I'm back from Chicago, and have been DYING to find the chance to tell you all about it and post some photos! I brought my nephew Eric back home with me, and have been spending time with him this week. But I finally got my photos downloaded, so here we go!
I got up early on Halloween and drove myself to Chicago (using my phone's GPS to navigate from Starbucks to Starbucks, because you can't have too many iced chocolate mochas when driving long-distance!) When I got in, Nicky was at a class, but had saved me a key to my room at the front desk. We had adjoining rooms, and she had a lovely suite.
VK Live was held at the Palmer House, a classic Chicago hotel that is lovingly maintained like a beautiful time capsule.
I felt very spoiled to be there, and the staff people were just amazing -- dedicated, had worked there all their lives, had great ghost stories to share... If I owned that hotel I would pay actors to dress up in period costume and act out scenes all day.
When I met up with Nicky, she took me to meet a number of other designers at a party in one of the suites. It was amazing to meet designers whose names I'd either seen in VK's pages for years, or who had come on the scene quite recently (Josh Bennett! Brandon Mably! Ysolda Teague! Nancy Marchant! Catherine Lowe! Melissa Leapman! Lily Chin!) It was just crazy. I also had the chance to meet Trisha Malcolm, the editor of Vogue Knitting; Carla Scott, who edits Knit Simple; and Doreen Connors, VK's advertising director.
We then went to a cocktail hour, and I met more of Nicky's friends and acquaintances:
The woman on the left is Brooke Nico, another well-known designer; next is Taiu Landra, the owner of Koigu (I also met her beautiful daughter who poses in all the Koigu photos. I asked her why she never smiles and she explained that she had braces, but now that she has them off she promised to smile!).
Next is Nicky - you will note she has not just one, but TWO foot braces. Nicky is still recovering from a bad fall in Scotland, where she broke her left ankle and tore three tendons in her right ankle; she had only just gotten to her feet in the last 5 days or so. I was very worried about her overdoing it, but she is an incredible trooper. We iced her ankles every night, and she somehow managed to run circles around me.
Next comes me, and I'll have to ask Nicky again the name of the 5th person (the whole thing passed in such a whirlwind I've forgotten!
The next day I helped Nicky set up an exhibit room showing all of her 18" dolls dressed in outfits from her Knits for Dolls and Crochet for Dolls books:
I'm particularly fond of Knits for Dolls, as I was lucky enough to attend a photo shoot last January and watch first-hand how carefully each outfit was photographed, with background, accessories and props especially chosen and arranged to the last minute detail. But my favorite part came at the end. A row of 5 dolls was shot for the cover; it took a long time to get them to all stand up just so, and to pose them to look like they were all talking together (one would tip over and they would all go down like dominos). It was almost 5 PM, and we were all pooped, but they still had to shoot the back cover. They considered lining up 5 other dolls, or moving them to show the backs... and I suggested simply moving the camera instead!!!
So, here's the back cover!
Anyway, Nicky taught a fun class; I had helped to knit some sample pieces ahead of time, and showed people how to do short rows. Here's the class; the person on the right, Rose, has been a student and fan of Nicky's for years. It was lovely to meet the group and spend some peaceful hours sitting and knitting!
Nicky gave a lecture about Knitting on Top of the World, and we laid out all of the pieces I had knit from the book for people to see and to try on, the day prior to the fashion show and auction. There was a great article in the Chicago Examiner about it! It was very interesting to hear Nicky talk about her design process, and to see all the knitted pieces laid out like that. I have to admit, I was a bit daunted at the prospect of auctioning them all away; and we were a bit worried, as most of the people trying them on were planning to knit their own versions. We were not at all sure that an auction of knitted items would work, at an event attended only by knitters, and skilled knitters at that!
The next day was the fashion show and auction. It was held in a beautiful old ballroom called the Red Lacquer room. When we got there, all of the pieces I'd brought with me (the entire shebang, although only the garments were in the auction except for the dragons) were all arranged on racks with photos of each model who would wear them on the runway, with dressers standing by to assist:
This is Gabrielle Ald of Soho Publishing, who organized and ran the entire show. It is unbelievable how hard the VK staff and volunteers worked throughout the VK live event; Gabrielle and Carla, in particular, seemed to be everywhere at once, simply unstoppable in ensuring that everything was running smoothly to the smallest detail.
The excitement was building backstage; Nicky and I had a chance to meet the beautiful models. When we explained that some of the pieces that they were modelling were being auctioned for Gilda's Club Twin Cities, an organization to provide psychological and social support for people with cancer and their families and friends, they were quite moved (and some even bid during the auction for pieces they liked!)
At the door of the ballroom, a sign welcomed attendees to the fashion show:
Slowly, the room grew more crowed. I was worried about attendance, as the auction was held at 4:30, when some people were still in class. But by the time we were ready to start, there were quite a few chairs filled.
The event was introduced by Doreen; she asked me to speak briefly about my knitting journey through Nicky's book, and to tell people about Gilda's Club.
And then, the fashion show began! VK had intended to auction only 10 of the pieces, as we only had an hour to complete the fashion show; but the crowd was enjoying it so much, and wanted to buy the remaining pieces.
Honestly, I had intended to keep some of the pieces for myself; (the Simply Smashing Cardigan, the Londonderry Rose Coat the Celtic Hooded Coat, and the cashmere piece from the cover!) But once the auction started, and people really started bidding, I was really moved. The models were wearing the piece I had knitted, and carrying the piece from Nicky's book. And then Nicky offered to auction some of her own pieces as well, and things really started hopping!
By the end of it, I was teary-eyed, and so grateful. We had raised over $3,000 for Gilda's Club! And I still have a few pieces left, which I will auction on eBay (probably in December, once I have some work deadlines and family company for Thanksgiving behind me).
Here are pictures of the fashion show:
The Northern Lights Cardigan...
The Parisian Entrelac Wrap;
The Mongolian Warrior Pullover...
The Cowichan Vision Coat.
The Great Bear Zip Tunic;
And the Snowflake Sweater Cape.
After the auction some people came up to say hello; a woman whose mother had been helped by her local Gilda's Club, and another woman who was a cancer survivor herself, came up to say a special thank you. Some women from Louisville who had bid on and won several of the pieces were really tall just like me; they looked great in them, and were so happy to know that the Twin Cities will soon have a Gilda's Club of its own.
Here is a photo of me and Nicky with one of the auction winners:
Amazing. That evening, Nicky taught a class on her book, Knitting in Circles;
And that evening, we met with Leslye Solomon, another designer/teacher, and finally went to bed after midnight.
I lack words to express my gratitude to Nicky, for inviting me to VK Live; to Trisha Malcolm, Carla Scott, Gabrielle Ald, and the owners of Vogue Knitting and Soho Publishing for being willing to put on an incredible live fashion show, while helping me to auction the knitted pieces for Gilda's Club. I don't think I will ever forget what that felt like, and how proud I was to see my knitting gracing such beautiful models, and then being auctioned for such a good cause.
Those of you who have been reading the blog since I started it way back in 2008, and have followed along as I knitted every single piece in Knitting on Top of the World from cover to cover, know how much knitting each of these pieces meant to me, and what an amazing time I've had, from start to finish. This simple plan, to knit my way through Nicky's book, has taken me on so many adventures, from trips to New York City to a cruise to Mexico, to a glamorous weekend in Chicago. Best of all, it has brought me one of the most lovely friendships of my life; Nicky and I were both boo-hooing when I had to leave Chicago Sunday morning, wishing we lived in the same city instead of half a country apart.
Although I still can't believe I sold some of those pieces, I know I can always knit them again someday. But all my joy, all my pleasure in knitting, and all the positive things this blog has brought me, are now multiplied by the fact that I know I've "used my powers for good," and contributed in a meaningful way to a cause that means the world to me.
I'm truly on the top of the world right now.
Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me.