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Stitches West

I was on a quest

At Stitches West

For yarn for a vest

By Stephen West

And another vest

By Stephen West

(that's not a jest,

I'm a bit obsessed).

Alpaca is best.

Only one week after Madrona in Tacoma, I was in Santa Clara for Stitches West. Completely accidentally—my Great Aunt Olive had passed away, and her Celebration of Life coincided with the same weekend. And as she was a knitter herself, I knew she wouldn't mind if I acquired a three-day pass and made the most of the circumstance.

Everyone warned me it was huge, and it is, many times larger than Madrona, even larger than Knit City which had grown alarmingly large last time I checked (their width is about the same, but not their depth (in both meanings of the word)).

First, a bit of unintentional situational humour. I'm sure these stencilled warnings are always on the exterior doors, but at a Fiber Arts event I think they're particularly unfortunate:

(For posterity's sake, let it be known that I do not dress like this in public (or private, for that matter); the nearby vendor who took my picture loaded me up with sample goods before snapping the pic. I would like to think the dangling label is a giveaway, but you know, just to be certain, I wanted to clarify!)

No photo will successfully convey its hugeness. It's in two exhibition halls that only intersect at a corner, and (the fools!) there is no diagonal hallway from end-to-end, where I could have shown you the length of it. Instead, it's all a bit bitty, but trust me (and anyone else who's been there) when we assure you it takes about two hours just to do a cursory walkaround with little-to-no actual stopping/shopping.

I tried to be good. I had a vest in mind (the Caldwell vest by Stephen West) and was looking for worsted weight yarn for it, so my first foray was to see which vendors had yarn -> was it worsted -> was it reasonably priced -> was it in a relatively calm colorway -> if so, circle the shop on the map and come back later. Organization and military precision is the key!

In one booth, I was fondling some alpaca yarn, and it was eerily familiar. In fact, I was fairly certain I'd bought it a week ago—and just as I came to that realization, the vendor cried out "Ashley, what are you doing here?" and sure enough it was a friend from Madrona, and I'd snapped up exactly her yarn for my other vest project (the intarsia one). I'm pleased to be recognized (I'm horribly shy, believe-it-or-not, but once I know someone all bets are off), so that was nice, but the point of the story is that I can recognize yarn by sight and touch, which is a super-power I did not know I had, and which I do not think will allow me to fight crime successfully. Strength, invisibility, flight, all are good, yarn recognition though ... maybe not so much. Unless all the crimes are yarn-related, but then it's like Aquaman (must involve water!) and people make fun of you for not being a versatile crime-fighter.

(You may have glimpsed "Aisle 400" in the photo above. No, there aren't 400+ aisles in the Convention Centre. There are 14, marked 100 to 1400, and then the shops are helpfully marked 101, 102 etc. on the map.

I ended up deciding to buy a teensy bit more yarn than originally intended, so the alpaca is going to become part of yet another vest, the Strönd, also by Stephen West. I freakin' love this vest, but for some reason it had hidden from me in every Ravelry search I've ever done until Saturday night. I have no idea why. (And I showed it to the vendors, and one of them loved it so much she's now making it herself, so I'm glad I mentioned it to them). It's in two colours, so the grey is from Montana Fiber Works/Black Wolf Ranch above, and the navy (much more my colour than rust) is from the Royal Bee:

For my Caldwell Vest (the original purported reason for being there in the first place) I ultimately decided upon yarns from Leading Men Fiber Arts. As a leading man myself, I think we have to support one another—plus the yarn was super nice, variegated in the absolutely most subtle way possible, appropriate for the project (how often I fail to worry about that!) and reasonably priced.

Then, of course, I fell in love with some gradient yarn from Twisted Fiber. That night I scoured Ravelry for a good excuse, and I found it: the Vairisle Hat, which would be perfect for one solid yarn (which I snapped up from Fidalgo Yarns, yet another vendor friend from Madrona), and two cupcakes from Twisted Fiber (mine is the cream/brown/grey/grey colourway). They're on order. I think the vendor knows I was hoping for mine to be sans sparkles, but we'll see.

At this point I had to ask myself the question all yarn lovers and wine fanciers eventually have to face: am I just buying this because the label is so beautiful? And the answer, I suppose, is sure, but it's Alphonse Mucha, how am I supposed to resist that?

Turns out if you ask nicely they will give you a business card, so you can collect the labels without having to buy the yarn. Who knew? My stash could've been half as big.

So now I've got yarn (for two vests, and a hat) from five different shops. How about some needles? I had bought some lovely hexagonal needles (easier to get your right needle tip into) from Indian Lake Artisans only last week, but you can never have enough needles, and the ones from Signature are fabulous, fast, and with non-annoying cables. Both companies make sure that the solid tips spin around independently of the cable, which after a weekend I can no longer live without, frankly (so much for the bazillion circulars I've already purchased, sigh).

I bought three, of course. They did give me a pattern and complimentary yarn (not sure that I need more yarn, and if it were pink acrylic I'd have demurred, but it was hand-dyed shades-of-blue wool, so of course I kept it).

By Sunday I was almost finished ... but with my Sophie's Universe's bedspread about two inches from completion, I knew I would soon need a new crochet project. And wouldn't it be fun to make a ridiculous point of only crocheting large bedspreads with patterns so complicated they can fill out an entire published book? Lucky for me, one shop (L'Atelier) had Jane Crowfoot's Bohemian Blooms book ... and the actual blanket that inspired it. Not some rando's project, either ... the original blanket, the one in the photos in the book. It's like going to the Louvre and seeing the real Mona Lisa (well, more like if you actually got to fondle the Mona Lisa to see how soft she turned out, which you don't normally get to do).

I was so thrilled at this discovery I forgot to purchase the yarn for it, so must get that locally.

I actually like the original colourway, but would probably replace the dusty pink in the borders with something else, just for a soupçon of personalization. So there we have it: crochet project #1, Sophie's Universe, and project #2, Bohemian Blooms. I must be mental.

Much like Madrona, there are tables for social knitting, and classes, and demonstrations, etc. The emphasis (at Madrona) seemed to be the social aspect, and the emphasis (at Stitches) seemed to be the vendors. I made friends at Madrona, but I only made acquaintances at Stitches. Still, absolutely worth it, especially if you have the time to really explore everything. Ultimately I spent about 9 hours there, and still feel I barely skimmed the surface. With twenty minutes to go, I found a vendor of vintage goods (beautiful bobbins for bobbin lace, for instance), with the loveliest ribbons and rickrack, sigh. There was an antique buttons vendor (we have a great buttons shop in Vancouver, but these would have been different buttons). I didn't even look at sock yarn!

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Itineris Shawl (I'll pretend it's a scarf. I'm almost finished the second repeat)

  • Sophie's Universe crochet project #1 (doing extra rounds, to turn it into a queen-size bedspread, I'm on round 119))

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 29 of Hexagon 8)

  • Caldwell Vest (up to 4th stripe of the back)

  • Grey Intarsia Vest (my own pattern, almost finished the first set of squares which will be more like rectangles, I think)

  • Hat (my own pattern, using Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible Pattern #52 for its motif)

Admitting to backburnering:

  • Sophie's Universe crochet project #2 (Part 6: Round 46)

  • Ridiculous Giant Blanket, finished the border, on to the body.

  • GGN Norwegian Ski Sweater (finished the torso, currently well above the cuffs of Arms One and Two (I'm knitting both at once--but on separate needles, I'm not that clever yet))

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