Friday, November 2, 2012

VK Live Chicago!

Marketplace Entrance
I had a blast last weekend at VK Live! Chicago. I spent most of my time as a helper bee in the Bijou Basin Ranch Booth, though I also had plenty of time to chat with many of my other yarny friends. I loved the venue - the Palmer House Hilton is a really stunning location. The marketplace vendors were divided between two ballrooms on two different levels; I really liked the intimacy the smaller spaces provided. It was so much more manageable than walking into a giant convention center and being overwhelmed by row after row of vendors!

For a first-time event, I think it went pretty well. I heard rumblings of various issues that displeased both vendors and attendees, but I also heard just as many (if not more) positive remarks. Throughout the weekend, I saw Vogue staffers running around like crazy - they were getting things done!

Palmer House Hilton

There were some really gorgeous booths - for the most part, the marketplace floor had the feel of a boutique, which I'm assuming is what they were going for! Many of the local yarn shops were in attendance; Nina in particular had a well-decorated booth. Another one of my favorites was the Long Island Livestock Company - it was exquisite! I took a photo of the attention-getting alpaca chair they had on display and ended up buying some of their lanolin lip balm to try out. They did have some really lovely yarn and fiber that was tempting me, but once you see the stash of yarn that came home with me, you'll understood why I held back.

There were just a few vendors that seemed out of place, namely the Woolstock Yarn Shop. If you've ever been to Stitches, they're the booth that is always mobbed because they have crazy deals on bags on yarn; but it works a lot better on the convention-center scale for some reason. I don't mean to give them a hard time - after all, it's no secret that I'm a deal hound, so I'm not opposed to the bargain basement approach of the Woolstock folk in theory. For some reason, I do find their booth intimidating - elbowing people for cheap yarn is not my idea of a good time, plus you have to have a staff person dig through the bins for you, which also isn't my style.

At any rate, I thought it was really jarring to walk past so many thoughtfully-decorated and downright fancy booths and then see a bare-bones stall with bins of bagged yarn being devoured by the yarn-crazed masses. It certainly pulled me out of my pretty-yarn spell for a bit, anyway!

The preview night on Friday was quite busy and gave us high hopes for the weekend. For the most part, I think it delivered - Saturday went by in a flash with a steady stream of attendees. I did find some time to hop over to the Green Mountain Spinnery booth while Ysolda Teague was there signing books, however. She was good enough to let me snap a few photos for Facebook and instagram purposes!

Over in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth, Marly Bird's newest design (the red lacy vest in the foreground at right) proved to be the showstopper. We sold out of nearly every color of the yarn used, Seraphim, by midday on Saturday - only a dozen or so balls of hunter green remained. Meanwhile, I spent any time not helping customers making mental notes of projects I'd like to make with Bijou Spun yarns. I ended up trying on a few of the display garments, which only made things worse in the self-enabling department (yes, I still maintain that that is a thing).

I was surprised that the yarn tasting area wasn't busier - then again, I was hanging out there late in the day on Saturday. At any rate, there was lots of Zealana yarn to try out, including their brand-new laceweight, AIR. My favorite needle-makers (they're also my client, so I recognize that I might be a little bit biased!), Knitter's Pride, provided the needles for both the yarn tasting lounge and the Windy City Knitting Guild booth. I hope everyone enjoyed giving them a test-drive!

On Sunday morning, I made a second sweep of the Marketplace and bought some yarn from the Grinning Gargoyle. I have been admiring their yarns for quite some time and decided it was time to finally snag myself a skein! I chose a really lovely toffee-colored Merino/Silk skein of sock yarn. Now I just have to find the perfect pattern - perhaps it would like to be the main color for a Leftie shawl?

I also got to check out some of the art they had on display - knitted presidents, needle-felted dinosaurs, and pieces knit with analog tape. Very cool stuff! I also ran into the dollmaker who won the Doll Street Dreamers contest that Eucalan (full disclosure, another one of my clients) sponsored earlier this year - she had her inventive dolls on display in the gallery. The world of crafts is always smaller than I think!

Sunday was much quieter - with the threat Sandy was posing to travel, many people chose to leave early in hopes of actually making it home. Even some of my clients who were traveling west had flight delays courtesy of the hurricane. It sounds like people have been able to make it home safely, albeit a bit later than they might have anticipated.

And now for the moment of truth....what else found its way home with me? After spending a day and a half eying the Yarn Pop! skull and crossbones Totable, I ended up buying the second to last one...plus a Gadgety project bag in the dandelion print. That was my big splurge of the weekend! I did resist the urge to get a sweater's worth of sock yarn from Green Mountain Spinnery, but instead came home with a gorgeous blue-green skein of Meadow which I hope will become Thelonius socks someday soon.

My Bijou Basin Ranch haul is quite the embarrassment of riches - it didn't seem like it at the time, but apparently I had worked up quite a nice yarn-buying budget. I started with enough 100% Yak Sport Weight to make my favorite sweater design from their line, the Shawl Cardigan. Then I picked up four balls of Roslyn to make Marly Bird's Breezy Bolero. A skein of Tibetan Dream sock yarn may or may not have jumped into my shopping bag, followed closely by a few skeins of Bijou Bliss that will want to become a stripy scarf or cowl. Finally, two gleaming skeins of Shangri-La, a yak/silk laceweight yarn, insisted on coming home with me, much to my surprise - laceweight and I are not friends!

Thanks to all of the Vogue staffers and volunteers who made this weekend awesome. It was so much less stressful relying on mass transit to get to and fro, plus the convenient location allowed me to attend all three days. Believe it or not, it was actually necessary to do so because it takes me a while to process so much yarny goodness all in one spot. I really hope that they bring VK Live back to downtown Chicago again next year, because I had a fantastic time!

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