If that's the mood you're in today, you might want to skip this entry. Not that I generally corner the market on Blog Bitchery, but this report is going to be obnoxiously sunny. Allow me to get it out of my system. Tune in tomorrow, and things will be back to normal.
On Saturday, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (she is who is known as Yarn Harlot) made her first visit to Chicago. While I'm not one to get weak-kneed and slobbery over famous knitters in general (okay, Nancy Bush is an exception), I find Stephanie's work to be rock-solid and deeply funny, and I wear my Harlot Fan Club Secret Decoder Ring with pride.
She was scheduled to appear at Arcadia Knitting, which is one of my two favorite yarn shops in the city. (From my very first visit, they've never given me attitude. Quite the contrary. I recommend them to all knitters in Chicago, particularly men who are tired of second-class treatment.)
I stopped by early and, in addition to accidentally buying Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Jerseys, Guernseys and Arans and a skein of Lorna's Laces (oops), I also asked whether they had a photographer hired for the event. They didn't. I offered to be It. They accepted.
[Insert little shout of joy here.]
On the way back to the shop around 3 pm (with Harlot due to arrive at 4) I was delighted to step into the subway car and see somebody knitting a (really cute) sock. As a rule, I won't approach a knitter on the subway (or anywhere else) as it's best in the city to leave people alone if you have no compelling reason to bug them. But happily, as we sat on the Lawrence bus heading to the shop she introduced herself - it was Melissa, who you probably know better as The Stitchin' Seminarian.
The shop was already buzzing and I swung into action. Being the photographer at an event like this is marvelous for a shy person because you cannot sit in a dim corner and pretend you're invisible. I started photographing groups of knitters and asking where they'd come from. As expected Harlot's appearance had drawn in not only knitters from the suburbs, but also folks from Minnesota, Michigan, and Indiana.
My first big surprise was how many people recognized me from this blog and introduced themselves. I will not pretend it wasn't gratifying. When I started writing this thing, I did it as a way to motivate myself to keep projects moving and record daily minutiae. At Stitches, I met in person two people (one of them Jon) who read it, and that felt wonderful. On Saturday, at least 20 people had a kind comment to share, and I nearly hit the ceiling.
I was already floating around on a cloud when Harlot showed up. It's difficult to write about her and say anything new, as the 12,493 other bloggers who met her first have it pretty much covered. My summary:
- Yes, she really is that funny. By the time she wrapped up her Q & A and began signing books, I'd laughed so hard and so much that my face hurt.
- She has no pretense about her at all. She took Chicago public transit to the shop, for heaven's sake. I know people who live here who wouldn't have done that.
- She has the patience of a saint. There had to be 80-100 people who lined up for autographs. I was standing there for much of the time taking photographs, and she gave every person her undivided attention.
Here's Emily, who wouldn't you know turns out to be the sister of Tres and a heck of a fun person?
Harlot with Melody, who has one of the most infectious laughs you've ever heard:
And this is Melissa (my fellow public transit rider), who (how meta is this) having her picture taken for her own blog.
And this is Jen (also seen above taking Melissa's picture), the dear woman who designed the bunny hat, and was very nice to me even though I made my version in acrylic.
If the day had ended with the signing, I would have gone home to C bubbling with stuff to tell him. But it did not end there.
Because as things were wrapping up, Bonne Marie (my dear, you are stunning, how did you manage to avoid getting into any of my photographs? hmmm?) asked me if I would like to join Stephanie, the owners of Arcadia, and a few other people for dinner.
Oh, gee. Let me think about that for a little while.
It was heady company for a guy who only got down to knitting in earnest in January. But everybody else was drinking, so I may have given the impression that I held up my end of the conversation.
Before you start thinking it was all very serious, I should also mention that after dinner Stephanie took off her shoes and I took off my boots and we stood back-to-back to see which of us is the shorter person. (She is. But not by much. And I would kill for her waistline.)
In the absolute final picture of the day, proof I didn't make all this up just to piss you off.
Stephanie's the one in the middle. The pretty lady in black is Kathy, one of the owners of Arcadia. I'm the one with no hair and the Cinderella-at-the-Friggin-Ball grin on my face.
(Dear God: Remember that awful eighth-grade Halloween dance when I was 13 and had acne and my haircut sucked and none of the girls would dance with me and I spent most of the evening stuck in the corner listening to a classmate I didn't even like talk about his Star Wars action figures, and then went home, realized my zipper had been open the whole time and cried myself to sleep? Well, you finally made up for it. Thank you.)
*Late addition. I can't believe I forgot to give shout-outs to two people. Marcy, who brought you the Lil' Devil baby pants in from the Stitch 'n' Bitch series; and Stephanie's publicist, Sarah, who also braved the Chicago El without losing her hair and who remembered the little review of the first Harlot book that I wrote way back when. Saturday was a gathering of right-on women. I was fortunate to be there.