This Friday morning I’ll be on a flight bound for Chicago for my first Stitches experience! I am so excited to meet friends I’ve been talking with for awhile, to meet knitters & podcast listeners and hopefully make some new friends. Oh, and there will probably be some yarn purchases too, right? I mean, I’ll be there anyways, might as well take advantage of the vast marketplace.
Being that this was a very spontaneous decision and its now the Monday before the event, I’ve got just a few days to get all of my ducks in a row for this trip. Fortunately, while this is my first Stitches Event, it is not my first knitting event. Having been to NH Sheep & Wool and NY Sheep & Wool (aka Rhinebeck), I’ve got some experiences on which to draw and I thought I’d take some time to share my favorite tips with you!
As I mentioned, I’ll be flying out to Illinois. That calls for some travel knitting. Thankfully I knit on the train every day, and I often knit on planes as well, so I’ve got this covered. For plane knitting I always pack 2 things. 1 complicated pattern that requires reading the pattern (for heads-down, let’s-distract-myself-during-the-flight knitting), and 1 easy pattern (usually a sock) that I can knit on in lines or if I’m too tired for the more complicated project.
Tip: I always bring circular needles when flying. In years past I’d always pack bamboo needles, but since I now prefer metal needles I’ve been bringing those on board and have not (knock on wood) had any trouble with that (domestically or internationally).
I will probably also bring a third project, because [insert pseudo-rationale excuse here]…. yes, I’ll only be gone for the 3 days, but variety is the spice of life, right? If I don’t pack a third project, I’ll bring an extra project bag and some sock needles so I can get the instant gratification of immediately casting on some of the sock yarn I’ll inevitably purchase.
- Layers| While I’m excited that the Stitches Event is indoors and thus temperature controlled, there will, I imagine, be a lot of people milling in and out of the booths and there will be lots of warm wool acting as an insulator for all of that body heat. Plus, the sheer excitment seems to make everyone warmer, so what works for me is layers. I’ll likely wear capris or a skirt, a tank top or short-sleeves top and then leave room for a hand-knit latered on top.
- Comfy shoes | It’s a must! Maybe you never considered anything else. Good for you! I tend to want to wear my favorite, cutest shoes. As long as those are comfortable after hours of standing + walking that’s perfectly ok. If not, leave them at home! You don’t want to fade early because your shoes are holding you back. There’s good quality yarn at stake people! Be smart.
- Hand knits | There is literally no better place to wear hand knits than at a knitting convention! People will ooohh and ahhhh. People will ask “what pattern is that?” People will ask if they can “touch it.” and if that doesn’t feel totally normal at first, after a few hours it will. By the time you get home and back into real life you’ll find yourself disappointed if you spend 2 hours at the office on Monday and not a single person asked who designed the shawl you’re wearing. Be prepared for the post-event let-down but the fun of showing off your hard work is well worth it!
- Pick a hand knit that you’re proud of, that looks great on you, and that won’t have you melting within 20 minutes. Again, while sporting hand knits is a great, and an arguably essential part of the event, it’s not worth passing out over! Choose wisely.
- Tip: pick your hand knits first. Choose the rest of your outfit accordingly!
- Camera | your phone if you prefer or a separate camera– this is something I always debate. I take a lot of shots with my iPhone 5 and am happy with the quality, but I also like to have the versatility of my dSLR. I will likely carry that at least one day and if I get enough shots with that, I may nix it the next day and go with the less bulk approach of the iPhone
- Snacks + water bottle | I always seem to wait until I completely bottom out to decide I need to go find something to eat. Not smart… and when I do it at home its not that big of a deal…. but at a large event such as this, I will most likely find myself at the opposite end of the convention center from the food, and then arrive to find there’s a huge line. That doesn’t work for me. I’ll likely pack some Kind Bars (almond + coconut is my favorite) and I might splurge and get a couple Luna bars (white chocolate macadamia nut is super yummy).
- Pen + paper | someone will like a hand knit you’re wearing and ask if you could jot it down for them… or you’ll want to give someone your Ravelry ID. If you find a skein of yarn you just love but its not in your budget- grab a business card and write down the base + colorway information to save for later. Of course if you’re so inclined, you can put notes in your phone, but sometimes its just easier to have access to old fashioned pen and paper.
Review the vendor list | The vendor list for Stitches Midwest 2014 has been posted. Click here to check it out. I copied the map and list of vendors including websites and booth numbers to a Word document that I saved as PDF and added to my GoodReader app. My plan for this week is to make notes about where I want to go. Depending on what vendors I’m most interested in, I may make a plan to start on one side of the venue or another. Otherwise I may just keep it in mind as I walk through.
Review your Queue | Search through Ravelry (favorites or queue) and think about what you’d like to knit in the coming months. Maybe you have some holiday or gift knitting planned, maybe you want to embark upon a new sweater? If you have something specific in mind you can gear your purchases (at least most of them) towards that.
For example, if you’re making a sweater that calls for 1300 yards of fingering weight yarn for your size, getting 3 skeins of fingering weight yarn may not be enough. Having the specifics helps. Also, do you need buttons for that sweater? Knowing if you need 4 or 7 will come in handy when you’re overwhelmed at the beauty and abundance in a booth filled with gorgeous handmade buttons. Bring as much info as you can and you’ll likely be much happier with your purchases.
Plan Some Meet-Ups | The days will fly by. All of a sudden hours will pass by and you’ll feel like there’s not enough time to do everyone. At larger events such a Stitches the chances of just running into a person you’re hoping to see is slimmer than you may realize. Be proactive– email or Ravelry message someone you’re hoping to meet. Plan dinner, lunch, coffee together in advance. This will give you something to plan your day around. If you know you have 3 hours before you meet a friend for lunch, you’ll prioritize accordingly.
Interested in meeting some podcasters? A lot of larger events have a Podcaster Meet-up. At Stitches Midwest there is one on Friday and Saturday at noon second floor of the lobby near the big fire pit (same location as last year). I hope to be there in time for this on Friday and will definitely be there on Saturday! Come say hello. Even if you’re shy, it’s totally OK! We’re all really nice people and we’re happy that you listen or watch our shows, so even if you just want to give a quick smile and a wave, we’d love to wave back!
Plan your day| Make at least a rough plan of what your day will look like. It may change. It probably will, but especially if you are attending classes or other scheduled events you’ll want to plan other things around that. I’d recommend setting an alarm or reminder on your phone with enough notice to give you time to hit the rest room and get to your event with time to spare (that way if you’re in line to buy your new favorite skein of yarn, you’ll have a little leeway to make your purchase and get where you need to be).
Get some sleep | both in advance of the event, and afterwards, get some sleep! If you’re going for a couple days, there will be lots of walking and lots of standing (usually on less than supportive flooring), and your body will start to complain. While its tempting to stay up late with friends, chatting and knitting into the night, I usually opt for getting to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour so I can thoroughly enjoy the next day and make the most out of my trip!
I hope you’ve found this helpful! If you have any other tips to share about preparing for a fiber event, please post a note in the Comments. I’d love to hear from you.
And if you’re coming to Stitches Midwest, I’d love to meet you! Please come by the Podcaster Meet-up or send me a message on Ravelry (BostonJen) and we can make a plan to say hello! oooooh, and don’t forget to ask me for some Swag!