Archive for November, 2011

STITCHES Midwest 2011

Writers Note: In April 2011, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be attending STITCHES Midwest at all, because there was nothing there for me as a crocheter.  By May 2011, things had majorly turned around and I would be attending the expo for three days.  The following is my amazing experience at Midwest.

August 2011 rolled around, and I worked hard to complete some crocheted shawls to wear to the event (because what could be better than wearing items you made with yarn while shopping for more yarn).  Friday night came and I was nervous.  It helped that I knew the people at the Halos of Hope booth, plus I had met Erica from Kollage Yarns the previous weekend.  I was introduced to Kimberly from XRX, and she was fantastic.  Not only did she put me at ease, but she was a great touchstone all weekend long, introducing me to some amazing people.

And then the whirlwind started.  I felt like a princess at the yarn prom 🙂  I met Benjamin, who apologized for being very busy with getting everything ready for the fashion show, and he handed me over to Molly, his assistant.  I really started feeling like a VIP when Molly lead me past all the people waiting to get into the ballroom and walked me to my seat, which had a “reserved” tag on it with my name.  I was seated in the sponsors /XRX section.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Lori (who works in accounting for XRX) and her mom, and in front of me sat people from Cascade and Kollage.

The fashion show was amazing, with over 100 garments and accessories shown.  I was personally invested in the crochet section of the show, which happened in the second half of the show.  The items got “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience, and I’ll admit, I took some pleasure in the comments from the knitters behind me, when they claimed a particular item was adorable, or stunning, or (the highest praise) they would learn to crochet to make that.  I think it opened some eyes to see that crochet can make some high fashion items with lots of style.

Dinner came after the fashion show, and not only was I seated with Benjamin, but also the Shannon D. from Cascade Yarns, and Erica, Susan, and Mark from Kollage Yarns.  I felt a bit like a fish out of water at first, but everyone was so welcoming, and Mark was so darn funny, that I felt pretty comfortable pretty quickly.  Dinner seemed to fly by, and then it was time for the PJ party.

Several of the ladies from Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns came to the PJ party, and we sat together in a group with Shannon D.’s mom and grandmother.  I think Shannon liked it that we were sociable with her family, because she awarded several members of our group some of the left over prizes.  Sometimes, it just really pays to be nice.   We had fun taking pictures of each other.  My fave is one of Pam in her shark hat standing next to Benjamin in his PJs.

Saturday came and I was up with the sun, making sure to get to the hotel early enough to enjoy an amazing breakfast before SHOPPING!  The Market is really one of the most popular aspects of a STITCHES Expo.  People come by the bus load to buy yarn, yarn, and more yarn.  My goal this year was to check out the Market and see how crochet-friendly it was this year as opposed to last year.  I also wanted to make sure I purchased several of the crochet patterns for garments that were in the fashion show the previous evening.  The Market doors finally open in inside we all surged!

One of the first stops I made was the Bijou Basin Ranch booth.  I was wearing a shawl I crocheted from a Kristin Omdahl design, and since she was at the booth all weekend, I wanted to show it to her.  What I LOVE about crochet designers is that they get a HUGE kick out of seeing what people have made with their designs.  Kristin was amazing, and asked if we could take a picture together (like I would say no).

One of my next stops was the Great Yarns booth, because they had the pattern for the amazing pineapple shawl designed by Karen Ratto-Whooley.  I was looking around the booth to see if I could spot the pattern anywhere when a dark-haired woman came up to me and asked if I needed help.  When I told her I was looking for the Pineapple Dreams shawl pattern, she got a huge smile on her face and introduced herself as the designer!  What luck!  Great Yarns is Karen’s local yarn shop, so she was helping out the owner by spending some time in the booth.  I purchased the pattern and yarn from the booth, then walked with Karen over to the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) booth, where she introduced me to the current CGOA president Amy Shelton.

I did some more yarn shopping – went over to the Kollage booth and bought the crochet pattern they featured in the fashion show the night before, some of their wonderful yarn, and a square-handled crochet hook.  Went to the Fiesta Yarns booth around noon for a crochet pattern signing by Rick Mondragon, then another booth for a book signing by Maggie Sefton, then back to Fiesta at 2pm for a pattern signing by Marly Bird.  I had met Marly very quickly the previous evening.  She has one of those amazing personalities where you feel immediately like friends within moments of meeting her.  Mine was the first pattern she signed, and she asked me to stick around and talk to her.  So, I hung out with Marly for a half hour at the Fiesta booth, talking and laughing, and when she finished, she asked me to come back to the Bijou Basin Booth and sit at the yarn tasting table with her and just hang out some more.  The (almost) one on one time I was able to spend with Marly, who is a big name designer (at least in my world she is), is pretty much priceless and it tops my list for amazing experiences at STITCHES Midwest.

I swung past the Kollage booth again in the late afternoon on my way to the Halos of Hope booth (which was right behind it), when Mark spotted me.  I stopped to say a quick hello and as a totally unexpected gift, he comped me two crochet hooks.  I just want to take a moment to thank Erica, Erica’s mom, Susan, and Mark.  All four of them were just amazing all weekend, and made me feel more special then I probably had a right to feel.  I went back on Sunday and purchased some more yarn from the booth, as a way to say thank you, but mostly because I really love their yarn and how amazing it feels!

Saturday evening I met up with friends with Fuzzy Wuzzy for the Student Fashion Show and Banquet.  Our group was too big for one table, so we split into two.  What is interesting about this dinner is that one of the teachers is at every table.  Some of the Fuzzy Wuzzy group sat with Lily Chin, and the other half, which I was in, sat at a table with Gwen Bortner, who is a knit designer.  Gwen was very lovely to meet, and it was interesting to get a perspective on knitting from a designer.  I plucked up the courage to show two crocheted pieces in the fashion show, so I filled out the slips and volunteered to take mine and other slips from my table to turn them in.

I searched out Kimberly, who said she would turn the slips in for us, and then she proceeded to rock my crochet world.  Kimberly asked me if I had met Myra Wood (a crochet and knit designer / teacher).  When I said no, she brought me over to Myra’s table and introduced me.  Myra stood up, shook my hand, and told me how excited she was to meet me.  Myra then introduced me to Edie Eckman (another crochet and knit designer / teacher), who also expressed how glad she was to meet me.  Both of them told me how appreciative they were about my being a positive voice for crochet.  I thought I was overcome with that, and then Edie blew my mind with her next statement.  “As excited as you are to meet us, that’s how excited we are to meet you.”  That’s when it truly hit me how much of an impact my actions on Ravelry had on others.  I was seen by professionals in the business as a positive voice for crochet, and that sparked a desire to continue being that positive voice.  The feeling from that moment is going to stay with me for a long, long time.

Sunday was the shortest day for STITCHES.  I had a one hour market session where I took a class on free-form crochet, then hung out by the tables for the announcement of the big cash prize winners.  A group of crocheters met with Benjamin at 2pm, and the group included professionals like Karen Whooley, Amy Shelton, Myra Wood, and Jeannie Duncan from Fiesta Yarns, along with interested crocheters like myself.  We talked for a bit about what we saw as positive crochet support at STITCHES, along with any improvements, and then we took a tour of the Market, stopping at several booths.

One of the booths we stopped at was Kollage, and after we assured Susan that we were friendly crocheters, she graciously gave everyone on the tour a free hook.  I wasn’t going to take one at first, since Mark had given me two hooks just the day before, but Susan insisted that I take another. (When I had gotten home, I realized I had two hooks of the same size, so I passed one along to my friend Pam so she could try it.)  We also checked out the award-winning shawls from the “Shawl the Love” contest that Claudia Hand Painted Yarns had sponsored, and it was great to see several crocheted shawls among the winners.

As the tour broke up and people drifted off to do their own thing, I had the chance to talk a little more with Karen.  Getting to know Karen at STITCHES was great because I was going to take two classes from her at Chainlink the following month, and it turns out that getting to know each other would be more beneficial than we realized at the time… but that is a story for another blog post 🙂

All in all, I had a priceless experience at STITCHES Midwest, but I would be most remiss if I didn’t thank Pam Haschke. Pam was at the Halos of Hope booth all weekend, and it was to Pam I would come and gush about the amazing things that were happening to me.  She graciously listened as I shared my experiences with her, and it really helped to have someone to share it all with who also understood what a big deal it was.  Pam, I flew so high because of you – thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to send a huge hug to all my friends at Fuzzy Wuzzy for their support and friendship.  Being able to share what was happening during my “yarn prom” weekend with all of you made the experience that much more special.  I look forward to the laughter we will share in the months and years to come.


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