Interweave Knitting Lab

Report from
Interweave Knitting Lab in San Mateo, CA

November 3-6, 2011

Thirteen years ago this summer I left San Francisco behind to pursue a new life in Maine. From that move came Knitter's Review and everything since.

How ironic that, when Interweave decided to start its own knitting conference, it chose a hotel in an office park just a stone's throw from where I used to hide yarn in my desk drawers at work.

Last weekend I returned to my old stomping grounds for the first-ever Interweave Knitting Lab. It featured everything you'd expect from a knitting conference: loads of workshops, plus talks, signings, a panel, and a marketplace filled with tempting yarns, tools, and patterns.


During most of the event I was tucked away in classrooms teaching eager knitters everything I knew about yarn, fiber, and socks, with an especially decadent three-hour cashmere swatching extravaganza. We had a grand time.

Jimmy Beans Wool

A lucky coincidence put my classroom directly next to the marketplace, with a secret door leading right in. That's where I got to meet some of the people from Jimmy Beans Wool (shown here). They had packed up half their store, or so it seemed, and were doing swift business.

Toots Le Blanc

The show was graced by my very favorite source for angora yarn: Toots LeBlanc. This small company also offers intriguing blends of Jacob wool, alpaca, mohair, Bluefaced Leicester, and pygora. If you want to try a yarn that is spun as the fiber was intended to be spun, look no further.

Tactile Fiber Arts

Just down the aisle from Toots LeBlanc was Maia, now the sole owner of Tactile Fiber Arts. (Her previous business partner, Brooke, was also at the show vending her naturally dyed Sincere Sheep yarns, which I told you about in my Sock Summit write-up.) Maia still specializes in naturally dyed yarns and offers some unusual yarn bases. This 50/50 blend of Cormo wool and yak down caught my eye.


A happy surprise was Alpenglow Yarn, a small California-based company that I've been tracking for a while. Alpenglow offers a variety of imported yarns, domestically produced yarns, and yarns from wool fleeces that Alpenglow owner Carrie Sundra picked by hand and had processed by a mini-mill. All are naturally dyed using materials from plants, trees, and bugs. The colors are even more beautiful in person than on her Web site.


Despite all the market temptations, perhaps my favorite moment at Interweave Knitting Lab came on Saturday night. That's when knitting legend Alice Starmore told her story to a packed audience. Teachers were allowed to sneak in after everybody else had sat down.

Alice captivated us with stories of her youth, of the clack-clack-clack of Harris looms and the constant treadle of her mother's Singer sewing machine. She told how her family would move its cattle to the moor for six weeks every summer, where she would run barefoot, get scolded for drawing smiley faces on the freshly cut peat, and lie on the moor watching the metamorphosis of a dragonfly.

We saw the view from her window, the faces of her cattle, the shapes and colors and places that inspire her. She emphasized how ephemeral life is, and how the Gaelic word for "past" literally translates as "the time that went away."

The entire weekend was a source of inspiration. But by the end of that evening—which ran over by 45 minutes—we were all ready to grab our needles and book the first ticket home with her to the Isle of Lewis.

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