Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stitches: It's Not What You Think

stitches (plural noun)

  1. a loop of thread or yarn resulting from a single pass or movement of the needle in sewing, knitting, or crocheting.
  2. a sudden sharp pain in the side of the body, caused by strenuous exercise.
  3. a really big fiber- and needle-arts trade show.
For the first time in several years, I went to Stitches West last month. For those unfamiliar with the name or event, it is one of four big conference/trade shows put on by XRX Publishing (of Knitters magazine) across the United States at different times of the year. Stitches West is held at the Santa Clara Convention Center each February, and is extremely well-attended by West Coast knitters, crocheters, and other fiberistas.

Handpainted superfine Merino/silk
from Redfish Dyeworks
I hadn't been to Stitches for several years--when I was still teaching, late February was a time when grade reports were approaching. I wasn't interested in taking any classes, but a day (or two) at the Stitches Marketplace would only hurt my wallet, so I purchased a two-day Marketplace pass and made my plans to drive down. I really did this "on the cheap": I packed a lunch and a couple of bottles of water, filled up the car, and I was off on Friday morning to spend the day checking out what the Marketplace had for sale.

My first surprise was when I arrived at the Convention Center. I got there only 15 minutes after the Marketplace opened at 10:00 a.m., and already the "close-in" parking structure was full; we were directed to the secondary parking structure, on the other side of the creek and directly across Tasman Boulevard from the nearly-finished Levi Stadium. I parked the car and walked back to the Convention Center, and stepped into a shopper's paradise of yarns, needles, more yarns, patterns, spinning wheels, needlework-related tchotschkes, and still more yarns. Nearly 200 vendors from all over the U.S. and Canada had spread their wares for the delectation of the yarn-mad masses. Heaven!

"Shadow," a 10-pound
Rambouillet fleece I'll scour
this week.
I went all the way to the far back corner of the Marketplace and began working my way forward. Almost immediately, I noticed how the wares had changed since my last visit to Stitches. Last time, nearly all the vendors were focused on catering to specifically the knit/crochet crowd, with lots of millspun yarns, needles, hooks, patterns, and books. Since that time, there's been a lot of "cross-pollination" in the fiber arts community: knitters now spin; spinners have taken up weaving; and weavers are finding joy in knitting or crocheting. As a result, the vendors and what they are selling has changed. I was surprised to see a number of the vendors I normally see at the Black Sheep Gathering, and Stitches felt more like what I remember weaving conferences being like a couple decades ago, with something for nearly everybody. I ran into a number of friends and acquaintances, and managed to get through the entire Marketplace in about six hours before going back and helping a friend with her booth the rest of Friday and all day Saturday.

Handpainted BFL top
from Kitty-Rabbit Kreations.
Of course, the question is always, "What did you buy?" My answer this year is "Some of this and that." I was very good in the Abstract Fiber booth, and got only a "snack pack" of different dyed tops, and only two braids of handpainted top (one from Kitty-Rabbit Creations, the other from Redfish Dyeworks). Judy's Novelty Yarns had a nice Rambouillet fleece at a dirt-cheap price, and I replaced my nearly worn-out sock needles with some of the new Addi Rockets. My big "splurge" was on a couple of cherry Shaker-style boxes (a "presentation" box and a sewing box) made by a craftsman in Tennessee: they are works of art, and are proudly on display in the living room. All in all, Stitches was lots of fun this year, and I think it may become as regular a part of my time out of the studio as Black Sheep.