Stitches West 2009 was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center last week, so I made a trip there on Friday, February 27. Last year, on three trains (BART and CalTrain and light rail), I knitted the whole way, making the journey enjoyable. This year, I decided to drive. I didn't have much time to shop, so I wanted to make it there quickly.
When I arrived at the Santa Clara Convention Center, I made a right turn into the parking garage. A flagman waved me around a corner, then another flagman, then another, until I was outside the structure facing Great America Parkway where I had entered. No flagman. I looked around and didn't see any signs or directions, so I zipped around back into the garage, and drove through the little maze again, waved through by several people dressed in yellow. I got to the last flagman, who again pointed toward the street exit.
"Has no one left?" I asked.
"No, they're going to be here all day," he said.
"So, where do I park?"
"Go across the street, " he mumbled, "someone will show you."
I zigzagged out to the curb and, again, found no one to direct me. I was about to circle around again, when I looked a half block down and across the street and saw many cars parked in a dirt lot. I had come too late in the day, and now I would have to park the Mini in the dirt. (Muffled expletive.) I drove across all the lanes of traffic over to the left turn lane and went into the overflow parking lot. I told the guard that no one was outside of the garage at the curb to direct me across the street. He smiled and said he'd get someone out there by the street. I felt somewhat satisfied. Later on, I didn't see anyone out there. Hm. I had the typical thought that if only I could run the world, things would work properly.
At least my preprinted ticket worked like a charm -- no waiting in line. My secret was to use the $2 off coupon I found and print the ticket online before I left the house.
The market seemed a little bit smaller this year, maybe just a tad more condensed than last year. Fewer vendors? Maybe so. I didn't count them. But it felt just as crowded as last year. I bumped at least as many elbows and skirted the same number of aisle collisions as last year.
Red Fish Dye Works made the list of hot stops on my Stitches yarn tour. They have an online presence, but trust me, the elation of being in the presence of all that color must be experienced firsthand. Red Fish is a small dye shop in Acton, CA. They attend Stitches every year. This year, I indulged my desire for color with a capital "C" and bought some deliciously dyed silks in the superfine cobweb weight of 2/60. I know, I know -- I must be crazy. Crazy in love with beautiful silk yarn! I couldn't help myself. I've long been a fan of knitting lace with silk yarn. I made the Swallowtail Shawl with Kaalund Silk and the Gracie Shawl with Schaefer's Andrea.
I dropped by Galina Khmeleva's booth, Skaska Designs, and picked up her Design Collection of Three Orenburg Shawls to Knit. She was signing books at the time, so I asked her to sign mine, and she did so in Russian. Afterwards, she kissed the man sitting behind the table taking credit cards.
I said, "That's good pay!"
He laughed and said, "That's about all I get!"
Galina's designs preserve the Orenburg tradition, and this book includes three patterns with charted and written instructions.
I was happy to see many of the vendors I saw before, and a few new ones. I popped in to the KnitWhits booth to see Tina and her mom, and I picked up a kit for making these adorable Elfin booties. The kit comes with the non-skid sole fabric to cut and sew in place. Nice detail! Of course, Tina's patterns and kits are wonderful. I've made some of her socks and hats as store samples, so I'm a bit biased. However, I can tell you that working on her patterns is always fun. The techniques are explained well, and you don't feel like you're out in the woods without a flashlight. Plus, Tina is very accessible to answer questions.
I also stopped by Carolina Homespun and found Morgaine and Jane hard at work. I didn't see Nina, who was out for lunch. They always have the coolest new gadgets at Carolina; whether it's a yarn meter, a swift, or wool wash, you can get it from Morgaine. Nice spindles, too! I got my first spindle from Carolina Homespun, a real beauty in exotic wood made by Adam at Mielke's Fiber Arts. Morgaine gave me a quick lesson and put together a nice beginner spinner kit so I was all set.
To be perfectly frank, I was ... excited ... to find this highlighter tape from Chappy's Fiber Arts and Crafts. I got two rolls, one in purple in and one in green. For years, I've been using Post-It notes to mark my place on lace charts. I had heard about the highlighter tape but had never found it in a store or online. Chappy has a website and also sells on eBay.
The great thing about highlighter tape is that it's semi-transparent, so you can place the tape anywhere on your chart and read the previous row as well as the current row. With Post-Its, I was always looking to see what was underneath. Also, Post-Its lose their stickum after moving them over and over again, so you have to keep replacing them. The tape seems to have a longer life.
You should have seen my face when I came across it. It was like I had discovered gold in my backyard.
" ... The tape ... you have THE TAPE!"
"Yes, and we have it in several colors. It's one of my best sellers. What colors would you like?"
" ... I can't believe I'm seeing it ... I've never seen it in person before ... "
"We have it in purple, green, orange, yellow ... "
"You have the TAPE!"
"Yes. I have it. What colors would you like?"
She must have thought I was nuts.
At Discontinued Brand Name Yarns, I picked up a couple of Suri alpaca beauties. These colors are Misty Moor and Old Rose.
I like Suri alpaca yarn for it's shine and strength.
Most alpaca fiber comes from Huacaya alpacas. Huacayas are the soft woolly alpacas that you see most often. The Suris are more rare and have longer locks, which are more shiny and slippery, and slightly curly. Most Suri yarn is blended with another fiber like wool, silk or cotton. This Cherry Tree Hill yarn is 100% Suri.
I was on my way out the door, feeling pretty good about my judicious purchases, when I spotted Yarn Place. I've purchased their yarn Gentle in the past at Lacis in Berkeley. This time I was in Yarn Place heaven, with all their beautiful yarns surrounding me. So what did I buy? Why, Heaven, of course. Heaven is their cobweb weight 45% tencel and 55% merino in hanks of 3100 yards, 120 grams. And the colors are insanely beautiful. This deep teal and rich charcoal were impossible for me to resist.
It may end up becoming this Jojoland swirl shawl that enchanted many knitters and was seen in a few booths around the floor.
Considering the number of people shopping (and buying), the recession did not seem to dominate the minds of this year's Stitches attendees. In fact, at least a couple of vendors I spoke to said this year's Market was a positive and enriching experience, both in sales and in the unwavering exuberance of knitters.
Stitches lives on!