... the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

After fondling Schaefer's Andrea 100% silk at my
LYS on several visits, I was smitten enough to take some home. It was truly love at first sight. Schaefer's saturated colors are intense in silk, and somewhat antagonistic.

Knit lace with space-dyed yarn? How dare you! Most lace knitters know that a lace pattern can look muddled when using variegated yarn. Why knit a complex pattern of holes with a yarn that doesn't show off the design?

I am daring to knit the Gracie Shawl, a Faroese shawl pattern from Stahman's Shawls and Scarves, by Myrna Stahman. The lace pattern is repetitive and somewhat geometric. I think it is enhanced by the lovely color changes in the yarn.

Andrea comes in a variety of handpainted color combinations, all named for "Memorable Women." The colorway I'm using is "Elena Piscopia." Schaefer's Andrea is 100% silk, 3.5 oz and 1093 yards. The gauge is 8 sts to the inch in stockinette.

Elena Piscopia 1646-1684

Elena Piscopia was born into a Roman family whose ancestors included cardinals and popes. She was recognized as a prodigy by the age of seven and spoke seven languages, played several instruments and composed music by the time she was seventeen. Her father refused to allow her to enter the Benedictine Order, for which she had secretly prepared, and instead she became the first woman to study theology at the University of Padua and the first woman to earn a doctoral degree. She taught mathematics at the university for the rest of her life, yet it would be over 300 years before another woman earned a doctorate there. Her achievement is honored by a marble statue in Padua and a stained glass window at Vassar College in New York.

Now, I have three shawls on the needles: Shirley Paden's Shetland Lace Shawl, the Gracie Shawl, and a sample crochet cape for Kristin Omdahl's line. You would think that I have enough in progress, and that I don't need to buy even more laceweight yarn.

Colourmart has been calling my name for many moons. This yarn vendor on eBay sells mainly cashmere remainder yarns from Italian and Scottish mills.

I saw one that I simply had to try, and the price was right. I won this lovely red cashmere/merino/viscose blend for only $11.00. The weight is very light, even lighter than Andrea, and similar to the weight of the black wool I'm using for the Shetland Lace Shawl.

I don't yet know what this is going to be, but it deserves to be something beautiful. Maybe the Paisley Long Shawl from Fiddlesticks.