Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Surviving Stitches West 2010

I’ve attended enough times to know that I must psychologically and physically prepare for the ordeal that is Stitches West, the annual knitapalooza event produced by XRX (the Knitting Universe) and held locally at the Santa Clara Convention Center for the last few years.

Classes are held behind curtains in various areas around the perimeter of the Stitches Market. The Market, however, is what draws me each year. Market vendors number nearly 200 and their wares comprise an overwhelming, wondrous mix of yarns, needles, notions, books, software, spinning accoutrements, and things you never knew existed.

A few truths about Stitches West:

Theorem #1:
You will see and/or meet a famous, or nearly famous, designer or knitting luminary at Stitches West.

Besides the goods, you’ll find the knitting glitterati – authors, teachers, artists, icons, movers and shakers of the knitting world – wandering about unawares. Yes, you can assault them with your praise, questions and complaints, if you’re not standing there awestruck and silent.

Remember the scene from the movie West Side Story when Tony first sees Maria in clear Technicolor at the dance, and everyone else is blurry? That’s sort of how it feels the first time you see Eugen Beugler, or Anna Zilboorg, or (insert name of favorite designer) wandering around with the regular people.

My advice to you is to prepare a few questions ahead of your trip, so that you won’t find yourself face-to-face with your favorite designer with nothing to say but: “You’re amazing … I … uh … love you” … followed by the blue-blazered security guards promptly carting you off to the stalker holding cell to await the authorities.

“She didn’t have a handstamp, and she said ‘I love you’ to
Galina. You just don’t do that.”

At least, when I met Gracie Larson from the
Lacy Knitters Guild of Mountain View, I was able to discuss Marguerite Shimmons’ doilies. Whew.

Theorem #2:
Preparation is necessary and manifold.

The night before the trip to Santa Clara, I ritually gather the following items:

BAWDies badge and traditional purple ribbon – identifying me as a member of the Bay Area Wool Divas – my SF knitting group

ACKD badge – identifying me as a member of Adult Children with Knitting Disorders – my San Bruno knitting group

TKGA pin – identifying me as a member of The Knitting Guild of America

“Knitting takes lots of balls” pin – because it does, and you never have enough

Ravelry badge – bearing my Ravelry handle: OceanKnitter

Stitches Market ticket – purchased online and printed hastily at work the day before (get the coupon from Knitting Universe for $2 off admission)

Directions to Santa Clara Convention Center – because no matter how many times I’ve been there, I forget which way to turn in Santa Clara

Bottle of water and a snack – because the food and beverages sold in the Convention Center are not worth the price

Compact rain jacket – because it always rains on the day I go to Stitches West (guaranteed)

Money – because some vendors only take cash

Credit cards – because I need to buy things (many)

Cell phone – because there are no pay phones in the Convention Center or the adjacent Hyatt hotel, and your friends may be in classes and not around to loan you theirs, and then you will have to walk out to your car, across a busy street, in the pouring rain, to look for your cell phone which you forgot you left at home on the kitchen table (I found this out the hard way)

Theorem #3:
It is wise to shower, wash your hair, and move the car from the garage into the driveway the night before attending Stitches West.

On the morning of Stitches, I awoke to a brown-out in Pacifica. The lights were dimmed and brown, and I could not turn on any appliances. This was a strange event, one I had never experienced in my home. I could not make a piece of toast or fry an egg – my breakfast had been planned the night before, of course. Instead, I had cold cereal. I waited a half an hour for full power to return. No luck.

Oh well, I decided to get ready using the limited lighting. I took a shower and brushed my teeth. I did not have enough power for my hairdryer. I continued to reason Pollyannaishly. That’s okay; I’ll just be a curly girl today.

Then I remembered: the garage door. The lights were still browned out, and the garage door would not open. I had never pulled the red emergency ripcord before to open the door manually. In the garage, I stood on a stepstool and attempted to read the instructions on the red tag attached to the ripcord.

I then anticipated what would happen once the garage door was open. I would have to pull it down. AHA! Why didn’t the tag say to attach a rope or some apparatus to the garage door handles so that a shorter person can reach said handles to return the door to the lowered position? I got a belt from my husband’s closet and attached it to the handle. There, I was ready.

And I did it. I moved the car outside, noting the cold and fierce wind, and smiled at my ingenuity. I lowered the door, but it was not locked. Why didn’t the tag say it wouldn’t lock until the cord was reattached?? I retrieved the stepstool and after a minute or two figured out how to reattach the cord.

Whew. What a relief.

Ten minutes later, the power came back on.

Theorem #4:
It will rain at least one day at Stitches West.

It did rain, and I was prepared with a tightly rolled rainproof jacket in my totebag. (See preparation list in Theorem #2 and note fierce, cold wind mentioned in Theorem #3.)

Theorem #5:
You will find many exciting things at Stitches West Market.

What you’ve been waiting for … the LOOT!

I finally found some yarn to finish up the Spring Blossoms Shawl. What do you think? It matches well, doesn’t it? I’m crossing my fingers.

This lovely Pygora (goat)/Merino is from Humanity Handspun. Five dollars of every purchase goes to charity (this time to Haiti). The stuff is magically soft and evenly spun. I’m in love with the stuff.

These circulars from Deborah Doyle of Asciano Fiber Arts Tools in Sausalito are, by far, the most wonderful circulars I’ve ever seen or owned. The photos are not yet on her website, but you can see them right here. The cord is pliable and soft, and the wooden needles seem to flow right out of the ends – no sticky, jaggy spots. Her website describes the cord:

“… these will not kink dervishly – they lie quietly at all times like exhausted puppies …”
The wood is renewable cocobolo – Central American non-rainforest rosewood that is very hard. She has two tips: regular and lace. I got the smallest size (3) and the nice sharp lace tips. The wood is not oiled, lacquered or varnished. Pricey, but absolutely worth it. If one breaks during normal use, she will replace it.

The little doily-starter needles are from Ellen’s Half-Pint Farm and are called “Darn Pretty Needles” – I think that’s about right. They are US0 and perfect for starting all those lace tablecloths and doilies.

Last but not least, I purchased the Intwined Pattern Studio software so that I can start making my own charts. In the past, I’ve always used Excel with a knitting symbol font. This is so much better. I tested it at the show, and was quite impressed.

See you all next year at Stitches!


Michael said...

Who makes the intwined software and where can I purchase it (preferably online)?

Mereknits said...

Have fun, I wish I could be there. I have never been to Stitches but would love to. Good luck, and hope it doesn't rain.

OceanKnitter said...


Intwined may be found at:

I've just started exploring all the possibilities with this software, and it's really well designed. I'll try to post a review of it later on.


KnitNana said...

I have not laughed as well in a bit. What a great rundown/warning post!
Those needles are intriguing!!