We gotta North Side, a South Side, and a West Side. Where there might be an East Side, there is instead Lake Michigan. Roughly in the center, where it all began on a spit of mucky, smelly, bug-infested mud that the Native Americans had too much good sense to inhabit, is the Loop.
People from the North, South and West sides tend to mix in the Loop. It is somewhat less common for Northsiders to head into the South or vice versa. We're not talking about a couple of blocks, we're talking about miles and miles and miles separating what might as well be two quite different cities, each with its own major league baseball team. I've lived in Chicago since 2001 and until this October I'd been to the South Side exactly four times, three of those being visits to the Museum of Science and Industry.
So when I got a message from a South Side LWYS (Lady with Yarn Store) suggesting I take 1,000 Knitters down her way, it was a little like National Geographic asking if I'd consider doing a piece on filet crochet in the Amazon rain forest. Would I be able to get there from here? What language do they speak? Where's my passport?
The LWYS refused to coddle me and insisted I was worried over nothing. The journey could be made easily by the commuter rail which had replaced the mule trains some time in the 1970s, and her shop was literally steps from the station. She would take upon herself the task of spreading my name among the native tribes. I wouldn't even have to get shots or buy a pith helmet. I was delighted, except that I really had fancied buying the pith helmet.
So on October 26, 2007 I arrived via the Rock Island line with camera and baggage at My Sister's Knits, and within about five minutes I'd begun to consider sending north for my books and relocating.
At right is Carol, the LWYS, and one of her two amiable canine sales associates. I have now been knitting long enough to have some experience of yarn shops, their proprietors and clientele, and I have never met a shop owner with a more fiercely loyal following than Carol.
Her motto is "Come for yarn, leave with a friend," and she means it. Means it, hell. She lives it. Her relationship with more than half the shoppers I met verged on the familial.
The night of the shoot was
"Hi...it's Carol. Yeah. You busy? Well listen, you need to come over after work. And bring So-and-So. There's somebody here you need to meet. Hey, how's your mother doing? Did you finish that red sweater yet? Well, good. So get over here, got it? And bring the sweater. And your mother. Good. Bye now."
Thus she summoned them, and thus happily they came. I was delighted that Jan, who was such a help with recruiting during the shoot at Stitches Midwest and who first told Carol to invite me down, showed up to act as my lieutenant and did a splendid job of keeping things running.
Carol, for her part, managed to run the shop while also being extremely solicitous of my comfort. She also introduced me to the new joy of chocolate-flavored Chex Mix. [Personal to Carol: Carol, Tom got the idea of using it as a topping for vanilla ice cream. Try it. It works.]
There were some familiar faces I was delighted to see again, including Lynette (0210) and Angie* (0211), and lots of people I know from the comments but had never had the pleasure of meeting before. Blogless Jan, who was such an immense help with recruiting sitters during the Stitches Midwest shoot, did a marvelous job of acting as my lieutenant and keeping all the paperwork in order.
We had a few firsts that night, including (to the best of my knowledge) the first police officer knitter; the youngest knitter yet in the series (age four) and her mother; a baker; and a whole gaggle of nurses and school teachers. There were so many wholesome urban archetypes in the chair it was a little bit like one of those "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?" segments from "Sesame Street."
Oh the knitter likes to sit and playThe shoot was so much fun it seemed to rush by in about five minutes. Before I knew it, I had to say good-bye and I did feel like I was leaving with a friend...with many friends, actually.
With her needles and her yarn all day.
She can make you anything you need,
'Cause she'll knit until her fingers bleed.
Oh, the knitter is a person in your neighborhood!
In your neighborhood!
In your neigh-bor-hood!
Yes, the knitter is a person in your neighborhood!
A person that you meet each day.
Thanks, Carol. Thanks, Southsiders. I hope to come back soon. You got it going on down there.
*Angie, I forgot to ask if you blog. Let me know and I'll put up a link.