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Festival Season

Pondering attending one of the many fiber and yarn festivals this fall? I've recently returned from Stitches Midwest 2004, in St. Charles, Illinois (my home town!), with a few tips to share.

  1. Register as soon as you can
    Unfortunately, I missed out on some great classes because I only planned the trip a week before attending. Many of the in-demand courses at these festivals sell out weeks or months in advance. As fun as it is to be spontaneous, planning ahead really helps if you have your heart set on a particular course.

  2. Pack light -- leave room for stash
    I like to travel with a carry-on sized suitcase. After piling in the clothes for the weekend, this leaves me with little -- if any -- room for stash enhancing souvenirs. My solution? Lightweight expandable bags.

    My favorite is the Eagle Creek model [left] that expands to 3600 cubic inches (nearly the size of a rolling carry-on) but only weighs 11oz -- slightly more than 3 skeins of Cascade 220. Even better, when compressed, it takes up less room in your bag than a skein of Noro Kureyon.

    While I wouldn't recommend checking your newly found stash (or anything precious) in one of these bags, it makes a great carry-on and fits almost as much gear as one of those little rolling suitcases.

    Travelling with limited stash space also has the added benefit for those of us on yarn budgets; impulse buys are restricted when you know you have only a certain amount of space. (Of course, if you really MUST have that hand-dyed silk/wool boucle, you can ship something home or wear it around your neck like a scarf. I won't tell!)

  3. What to wear
    Let the weather dictate this to a certain extent, but consider wearing a hand-knit or crocheted garment. Aside from showing off your hard work, it'll make it easier to meet new friends. I wore my Koigu Charlotte's Web on my first day at the Market, and it proved to be a fantastic conversation-opener.

  4. Take notes
    On the way to the Stitches Market, I picked up a nifty green leather notebook, measuring 3" x 5" and it came with a tiny silver pen. The notebook was handy for jotting down yarn I wanted to ponder before buying, notes about good stores to visit online, and e-mail addresses of new friends.

    As much as you think you'll remember the yardage and gauge of that fantastic handspun, you'll be lucky to remember the company's name by the time you unpack!

  5. Shopping strategies
    It's my dream to be able to walk into any yarn store and buy whatever my knitting basket desires. But in reality, I have a budget to stick to, even at an event like Stitches. As mentioned earlier, knowing I have a space limitation helps restrict my buying to the absolute must-haves. But even then, I sometimes have to make some tough choices!

    At Stitches this year, I am proud to admit I went overbudget. Why? I set two rules for myself prior to attending. First, I could only buy yarns I couldn't get locally in Calgary. Second, I could only buy yarns that were better purchased in person than online, due to color or fiber selection. Other than that, I had a general dollar amount in mind.

    I ended up blowing my budget on precious Koigu in some fantastic colors that just wouldn't represent correctly over the internet. I also picked up a few new yarns that haven't made their way north yet. Even though I was tempted by new shades of Kureyon, I know I can buy them at any time, online or in person. I wanted to spent my Market Money on once-only opportunities. And by following these rules, I was able to carry my purchases home on the plane.

    Of course, if you're heading to a sheep and wool festival, where most of the yarns are hand-dyed and hand-spun, your rules may need altering.

  6. Making connections
    As noted in last issue's column, one of my biggest joys as a traveling knitter is connecting with other knitters! As soon as I had my travel plans, I wrote to some knitting buddies in the area to see if they'd be attending. I was able to meet up with two good friends and make a few new ones!

    If you have a blog, one easy way to be "spotted" is by wearing a t-shirt with your blog design printed on the front. CafePress can help you set up a "store", even if you are your only customer.

TSA Rule Update

As announced in last issue's column, the Transportation Security Administration released a knitting and needlework factsheet that recommends using bamboo or plastic circular needles, less than 31 inches in length, carrying a SASE, and using only blunt-pointed scissors. Please remember that the TSA is only responsible for airport operations within the United States. When flying through the rest of the world, the rules will vary. When in doubt, look online or call ahead.

For more tips on in-flight knitting, see my Winter 2003-2004 column.

What tips do you have for the knitter on the go? Email me with your tips and feedback.



When she's not on the road as a Business Analyst, Amy Swenson hangs her hat in Calgary, with her two cats, Cleo and Maddy. Since her last column at Knitty, Amy has officially immigrated to Canada.

She documents her quest for the ultimate yarn bargain and cheap airfares at Indigirl. More information on her original knitting patterns can be found at IndiKnits.