It was a dark and stormy night, and of course timing required that we drive from Highland to Reisterstown at the time of night with maximum traffic on the Baltimore beltway.
We still managed to arrive our destination forty-five minutes early, because we’d left two hours for that thirty-mile traverse. We weren’t going to mess this up.
Of course, this still wasn’t enough time to get a seat in an actual chair. Bookstores have trouble understanding knitters. I’m sure the publicist tried to explain how many people were going to show up for a book signing about “knitting humour,” but it there were less than thirty chairs for at least three times as many people.
I got the feeling, though, that the staff felt a little bad about their mis-estimation, because they brought us all treats from the cafe while we waited. Here is mum with a cupcake; she apparently has a thing about red velvet cake.
Why did I make the trek from Pittsburgh to Baltimore in the middle of the week? Why did I spend my evening sitting on the floor of the Reisterstown Barnes & Noble? Why are their four vowels in “humour”?
Because last night, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, better known as the Yarn Harlot, was in town.
There she is, sort of kinneared (sorry Steph) while Mom tries to figure out my camera.
She was funny… really funny. She talked for a bit, read a few stories from the new book, and answered questions.
We had a bit of a wait to get our books signed, but we took our time. It was just so cool being in this dense pocket of extreme knitters. During the forty-five minutes before it started, we had a few interesting conversations – anyone who came early enough to be sitting anywhere near us was at least as crazy about knitting as me. How many times and places do I get have conversations like this with people as I meet them?
Knitter: “February Lady sweater, right? I love that pattern.”
Knitter: “Let me show you a picture of my grandbaby in the one I knit her.”
Me: “Guernsey Wrap, right? I have a friend who made that. What’s the yarn?”
Knitter 2: “Yeah; it’s Rowan Jeans.”
Me: “Where do you get Rowan around here?”
Knitter 3: “I love your scarf! Is that Rowan tweed?”
Me: “Felted Tweed, yeah!”
Knitter 3: “Do you remember the pattern?”
Me: “I designed it!”
Knitter 3: *Handles the scarf with an expression of appreciation that conveys neither “you are a freak” nor “you have way too much free time” nor “I could never do something that boring”*
It was surreal. And awesome. And made the wait for the talk to start, and the wait in line to get our books signed, go really fast.
Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than ten minutes, you might have a clue how important the Yarn Harlot is to me. I’ve read through all seven years of her blog archives, some of it more than once; enough that I would recognize her one of her kids on the street, and I feel a little creepy about that. I own all her books. But it’s not just that I think she’s cool or something (actually I like her because she’s kind of weird).
The reason this random knitter, mother of three, resident of Toronto is sort of my hero is that her writing was a catalyst in my life. I discovered her when my mom gave me one of her books at a critical time, during that phase early in my marriage when I was doing the hard work of finding myself. I loved to knit, and I was pretty good. But when I stared reading Steph’s stuff, something changed. I became not just a solitary knitter, but really engaged, with the knitting world. My knitting obsession went from weird to 100% embraced. I started trying new things, because I couldn’t get enough.
And, probably most important, I found out I had something to say. Steph’s writing gave me permission to be me – that is, really, really weird. This blog was born halfway through me reading her archives, and started a journey of wrestling through my own writing style. In the end, my writing is really nothing like hers, which is appropriate. And it’s still developing. But after two years of working at it, I know what’s important to me about writing, and what I want at the other end of it. I’m like, empowered, or something.
All these factors combined together meant that last night, when I finally got to meet this woman, I was more or less guaranteed to act like a gushy dipstick. She thought she had met me before, which was funny – sometimes I swear I have “one of those faces.” I managed to say what I wanted to say, which was kind of gushy (I thought I sounded composed and thoughtful at the time, but thinking about it afterward, it probably came out something like “Thank you for being awesome you changed my life oh my gosh“). but she was really gracious about it.
Somehow I am not beet red in this picture. I am always beet red when I am nervous. Possibly I was dehydrated. Steph admired my glove in process. The glove didn’t blush either, prissy thing, attached to my backpack in utili-knit position. (Mesh pockets on the sides of backpacks? Perfect for pinning a work in progress. Can you see the plain knitting?)
Anyway, we aren’t now BFFs or anything, but Mom and I had a great time, met some neat people, and basked in this intense corner of the knitting subculture. And I had direct, first-hand confirmation that, like all personal heroes, mine is actually a human. Which gives me a lot of courage to keep pursuing my crazy-weird knitterly dreams.