entering the second floor of the marketplace
Report from the
2011 Vogue Knitting Live
New York, NY
January 21-23, 2011

On a recent chilly January weekend, I joined more than 3,000 knitters to take part in the first-ever Vogue Knitting Live. We gathered at the Hilton New York, an elegant hotel that's just a few steps from Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall.

the registration desk by Sunday afternoon
A veritable three-ring circus of workshops, lectures, and panels took place over three days—everyone was there, from Meg Swansen and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee to Debbie Bliss, Lily Chin, Debbie Macomber, and Nicky Epstein. To be in the presence of so many knitting icons was a rare opportunity, and somewhat surreal.

Magazine-sponsored knitting conferences are nothing new, with Knitter's Magazine having paved the way with its long-established Stitches events, and Interweave entering the fray this fall. But as a new arrival, Vogue Knitting Live generated palpable buzz and excitement—aided, I'd guess, by Vogue's undeniable mystique and by the fact the event was taking place in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

an old Vogue Knitting cover  Radio City Music Hall

a blurry snapshot of my class
People could take workshops on pretty much everything in the knitting vocabulary, from cables and Estonian lace to seamless sweaters, welts, reversible color knitting, entrelac, and, in my own classrooms, yarn.

Some students had crossed continents and oceans to be there. They were bright, inquisitive, and eager to learn new things. Maybe it was the Vogue Knitting mystique, maybe it was New York, but several of my students even arrived wearing fur coats—which came in quite handy during the fiber-theory portion of my class.

Meanwhile, on Saturday and Sunday a marketplace welcomed thousands of knitters. The logistics of the space required that the marketplace span two floors that were connected by an escalator. On Saturday, we had a retail emergency when one of the escalators stopped working.

entering the marketplace the escalator running between floors

The marketplace vendors represented a telling cross-section of our knitting ecosystem. High-end fashion-forward retailer L'Atelier (bottom left) had a stunning display of boxed kits, while Habu (bottom right) tempted and beguiled knitters with its fine-gauge yarns laced with unexpected surprises, such as paper and stainless steel.

the Atelier booth Habu Textiles

The exotic and unusual were well represented, with several cashmere vendors (including Hunt Valley Cashmere and Sustainable Cashmere) as well as qiviut from Windy Valley Muskox, yak from Bijou Basin, and bison from Buffalo Gold. People also swarmed the Blackthorn Needles booth, and fans of Japanese knitting books nearly had to be given smelling salts when they discovered that Kinokuniya Bookstore had a booth at the show. Colorful, textured novelty yarns were in abundance as well.

Solitude Wool
Given my own wooly inclinations, I was particularly happy to see that Solitude Wool had made the trek up from Virginia. Solitude offers breed-specific wool yarns from locally sourced, hand-picked fleeces that are gently processed and then naturally dyed by hand. I only brought three skeins home from the show, all from Solitude.

the Knitty City booth
With so many authors on hand throughout the weekend, book signings were also an integral part of the show. LYS Knitty City hosted a good number of authors including Cookie A, Beth Brown-Reinsel, Doris Chan, Lily Chin, Jil Eaton, Nicky Epstein, Sally Melville, Meg Swansen, Ysolda Teague, and myself.

a smile from Elizabeth
We joked that the ghost of Elizabeth Zimmermann was playing tricks on us in the elevators—all of which displayed the letters "EZ" at some point during any journey to or from the higher floors in the building. Fitting, since Elizabeth, too, was a Vogue Knitting author.

Stephanie and Times Square
While we were gathered to celebrate our own knitting heroes, on Saturday night our hotel hosted the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America's annual awards dinner.

As photographers snapped photos of baseball legend Willie Mays and others, and a handler yelled "no autographs!" to a crowd of bewildered knitters, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and I quietly wandered off to dinner, reflecting on the fact that The National Needlearts Association, which is our industry's largest trade organization, has no membership category for writers.

Even the venerable New York Times couldn't quite get it right. When Vogue Knitting Live landed a coveted spot in the paper's arts calendar, our sense of triumph was cut short when we saw what they'd written. "Those interested in designing, making, buying or admiring weaved goods can find something of interest at this show."

What mattered most was that more than 3,000 people did get it. They came, they listened and talked and learned, and they went away feeling excited and inspired about knitting. Which, by my definition, makes Vogue Knitting Live a success.

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