I’m back from Stitches East in Baltimore. It was a whirlwind trip and definitely worthwhile. I met a whole bunch of knitters who read my blog. I must say, that was one of the highlights of the two short days I was in Baltimore. I wish I had written down who I met, but I didn’t think that far ahead.
Once I got to the Convention Center, I helped my friend Linda Pratt from Westminster Fibers set up her booth. We did this together for many years when we worked at CEY and so it was definitely a blast from the past. After we got it all organized, it was time for the Kaffe Fassett presentation up in a giant room jam-packed with knitters knitting and eager to hear what Kaffe had to say. Linda’s company Westminster Fibers, distributors of Rowan, Nashua (where my yarn Julia resides), Regia, Schaenmayer, Gedifra, and a few more companies, generously sponsored the Kaffe event. That meant it was FREE to anyone who wanted to come. How nice was that of them? Bet you didn’t think about that, did you? It's not often you get to hear such a fabulous talk without paying anything!
Linda and Brandon Mably (Kaffe's studio manager, designer, and from what I hear, quite a fabulous teacher) did quick and humorous introductions and then Kaffe showed a wonderful slide show of his work. What I enjoyed most was seeing all that he produces. Seriously, when do these people sleep considering the travel schedule they also keep up? Kaffe showed mosaics, knits, textile design, oil paintings and amazing tapestry commissions which are housed in private collections all over the world. I found his tapestries most intriguing. He said he worked on 8 mesh canvas and used three ends of yarn at a time to cover the canvas quickly with large stitches. They were beautiful. It’s so great to see an artist who works in textiles and so many different mediums be so successful and well thought of. When I visit different cities, I like to take in a museum if I have time. I didn't need to this time - Kaffe's talk gave me enough cultural and artistic stimulation for days. Kaffe and Brandon are on a tour of the USA and if you have a chance to see them or take a class with them, I know you won’t be disappointed. Click here for their travel schedule.
Kaffe previewed his new book Kaffe Knits Again which was shot at Charleston House in Sussex, England. (As Kaffe said “Did I ever stop knitting?”) This fabulous home to the painters from the Bloomsbury Group - Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, children, and large extended family was the perfect setting for Kaffe's new knits. My friend Sally and I visited Charleston House several years ago and loved seeing the painted interiors, oil paintings, needlepoints, handmade pottery, antique furniture, and general creative atmosphere. If you are interested in knitwear and color and creativity, you will so enjoy this book. Many of the motifs are Kaffe’s signature designs, re-colored for this new book. There are garments for men and women and some lovely home décor.
The next day, I gave my speech at around noon. Benjamin Levisay, the CEO of XRX, Inc. did a little magic with my PowerPoint presentation and made it a bit spiffier – which I really appreciated – since I am a novice with PP. My Mom and my good friend Peggy surprised me by showing up at the talk which was fun and rather emotional. The attendees seemed very happy and I got many good questions. Friendly group and not too scary. After the talk, I signed the air-freighted copies of my new book down in the marketplace. It was so nice to talk with real knitters who enjoy what I do.
At the big Fashion Show at night, with 850 people in the audience, Alexis Xenakis (Publisher of Knitters Magazine) surprised me by introducing me and making me come up on the stage to say a few words. I had to think very fast – I had absolutely no warning – I told a quick version of this post. The lights were blaring in my face, I couldn’t see a thing, and I am hoping I made some bit of sense. One of my garments from The Book was in the Fashion Show and the audience seemed to love it – thank goodness.
The best thing about this visit to Stitches was seeing many old friends including David, Elaine, Benjamin, and Alexis from XRX, Nancy Thomas and Sally Harding, and several of the retailers I spent many years selling yarn to. I also loved re-meeting many of the knitters I met at the first few Stitches along with so many new faces. As I said to Alexis, it has been a decade since I was last at one of these shows. We’ve all gotten a decade older and hopefully wiser. I was feeling a bit self-conscious about seeing everyone again but thank goodness, they have more wrinkles too!
I think back to what Stitches was when it first began, a down-home event with enthusiastic knitters curious for all the knowledge they could gather. It isn’t much different now – but it is glossier, much better attended (there were probably 4 to 5 times the number of attendees since the last show I was at!), and the Convention Venue was so professional. The message was still the same though – live and love, knit and stitch, learn and share.
What a nice few days……