Monday, August 11, 2014

Stitches Midwest: Leaving the City is Always an Adventure

After skipping Stitches Midwest last year, I wanted to be sure to make it out for at least one day this year. Living in the city and not having a car, however, can make getting to Stitches quite a feat. While I knew a few knitters with cars who offered me a ride, I decided to give the much-hyped Stitches Shuttle a try to see if it was an acceptable solution to the problem faced by yarn-loving but car-less Chicagoans.

I am fortunate to live near the Metra line which connected to the Stitches Shuttle, so for me, my journey should have been rather simple: catch the Metra train, ride it for about 30 minutes, and then hop on the Stitches Shuttle for another 15 or so. I could be there in about an theory!

I carefully timed my trip so that I had enough time to catch the 9:30 am shuttle bus on Saturday. Imagine my surprise when I got off the Metra Train at Arlington Heights at 9:22 and....nothing was there. I looked high and low for anything that resembled a bus or a shuttle but came up short. I thought that perhaps it was running late, but just in case I thought I should pull out my phone and see if there was an alternate way to get to the Schaumburg convention center (short answer: no).

About 15 minutes had gone by and still no shuttle, but I saw someone who looked like she could be headed to Stitches as well and took a chance to ask her if she was also looking for the mythical Stitches Shuttle. Indeed, she was.

We decided to call a cab, since my GPS said we were less than 6 miles away from the convention center. My new friend Sheila told me she had started her journey around 7 AM from Hyde Park. She'd taken a bus to the Metra station downtown, and until we ran into each other, she had been thinking of heading back home.

Our cab arrived (eventually), ten minutes later, we arrived at Stitches at last! I had only a short window to shop before working a shift in the Bijou Basin Ranch Booth that afternoon, so we parted ways, but I ran into Sheila later that day and she told me a few interesting tidbits: first, she'd relayed our story to someone who worked for Stitches and they'd apologized for our trouble, which is definitely nice to hear. Second, she had gone to catch the 2pm shuttle back to the Metra station...and it never showed!

I decided to post in the Stitches group to see if anyone else had had our experience, and I ended up hearing from Sheila with another update! I was a relieved to hear she'd found her way home, and in her post she explained that we had apparently had the incorrect stop all along (we were at Arlington Heights, but the Shuttle was running from Arlington Park)! Of course, even if we had been at the correct stop, the shuttle driver was not keeping to the schedule advertised by Stitches, and we probably would have ended up having a long journey door to door either way.

Spotted at Stitches: Dyed colors of SilverSpun yarn!
Sounds like we all have a lot to learn from this experience, but I truly hope the Stitches folks take this to heart: mass transit in the Chicagoland area can be complicated, and those of us who live in the city know virtually nothing about the suburbs unless they grew up in them. If there are two stops with similar names, we probably won't know the difference, unfortunately. Or maybe that's just me!
One of two yarn trucks at Stitches!
Furthermore, Metra trains cater more to those who live in the suburbs and commute to the downtown Loop, and vice versa. If Stitches really want to reach knitters who live in the city of Chicago, a shuttle bus from the Blue Line would have been more effective - plus, the Blue Line runs much more frequently on the weekends.

Bijou Basin Ranch at Stitches
I also learned a few lessons myself: first, bewared the similarly-named Metra stop. Second....NEVER TURN DOWN A FREE RIDE!

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending - I made it to Stitches, had a great time at the marketplace, and came home with some pretty yarn and fiber! I met a lot of folks in person whom I'd previously only communicated with via email, which was super-cool. There were a lot of interesting vendors who tested my resolve to avoid impulse purchases, but I did come home with 2 lovely BFL braids from Fairy Yarnmother - my only show purchase!

As I mentioned above, I worked all afternoon in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth; my plan was to earn enough yarn to make both the Lory Shawl by Bristol Ivy and the Lace Leaf Edge Shawl by Jen Lucas. I picked out 3 skeins of Himalayan Trail in Geillis for the Lory Shawl:

And 3 skeins of Lhasa Wilderness in Sassenach for the Lace Leaf Edge Shawl:

It was a tough decision, but I decided to cast on for the Lory Shawl first (as in, immediately upon arriving home from Stitches). I'm hoping to finish it in time for the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival in September.

Also, I'm working on a writeup about Stitches Midwest for the next issue of Chicago Knits Magazine and I'd love to hear YOUR story! Feel free to leave it here in the comments or Rav PM stefaniegrrr. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Stefanie, Thanks for the photo in your blog! See you at WI Sheep and Wool!
    Susan Forbes, Fairy Yarnmother