First, I must offer my thanks to all of you who left comments or sent e-mails asking whether I was sick, dead or perhaps trapped beneath a fallen refrigerator and therefore unable to blog. The answer, happily for me, is None of the Above.
I just don't know where the week went. I came back from Austin, I did some work for the little book, and I got ready for my first-ever trip to The National Needle Arts Association's summer trade show. That's a mouthful, so most folks just call it TNNA. The semi-annual TNNA shows are where needlework retailers go to meet vendors large and small, see what's new and place their orders. Chances are, if it's on a shelf at your local yarn store, the owner first saw it at TNNA.
Before I get to that, though, I gotta tell you about the 1,000 Knitters shoot at The Knitting Nest in Austin.
The Knitting Nest is a new shop. The owner, Stacy, hasn't been open for long but I think she's going to be around for a while. You know how some shop owners create a good, solid shop with good service, and then others do that and also build what amounts to a haven for the yarnishly inclined? Stacy's of the latter variety.
Our little trio got an extremely warm welcome at the airport from the Knitting Nest's own trio: Staci (the Nest's beloved teacher), Steph (who isn't strictly on the payroll, but acts as a combination porter, ambassadress, cheerleader and photographer), and David (Stacy's husband, known for good reason on her blog as Mr Wonderful).
"Welcome to Austin, Ms Van Hoofen," said David, extending a hand to Dolores.
"Don't be so formal," said Dolores. "Call me Dolly and gimme a hug, you big longhorn."
David hesitated, fingering his wedding band.
"Give her one," I said. "Or she'll just take it anyway."
A few minutes later the hug was over and we were off to the hotel. Harry had been chatting with Steph and was clearly enamored of her KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD t-shirt. He'd been extremely excited at the prospect of going to a town that holds great store by its weirdos and was eagerly scanning the sidewalks for his first sighting.
"Can I meet some weirdos? I think weirdos are cool. I think I want a KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD ball band. Is that a weirdo over there? How about her, is she a weirdo? She looks like she might be a weirdo."
"You know," said Steph, "I'm pretty weird."
Whereupon Harry was struck speechless for the rest of the drive.
The day of the shoot dawned bright and hot. I opened the curtains to find this splendid view waiting. Nothing gets my blood pumping like a cool new skyline first thing in the morning.
I listened to the weather report for the sheer pleasure of hearing the weather lady say "The hot, dry and sunny trend will continue through the week." You don't hear that in Chicago unless it's followed by the words "April" and "fool."
I asked Dolores and Harry if they wanted to come along to meet the knitters, but they declined. Dolores was set on visiting the museum and libraries at the University of Texas campus. Harry, with map, camera and binoculars at the ready, was going weirdo watching.
By the time David and I got to the shop–an hour early–there were already folks waiting outside. Inside, there was a buzz of cheerful preparatory activity as Stacy and her crew put the registration table and everything else into apple pie order.
Then the doors opened and all cheerful hell broke loose. We had 57 knitters roll through and it was a group I'll never forget.
Guess what? We passed the 800 mark with Sherilyn, Knitter 0800.
And Ana, Knitter 0772, knit one of her hand-made Lone Star stitch markers into the scarf as a souvenir of Texas. I was touched.
One of the things I'm discovering is that the cliché "everybody has a story" is actually true–and the stories are fascinating. So far in these little reports you're getting mostly the images; but the final project will be just as much about the stoies. Here are two stories I have to share, in brief, from Austin.
Meet Rachel, Knitter 0794.
Rachel used to be a Texas Rollergirl under the nom de skate Kitty Kitty Bang Bang. She has since retired, and now goes by Knitty Knitty Bang Bang. I am fairly certain she is the first roller derby queen in our line-up.
Meet Sam, Knitter 0809.
So far as I know, Sam is the only person in the series who learned to knit in order to pass long, tedious hours sitting in a tank in Iraq. Thank you for serving, Sam.
And before any of you write to ask, Sam is married to the adorable Amy, Knitter 0808–fourth row below, on the left. So fuggedaboudit.
The last of the two sitter's was Amanda, Knitter 0813. Amanda's just finishing up her college degree in Photojournalism and was kind enough to show me her portfolio. The kid has it, in spades. Somebody at Spin or Rolling Stone needs to take notice. I hope some day one of the things they'll say about me is that I shot Amanda Klaus before she got all famous and uppity.
And we capped it off with the Lady Herself, Stacy, the mastermind behind all of it. Stacy, what can I say? You are a perfect example of why Texas hospitality deserves its legendary status.
When the day was done Stacy asked me to decorate the blank wall of the sit-and-knit area, which we'd used as a backdrop, with a portrait of the candidate whom she, a loyal Fibertarian, will be supporting come November. Dolores breezed in just before dinner (naturally) so she, Harry and Stacy's adorable Westie, Hank, struck a pose.
If you're curious as to how the drawing emerged, the awesome Steven has a sort of time-lapse series on his blog. (Love the title, by the way.) How anybody will be able to sit and knit with this staring down at them I don't know, but it ain't my shop.
And then they fed me barbecue. Real barbecue from The Salt Lick. We all ate around the big table in the shop like the Waltons, although I don't recall that the Waltons ever talked about yarn over dinner. (More fools they.)
Knitting Nesters, you won my heart. I hated to leave and I can't wait to come back. Thanks for everything. Miss you, miss Texas, miss the brisket. Especially you. And the brisket.