It finally arrived – the trip we had been planning for over a year – a journey to Santa Clara, California. It was the year of Noelle’s 50th birthday and her wish was for us all in the knitting group to go to Stitches West (there is a Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg, but apparently Stitches West is the mecca of knitters). Unfortunately it didn’t work out for all of us – but 4 of us set out on a cold Thursday in February (as a snowstorm was rolling in).
The flight was extremely crowded because the entire UIC Flames baseball team was also traveling to Santa Clara (too cold to play in the Midwest in February). The boys were so cute and polite. We kept mentioning that we had daughters their age that they should meet. I’m sure they thought we were all just creepy.
We finally arrived at the Santa Clara convention center and hotel.
We quickly unpacked and then went outside to get a little sun. It was only 55 degrees, but felt so wonderful.
After a quick drink we headed to “The Market”. Thursday night was reserved for conference participants and we were to get a special preview.
I have been to one previous market, so I knew a little about what to expect. This market, however, was enormous. I could not even take it all in. We started in the back and started walking up and down the rows. All the yarn looked so beautiful. Everyone was touching yarn and oohing and ahhing.
Our first serious stop was in this booth:
This was hand dyed and so soft. I did not come prepared. I had no idea what I wanted to buy or make. I just selected two colors I loved and bought them. Then the knitters pointed out that I bought lace weight (needs small needles). I waited in line again and swapped for thicker yarn. I plan to make a cowl.
One reason the market is visually overwhelming is that the yarns, the sample garments, the shoppers and the vendors are all swathed in rainbows.
It all becomes a bit of sensory overload. I think this woman’s hair was even made of yarn:
There was a man dressed as wizard (could have been a woman) but I was not able to get a good pic.
The classes started on Friday. Noelle and I set off to an all-day weaving class. Tracy took Latvian stitches and Mary Ellen took something with granny squares and crocheting (she was up late Thursday doing her homework).
I was excited about weaving. As I have a bit of arthritis in my hands I don’t think I’ll be knitting into my old age, but I can see myself weaving.
The class was set up with about 25 small looms. We were going to make a scarf using different types and colors of yarn. We spent the morning picking out our yarns. The teacher walked around and inspected all the yarn we had brought. She quickly rejected all the inappropriate yarns we had and helped us with color and texture. My yarns were pretty boring (gray and purple) so she gave me some bright green and blue to add in.
We threaded our looms.
After lunch we actually did the weaving. I have to say that moving that shuttle back and forth was making me a bit dizzy and was not as relaxing as I thought it would be. I was very clutsy and kept dropping things on the floor. Noelle had to reprimand me for shaking the whole table every time I bent over to retrieve something (pulling my entire loom with me). Noelle is concentrating quite hard on her scarf.
As my woven scarf came off the loom, I quickly realized it was going to be hideous. I walked around and looked at everyone’s scarves. They had some beautiful jewel tones and mine was so dull (what I should have expected with a gray “weft” yarn). I decided to switch to a purple weft yarn. I anticipated a beautiful plaid pattern emerging, and I was sure the teacher would compliment me on my vision. Sadly, it just looked like a mistake. The teacher held it up and said “Hmm, you changed your weft yarn?” “Yes,” I said. “Next time, try not to beat it so hard.” She dropped it on the table and moved on. Beating is how tight you pack the yarn in when you weave. I guess that’s why it is so stiff and wavy instead of soft and drapey. It is not at all what I imagined making. I texted a photo to Husband and he immediately became concerned that I would be returning with an industrial loom.
What I was most surprised about in the class is that knitters are not very friendly or helpful. They are all trying to show off their skills and knowledge and were not too interested in small talk.
Classes ended at 5:00. We hurried back to get ready for the evening activities – the fashion show and banquet. We had a drink in the bar and headed over around 6:15 for a 6:30 show. We were amazed to learn that women had been waiting in line since 4:30. They had dragged chairs over from the classrooms and sat and knit, waiting for the doors to open.
We were obviously then at the back of the line, so we sat in the back of the auditorium.
It was a full house. These women never stop knitting.
We chose drinking over knitting
I must say the fashion show was great. There were about 5 beautiful, tall, thin models who made even the dorkiest hand-knit garments look like high fashion. It was much more interesting than looking at samples on hangers.
After the show we transferred to a banquet room for dinner. Again, we ended up in the back. That was fine. We met some nice librarian knitters at our table. After the meal the emcees began giving out prizes. All of the vendors and yarn companies had donated great door prizes. A long line of “runners” lined up. As each name was called and an excited winner screamed, the runners ran to deliver their prize. About 40 people won prizes and it was getting quite irritating. We got nothing, but still had fun.
Another day of classes. Mary Ellen and I went to learn Scandinavian stitches. Noelle and Tracy went to a lining class (where they were subjected to a shoosher for 3 hours).
This class was great because no one knew what they were doing, so I wasn’t too far behind. We learned how to wind yarn like an old Scandinavian woman and then knit with these twisted stitches, carrying three balls of different colored yarn. We were to knit in the round on a pair of circular needles. Now, I knit in the round all the time – but with a single pair of circular needles. I can never figure out how to do it on two. Somehow, one needle always ends up flying off my work. To make things worse, for some reason I kept knitting but it was not turning out round. I finally had the nerve to show the teacher. She quickly fixed it for me and soon I had an adorable little Scandinavian finger warmer.
At lunch we ran back to the market. We bought some gifts for Sally and Tracey back at home. After the fashion show I had a better idea of what projects I would like to tackle. I bought a kit to make a cardigan with stainless steel blend yarn and some ribbon yarn for a sleeveless sweater. Some samples, however, just looked overwhelming and a little too Maude for me.
My afternoon class was skirt design for all shapes and sizes. They weren’t kidding. This class was chock full of full figures. I have never felt so young and thin in my entire life.
The class was fun. We learned how to design a skirt pattern to fit us perfectly. I do have yarn for this project. We’ll see how this goes.
Mary Ellen took a cable class. I lost track of the others.
That night was the student fashion show. This was absolutely the most bizarre thing I have ever seen in my life. Basically, anyone can participate in this show – you simply fill out a slip with info on your garment and then you walk the runway in your knitwear.
Once again we were in the back. Once again that was a good decision – we had a lovely group of librarians (I sensed a theme here). Here are a few samples of the models and their garments. There was amazing workmanship in many of these.
This was my favorite – the Lord of the Rings shawl. Apparently there is an entire series of these shawls that you can make.
During dinner, the woman across the table asked us to blow out our candle because the scent was bothering her. Now, this was a tiny, little candle inside a glass globe that had no discernible scent to the rest of us, but we complied. After dinner the door prizes started again. They gave away even more than the previous night. The woman at our table with the sensitive nose won something. They gave away $250 knitting bags and beautiful kits. Finally, at the second to the last prize they called my name. I won a kit to make cotton dishrags! It was a crochet kit. I don’t crochet. I tried to give it to Mary Ellen, but she had no interest.
We were thrilled to see a giant bag of door prizes get dropped off at each table. Tracy was put in charge and instructed on how to pass them out. Noelle was given a beautiful set of circular needles embellished with Swarovski crystals. I thought they were cool, but she was unimpressed. Mary Ellen was presented with a giant roll of Lion brand Zpagetti yarn in a kit to make a bowl. Tracy got a kit with a very hairy yarn that made a scarf by simply knotting the yarn! I got a skein of green cotton yarn with an unattractive pattern. Hey – at least we got something. I am looking forward to seeing the knotted scarf. They let Mary Ellen swap for something a bit better.
We were feeling a bit dejected as we headed to the elevators. We knew from experience that these elevators could take forever and knitters do not know how to queue. All weekend we had women shove past us to get on the opening elevators. We elbowed our way to the front and jumped on the first one. As the doors were closing a woman ran up and said, “Is there room for two more.” Noelle said, “That depends.” I waited for her to finish that thought, but she didn’t.
We did not sign up for classes on Sunday. We had by now settled into a routine. Tracy slept in. Noelle, Mary Ellen and I worked out in the gym and then gorged on the giant breakfast buffet. We decided that if we carried out a muffin from the buffet we could even skip lunch. I ate a few bites of the muffin at the table so it looked like I was just trying not to waste food by taking it with me, Mary Ellen decided to just blatantly snatch the muffin on the way out.
Noelle spent the day with her sister, and the 3 of us went back to the market. I swore I wasn’t going to buy any more. I then found this adorable project bag in Star Wars fabric and a handblown glass button. Now I need a project to go under the button.
Sunday was the day that they drew the grand prize winner. We each had a few entries so we decided to stay and see if we won $1000. We planned to split the prize and buy 4 kits to make mink sweaters. The man with the box of entries walked through the market leading a pack of knitters like the Pied Piper:
A woman in a neck brace won 3rd prize. We could not begrudge her. Then two other women won the remaining prizes.
Dejected once more, we made on last lap around the market. The people watching never got old.
I went back to the room to add up the damages
Sunday night was Oscar night. Noelle and her sister went to Trader Joes, bought cheese and crackers and hummus, and we had a party in their room. Mary Ellen started winding a ball of yarn that strangely took her until Best Picture to finish
The market was closed and the classes were ending. The hotel clientele changed from chubby middle aged women to business men. We stayed on to visit some wineries.
I have never done the wine tasting thing. We picked out three wineries. Each one had a $5 tasting where they poured us 5-6 one ounce samples. Here we are just starting out:
After the first winery I could tell I had enough. At the 2nd place I tried to just take small sips. By the 3rd I was dumping most of my glass into the spit bucket. I was regretting the platform sandals I was wearing. Fortunately we had hired a limo to drive the tipsy housewives around.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were starving. We found a nearby restaurant and feasted on french fries and Reubens for a late lunch. We had to walk through a strange industrial area and traverse a field of feral cats to get home.
We met up in Noelle’s room again to watch The Bachelor. Tracy summed up the day, “I have been drunk, hungover and recovered, all before dinner.” She was also regretting her excessive wine purchases. I don’t watch The Bachelor, but I guess I must tune in next week to see who he chooses.
Tuesday we checked out. Winter storm, Rocky, was blowing across the Midwest. We packed our bags. I don’t know how yarn can weigh so much – but our bags were heavy and bursting.
It was sad leaving, but I was ready to go home. I couldn’t look at one more variegated shawl.
Tracy was stressing about her suitcase possibly being over the 50 pound limit. She was also stressing about the probable flight delays. I, being the only empty nester, was completely unconcerned about returning to the cold. All the baggage worry was for naught. My bags came in at 49.5 pounds (10 pounds more than what I came with) and Tracy’s at 49.
We got to the airport and learned there was about an hour delay. Southwest was doing their best to scare away passengers. They said that due to weather they might not be able to land in Chicago, and we were on our own for lodging at any place we landed. I suggested trying to just get to Vegas for a few days.
We decided to eat lunch. Mary Ellen was not sure this was necessary. Traveling with Mary Ellen is like having our mom with us. When I had a coughing attack during the fashion show, she whipped out a cough drop. She always had an endless supply of Kleenex. Mary Ellen had apparently packed up the leftover hummus and cheese and crackers from the Oscar party and kept pushing it on us. We decided on sourdough sandwiches instead.
We then spread out with our laptops and knitting at the gate anticipating a long delay. it was not to be. They suddenly started boarding the plane. We scooped everything up and ran onto the plane. There were only a handful of passengers left. We each got our own row.
This was the best flight ever. We had room. The flight attendants gave us armfuls of snacks.
It was a peaceful, but long flight. Mary Ellen perused the Skymall magazine and we discussed the pros and cons of buying the mole remover system for our age spots. We then switched to knitting. Mary Ellen was making a headband with our Scandinavian stitches. She had a ball of red yarn dangling. A young man ran to the bathroom, caught his foot on her yarn and dragged it all the way down the aisle. I thought that was pretty funny until we landed and my ball of yarn flew off my seat and rolled under the seats in front of me.
We landed, quickly got off the plane and then were told there were no taxis. I don’t know what all the fuss was about. There was very little snow on the ground from this “Rocky.”
We finally got a cab and Mary Ellen sweet-talked him into dropping us all off at our respective houses. It was a great trip, but I have purchased enough yarn to last me a decade. Our next trip I think should be a pilgrimage to Downton Abbey.