Last weekend, my daughter and I attended the Stitches Midwest Knit and Crochet Expo held in the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. If you are a knitter, spinner or crocheter and haven’t had the chance to attend a Stitches event or a similar fiber festival, I would highly recommend that you fit one into your schedule.
Registering for Stitches
The Knitting Universe, or XRX, Inc. is the organization that sponsors the Stitches Expos. These events are held throughout the year – Stitches Midwest, Stitches West, Stitches United (East), Stitches Texas, and Stitches SoCal. In addition, there are Camp Stitches events in Idaho and Vermont.
For each of the Stitches Expos, there are options for attending. The basic fee includes admission to the market, or vendor area, for one ($10), two ($15) or three ($20) days – discount coupons are usually available. Classes are offered on all three days – lasting from 90 minutes to six hours. Class registration includes admission to the market for the three days, plus a Thursday night preview. Prices for classes start at $40 and go up from there. Discounts are given for taking multiple classes. Fashion shows and banquets are offered on Friday and Saturday evening.
Registration for Stitches opens several months before your chosen event – with a generous discount on classes and banquets for early registration. We registered at the end of March – about four months before the event – choosing a six hour class offered by designer Steven Berg.
Our class was split between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning – three hours each day. My sister lives about 20-30 minutes from the convention center, and we would have been welcome to stay with here, but we decided to splurge and stay in the connected Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel. We made our reservation in May when we discovered there were not many rooms left.
The hotel looked luxurious – large chandeliers, an open fireplace, and several lounge areas near the lobby. Unfortunately we were not able to see the rooms. When we checked in, we were told that there were no rooms available – even though we had a reservation. We argued, begged, and eventually negotiated a couple extra benefits to compensate for being “walked,” or moved, to another hotel.
We stayed in the Marriott hotel a couple miles away. The hotel was nice enough, but some areas were old and needed updating. The luxury we anticipated was not there. As compensation, transportation was provided to the Renaissance for the evening event. We were also given vouchers for breakfast at the convention center to ensure we would be on time to our class. When we questioned the Renaissance, they agreed that we would not be charged for our stay at either hotel.
We got a great deal, but I think I would have rather stayed in the convention center hotel – moving to the Marriott involved a bit of a hassle. We had initially tried to check in around 6 pm. The desk clerk implied that if we had tried to check in around noon, we wouldn’t have been turned away. Lesson learned.
The market is why most attendees go to Stitches. Over 100 vendors filled the convention hall. Many of the vendors are nationally known suppliers of yarn or accessories, but several were local indie dyers – I usually shop at both. I have confidence in the well-known yarns and am familiar with their quality. I like to support the local indie dyers, too, since their investment in booth rental probably takes a larger percentage of their income.
The primary draw to the market is the vendors, but there are also Market Sessions (1-hour classes for $25) and free demos at some of the booths and at “The Playground.” Demos at the playground happen every half hour throughout the show. They are offered by various designers and vendors.
My daughter and I arrived at the market five to ten minutes before it opened. We visited with those around us in line as we all waited for the doors to open. Instead of walking the floor from one side to the other, we started in the middle. We both hoped to pick up a needle case from Erin Lane Bags in booth 717. And yes, we each found one!
After our purchase was completed, we made our way to Aisle 900 and started working backwards. We browsed and shopped all morning. I came with a specific list this time -something I haven’t done before. I figured I would probably get more than what was on my list, but at least I had a starting point – and a focus. When I looked over my purchases back at home, I was pleased that I didn’t go way overboard. I found everything I needed and just a few extras.
One of my favorite parts about visiting the vendors, is being able to see all the display models. I’ve mentioned before that displays sell, and again, the extra purchases I made were because I fell in love with a project on display.
It was interesting to be able to spot trends. Several booths displayed a “Find Your Fade” shawl by Andrea Mowry. I’ve tried to resist making one of her designs, but a couple days before Stitches, she announced a Mystery Knit-Along (MKAL). I looked through my stash and found a couple skeins of yarn I could use. I filled in with a few more selections from the show. Now, I will be ready to knit my first “Fade” when I participate in the MKAL, which begins on August 31.
Friends from my knitting group drove up to Stitches for the day on Friday. We had arranged to meet for lunch, so at 12:30 my daughter and I walked over to the concession area. At Stitches Midwest, a single sandwich vendor supplies lunch. There is usually a line, but it moves quickly. Although the prices may seem high, you receive a delicious meal for the price. My daughter and I had large Cuban sandwiches, a bag of chips, and an extra large soft drink for around $12. After lunch with my friends, we had a little more time to shop before we went to our class.
One of the highlights of our Stitches experience was the class we took. My daughter and I registered for “New Perspectives on Unique Garments & Amazing Accessories,” by Steven Berg. I had met Mr. Berg in his shop, StevenBe, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a bit eccentric, so we thought the class would be fun. More than that, though, we hoped to learn a bit about pattern design. We were not disappointed!
The class was great – Mr. Berg was fun, but he was also an exceptional teacher. The first afternoon we learned about designing our own shawls and wraps. He gave us each a large piece of paper to draw out a design, then he helped us choose yarns, and begin knitting. He explained how to change the shape using increases and decreases.
The next morning, Mr Berg talked more about yarns and texture. Then he taught us how to add shape to our design using short rows. At both sessions, he interspersed his lessons with little tips and tricks – a new cast-on method, a new short row technique, and more. He gave each participant a signed bag, a skein of yarn, and a pattern of our choice as thank you gifts.
Another highlight was our attendance at the Pajama Party. Since we were splurging on the hotel and the class, we did not attend the fashion show or one of the banquets. The pajama party, however, was free. We had no idea what to expect, but thought it would be fun. Hosted by podcaster, Marly Bird, with help from Linsday of Erin Lane Bags, the party was a blast.
From 10 pm until 12 am (or a little later) a room full of pajama-clad women – and a few men – chatted, sang and played games. Door prizes, donated by other sponsors, were given away. If you want to know more, you must attend in person – what happens at the pajama party stays at the pajama party. Attendees were given instructions that no pics or stories could be posted on any kind of social media. Just believe me when I say that we had a blast and it was worth staying up late.
I can’t wait for next year, so I can attend Stitches Midwest 2018. I might even try to go to one of the other Stitches events. Of course, there are other fiber festivals around the country, too. What I really need to do is keep knitting, so I can justify buying more yarn!
Seriously though, if you have an opportunity to attend Stitches or another fiber festival, do it. Attend a class, participate in an event, or just visit the vendors. And…keep knitting!