25 April 2009

Day 3 of STITCHES South 2009

Saturday started off early again, but this time I found a better parking space on the top deck. And I remembered to bring my lunch. On the downside, I only had about five hours of sleep. I am not used to being sleep deprived. But, heh, I figured I would keep myself going off the excitement and adrenaline.

For Saturday I had signed up for Joan Schrouder's Set-in Sleeves Simplified class. This was based on recommendations from Benjamin Levisay, Rick Mondragon, and Whit Robbins. When Benjamin and Rick had been out here in October, I had mentioned my fondness for Lucy Neatby and other knitting technicians. I was told in that case, I should definitely take a class with Joan. I already felt pretty comfortable with Elizabeth Zimmermann's and Barbara Walker's approaches to seamless knitting, so I wasn't sure how much I was going to learn in the class. But I have found that you almost always learn something, even if it wasn't what you expected.

First off, Joan brought her Kauni sweater. This is the one she sometimes uses as her avatar on Ravelry. It was like walking into a museum and seeing a painting you recognize. I saw the sweater sitting over on a table and went over to look at it. Then I exclaimed something about, "Wait a minute. I know this sweater." That's when Joan said it was on her Ravelry account. Seeing that sweater makes me 1. Want to knit with Kauni and 2. Want to try a steeked sweater.

Joan's class was as good as advertised. We started with a discussion of how to shape armholes, including how to adjust for plus sizes. The homework was basically to knit a small sweater up to the armhole. So in class, we started with knitting back and forth for the front and back. In the afternoon, we dealt with how to pick up stitches around the armhole. Craftmonkey, who had been in the Thursday Japanese stitches class, sat next to me for this class. So it was nice to be making a new friend.

During one of the breaks, I did meet local celebrity Betty Monroe. Betty is a member of Atlanta Knitting Guild and has given programs and workshops, although she lives up near Lake Hartwell at the South Carolina border. It was so nice to finally put a face with her name, as I've heard so many guild members say nice things about her.

This time I was smart enough to sit in the classroom and eat my lunch before I went out to the market. If I was going to be sleep-deprived, at least I could be smart enough not to be undernourished, too. Because one of my goals for the weekend was to find a substitute yarn for the Scheherazade Prismatic shawl, I was wearing the shawl. I also planned to show it off in the Student Fashion Show. Someone in the market told me she had seen the shawl elsewhere that day. I thought that was odd, as the pattern is not yet published. What I had forgotten is that I've taught this pattern once as a workshop. There are no more than half a dozen people in the Atlanta area who have this pattern. As I would find out later, Pam Cornutt was wearing her shawl. My design was being worn by someone else. Glee!

I missed the Style Show Preview but I did manage to make the Margaret Fisher book signing at The Whole Nine Yarns booth. Margaret's recent book, Seven Things That Can Make or Break a Sweater is based on a class she teaches. It is also an essential book if you plan to take the TKGA Master Knitter certification. It was nice to meet Margaret in person and to get an autograph in my book.

I did my best to take it easy during the afternoon portion of the class. I knit. I didn't talk too much. I did duck out at 2 PM to check on some guild business, and then ducked back in. I think that may have been when I met Carl Strobe and Gordon Robbins. Carl, who is retired from a successful career in graphic design and advertising, very kindly donated his time and talents to revising the guild brochure this year. It was nice to meet him in person and shake his hand. Gordon is Whit's husband. He was very tolerant this spring of giant flower pieces all over their home.

As soon as class was over, Lisa from XRX was there to lead me off to the interview with Alexis in his suite on the 14th floor of the Renaissance Waverly. I know that some of the other guild members who worked on the flowers skipped their afternoon classes in order to be interviewed. So I am very grateful that I got to enjoy Joan's class. In my original plan there were two hours between the end of class and the beginning of the student banquet. That would have been plenty of time to rest a bit, put things in my car, and change into the Alice costume. But that schedule was about to change.

Lisa and Alexis got me set up. Lisa had something else she needed to go do, so everything was set, the camera was turned on, Lisa left, and we started the interview. It took about half an hour. Towards the end, Shannon Dunbabin from Cascade Yarns came up. There was some video that she needed to shoot. My interview appeared to be done. Alexis went to look at the recording. Oops! The video ran out about two minutes into the interview. We agreed Alexis should shoot Shannon's video while I went down to my car to get my costume.

So I rode the elevator from the 14th floor down to the 2nd floor. I walked across the Renaissance Waverly, then across the Galleria concourse, then out to my car. And, of course, all the way back. I don't recall who I ran into on this sortie, but I know I bumped into somebody. By the time I got back, Shannon was done and gone. So we set everything up and shot the interview again. The nice thing was that on this take, I remembered to say something about the flowers as art and art being transformational. So I think I contributed something worthwhile to the endeavor. Then Alexis had to dash off. I went and changed into my Alice costume. And Lisa and I headed down to the banquet, all the way on the other side of Cobb Galleria Center.

As was becoming my unfortunate habit, I was nearly the last person in. By the time we got down there, Alexis was ready with his camera. So there was a quick photo shoot out in the concourse. Whit was very pleased, which was good, since the costume was her idea. The nice XRX staff pointed me to my proper seat, between Elise Duvekot and Diana Baber. Whit Robbins and Linda Fetter were also at the table. Of course, as soon as I sat down, I realized I did not have my travel mug with me. I have a Starbucks travel mug and it is my grown-up sippy cup. If you want me to be sedate and gentle, do not get between me and the hot tea or the knitting. I realized in my haste on the costume change that I had left my mug in Alexis' suite. At least I had put the bright green Neighborhood Knit Shop rubber bracelet on my mug. I mentioned to Lisa that I was going to need my mug before I left for the night. My car does not go without the mug.

The food was already set out and the company was good. Elise and I struck up a conversation. I complimented her on her presentation -- how I had made some knit one below socks for the contest but would now need to revisit the book after her Thursday presentation. At some point she asked me about my knitting, and I pulled out the Uninterrupted Flamingo Ouroboros, which I was planning to show off in the student fashion show. We were looking at the double-knitting when teacher Barbara Kerr came up. I had brought my Cat Bordhi Jester Tentacles Bag along with my Alice costume. I needed a bag, and I figured the blue bag went well enough with the blue dress and the visual silliness. I had tossed it over the back of my chair, and Barbara came over to find out what it was. So the three of us got chatting. Elise told the tale of her experience with Andrew the too-hunky model. It was a delight to here it recounted from her perspective. Barbara asked me about the Jester Tentacles Bag. And I complimented Barbara on the Lynne Barr Circles scarf she was wearing -- the one that looks like calimari. We talked about double-knitting and how much fun it is to teach it. Really. People think double-knitting is a cross between rocket science and brain surgery. Part of the fun of teaching it is watching people discover that they really can do it. And then you feel like a knitting genius, or possibly knitting goddess. By the end of the conversation, Barbara had given me her business card. So I made another friend!

Alexis got the proceedings started for the evening. Linda and Megan got up on stage and did a very nice job of talking about the flowers. They mentioned not only the many people who worked on them, but also the process. So much was made out of recycled materials. All the yarn and embellishments were donated. Some of the flowers and leaves were made from felted sweaters, purchased from local thrift stores. The orange tiger lily was a felted cashmere sweater that even had a couple moth holes in it. Many of the containers were old beat-up pots or tea kettles that Megan spray-painted in whatever colors were needed to match the flowers.

Then Whit and I were called up on stage. Normally, public speaking doesn't bother me. I was on the forensics team in high school, and I'm used to leading guild meetings with 100 people. I didn't realize how bright the lights really would be. Truly blinding. And because of the interview, I hadn't really had the moments to sit and prepare as I had hoped. Whit took the lead, which was good. When it was my turn, I said something humorous about not being in on the meeting and not knowing that costumes would be involved. Then I was able to say the thank yous that needed to be said -- calling out the names of the rest of the core committee members on the centerpiece project (Marian Rose, Diana Baber, Elizabeth Clause), the name of the metal artist who made the stems (Kathy Walton), mentioning our sister North Georgia Knitting Guild (founder Jenny Lee and president Cheryl Hood), and mentioning the developing project of a fiber arts center. And then I thanked Alexis with a kiss on the cheek and headed back to my seat.

After some more proceedings, Whit leaned over and asked if I had the certificate for Rick. Of course I didn't. It was in my car. In my haste to switch out stuff and grab my costume, I completely forgot about it. When Rick started to call all the teachers up on stage, I figured that was my chance to go. I scurried out the back, ran down the concourse, out the door, past the queue of cars at the valet stand, and over to my zippy sippy. Unlock. Grab bag. Lock. Then it was back across the lot, up the stairs, down the concourse, into the banquet hall, and back to my seat. Diana made some comment about how fast that was and how I was hardly winded. Not true, but I'm glad I covered it up well. I was thinking how out of shape I really am. When Rick and Beth Whiteside were about to start the student fashion show, I went over to the stage. Beth was very helpful as I got out the framed certificate. I managed to say something kind about men and knitting and Rick being "A Real Knitter."

Then the Student Fashion Show started. Yes, I was planning on showing off my stuff. But I also love these sorts of knitterly events for the chance to see what other people are doing. Artists often work well in an environment where they are exposed to each other's work and ideas but can develop in individual ways. Somewhere up in the first group was Linda Fetter, wearing her second Chris Bylsma crayon box jacket. (In fact, Chris had come over earlier in the evening and complimented Linda. Is that awesome or what?) There were many wonderful pieces of lace. Carole Fanning, host of the Purly Gates Remains knitting group, showed off lace shawl after lace shawl after lace shawl. Carole is a very fast knitter and very proficient to boot. Beautiful work. There was Phyllis from Mississippi. She had on a fantastic sideways-knit jacket in a variety of novelty yarns. The jacket was in the colors of a sunset -- purples, golds, and a few deep reds. And she was wearing shoes she had had made in Italy specifically to match the jacket. Wow! And for me another highlight of the evening was my friend Scenter showing off his purple Corntastic lace. Scenter has a fondness for Herbert Niebling lace patterns. Scenter had knit a doily but with the larger Corntastic yarn. There was a problem in the center when he went to block it out, but he needed more yarn. So he brought it to the Kollage booth on Saturday. Susan and Mark helped him out, and then his shawl spent the day being shown off in the market.

After the banquet and fashion show, I just needed to get my mug and go home. Alexis and Lisa were busy shooting photographs of the centerpieces. I said I'd be happy to just sit quietly and wait. I truly would have been happy to do so. Just sitting quietly would have been a very good thing at this point. And I did have my hardly-used-all-weekend camera. I pulled it out and took one photograph of one centerpiece. Then someone said Natalie was taking some items back upstairs. So I helped Natalie schlep camera equipment. Over in the hotel we came across an attendee who was using a wheelchair. Alas, I don't recall her name now, but she helped schlep too, and we helped get her to her room. She wasn't even the walking wounded but rather the wheeling wounded, yet she wasn't going to let that stop her from attending the first STITCHES South. And Natalie let me in the suite so I could get my mug. By now, you could tell everyone was both tired yet exhilarated. On my way back down the concourse to my car, I passed Alexis. He was waiting outside the exhibition hall while Benjamin helped supervise the transfer of centerpieces from the banquet hall to the exhibition hall. He was heading out in the morning, so I said my thank-you and my good-byes to him. He is a wonderful man and a truly talented photographer.

I was glad to take off the wig. Several people said I look better as a brunette, and I completely agree. At least I learned this before doing something ill-considered with my hair. I drove home tired but very, very happy.

24 April 2009

Day 2 of STITCHES South 2009

I remember getting to Exit 16, realizing I had forgotten to grab a sandwich out of the refrigerator, and deciding not to worry about it. Thanks to Thursday morning, I knew to expect rush hour traffic and I came prepared. Friday morning the front parking lot of Cobb Galleria Centre was already full by 8 AM. I believe there was another event of some kind -- something business-oriented and not as much fun, to be sure. It was the only day I left the Zippy Sippy in the covered parking underneath the front lot. But I still got off to a lovely morning. Lots of chatting with other knitters and ogling their beautiful finished objects. Registration was going fine and they had everything they needed. I think I passed Fran, who was wearing a different Clapotis from the previous day.

I settled myself into Susanna Hansson's Lapland Hand Garment class. A couple people from the Thursday Japanese stitch class were also in this one, so that was nice and I was already feeling at home amongst friends. This is a very interesting technique. The garment is worked in the round in a main color, but zig-zagging stripes in a variety of colors are worked on one area, usually the back of the hand. The patterns involve pairs of stitches and very much resemble the decorative ribbons seen in Northern European clothing. We started off with some excellent instruction from Susanna and then moved into large-scale swatching on our homework.

The coffee break was great! Let me say right now that having a coffee break was a brilliant idea and should be continued, if at all possible. I believe the coffee was Starbucks. Doesn't matter to me, as I'm a tea drinker. There was Tazo tea provided. Of that I much approve, as Tazo is what I tend to have with me anyway. What was really important to me is that there was hot water. As a tea drinker, I just need a steady supply of recently boiled water. There it was! But beyond the basics of hydration, the hot watering hole was a great place to bump into people during the course of the weekend. On this particular sortie, I encountered Robyn Coward. Robyn did a lot of PR work for Atlanta Knitting Guild, especially for the scarecrow, before resigning her post this spring. She has been too busy to attend meetings, so it was a delight to see her and give her a hug! I remember telling her what I fabulous time I was having. My first STITCHES class was great and now the second appeared to be more of the same.

Once we got back and started swatching, I began to realize that this particular technique did not appeal to me with the same vigor that others do. Partly this is because I am very perfectionist in my knitting. (Gee! Look at the header on this blog. Who knew?) This particular technique is not perfectly symmetrical. Could I do it? -- yes. But did I like what I got? -- not entirely satisfying. This is not a good thing to discover in the second or third hour of a six-hour class. On the plus side, it did mean that I wasn't in a hurry to get my work done. So I wasn't afraid to get up and help other ladies divide their project yarn into quarters or untangle a skein. And it did mean that I didn't need to push myself all afternoon. Again, I would later come to realize that the little bit of rest was a good thing.

During the lunch break I hit the market. I had two yarns on my shopping list. I needed 75 meters of a narrow dark red ribbon yarn. I have a Coldwater Creek ruana that my mother gave me. It goes well with several outfits. And it is knitted. The downside is that it has a drop stitch pattern in it. It's a few years old -- same vintage as Clapotis, proving that someone from Coldwater Creek was paying attention to knitwear trends. I've worn the ruana so many times that the drop stitch pattern is beginning to disappear, as the tension evens out across the rows. I thought that weaving a ribbon through the drop stitches would preserve the pattern. (Note: I did not succeed. Tess' Designer Yarn had a red ribbon that would have worked, but it wasn't dark enough.)

I was also looking for a red-yellow-orange (think fire) colorway of a novelty yarn. The Zippy Sippy has a curling ribbon frou frou on the antennae. I stockpiled several of those ribbons, since I need a replacement about every six to nine months. So I was looking for a yarn that would make a good permanent knitted frou frou and would survive 75 mph driving. (Note: I did not succeed. Closest I came was a Tilly Tomas in just the right colorway. But it was silk and cost $45. Uh, no.)

My memories are a little fuzzy about the dates and times, so I don't remember if it was Friday or Saturday when this happened. I'll just tell it here. I was standing at the sock wall when Amy C. Rutter came by. Amy won for the Cherry Tree Hill lace socks. She recognized me, because apparently she had taken a class with me at some time. I had no idea. So one of my students actually won something in the contest. Just like Merike!

Walking through the market was basically one big hug fest. I've taught in this area for several years now, first at one of the big box stores, then at a fun yarn shop in Marietta, and now at The Whole Nine Yarns in Woodstock. And I belong to both local knitting guilds. The thing is, I didn't realize how many people I know. This was very good for the Cuddly Hubby's credit card, as I was so busy meeting people and saying hello and visiting and catching up that I almost couldn't shop the market. It was wonderful to catch up with knitting friends I hadn't seen in awhile, especially a few refugees from the closed Marietta shop.

As time was running out, I bumped into Bruce. He hadn't eaten either, so we headed over to Concessions. I was standing in line with Bruce and Debra Davis, when someone from the guild (was it Linda Fetter?) saw me and said Benjamin was looking for me. So there was guild business to be done. Bruce kindly bought my soft pretzel for me. I ended up inhaling half the pretzel, heading back to class, and finishing the other half in class.

The quiet afternoon in class was probably exactly what I needed after being overwhelmed in the marketplace. I swatched and experimented a bit with the Lapland technique, while the rest of the ladies worked in the fine yarn and small needles on the class wristlet project. There are interesting things about the way this technique looks on the wrong side. And it is an inventive way of dealing with intarsia in the round. I definitely will need to spend more time with it later. Susanna did a lovely PowerPoint presentation about region and culture. But with all the excitement in the market and the lack of food, my blood sugar crashed about 3:30 PM. By the end of class, everybody else had something dainty and complex to show for their afternoon. I didn't, but that was by choice. Still, the emotion didn't improve how I felt physically.

After class, I slinked out to the Zippy Sippy. It was a good thing it was parked under cover in the shade. I got in the car and just cried. So much was happening and it was just too much, too fast. I ate a granola bar from the stash I keep in the glove compartment, and that brought my blood sugar back up. I listened to a favorite calming music mix on my iPod. I just chilled. At that moment, that was what I needed.

When I felt better, I went back inside. And right away I bumped into Bruce. At this point, I was looking for hot tea, and was headed over the Renaissance Waverly to see if I could find some. The coffee break station had been taken down for the night. Bruce and I headed down to the hotel lobby to see if hot water could be found, and there was Betty Salpekar. I told them I really wasn't ready for the rock star treatment. I was hoping that Betty would have some good advice, as she is the grand prize winner from the sock contest as has been the subject of some attention. Or I'd hoped that perhaps Bruce would find some words of wisdom, as he has an IQ in the top 0.5%. But just then Whit and Gordon Robbins arrived, and reminded me that it was time to get moving. I found some hot water at the bar, so I had my tea to give me strength. Bruce accompanied me part way down the concourse. And then off Whit, Gordon, and I went toward the fashion show.

Once again, I was running late. I told Whit and Gordon to go ahead without me, that I needed to duck into the restroom. I think I remembered to comb my hair, which it hadn't done on Thursday as I'd been too busy. I got down to the fashion show and there the kind and very patient XRX folks led me in a side entrance and got me to my assigned seat. Again, I had no idea they were going to do that.

The fashion show was wonderful. There were twenty-six door prizes, and Valerie Cross from Atlanta Knitting Guild was the first winner! Andrew, the hot model from Elise's presentation, was once again on stage. This time he was sent out to model boxer shorts! OMG! Again, is somebody please going to post video somewhere on the web? Jonelle from South West Trading Company had to adjust her shawl on the model. The sign of a good design -- it looked great even when the model didn't have it on correctly. And the way the Yang yarn sparkles! I must go see how the price point compares to Artyarns and Tilli Tomas. And there was a felted scarf kit that I missed winning by two numbers. Whit gave me an odd look when I was saying, "Oh, please, oh please, oh, please." Ah, well. Let's just say I thoroughly enjoyed the fashion show. Lots of great ideas!

Then it was time for everyone to shuffle next door for the banquet. Again, I was near the back of the pack. I got chatting with friends and congratulating people for winning the door prizes. The room was mostly full by the time I got over there. The attendees were all a-buzz about the flowers. Later on, someone said the models weren't a little intimidated, because they were being upstaged by the flowers. It truly looked magical. No, I didn't get any pictures, dang it. I don't know how Ashton Kutcher manages to be a star and take pictures at the same time. At this point, I needed food and I needed to sit.

And to give you an idea of the banquet, there were two wine glasses on the table. When the nice waitress asked if I'd like any, I said just a swallow of the white and a swallow of the red. I'd be driving later, and I only wanted a taste to see how the food paired with the wine. After all, the luncheon food on Thursday had been pretty respectable, and I didn't want to miss out on any culinary opportunities. The wait staff was so good that they kept filling glasses. I wasn't looking, and then I noticed I had a full glass of red wine. No, I did not drink all of it. I just had a swallow or two, thank you.

The response to the knitted flowers made Friday night extra special. And here, I must pause and give credit.
Whit Robbins -- for saying we should make centerpieces, and much work on flowers
Linda Fetter -- for design and project management, and much work on flowers
Megan Brightwell -- for design work, making stems, much assembly, much work on flowers
Marian Rose -- for bookkeeping as well as much work on flowers
Elizabeth Clause -- for work on tags and much work on flowers
Diana Baber -- for serving as Whit's understudy and for much work on flowers
There were about fifty people in the guild who participated in some way or another -- by knitting a kit, or coming to an assembly party, or transporting flowers. And having them be tall and up off the tables really made a difference. Kudos to Megan for as she envisioned, the flowers decorated the space rather than just the tables. Whit said she wanted something that people would be talking about for years. Well, Whit, your wish has been granted.

There had been a fair amount of discussion over the final disposition of the flowers after the banquet. Some of the issues included the fragility of them, the size, the difficulty in transporting them, and the fact that it was a group project where multiple people had worked on a single flower. Benjamin solved this problem for us. First, he had everyone who worked on a flower stand up and receive applause. Then he offered to acquire the flowers, take them to the next STITCHES event, and find a permanent home for them. It was fortuitous that several people who worked on the flowers as well as several members of the current AKG board, including both the outgoing president (me) and the incoming president (Linda), were present. Our by-laws sure don't cover this! But everyone was in agreement that Benjamin's offer is a good one, indeed.

After the banquet, Benjamin and Alexis and Lisa and I'm not sure who all else (my memory is fading here) helped get us and some flowers set up on stage. Many pictures were taken. Much merriment was in the air, even for the late hour. When I got home, I needed to return a phone call to Jenna the Genius Yarn Pimp. So Jenna listened to me blabber on about the day's events. It was after 11 PM. I made a couple phone calls to people who had been involved with the flowers who needed to know what was happening. Then I woke up the Cuddly Hubby. I told him about the day. I told him I was photographed by Alexis Xenakis, the man responsible for so many of those beautiful coffee table knitting books I own. And then Cuddly Hubby helped me to get online and write the e-mail to the rest of the people who worked on centerpieces. It was after midnight when I went to bed. But by that point, I'd already told the Cuddly Hubby that I thought I was in the middle of having the best weekend of my life. And STITCHES South was only half over.

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.

22 April 2009

The Best Weekend of My Life

For those of you who have read the Harry Potter series, you may recall a lucky potion called Felix Felicis. Consuming the potion could cause someone to be lucky -- fortuitous happenstances just kept occurring. I've just come off four days of that. The entire weekend was fabulous and as practically perfect as anything might be. To make it easier to tell the tale, I'll date each post to correspond with the appropriate day of the convention. I'll add links and pictures later. Here's the tale.

It was good even from Wednesday. Several of us met at Spruill Center for the Arts Education Center at 2 PM to move the giant flower centerpieces that Atlanta Knitting Guild had created for the two banquet events. People were on time. The day was a bit windy but not rainy. Traffic was reasonable. We had enough people. Everything at Spruill was loaded. Megan and I then went over to her house. The two of us each loaded our cars and then drove over to Cobb Galleria Center. We had no trouble finding where to unload. Linda and Whit and others were already there. We got unloaded. Then, the magic started.

Benjamin Levisay and Rick Mondragon showed up to greet us. Benjamin gave me a big hug and that must be where the magic started. I needed take stuff from my car to the AKG booth in the marketplace. So I bid my adieu, got the box from my car, and went up to the exhibit hall where the marketplace was located. Donna Daniels had already come and gone. Thanks to her, three bouquets of shiny blue Mylar AKG balloons were already distributed around our table. Elizabeth Halberstadt and Jean Guneysu had the trauma bear table set up and it looked wonderful and professional. I bumped into Woofgangpug (Diana Baber) and she and I walked around a little and said hello to several of the local vendors who were setting up their booths. I met Krazy Knitz, whom I'd just discovered a couple days before when I wrote the AKG blog post about where to find yarn shops. Lovely coincidence!

It had already been a long day for Woofgangpug, so we got in my car and I drove us around the building and over to the Renaissance Waverly hotel. I dropped off Woofgangpug at the door, parked my car in the lot, and went inside to find Registration. Mavis and Gay were set up and handing out student packets. Already I was starting to meet the nice XRX people from South Dakota as well as the attendees who had come from out of state.

By the time I was done, it was time to go downstairs and look for Anzula (Sabrina). I had asked on Ravelry if anybody wanted to join me from dinner on Wednesday at Canoe. Pricey but very, very good. In the end, only Anzula could make it. I walked downstairs from Registration to the main lobby and bumped into Anzula almost immediately. So we got in my car and off we went. There were two other people who had seen my Ravelry post who also had 7 PM reservations, but they declined to join us. Still, I was happy to have given them the tip to a good meal. I saw a post after the weekend was over that indicated they did, indeed, have a very fine meal. The Cuddly Hubby ended up being late for dinner, but that was all good, as it gave us two knitters time to talk about what was on our needles. Anzula came all the way out here from Fresno, California. She shipped her hand-dyed yarn out earlier. Now that's unnerving-- fly across the country and have faith that the ten boxes you shipped are waiting for you in Georgia.

Anzula is a lovely person and someone who appreciates good food as well as good yarn. It was a beautiful evening along the river with bright pink azaleas and even some Canadian geese poking about. The food was delicious! It always is. Anzula and I both had soup as an appetizer. I had something with all sorts of seafood in it and very complex flavors. Anzula had a carrot & pistachio soup that was remarkably good. Proof of a brilliant chef -- who would ever think of combining carrots and pistachios? Dinner involved scallops and seafood and tasting what each other ordered. Anzula and I were stuffed, but the waiter gently encouraged us to try the apricot sorbet with creme fraiche. OMG! We only thought we couldn't eat anything more. Cuddly Hubby picked up the check. We truly enjoyed treating Anzula to a fine meal and we hope she'll be back next year.

After I dropped Anzula off at the hotel, I made a quick dash for the Borders Bookstore down the street. They close at 10 PM and it was after 9:50 when I walked in. I wanted to drop off the remainder of STITCHES South brochures and discount cards. Benjamin told me later that Whit had received 17,000 of these over the past seven months. I waited and finally got to ask the sales clerk if a book club would be meeting the next night to discuss The Friday Night Knitting Club. He called someone else to ask. She came out and when I said I wanted to drop off STITCHES South stuff, she gushed in delight. She and several other employees had the dates circled on the calendar and were already primed to be at the convention. I left her with those last maybe 100 brochures and drove home, knowing my work for the day was done.

15 April 2009

Boundless Budgies

The Cuddly Hubby and I attended last night's special members' preview of Boundless Budgies: A Parakeet Adventure, which is the new exhibit at ZooAtlanta. We've had higher level memberships at the High Museum and Atlanta Botanical Garden, but I can tell you that few institutions roll out the red carpet for you like ZooAtlanta. A $200 Safari level membership is well worth it. If you care about conservation, remember that not only does ZooAtlanta give you a great family experience, but the zoo works with our universities here in Georgia to conduct research that aids both captive and wild populations.

Last night James Ballance, who is the primary curator for birds, was in attendance and answering questions. Also attending was zoo CEO Dennis Kelly. James has a tremendous enthusiasm for what he does, and a winsome British accent that makes you want him to keep talking. Thank you to Dennis for being good management, and to James and the rest of the birds and small mammals team for a great job in putting together a fabulous experience. I don't know the names of any of the people in these pictures, but they were all having a great time!

In the photo at the top, you can see a young man feeding a budgie. For $1 you buy a stick with a little bit of birdseed on the end of it. Then you stand in an aviary with 500 birds, you hold out your stick, and you wait for a bird to come eat. I've purposely not cropped out the background on this photo, so that you can see the flock in the trees and all the people leaning to feed them.

Notice that most of these are adults. I believe the lady in the background of this picture may have been with the gentleman holding the parakeet, but I'm not certain. There's something delightful about seeing grown ups enjoying such a simple experience. I really like the contrast here between the big man and the little one ounce bird.

Here's another adult with a bird. Notice that this budgie is almost white. At first you think that 500 parakeets would all be the same, that you already know what a parakeet looks like, but as you look closely, you'll see subtle differences. Some are green with yellow heads and blue tails. Some are more blue or turquoise with white. And a few seem to have some very interesting genetic codes. I'm certain I saw a yellow one with little periwinkle spots on its jaws.

And here's the money shot at the end. I have no idea who this little girl is, but you can see she and her parents were having a wonderful time. Makes me want to go dig out the Mary Poppins soundtrack and listen to "Feed the Birds." Sometimes it helps to remember that many of the simple pleasures in life really are amongst the best. As always, I can heartily recommend a day at ZooAtlanta if you need a little cheer. Two thumbs way up!