Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So Big

This weekend's shoot at Threadbear Fiber Arts Studio in Michigan was the ninth public shoot for 1,000 Knitters and the third to take place outside Illinois. As I packed my lamp and reflector in the big suitcase and tucked sixty copies of the model release into the outside pocket, I figured that at this point I had the whole system down pat. Eight-hour shoot? Fifty knitters. It always worked out to fifty knitters. Time after time.

Of course, I'd heard Threadbear was a big place with a loyal following, so I added those ten extra model releases to the stack just in case.

Harry was deeply concerned that I wasn't packing enough warm clothes. "I think you need some more sweaters," he said, peering over the edge of the suitcase. "And you can borrow my electric blanket if you want."

"You're made out of wool," I said. "What do you need with an electric blanket?"

"I have a very delicate constitution," said Harry. "My mother was a laceweight cotton blend."

"Ah. Well, maybe you should keep the blanket, then."

"No, you should take it with you," Harry insisted. "I was watching the Weather Channel and where you're going, it'll be so cold that if you sneeze outdoors at midnight your boogers will turn into an icicle."

"They said that on the Weather Channel?"

"Well, not exactly," said Harry. "They said how it would be freezing in Michigan and Dolores told me the other part."

Dolores had refused to come along on the trip even after I appealed to her vanity, pointing out that many fans might be expecting a meet-and-greet.

"Nothing doing," she said from the depths of the afghan-covered sofa. "I am a sheep; not a sled-dog, polar bear, or wolverine. You wanna skip across the tundra like Nanook, fine. Send me a postcard. But don't bother me with ice unless it's resting comfortably in a cocktail shaker."

So north I went, alone, via Amtrak's Blue Water line. We had no heat in the car, the bathroom broke down, the reading light above my seat fizzled out at Battle Creek, and we waited on a siding for an hour to let a cattle train saunter past. It was an uneventful trip, by the standards of American rail service.

The bears themselves, Matt and Rob, welcomed me with great cordiality.

Da Bears

Their shop was a shock; all descriptions had fallen short. Racks and racks of yarns stretching to the horizon, many of which I'd never seen in person or never even heard of. All good stuff, too–no fizzy gloppy crap just filling space. Threadbear faithful simply call it "Mecca," and now I understand why.

The next morning, on the way to the shoot, I noted that with snow falling thick and fast I hoped people would still show up. Rob snickered. He asked if there were anything special I needed. I said no, the set-up was quite simple, and I had sixty model releases ready to go.

"That won't be enough," he said.

I thought he must be joking, but he wasn't. As soon as I unpacked the forms he grabbed one, handed it to a convenient Bearette, and asked her to please get another 100 or so copies. I thought it a silly expense, but decided to let him have his fun.

Fifteen minutes later–a good forty minutes before the shop opened–cars began to arrive in the parking lot. Then they opened the doors, and suddenly I had twenty-two people in line.

Previous public shoots have always been jolly good fun, but this one took the frenzied merrymaking to new heights. Rob and Matt knew their clientele better than I. They came in droves, these people, sliding down glass-slick roads with carefree abandon, lured by the promise of five minutes in my chair and a whole lotta yarn for sale.

We had a family of four near the front of the line. Meet the Davises.

Tricot En Famille

Mr. Davis was the last to sign on, apparently on the principle that if you're outnumbered, you better learn to purl damn quick.

I clicked and clicked and the knitters kept on coming, varied and numerous as the snowflakes outside (though not so chilly). I lost track of time.

Lansing Twelve

We had a Podcasting duet, Kim and Kimber of Knit Therapy, running about with their iPod recorders to capture the atmosphere for an upcoming episode.


Jillian Moreno, she of Big Girl Knits and the forthcoming More Big Girl Knits, showed up and brought me two (yes, two) gorgeous birthday cakes.


After my brief encounter with Jillian, I have decided she is the knitter mostly likely to accept a cage-wrestling challenge from Dolores...and win.

Honnay (and her totem lamb, Mammy) drove up to Lansing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and brought Graeter's Ice Cream, packed in a cooler with dry ice, for which she has earned my everlasting gratitude. (I got a whole pint of double chocolate to myself. I have never felt so spoiled.)


This lady, who is known to all as "Dirty Sue" although she was not, so far as I could tell, visibly soiled, brought fried doughnuts with chocolate frosting.

Dirty Sue

Clearly, in Michigan one is never in danger of going hungry.

Maybe because Matt and Rob have built such a sense of community, such a snug harbor, this group seemed to open up more than any other. I heard amazing stories. People who knit their way through cancer, through divorce, through bereavement and depression; who taught themselves to spin their own yarn back when there was no decent knitting wool to be bought; and–perhaps most flattering on a personal level–who had overcome serious, long-standing phobias about being photographed in order to take part.

Lansing Sixteen

We finished up some time around...I don't know. Six? I truly don't know. Suddenly the roar settled down and Rob asked me, "How many did you get?" I calculated very quickly.

One. Hundred. And. Eleven. About 10 percent of the entire project. In one day.

That brings the grand total to 412. If this keeps up, folks, soon we're going to be talking serious numbers.


Thank you, Threadbear!


Anonymous said...

It sounds like your trip was not only a success but great fun! How neat to make new knitting friends. I can't believe I'm the first comment, either.

MaryjoO said...

What a wonderful posting about such fabulous people (yes, Harry and Delores too). REMIND us when the book with all of these will come out?

Anonymous said...


So. When are you coming to the Twin Cities? Needlework Unlimited, The Yarnery, Borealis Yarns, Depth of Field, Coldwater Cooperative, Creative Fibers, Three Kittens -- we certainly have enough yarn shops. I know that isn't all of them.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Will there still be room for ME when you get to "Philly"?! Well, it's not really Philly, it's Kennett Square, but still.... !

Teyani said...

The 'bears' look like people that everyone should meet :-)
great photos... I especially love #307 - what a perfect smile.

It is really a delight to read your blog.

Anonymous said...

You know what you need to round this project out? Australian knitters. You should totally come to the Great South Land and do a shoot, say at the big Bendigo S&W in July. Assuming your next shoot doesn't net you the remaining 600 in one fell swoop!
Bring Dolores - we have many extremely burly shearers just waiting to be taken advantage of.

Anonymous said...

betcha those of us here in the philly area will beat that total.

of course, the phillies will win the world series this year too...and the eagles will go to the super bowl...

(yeah, riiiiight)

go philly! as the yarn harlot would say: "REPRESENT!"

Anonymous said...

Such a great PROJECT!!! and wonderfull to read and see the proces

Ruth said...

How wonderful. I'm glad that your project is turning into such an expression of community and welcome.

Unknown said...

What a great post. Gives me chills just thinking about all those knitters.

Anonymous said...

Hey Franklin,

You really should fix that wonky tripod. It has a definite lean to the left.

Great photos, wish I wasn't too far away to take part.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Franklin - this is going to such a valadation of knitters. As you have valadated 111 Michigan knitters on your trip! Thank you! We are so glad that you have Michigan roots. With mom being raised here. You are welcome back "home" to Michigan any and all times. Live, Laugh and Love
Kim from knitTherapy!

Katie K said...

I bet they overcame their phobias about being photographed because they know you're such a great photographer. Every shot a winner. Hope you come to NYC one of these days.

Rooie said...

I think a renaming is appropriate...how about 10,000 Knitters?

I love hearing about Harry. I think Harry is my favorite. I think we need a Harry shirt.

Not to be demanding or anything.

Anonymous said...

I find it delightful that in a shop in Michigan in the snow and cold and ice and wind, you logged more knitters than you did at Stitches, where there are thousands of knitters just crawling all over the place.
Is this because the Threadbear folks are stellar marketers and the XRX folks weren't (for you anyway)? because this project now has momentum? or b/c the Michigan folk are more knitterly in winter than convention goers in August?

This makes me want to go to Threadbear for a weekend instead of back to chicagoland for Stitches....

Anonymous said...

Threadbear is wonderful! I have family all around there and went last summer. I'm itching to go back just reading your post. Thanks! :-)

Fe said...

I love reading your posts, Franklin. Your 1001 Knitters Project is intriguing. I, alas, do not knit (though my mother does), I crochet....among other things. I am looking forward to seeing this agglutination of yarn buffs when it is complete, and am also looking forward to your forthcoming book. Thank you.

Unknown said...

This is almost enough to get me to learn to knit. Except I doubt you're coming to Iowa (I don't think there are any yarn stores) and the slanted camera thing would drive me up a wall. I'd sit down, the camera would lean a bit, and my brain would melt. You'd end up with a frantic upright crocheter adding on to the other end of the scarf. It wouldn't be pretty.

Anonymous said...

The large groupings remind me of quilts - was that your intent?

Amy said...

I had a great time meeting you! And seriously? It's frightening how many of these knitters I recognize.

datatech57 said...

Okay, Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is in May. The place is lousy with knitters, and it is in the DC area. Are you coming? Bringing your camera/tripod/etc? I don't know if I will have hair then, but hey, I would be a great story!


Anonymous said...

I'm so upset I couldn't make it. I've been in Michigan six months, been meaning to make a trip to Threadbear, and this shoot was the perfect reason to go! Unfortunately, the flu got me down. Congrats on such a fun and fruitful shoot!

Anonymous said...

Oh Franklin,

Someday you need to come to the Pacific Northwest. Oregon. You would love it here. As a transplanted Chicagoan, I can assure you that there are TONS of knitters here! Ask the Harlot and Crazy Aunt Purl! (and we have Powells here! crazy book people! bonus!)

And Harry is my favorite too!

Congrats on the photos. What a great project you have going!

Jenny said...

Maybe you should think about expanding it to 10,000 knitters. I totally agree with kmkat, you should totally come to Mpls. I'd put you up, though you would have to fight with Dolores about who gets the couch.

Jenny said...

Ok, so I overused "totally", 2x in one sentence, that just shows how excited I am.

Anonymous said...

Wunderbar! Wottawhackaknitters!

Dang, we have got to get you to Portland. With 20 or so LYS's around here, surely some of 'em can chip in...

Alwen said...

Now all my bloggy friends are emailing to say, "You're on Franklin's blog!"

And here I had them convinced that Golden Polish hen was me!

Meredith said...

I'm so excited for your coming to Kennett Square! And I hope Harry comes: I've got some sock yarn that would like to meet him.

And I'm curious. Are you going to stop once you have 1000 knitters, or can we persuade you to continue on?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a bit surprised--ThreadBear is my favorite LYS and I don't even live in Michigan.

Prof. Askey said...

ThreadBEAR and bears. Honestly. I was at the end of the post before I got the joke. Awesome. The shoot looks great and I hope all stores in the future can represent with 100+ knitters.

Unknown said...

I'm so happy for you and all the knitters too. I have been to Michigan once and the next time I will NOT miss this shop. Thks - and Happy belated B day!

Anonymous said...

franklin, i baaathed just for you.
thanks for the left leaning pose, if it leaned right, i would have some 'splainin' to do to my kidlets. ;0

Unknown said...

we in Michigan do not fear bad weather and will gladly drive in it for yarn.
I think I'm gonna start calling mself Dirty Sue and see if it sticks.

Janis said...

I don't know if I've ever commented before, but I've really enjoyed watching your 1001 knitters project progress. And I do have to say there ARE yarn shops in Iowa that you could come to. I'm sure there are ones in Kentucky that would welcome you as well. :) Good luck with your project!

Anonymous said...

You validated 111 Michigan knitters? No one told me it was that kind of party!!

Pickyknitter said...

I love you Franklin, but why do all the knitters bear left? Wait - I bet the 1000 Knitters Scarf is getting pretty long by now. Maybe it is really heavy.

Mandy Petersen said...

Congratulations! That sounds absolutely wonderful. :)

Mandy said...

Nice work! Go knitters! I'm seriously enjoying following your project. Coming to NC?

Anonymous said...

Just don't reach 1000 before I get to make it to a Chicago area shoot!!

Anonymous said...

And isn't that Harry just the most thoughtful little guy!

Sharon Rose said...

I am TERRIFIED that you're going to hit 1000 before you make it to Philly. If the numbers get close, I may just hop in the car.

planetKnit said...

Wow! I'm sorry we missed it. My mom and I planned to come up there, but the roads were, well, iffy, and she's a very nervous navigator. (Makes driving FUN. Not so much.)
And needledancer--ThreadBear would make an awesome vacation destination. Sometimes it takes me 2 hours just to see "what's new"!

Anonymous said...

Such a great post...makes me feel all verklempt...this is part of the draw of knitting for me. All these people, all these stories, all of us so different yet...not. I'm so glad you're doing this project. The pictures are great!

LaurieM said...

Thanks for sharing so many of your pics. I like your comparison of people to snowflakes and I really liked the last knitter with her baby.

This project is picking up momentum.

pacalaga said...

The Mama and Baby shot at the end takes my breath away completely.

Laura Sue said...

Wow! Truly wish I was there. Lansing, huh? Anywhere close to North Carolina? I guess not.

Anonymous said...

You would have had 112 if I hadn't had to work that day. Wish I could have been there.

Anonymous said...

Oooo! As a native Cincinnatian, transplanted elsewhere, just the thought of digging into a pint of Graeters ice cream is making my mouth water! Enjoy that taste of heaven!

punkin said...

I think your project touches something deep about knitters. I am not good with words so I won't try to express it.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, Threadbear, I Heart Threadbear. Unlike Mecca, I think that's the place to pilgrimage to once a year!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Franklin . . . any possibility that those of us in the 1,000 will be able to buy prints from you? I know I'd like to see all the frames you shot of me, and would love to get a print or two . . .

(I don't mean to make you cringe. The thought of 1,000 people wanting photos might just drive you over the edge . . . )

Anonymous said...

I knew the bears in a different life. Nice to see that they are doing well. Hey, guys, remember the Tuesday night pitch-ins?

Carina said...

Hey, that light flickered at Battle Creek to tell you to get off the train and visit my house. :)

It was so lovely. Thank you for doing this project and giving us a chance to all get together. Next time, it;s potluck. ;)

Ewe-niss said...

What a blast last Saturday! I love seeing my sweet Molly in with the Notorious Lansing 16 (your final grouping of individual knitters). She is lucky to share the squares with Sarah, Teresa, Sharon, Jane,... above her.

Franklin you are a wonderful man! You made many of us that aren't comfortable in front of the camera feel at ease. Good luck with the rest of your project!

knitnzu said...

Whoa! So Franklin, deah, why is everyone except Rob and one of the Lansing 16 tilted to the left? Is this a political commentary on the knitters of the area? Ooooh, wouldn't that be nice? The midwest is not generally in my provincial purvue a hotbed of liberalism, but ya nevah know!

Anonymous said...

Man, I love it when you post about the 1000 Knitters shoots. It is just too cool to see all those knitters. What a grand lot of amazing people. Keep up the great work, Franklin. I can't wait until you go on the book tour for this one (although I'll attend the book tour you do for the Interweave book too!). Congrats. Well done. Everyone!!

Knitting Bandit said...

I think I was #376 and I am sooo..excited to be one of a thousand. I can't tell you how many times I almost snuck out like the "Bandit" I am (actually, the Chicken). You were so engaging I actually forgot you were taking my photo. Thanks for that! And Thanks for the wonderful words about our "Mecca", it truly is everything you claim. Lastly, I think you should do the last cartoon you posted in a tote and more @ Cafe Press. I would buy it so fast! It makes me laugh!

Anonymous said...

That was a lovely account of a great day. I enjoyed seeing all the beautiful knitted clothes on the sitters, too.

vagabond bettie said...

Hey Franklin! I had a great time visiting from Puerto Rico! I frozed my arse off, but then it grew right back. I finally thawed out today (it's wednesday and I've been in South Florida since Monday morning>)
You might only get 6 or 7 knitters in PR and you can't take the train, but you would be warm and probably set up a shoot right on the beach.

Molly Bee said...

Oh my gosh! What a great looking bunch of folks. Your blog always makes my day, Franklin. There is a surprise for you over on my site.

Terri said...

It is always nice to read nice knitting stories about interesting people! It looks as if you are as talented with your camera as you are with your knitting needles. Beauty comes in many forms, but you have certainly captured it in all of your 400+ photos!

alice said...

you know, i've long wanted to see threadbear for myself. but now thanks to you i think i'm just gonna pack up and move out to lansing. m hm.

there's pretty much no thing as a "knitting community" at my lys... oy.

laurie said...

ok i sooooooooo did NOT expect to be showing on your post about your threadbear visit--so peeking in was a bit of a shock!

snow? that wasn't no stinkin' snow...not for a true michigander ;-)

threadbear is truly an incredible place, and the community of people that have been drawn there is beyond compare (imho). it has been a major change for good in my life and i'm sure in the lives of many others. thank you so much for being there and including me...and this comes from a true camera coward!

(i'll be getting in touch soonly re: the commission *grin*)

Anonymous said...

I take it that the left-leaning tripod was 'Artistic'? Or was it there hole in the Threadbears' floor? Or a duff chair?

Either way you've posted a whole lot of Right leaning Michigan knitters. Hmmm, something for the Elections?

Karin said...

What an event! Thank you for telling us all about it.

Now. This is NONE of my business. because you have your own artistic vision. But I really would like to know why all the knitters are tilted to the left. Looking at them all, it was making me a little seasick. Or, I was reminded of all decreases slanting to the left. SSKs. Are there going to be any right slanting ones to balance things out?

I know. None of my business.

Franklin said...

In order to get the post up in a timely fashion, I automated a bunch of the cropping in Photoshop and wound up with predominantly tilted knitters. Keep in mind that what you're seeing is the equivalent of a thumbnail sketch, not a sneak preview of the finished work.

If it makes you seasick, try Dramamine. Or vodka. Vodka helps. Only don't drink it in combination with lace knitting. Ask me how I know.

Franklin said...

Dammit. I should have just said they were all drunk and ready to topple over. That would have been much funnier.

Oh, well. Too late now.

christina said...

sounds like a great trip and man... what a great turn out!

of course... this means that you should come to Austin even sooner!
Tell Delores that if she comes, we'll make it worth her while.

Nana Sadie said...

412 isn't SERIOUS? Wow. It's been serious, in my mind, since the first day you mentioned it - THIS is huge, and yes, the same sort of importance attached to it as Yarn Harlot's Represent.

(I've only talked to Rob at ThreadBear, but I think he is a wonderful representation of good customer service - a joy to work with!)

SW Virginia isn't all that far, remember that, okay?

Anonymous said...

It WAS a fun day, wasn't it? Too bad you were so busy you didn't have time to sit and knit with the rest of us because we had a good day.

Glad to NOT see my mug in there yet, but it was surprising to see sooo many familiar faces. It is truly a wonderful place, even if I did have to threaten Laurie with bodily harm (it's OK, we have the same doc). And to clarify to all who read all these comments, Susie (who is definitely LEFT leaning) is not personally dirty. It's her mouth, especially after a tough day or a beer! Love them all, they are my "family of choice".

Hope those of you who want Franklin to come and visit realize you need to support him (cover his costs). He's a really neat person -- and a great photographer, too.

Anonymous said...

As kmkat asks, when ARE you coming to the Twin Cities? You have a place to stay, of course. And I know of someone who would bend over backwards (or whichever way) to get you here.

Seanna Lea said...

That's great! I love seeing all of the personalities you can capture, the many ways knitting and people interact. It's a blast to see.

Karin said...

No harm done.
I thank you for taking the time to explain how and why you did it that way.
I often comment on blogs as if I expect an answer, as if I was sitting right with that blogger and we were having ourselves a little coinversation.
I wish you nothing but the best in all your endeavours, Franklin. I am a faithful reader and come out and comment just every once in a while.
a fellow aquarian, fellow buddhist, fellow knitter, fellow author. :)

Anonymous said...

So. Um.

I was doing lots of really important work (read: looking for internet pr0n) when I came across the following: http://www.thesheepmarket.com/

And I couldn't think of anyone else to show it to.

That's all.

gail said...

Great photos! I love your blog and your sheep (or does Delores own you)? If you want to see more knitters and photograph them in situ, the Madison Knitters Guild (that's Madison Wisconsin) is having a Knit In on March 8. Lily Chin will be the keynote speaker. There will be classes, lunch, door prizes and a market with 20 vendors! Bring a friend and drive up north to visit beautiful Madison, with many wonderful yarnshops and knitters. You can register or find more information at www.madisonknittersguild.org

ButterflyKnits said...

Franklin... I've just had a thought... Could Dolores be making a costume for Mardi Gras? Perhaps planning a trip to New Orleans in the next few days? If Harry can find out let me know, there are a few people I should warn, I mean tell ; )

Anonymous said...

So why is everybody leaning to their right? (With one exception).

Marcia said...

I kind of like your Knitter's Tilt, tequila-vision notwithstanding.

What I LOVE is looking at these pictures (over and over) (and over), and the related sense of connectedness to those you have captured so far, as well as those to come.

You tilt me right round baby, right round.

Barbara from Nova Scotia said...

#307 rocks. Her personality seems to bubble up right to her grin. Wonderful! Apparently I'm not the only one that noticed.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking the photos look a bit
like left-leaning decreases...are you planning to do the last 500 as
right-leaning decreases??? With a
few blank spaces in between to represent yarnovers???
Just wondering....
Love the photos--

Steve said...

franklin that pic of Rob it perfect! That is so him


Anonymous said...

How come everyone is leaning to the left? Is this some kind of political comment?

Anonymous said...

Dammit! I need to start reading more knitting blogs - I'd have totally come out to Threadbear. It's my favoritest yarn store ever.

Anonymous said...

Drunk? No not before the photos - but the Mimosas were flowing in the parking lot. I guess you missed those.....should have brought you one.....then again, I've been known to share my stories but not my bubbly! What a fun thing to be a part of!

Kim said...

I kind of stumbled upon this entry. Threadbear is my "home yarn shop." I had been knitting since I was ten, but it wasn't until I went to college and wandered in here that knitting became part of my identity. These people, this community, saw me through all four years of college, through my brother's motorcycle accident, through learning my dad had cancer, and then through learning that I had cancer in the spring of my Senior year. When things seem unbearable, Threadbear is the place to go pull up some couch space and recenter-I mean knit.

I seriously owe these people so much.

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