Annual Girls Weekend 2008

So this was my first annual girls weekend, aka stitches midwest, with my dear friends Sarah, Corrie, and Kathy. Stitches took place outside of Chicago at the Schaumburg convention center. I drove out on Friday, arriving around noon. And here I will attempt to give you a weekend recap, and try not to miss anything along the way. With pictures of course. This could get long, bear with me. 🙂

First off, I was a bit nervous about driving my car to Chicago. It is getting up there in years and though I think it is quite reliable, you just never know. I did, on my moms advice, get triple A just in case. Also, it has been awhile since I have driven near a city (excepting on the trip with my parents recently, and that did go swimmingly, but then again I didn’t have to do it for a long period of time.) The drive was overall quite easy. I had no trouble following my directions and my inner secret city driver kicked in just fine in the traffic heavy areas. I did miss one turn in Schaumburg itself but was easily able to figure out an alternate route to the hotel.

Walking into the hotel was quite amazing. I had called Kathy to have her meet me and take me up to the room to get settled in. I showed up between class times luckily. The hotel had an entire floor that was just beautiful lobby area with loads of seating for relaxing and knitting. It was bright as one side was entirely glass, and as you looked up you could see all the floors above you. There were fountains and fireplaces, creating a relaxing and inviting atmosphere. We had a room with 2 double beds, and the bathroom had a TV in the mirror! I was somewhat weirded out by that, but it was rather impressive. The reason the TV in the bathroom was disturbing was that it turned on when both the lights went on, therefor you would be in the bathroom, doing whatever it was which you needed to do, and suddenly there is a voice talking in the room with you. Impressive, perhaps, but very strange.

I had a short class on Friday, so I wandered about the marketplace for awhile. Completely overwhelming, I cannot even begin to describe. Aisle after aisle of booths dedicated to yarns and fiber arts. I couldn’t focus at all! I couldn’t find what I wanted and just kept walking about, not purchasing anything on my list because I couldn’t get focused enough to do so. I went to my class (creative cast-on’s) and learned a lot. Namely that I am unlikely to ever use a picot cast on as it looks….like fingers dropping off the bottom of the cast on edge. I also learned a 2 color cast on and a tubular cast on, both of which I will use, and have already used. Next sweater will get a tubular cast on and it is called for in the scarf I intend to knit for Nick next as well. I then walked about the marketplace some more, picked up some natural camel colored alpaca for a coraline sweater. I think the drape and the softness will work very nicely, and the smocked yoke will show up perfectly.

I also grabbed up some silk hankies to spin. My purchasing rules for spinning were that it had to be something I have not done before, and silk hankies I have been wanting to try for a long time. Then I was more than done with the market, as I still couldn’t focus though I was blaming it on the long drive. (Those that know me will realize this was just an excuse.) Oh, I did also pick up some wool/silk for a tangled yoke cardigan. It is in the most lovely smoky dark blue color. And shiny due to the silk!

Friday evening was the fashion show and dinner which I had declined to go to. I let the girls be on their way while I made plans to have some Indian food. You see, I was smart and asked some people here what were their favorite places to go eat in Schaumburg. My idea was to try not to eat any chain or american style cuisine as when in Chicago, one should take advantage of the good food. So I wandered off the a lovely little Indian restaurant all by myself. I took a book. The servers were very nice to me (probably in the “look at this poor young woman all alone” way) and left me to my food and my book. So it turned into a very enjoyable evening for me! I headed back to the room afterwards and waited upon the return of the fashion show gals, then we headed downstairs to the seating areas to knit and enjoy a glass of wine.

Saturday was a day which both Sarah and I had free. Kathy and Corrie had classes all day. Sarah agreed to come help me in the market, as she seemed to know her way around better and be more focused. She was indeed very good at keeping me focused. She was able to see things which I would like and draw my attention to them while I could not see them in the first place. She was also good about “We will come back to that later, once you have seen everything.” Which does help in the spending department. Our first stop was at the stand that was selling blue moon fiber arts socks that rock. Fabulous yarn, and I never buy it since shipping tends to be pricey. I had thought to buy another sheep to shoe kit as I was so thrilled with the first but ended up getting sock yarn and locks to spin instead. Oh, and some silk laceweight in one of the raven colorways as well.

Sarah was also able to focus me enough to see the Habu Textiles booth. In this booth I fell in love. I kept going back over and over to look at the colors and the fibers all packaged up so neatly. I couldn’t stop! I cannot even begin to describe the wonderfulness of this booth! I ended up purchasing some bamboo laceweight, for a very inexpensive price and I managed to leave the other stuff alone. Mostly because I couldn’t decide on anything. There was silk/mohair blend that would make lovely scarves, and hand reeled silk from the cocoons and handspun and dyed, purchased in Laos. I wanted that more than anything else but refrained (for now). Even more amazing were the various textiles like paper, or stainless steel, which were turned into yarn! I found this booth so fascinating I just couldn’t stay away.

I found a booth selling Irish yarn, they had tons of sweaters in cabled patterns done up as samples. The wool was scratchy but had some of the nicest cable definition I have ever seen. This yarn would prevent the great Starmore aran felting disaster of 2007.

I really could go on and on about the yarn in all its goodness, but you would have to see it to believe it. And perhaps you can begin to get a picture of it all when I show you this:

(Don’t you yarnies just want to roll around on this?)

This is a picture of the yarn haul of 4 women at the stitches midwest market. We thought it would be very interesting to put it all on a bed and take a picture. Looks like a lot, but the gals use their stitches purchases to get them through an entire year of knitting. (As I hope to do!)

And also you can see our obsession with blue moon fiber arts, this is the haul of 4 girls at the blue moon fiber arts booth. What amazes me is that we tended to pick similar colors even when we shopped separately.

I had gotten the recommendation of a small Pakistani restaurant in the area. I was warned that it was very casual but told that I would like it. Since Sarah and I were both free to wander, I asked if she was feeling adventurous enough to go too. Given that my friends have a love of adventure, she was more than willing to give it a try so off we went. We came upon a small restaurant which did not look like it was used by many Caucasian american born people.(all the better since the food is probably not “watered down”, I hate that, I love the spice!) We were having a bit of a late lunch but there were still quite a few people there. We were both quickly overwhelmed by choices so decided on the buffet. I cannot tell you exactly what we were eating, but there was goat curry, one of my favorites, and it was wonderful! Sarah laughed at me eating the meat while she was enjoying her vegetarian choices more than the meat based dishes. Now, I worried that Sarah was just being polite when she told me she loved the food, but when she went back and told the girls that she liked it, AND called her husband to tell him she liked it, I started to feel confident that she actually did like it.

All that good food just put us to sleep, so Sarah and I took a nap while waiting for Corrie and Kathy to get back from their afternoon classes. You see, we had big plans for the evening! We were headed to 1492 Tapas Bar in Chicago. Now, there was a bit of confusion over how we would get there. Once we figured out that a taxi would cost boatloads and we couldn’t figure out how the train could get us there on time for our reservations, Kathy decided to drive us. Now, Kathy lived in Chicago area for 11 years and basically learned to drive there, but I well know that those driving skills go underground when you live in a smaller city. I was amazed with her courage even before we got in the car. And by the time we got there I decided she was a Rockstar with Mad City Driving Skilz! I, with all certainty, could not have done it. She maneuvered flawlessly down streets so narrow they should be one ways yet there were cars side by side. She was quick thinking and quick acting while being safe. She saw the cars around her which were not seeing her and trying to pull into our lane. Absolutely brilliant. The restaurant was wonderful, we were seated inside in a small back corner. We eagerly perused the menu’s and came up with our favorite tapas. In our rather oddly organized fashion we all thought we should write them down, and we even managed to come up with pen and paper. Our (very adorable) server seemed to think it quite wonderful. I fell in love with “Croquetas de Queso Goat cheese croquettes over roasted bread with honey – balsamic dressing” and we even ordered a second serving. Corrie was going back solely for the “Datiles con Tocino Premium Dates wrapped in bacon with a mango – marinara sauce” I think, and we all agreed that they were wonderful in a very odd way. We had the server take our picture:

He told us we made his night. I agree, We were fun! LOL. The evening probably couldn’t have gotten much better.

In the picture, from left to right, Kathy, Sarah, Corrie, and myself.

As do all things, even the weekend had to come to an end, though we attempted to prolong it as long as possible. Corrie and Sarah were flying out early Sunday morning and Kathy was headed out too. I had a class at 1:30 PM so I was not leaving Chicago until 4:30. After the gals left, I wandered slowly through my morning routine, and did some knitting and packing. Checked out and headed to the market for lunch and to see who won the grand prize (not me.) then off to my steeking class. Steeking class was fantastic! We learned a bunch of different ways to steek as well as many different ways of finishing off a project. I am not nervous about them anymore in the least, as I now know that I can do it and that the yarn won’t make a mess. I thought that 3 hours would be very long, but it was not, I was entertained and engaged the entire time. And then I headed home.

Around Des Moines, after 5 hours of driving, I started having trouble. Knowing I had another 2.5 hours of driving ahead of me, I began to be concerned I would not make it home. I had been up since 4 AM with no nap so it isn’t surprising that I was nodding off. Actually, I thought I was fine but would realize that the car (which does not have cruise control) would be going slower and slower. I would speed back up and then the same thing would happen. I began to think I’d be better off stopping for the night and driving the rest of the way in the morning, so for safety’s sake, that is what I did.

What I will do different next year: As this was my first year, I didn’t know that the classes would be that great! I saw what my companions were doing and I was jealous! I just didn’t know that I would learn that much. It is hard for me to spend money on classes when I could probably figure it out for myself. But as I have never taken lessons before, I was amazed at the ease of picking things up when someone was showing me and teaching me. Additionally, taking a class might cause me to think out of the box about something. They might have a tip or a trick that I didn’t think of or come across, that makes life easier. And I am sure that I might look at some knitting techniques and never take the time to figure them out unless I was in a class dedicated to that technique. So next year, I am spending my money on the classes! I will also attempt to be there for more of it, have my vacation dedicated to it, because it is SOOOO worth it to me!

What I worked on:

Socks! All socks all the time. I had finished one of grandpa’s francies before I left and started on the other. I then finished one of the monkey’s and started on the second one. I then had a breakthrough with the dreaded pomatamus socks, and managed to finish one as well and start the next. Take a look!

Thank you for bearing with me (if you managed to read to the end) through my fantastic weekend of yarny amazement! Up next…more yarn fairy goodness and a final ravelympics post.