On Friday, after much furious use of the 'carrier bag tidy' approach to housekeeping and the wedging of large boxes in front of cupboard doors in case of landslide I was at my post at King's Cross Station at 3pm to meet Hanne and Natalie. Hanne, visiting from Finland was brave enough to accept my invitation to experience English knitters' hospitality and Natalie, having made the trip from Edinburgh was staying with me for the long weekend and intent on making the most of her time in London!
It didn't take more than an hour for us to have covered my relatively tidy floor with yarn, fibre and spindles and for me to throw caution to the wind and excavate to the back of the cupboard under the stairs in search of my button collection. There is something about being surrounded by the woolly stuff that can turn three relative strangers into a happily chattering play group in a matter of minutes and for me to remember that hospitality is much more about warmth than tidiness!
Eventually, Hanne caught her bus and Natalie and I decided it would be a good idea not to sit up all night sharing our woolly thoughts and retired for the night.
Saturday dawned in changeable mood but we were prepared. Packed lunch and knitting in hand we set off.
Other people will be able to give detailed reports of the event better than I as it rather passed me by in a blur of impressions. I really don't know where half the day went and there were loads of things I could have happily spent more time doing or was sorry that I had missed.
The first impression was of the size and scale of the building and how Gerard and Craig must have felt the day after they booked the venue. I just wouldn't have had the courage or the vision. Kudos for them for filling it with energy, chatter, enthusiasm and intelligence which were the over riding senses that I got from the assembly. Knitting and crochet really seems to draw together a group of people who are extraordinarily diverse yet remarkable in their shared creativity.
The next impression is of the people that I met, both for the first time and for the friendships I was able to renew and build on. I really wished I had had more time to talk at length with people as it often seemed that I was only able to share a wave and a smile with people I would have been happy to sit and catch up with for hours.
I think that one of the reasons for knitting and the fibre arts in general to be such a universal activity is the number of levels that it can be practiced on and the folly of trying to categorise it. Making loops with and creating a continuous fibre can lead in so many directions that a lively mind should always be able to find something new and exciting to stimulate their creativity.
It can also lead a person to be very sure that there are some dimensions of the fibre arts that they couldn't imagine pursuing.
For those of us who spend most of their time plying the small pointy sticks great big ones like this hold a strange fascination.
And we are reassured to see the big balls that go with them.
I will admit that one of the things that stands between me and entirely embracing the 'Knitting as Art' philosophy is the burden of utilitarianism bred into me by parents who lived through rationing. I find the idea of doing a single sock just as a learning experience or an abstract practice piece, come to think of it even a tension square difficult unless I can see an intrinsic usefulness in it as an object. However, I was quite blown away by the furniture from the knitted house created in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. It is all quite beautifully made and the attention to detail is astonishing.
I'm embarrassed to say that when I was framing the next photograph I thought to myself 'It's a shame that Fire Extinguisher is in the way- health and safety gone mad!' Oops...
Another thing that struck me is that I am very lucky to have such talented and creative friends. Natalie's Yarn Yard fibres and yarns continue to grow in reputation due to her attention to detail and good eye for colour. Here she is, posing with a sample knitted in some of her lace weight yarn by none other than Jane Sowerby of Victorian Lace Today. Can't do much better than that!
I thought Natalie couldn't top that until I read the Yarn Harlot's Blog and found that she had a big fat juicy mention there as well, and deservedly so for her awareness raising work for Medecins Sans Frontiers but I will let Stephanie and Natalie tell you all about that!
Which brings me on to the centrepiece of the day, an audience with the Yarn Harlot herself, Stephanie Pearl McPhee.
I'm ashamed to say that burdened by my typical British reserve I sometimes find an element of over hyping of people and products from the other side of the Atlantic so whilst I wanted to like her very much I was a little cautious. I was also very worried in case members of the audience took to whooping. Nothing wrong with whooping per se but it's just not me.... My fears were misplaced however as her performance was natural, witty, charming and much more erudite than I imagined it would be. Rather than a collection of knitter friendly gags and one liners she developed complex points with a very deft hand whilst maintaining a very warm and accessible style. If you get a chance - go and see her! The audience was also warm and appreciative, applauded enthusiastically and laughed heartily in all the right places. No whooping. I was very happy.
I was also impressed that she could sit and sign books for hours and hours and hours without failing to have a friendly comment for everyone. She said I was witty. I was very pleased. She signed my book. It was legible. After all those hours. I was impressed.
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned one single piece of retail therapy. To be honest I didn't do much shopping, I was too busy talking and listening and observing but I will show you what did follow me home in a future post.
By the end of the day I felt as if I couldn't speak to another person or fondle another skein of yarn. Wimp. I didn't take much persuading with promises of imminent food to go out for dinner with Franny, Sharon, Natalie, Ellen and all too briefly, Noo. What is it about knitters? Once again, a group of women, some of whom knew each other previously but having never been together in a group before telling such outrageous stories that by the end of the evening my stomach ached from laughing. I will never think of my clapotis or a still life of flowers in the same way again. Just sayin'...
I know that quite a number of us haven't been having the best time in the rest of our lives recently so the final impression I have is of the IKnit day being a fabulous opportunity for us to come together and live in the woolly moment for a bit and, I hope, carry on supporting each other as, after all, that's what a community does.