23 April 2009

Day 1 of STITCHES South 2009

Thursday morning I got up early and headed over to the Galleria. I was pleased to see that Debi Light, owner of The Whole Nine Yarns, had managed to park her Volkswagen Beetle in the perfect spot, in good view of the front entrance. (For those of you who wondered, she left Woodstock at 6 AM to get that spot.) I parked nearby. I was about 8:15 AM. The opening day festivities were scheduled for 10 AM.

Almost as soon as I got in the door I started meeting people. There were ladies from Florida who were pleased as punch that they could drive to a knitting event. I guess Florida can sometimes feel a little remote from the rest of the country. I went over to the Registration desk to see if everyone had what they needed for the day. Woofgangpug was there helping, and she requested a coffee. By the time I had fetched that, more people were coming to register. I got to meet Charles D. Gandy from Clayton, who had two winning socks in the Think Outside the SOX contest. Charles is a delightful person, jovial and creative. It was a thrill to shake his hand. He has joined Atlanta Knitting Guild and, although I know he lives a ways out, I do hope he will attend meetings now and then and share his very inventive knitting creations.

I went to the marketplace and settled in at the AKG booth. The vendors were busy setting up for the preview later that night. I sat and corrected AKG brochures that I had screwed up. All that proofreading, but I had missed a mistake in the mailing address on the membership form portion of the brochure! Whit called me Wednesday morning to inform me. Ugh! The whole box had been in the back of my car for three weeks. If only I'd known! So I sat and worked on "my homework" and enjoyed the background murmur and hubbub.

And then a big friendly fellow named Brian Kohler came over. He was carrying a cardboard box with the number "300" written on it. He introduced himself, said he was from Skacel, and said he was looking for Whit Robbins. I introduced myself and assured him that, sooner or later, it would be impossible not to meet Whit during this weekend. Then he opened the box and presented 300 test circular Addi needles for AKG members! I was shocked with delight. I believe I paused for a moment, then looked up at him and said, "I suppose it would be inappropriate of me to kiss you." He smiled as someone does who is used to happy and slightly crazy knitters. These are 4mm, US size 6 tips in the 80cm/32-inch length, clear blue cable. One tip is an Addi Turbo tip and the other is the Addi Lace tip. I already have a full set of Addi Turbos in the 60" length. I did not need to know how nice the lace tip is. Really. Didn't need to know this. If you attended the convention, these are the same needles that Skacel was giving out to students. (A reason, in addition to the Market Preview, why you should take at least one class at STITCHES.) I then stashed the box safely in the back of the Zippy Sippy. 'Tis much harder to forget to take something to a guild meeting if it is already in the car, and I didn't want to risk misplacing such a precious gift. If any of the Skacel folks read this post, many, many thanks! Your gift is deeply appreciated times 300.

This all happened about 9:45 AM, so I had to scoot to get to Elise Duvekot's Opening Day Spotlight presentation. Whit and I both ended up in the back rows, where we each sat with a stack of brochures and continued to correct the mistaken post office box number. Elise's presentation was wonderful! If you follow this blog, you'll recall that my socks for the sock contest were in the knit one below stitch. So I really thought I knew this thing well. But Elise spoke to us not just as knitters but as designers. Each item from the book was brought out, usually on a model. Elise explained her design challenges as well as interests she was exploring in each project. It was a fabulous presentation.

And it even had a delightful moment of comic relief. The male model, Andrew, came out in the Another Facet sweater, (pp. 55-57 of Knit One Below). This is Elise's take on Kaffe Fassett's style of knitting, in which many, many colors are worked in intarsia. Elise wanted to show the wrong side of the sweater to show that it combined intarsia with the knit one below column pattern. First, she asked Andrew if he had on anything underneath. Alas, no. So Elise carefully turned up a corner, trying not to show too much flesh. Alas, this only served to expose Andrew's chiseled midsection. And please remember, this is in a large room where the vast majority of people are female. Elise tried again more to the side, but this wasn't any better. Then she had a brilliant idea. She had Andrew turn around, so she could show from the back. I remember thinking, "Wow, that's a really smart idea on the spur of the moment." But when Elise tried it, well, let's just say it is possible to have a chiseled back! By that point the whole exercise had become ridiculous and Elise saved face by sending Andrew off stage and calling on the next model. I do hope that someone, somewhere will get that bit of video out prominently on the Internet.

After the presentation, Whit and I both had finished stacks of brochures. We got chatting with some other AKG people, so we were behind in the crowd headed next door for the luncheon. I said I'd take the brochures and run them down to the booth. So I got into the room for the luncheon, found an empty seat and set my stuff down, excused myself, and scurried down the concourse. I made my quick trip, set the brochures at the guild table (thank goodness it was just inside the doors), and dashed back to the banquet room. As I came in, one of the nice XRX people spied me and led me over to my assigned, reserved seat at the head table with Benjamin Levisay, Rick Mondragon, Elise Duvekot, and others. This was my first clue that my sneaky plan to spend the weekend hiding in class was maybe a bit naive. The luncheon was quite tasty -- some sort of lemon chicken. The dessert was delicious. It was something lemon flavored with some berries and it was very good. Wouldn't mind having more of that next year, si vous plait.

And the conversation was fun. We got talking about enjoyable versus annoying knitting and somehow the Frog Tree Alpaca Origami Pullover came up. Debi did this recently as a knit-along. The garment itself is flattering. Two rectangles -- no shaping -- are joined in a rather inventive way to form a garment with dolman sleeves and a very interesting double-breast. The problem is the garment is all 1x1 ribbing. Several people who bought yarn and started off knitting it soon discovered that working this much ribbing was not going to calm and delight them, even if the finished garment is fabulous. Rick and I got talking about it to Elise, suggesting that maybe the knit one below stitch would be a workable alternative. Fortunately, the garment appeared in the Friday night fashion show. By the end of the weekend, Elise had stopped at The Whole Nine Yarns booth to check it out.

After the luncheon, there was a quick photo op with the XRX staff. I got to meet photographer extraordinaire Alexis Xenakis. He had been shooting some of XRX's latest designs around Atlanta earlier in the week. I told him how very excited I am to hear that my hometown will be the featured locale in an upcoming Knitter's magazine. I've thought for a while that Atlanta in the springtime would be a great place for fashion photography, and I know Alexis will do it up splendidly!

Afterwards, I headed off to my Thursday class and my very first STITCHES class, Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs with Gayle Roehm. Wonderful class. And it was all the more lovely because I ended up sitting next to Betty Salpekar. There were several points in the class when Betty and I were conferring about what would happen if you changed this or that bit of architecture in the stitch pattern. By the end, I think I had a couple days' worth of swatching ideas.

Gayle taught us how to read some of the more interesting notations we might encounter in Japanese patterns. Japanese pattern stitches are graphed out and the graph symbols have been standardized. So even if you can't read Japanese, you can at least borrow the inventive stitch patterns. The Japanese also do not draw the hard distinction between crochet and knitting that we do in America. One of the stitch patterns we learned had a crochet-chain bobble in it! The very first pattern we learned was very odd indeed, with multiple decreases and strange crochet-like techniques. It made the next swatch seem much easier. Pedagogically, I think Gayle did a lovely job starting us off with shock and awe. Once we got through that, we all knew we could handle the rest of the swatches. We did run out of time and didn't get through all six swatches; but on the other hand, Gayle explained enough that we can do them later. And one of those swatches appears to be a shell-shaped variant of the Lizard Ridge pattern. Glee! Also, my dear friend Scenter (Bruce), took Gayle's all-day Japanese pattern class on Saturday. On Thursday afternoon, he was taking Merike Saarniit's Fiendishly Difficult Stitches. On Sunday morning, I took Merike's Exotic Estonian 'Patent' Stitches. At some point, we shall get together and swap notes, as we couldn't be in two places at once. It is nice to have a friend who can act as a clone when you need one.

By the end of class there was only half an hour before the Market Preview opened. This was just enough time to stash stuff in the car, use the bathroom, and chat with friends. Woofgangpug and I had a conversation with Adriane, the North Georgia Knitting Guild webmaster, about sock making. We both agree that Cookie A.'s new sock book is a keeper. But Woofgangpug does not like Cat Bordhi's construction. I love Cat's toe-up construction. Ah, to each her own.

The market opened and off we went. I've lost track of how many times I stopped in front of the sock wall over the weekend. Didn't spend nearly enough time there. I could have spent at least half a day and maybe a whole day just exploring and examining. I believe Thursday may have been the night that Charles and I were both at the socks at the same time. Lisa from XRX got a picture of both of us with our socks on the wall. I don't remember, but that may also have been the time Merike was at the sock wall to see the winning design created by her ten-year-old student. I remember thinking how satisfying that must be as an instructor to see your student perform so well.

At some point either I bumped into Benjamin or he bumped into me. The next thing I knew, he offered to walk me around the market. So I got the grand tour, and was introduced to most of the vendors and sponsors. This also worked out well, as since I was with Benjamin, I was networking and not shopping. By the end of the weekend, I was surely in the running for spending the least in the market over the course of four days at the convention.

By the time we'd completed the tour, there was something that required Benjamin's immediate attention. Off he went. Donna Daniels was staffing the AKG booth. Nobody had come to relieve her, and it was her only night in the market. So she went and shopped and I sat at the booth. It was nice to unwind a bit. I did not know then how much I would need to relax. Some of the North Georgia Knitting Guild ladies were next to me at their booth. So I got to rest a bit and visit with friends and it was all good.

I don't recall why I was running a bit late for the Student Mixer, but I remember I got there a bit late. They were well through most of the teacher introductions when I arrived. Then the teachers and Benjamin went off to a meeting and Rick hosted an informal show and tell. We had to do some prodding to get people up on stage. In the end, someone would get up and show, and then she would tag the next person from the audience who had to get up and show. So we went around the room. There were a few out of town people but a lot of friendly familiar faces in fabulous garments. I believe afterward on the way out to my car, I ended up standing and chatting with Betty Salpekar and TallFran -- who I remember as Clapotis Fran because she had on a different Clapotis every day. I've since added her to my friends on Ravelry.

Oh, yes, now I recall once more detail. The tornado sirens went off during the Market Preview. Then the rain came down. I waited a bit after the Student Mixer -- which was part of why standing and chatting was good -- but then just gave up and made a dash for the car. The mohair shawl I was wearing was ready for wet blocking by the time I got to the Zippy Sippy. I drove home on the interstate at 35 mph in the drenching thunderstorm. It may have been a dark and stormy night, but it was a fine start to the convention.

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