Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stitches West

Dateline: Santa Clara, 2/21/08 - 2/24/08

Last weekend was the event that California knitters look forward to all year: Stitches West.
This Stitches was said to be the biggest ever, with 1700 attendees, surpassing even Stitches East. It was an exhilarating but exhausting weekend. I commuted (it's hard to justify staying in a hotel a half hour from home), leaving early in the morning and usually getting home after 10 p.m. Here are the highlights for me.

Wrapped in Comfort

At the student fashion show, ten members of the South Bay Knitters group modeled shawls that we had knit from our member Alison Hyde's book Wrapped in Comfort. Of course we all wanted to go on stage together, and an XRX staff member said that we could if we submitted all of our forms at the same time, which we did. But there was some confusion when another staff member apparently alphabetized all of the forms, and Rick started calling us up individually. That was straightened out and we were all called onstage, lining up between the emcees and each being introduced and taking our trip down the runway. The first picture above shows us on stage with Rick, one of the emcees. In the second picture, Alison is seated in front of the modelers.


I took a class with Candace Eisner Strick in this traditional Japanese braiding technique. We used a styrofoam disk, although more expensive and fancier braiding looms are available. Strands of fiber, some with beads, are moved across the disk in regular patterns. The pattern we used created a spiral effect with the beads. My first attempt doesn't look very good, but I'm working on a second one.

Knitting with Wire

This class was taught by Nancie Wiseman, with whom I also took crochet with wire at TKGA last fall. I'm happy with this necklace that I made in class, although you could say that it's edgy (or weird?).


Of course the market, with 250 vendors, is a highlight of the event for everyone. This year I took a lighter than usual class load (half day classes), leaving me more time to browse the market. I was glad to see more booths than usual that sold beads. I even bought a pair of shoes, from Fine Points (which also sells yarn), after admiring shoes bought by Deborah and Diana at the Yarndogs booth.

Scarf clasps are an accessory that I've wished for. These were made by Vicky Reinke, who had a booth at Stitches and also has an eBay store called Final Touch by Design. I think I can use my beading skills to make some of these.

General Observations

I liked Stitches West better when it was in Oakland. I understand that it's grown too large for the Oakland facility, and that's good. But as a city person, I always enjoyed spending a weekend in downtown Oakland, which has acquired more stores, cafes and restaurants in recent years. Santa Clara is so suburban by comparison, and there are not many good restaurants nearby. For dinner before the market preview, our group treks to Milpitas, which is not exactly known for its fine dining (and was once the subject of a local newspaper article proclaiming "Milpitas doesn't suck").

I always lament that there are two evenings taken up by banquets, although I always go to both, because I wouldn't want to miss anything. In the early days, the professional and student fashion shows were combined into one, creating an even longer evening. The recent innovation, separating the professional fashion show from the dinner, has turned out to be a good idea. The first time they did this I thought, we won't be done with dinner until midnight! But XRX has sped up the fashion show, and having it in a theater makes it easier to see the fashions.

My door prize non-winning streak continues. There are so many door prizes given out in so many venues -- the market, the fashion show, the two dinners -- and as usual, the only thing I win is one of the table prizes that are given to everyone at the banquet. I'm glad that Rick has toned down the making people shriek for their prizes, which I always found embarrassing.

There was a lot of buzz about Ravelry, the new social networking site for knitters, of which I'm a member and a fan. Ravelry had a booth at the market, and gave out passports which made you eligible for prizes if you got stamps from all of the booths listed in the passport. (I completed my passport but didn't win anything there either.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gardening with Beads

Dateline: Emerald Hills, 2/18/08

I really enjoy working with flower and fruit beads. When I was just getting started with beading, I went to a bead store in San Jose that was going out of business, and bought a bunch of fruit beads for half price. At the time I had no idea what I would do with them. Later I found, on YouTube of all places, instructions for making a crocheted necklace with wire and beads. (The video is from the Karla Kam, a great series of beading instructions by Karla of Auntie's Beads.) The necklace is made by stringing beads onto 3 strands of wire, crocheting each strand individually, then braiding the 3 strands together. Here's my first attempt:

Later I decided that this crocheted necklace would be a good use for my fruit beads:

I bought this fringe bracelet kit from Deanna's Vintage Styles at Stitches West in 2007. It's made by first stringing beads for the core, then weaving a variety of flower, leaf and seed beads into the core. I made several passes of weaving, completely hiding the core and giving the bracelet a nice density:

This is a different type of fringe bracelet. There is only one pass of weaving, so the core is not hidden, and the bracelet is less dense. I bought this kit at a bead store in Morro Bay:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Beading FO's from Hawaii

Dateline: Emerald Hills, 2/6/08

I've finished all of the beading projects I started in Hawaii. In addition to the Swag Lace Necklace, which I featured in a previous post, they are:

Graduated Spiral Necklace, designed by Cindy Pankopf. Beads are strung for the core, then fringes are woven into the core to form the spiral. Cindy helped me choose colors over the phone before the Bead Away, and she did a great job.

Just Duet Cuff, designed by Wendy Remmers. This bracelet is reversible, and has a different color scheme on each side. The technique is similar to the spiral; first you make the core with herringbone stitch, then weave fringes into the core.

Crochet Away, taught by Katharine Rita. Freeform crochet with wire and beads. My crocheting is so loose that I used the wire very fast and kept having to add more.

Sugar Cube bracelet. This is the project I started at a weekly class held at the Maui Bead Shack. I started it over again at home, because I found that using SoftFlex wire without a needle made it difficult to weave into the beads. When I restarted I used Fireline with needles.