Sunday, March 15, 2009

THE Day....

ALERT! Pretty long - uh - ginormous somewhat lengthy blogpost ahead. You were warned.

"HANGING OUT". Definition: scrubbed on the washboard, rinsed in clear hot water, squoze through the wringer and hung out , as in "attached to the clothesline with neat wooden pegs". But - ladies and gentlemen, there is ANOTHER MEANING, in this the Year of Our Lawsy 2009. It means "spending time in the fantastic company of one's peeps, one's Most Specifically For Sure PEEPS.

In this case, "peeps" refers specifically to knitters. ALL of us knitters feel the connection. We can be as diverse a group as lovers, dog lovers, people with allergies. Gardeners. Vegans. Carnivores. Workers, retirees. Working retirees. Republicats. Democrans. You get the point.

But if you put up an announcement and set out signs like this:

you're going to get a big passel of 'em and every single one is going to armed with bags and baskets brimming with sticks and strings, and many are going be wearing hand-knits of such brilliance and complexity that the eyes of your humble Author (knitter of toques, dishcloths and preemie caps) WATER.

I refer, of course, to the Madison Knitters' Guild KNIT-IN, a day-long event featuring classes in a wide variety of techniques and skills - with a talk in the morning by The Yarn Harlot . THEN...add in a nice lunch, followed by another round of classes, and an AFTERNOON TALK by said Yarn Harlot...and in the mix? A Marketplace, a large room jam-PACKED with the most incredible collection of yarns outside of.... of....well, the combined stashes of us all (!). And patterns, and knitwear, and stitch markers......OK, I know Y'ALL know exactly what I mean.

Now, by absolute chance I had the day off and needless to say ("needle-less" HA!) I went. Oh, I was NOT "needle-less"; I had my huge tote with the necessary reading matter, notebooks and masking tape (I never go anywhere without my masking tape), my big knitting basket and my purse........and yes, it was verified later: I DID have more with me than Stephanie brought along to fly from Toronto & stay overnight in a hotel. Nevermind.

I got there to attend on the half-day plan; my interests were lunch (oh come on, don't even feign surprise), the Market, and seeing the Yarn Harlot . In reverse order. Here's a synopsis - with a few pictures; truth is, I was overwhelmed, pretty much, and taking everything in -- I only remembered to take my camera out occasionally.

I got there about 10:30 and luckily found a close parking place (see below for further reference to my Admirable Parking Karma). I rushed in and signed up and paid, hung up my coat and wandered around a bit. I took a quick tour through the Market to this end: I saw a pattern I determined to buy, yarns that were completely out of my skill- and price-range (but very easy for me to admire, stroke, and crave) and some neat things like pottery with fabulous sheeps on 'em.

By then it was time for lunch - "you can call me a lot of things, but don't call me late for dinner" - so I went into the dining room. I didn't know very many people (although clearly we were kindred souls) but I was greeted by some dear souls from the Sow's Ear, and old friend from SCA days and a fellow-storyteller.

I invited myself to a table with a couple of ladies and went to get my lunch (very nice salad and some super-delicious cheese lasagna, heavy on the cheese). FYI, there was also a thick, rich-looking meat lasagna too, I'm just a sucker for cheese.

OK. As I was standing in line, Stephanie, AKA Yarn Harlot, came over to me, said she was glad to see me (we hugged)and hoped we could talk later. Allow me a moment to lie on the floor, take a deep breath or two and recover myself. All right, I'm back.

NOTE: I had along a little bag. In the little bag were two bags of guaranteed fresh Squeaky Cheese Curds (heck, she mentioned them in her blog and I had a source for some top-notch ones), some string cheese (isn't that FUN?) and a couple of other things: a gold Wisconsin coin, a Weiner Whistle (I think I gave her one before but one can't ever have too many weinies) and -- OK, forgive me this -- a little enamel pin marking the 100th Anniversary of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. What the heck, a little shameless promotion. Sue me.

I ate my lunch - truth to tell, I propped up a book on Victorian life to read while I ate and took notes. I'm pretty much immersed in research for these museum portrayals so I took the opportunity. However, I realized a bit later that the table right behind me was....a bunch of Sow's Ear staff and friends - and Stephanie!! I slipped over and gave her the bag, nattering something about dessert (I admit it, I felt a bit awkwards-stalk-y, but by the time my feelings caught up to my brain the deed was done). Besides, sometimes, in Wisconsin, cheese IS dessert, am I right?

OK - anyway, everyone finished eating, and here's a little block of time that meant more to me than I can describe adequately, just fancy how you'd feel and you'll get it. After lunch, Stephanie came over and sat with me, and chatted! And I managed to keep my wits, mostly, and it was a friendly conversation Between Two Knitters. Nevermind one is a world-famous knitting author and pretty much acknowledged as the woman responsible for bringing Knitting into the spotlight where it should be, elevated to proper significance. Never mind the other is a plain process knitter of ordinary skill and (I admit it) extraordinary enthusiasm. It was just two knittin' ladies

We talked about yarn shops (she'd visited Lakeside Fibers AND THE SOW'S EAR!! HOORAY!) and pigs (well, I AM a Hog-and-Blogger) and she held my pig!:

I took this picture. Myself. And that's my pig -- have you EVER seen a pig smile like that? Now, I can't help it, I'm going to wax here. Feel free to skip down if you like (after satisfying yourself with gazing at that picture).

It's no surprise that I admire Stephanie; no secret that I have a case of Celebrity Awe for sure. I'm not alone in that. But see, knitters are, as a group, different. As I sat there, a few thoughts went through my mind: Stephanie is about of an age with my Lovely Daughter. (I feel no age difference between the two of us...or between me and any other knitter I've ever met regardless of age.) We have a great many things in common. She's been a doula; I entertained the thought of going to The Farm in Tennessee to learn midwifery. I was a genuine certified hipppie; so is she, albeit a new generation. I think our ideas about women and womanhood, children, music, aesthetics, what's important (and what's not)....are very nearly identical - I feel confident of the things we share in common.

So two minutes after she sat down to chat - my awe stepped aside, and I have to say that I enjoyed our chinwag and visiting as much as I enjoy the evenings at the Sow's Ear with those friends......I felt that it was a mutual enjoyment of friends, women-knitter-mother friends, with many, many shared feelings and experiences - age and distance notwithstanding.

We're ALL connected by virtue of our common activity and the barriers that exist between people in all other venues of life do not exist in our world-wide community of Players with Sticks and String.

Now then - to summarize perhaps the best afternoon of my life: after that, Stephanie and I (!) walked down to the Market and hung out , admiring yarns, chatting with vendors...we stopped at one booth with a very FINE assortment of books (I resisted). There was a good display of all of Stephanie's books, and I pointed them out and said, "Do you see these books? You'd love them, they're absolutely the very best!" and she said, "Oh, I don't know, I understand she's pretty overrated." I said "Oh, no, they're fabulous, take my word for it." (I'll remember that in particular, it was just so much fun!) NOTE: if she was a friend who really didn't know those books I'd have bought her one, I've done that before a time or two!)

We ended at the last vendor before the door, the very one with the pattern I wanted. It was getting on towards 1:00 pm and Stephanie's next talk, so she went off to prepare and I bought the pattern.

NOTE: It's from Black Water Abbey yarns and it's for a small cable-knit bag that I couldn't resist. She had one on display - I asked if she thought it was difficult, and here's how that works: She said "I designed it to teach doing cables, either with or without a cable needle." Two things struck me: I was talking to the DESIGNER herself....and I feel perfectly confident that I'll be able to make it. I'm thinking it'll be a perfect gift, for several people, and I have some yarn I'm going to try one with -- it's Lion Brand 'Fisherman'. Not elegant, but I think it'll show nice stitch definition, and for the first experimental one, adequate.

'Nother note: to my delight, my good friend Donna (whom I'd told about this) had managed to find the place and telephoned to say she was in the auditorium! So I hurried in and found her, and I was so tickled that she made it to the talk! (She's the Master Crocheter, maker of the most beautiful afghans you can imagine - and she crochets lovely things from alpaca for a lady who raises them and sells the yarn. Donna had gone with me to hear Stephanie on her last visit).

Here's the row ahead of us in the Auditorium, all ready to listen to Our Hero;

And here are the folks sitting behind us. Do you notice something?

Almost every single person in the room was knitting (or crocheting). Now, can you imagine any OTHER sort of lecture where everyone would be openly, boldly knitting and NOT be thought rude or inattentive? EXACTLY part of the point of Stephanie's talk - knitting puts us all in the "theta" zone, not unlike that of the Buddhist monks....and spending time in this tranquil, meditative state increases our intelligence, concentration, ability to learn......can ANY of you imagine a more delicious experience? (And for those of you who might not knit...kinda makes you want to take it up, doesn't it?)

Stephanie always takes pictures of the congregation (my term, not hers) with "the sock" at the beginning of her talk. (OH! She took a picture of ME with the sock - I held it in the same hand as I held her sock before, at Yellow Dog...this is a different sock, of course -- rich, perfect, with the neatest heel! They're her trademark, of course, and she actually told me a couple of tricks about dealing with my holey-itis in my socks!)

She spoke, about philosophy, friendship, motherhood, knitting, - for nearly two hours. Speaking for everyone there (I figure I'm qualified to do that) we could've sat for another two....anyway, then she asked for questions.

She told some very funny stories (and I mean REALLY funny) and clarified a few points, and then, and then - someone asked about how she writes.

And she told us about getting the girls off to school, and going to her office, and working from about 9:00 to 4:00, "only surfing during lunch break" (strong woman!).

Ladies and gentlemen, that was the topper, for me.

In her answer, about methods, about her feelings about writing, about being a writer - she answered questions of the Writer Me as surely as if I had asked her personally. Finally the talk was over; I exchanged another couple of ideas with her (so did a few other ladies). Donna and I walked through the Market once more, then she had to leave to meet her husband for an evening out.

As the wonderful day was ending, I went to thank her for such a wonderful afternoon, and chatted pleasantly with a couple of other ladies standing there too. Fellow Wisconsinites as well as fellow knitters. Sisters all! Then I wished Stephanie "safe travels". (We'd talked about some good sturdy Canadian yarn from a place that's been in business for well over 100 years - they still use the "good old colors" and she says it's a good sturdy utilitarian wool. She's going to send me some information about their heritage yarn which sounds perfectly perfect for my toques!), We hugged - and I left.

I left being a more excited knitter, truly inspired; I left being a more determined - and confident - writer. I left with the feeling I'd been with a collection of close friends and colleagues...and that I'd had a wonderful opportunity to spend a rare visit with a dear friend who lives many miles away in Canada.

"But wait - there's more!" Here's how that most splendid, exciting and inspiring day continued:

Overlook the age spots,yucchy veins and wrinkles (yeahright). This is my rubber stamp, given when we gave our tickets to the door staff at the Joan Baez concert two hours after I left the Knit-In! The tickets were Mr Dearling's Christmas present to us. It was at the Barrymore, a lovely old movie theatre-turned concert venue here in town; when we arrived the line in front was about a block long as the door wouldn't open for about 45 minutes. Here is the marquee of the theatre:

This shot was taken - from my seat in our car . Think on that a minute -- because here's what that meant: as we arrived, we found a parking place, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DOOR! Yes indeedy, a perfect, big-enough, empty parking place. Remember my comment above about my "good parking karma"? I'm telling you, can't top that. Clearly the perfect touch to the end of perfect day! Oh, and the concert? Well, before the doors opened the Staff guy came around announcing that cameras were to be left in cars; that they would, in fact, be confiscated, so no pictures, needless to say. But believe me when I say, the concert was absolutely GRAND, Joan Baez was brilliant, with every single bit of the energy and vivacity she's always had. (Did I mention, this was a 50th Anniversary Tour? She sang many of the songs from the old days of political activism, and ended the concert (after two encores) with the entire audience singing "Amazing Grace" together. I sang through my tears of Nostalgia and Recollection; it was fabulous.

I wish you all at least one day like this every single year of your lives. I went to bed last night a better woman, better writer and better knitter.

Thanks, Stephanie. Thanks, Joan.


Marjorie said...

She did it! She did it! Upon learning Stephanie was going to be in Madison, I *asked* her to give you a hug from her ET ;) (happydance) Hi there, ET!

Randi said...

Enjoyed your recounting of your great day! Sure wish I'd been there. :)

janna said...

What a wonderful day! Thanks for sharing with us!

Anonymous said...

Seeing Stephanie and actually chatting and hanging out with her would be enough to put any knitter on Cloud Nine, but to do that PLUS talk writerly stuff with her must truly be wonderous. What a great day indeed!

MX said...

Bravo!!! Congratulations on your wonderful, exciting, enlightening day!!

Jamwes said...

Do knitters really refer to their friends as peeps? Very interesting.

Kitty Mommy said...

Oh my goodness. I may never get my jaw completely off the floor after reading this. What a stellar day! I was thinking of you at the Knit-In.

Also, we had lunch at Monty's on Saturday and (while walking around in front of the diner with a wee boy who didn't want to sit still and proceeded to pitch full-body tantrums when not allowed to crawl up on the table) I mused about how cool the Joan Baez concert would be and wondered if you might be headed there.

Yarnhog said...

I honestly cannot imagine a more perfect day. Thank you for sharing it.

When I met the Harlot, I was too awestruck to even come up with anything to say.

CTJen said...

That is really really amazing, DH, and it made me so happy (and Jealous) to read it! Awesome. :)

MollyBeees said...

OMGosh! It sounds like you had such a great time. I am SO jealous!

What do you call an Irish man who just sits in your yard all day?

Paddy O'Furniture!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Alwen said...

That is so cool - I'm all celebrity-struck at secondhand!

MX said...

Ok, I was already more than a little impressed with your post and then, THEN saw your picture on the Harlot's blog today. Girrrrrl, you are rockin and I must get your autograph when I next get to Madison. It must happen.
Through the jealousy, I'm very very happy for you!