Knitting Tourism: Pittsburgh

The stereotype of knitters is that they are sedentary elderly ladies sitting in rocking chairs, too inactive and unimaginative to do anything beyond robotically cranking out stitch after stitch. I’m here to contradict that stereotype, although I can’t do anything about being old except, hopefully, to get older. Knitting takes me lots of places, most recently to Pittsburgh. For the first time ever, I submitted work to a juried textile exhibition, the Fiber Forward Exhibition, which is an adjunct to the Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival. The pieces I submitted were the two dresses I described in my Love and Death post, and both were accepted. I didn’t know anything about the exhibition until someone on Ravelry, a total stranger, contacted me out of the blue, and told me that even though she also didn’t know anything about this particular event, I should think about submitting my work to exhibitions. I thought it over and took a flying leap of faith to submit my work. It was flattering to have my work accepted, although not knowing anything about who was accepting it did curb my enthusiasm. But my sisters Sanna and Mandy were enthusiastic, and they and my husband Charles and I decided to make a weekend of it. I hoped I wouldn’t have to apologize for dragging them out to Pittsburgh for a non-event.

We got to the Pittsburgh Convention Center– a point in favor of the legitimacy of this event, since fly-by-night nothing kinds of things usually don’t take place in convention centers– just in time for the 1 p.m. award ceremony. I had just enough time to see that the floor was filled with vendors, and that the  juried pieces looked imaginative and well executed. Win or lose, my work was in good company and I didn’t have to apologize to my family. And I did win! Mine was the first name called, and my pink and green dress “And That Was Called Love” won the craftsmanship category.

Awards ceremony at Pittsburgh Fiber Forward juried exhibition
They missed an “m” in my name, but I’m not complaining. It’s a lot of fun to win a prize for one’s work
Workmanship prize at Pittsburgh Fiber Forward juried exhibition
Nice stuff in the swag bag!
Fiber Forward Coordinator Susan Swarthout
Susan Swarthout, Fiber Forward Coordinator

Winning a prize and being told I’m great did indeed make me feel pretty good, but what made me really happy was that the other artists had done very nice work, and I felt honored to be in their company. Winning over work one doesn’t respect doesn’t feel like much of a distinction, and losing to inferior work feels like an insult. But no need for bad feelings here!

Fading Fast by Raesus Cannon
Everything about this piece is elegant. “Fading Fast” by Raesus Cannon
Facehugger by Katie Freeman
“Facehugger” by Katie Freeman. If I knew my science fiction better, I’d be able to tell you what inspired it
"Grief" by Susan Swarthout
“Grief” by Susan Swarthout. Sculpting with yarn, beads, and paint brush bristles
"Challenge" by Sherri Roberts
“Challenge” by Sherri Roberts. Sherri asked me to guess what recycled objects gave the big creature its shape– discarded cups and water bottles
"Fishing Tales of Elliot Fishermen" by Katrina Shorter-Harrison
“Fishing Tales of Elliott Fishermen” by Katrina Shorter-Harrison, multimedia crochet
"Beginnings" by Stacy Horner
“Beginnings” by Stacy Horner. There are a lot of ways to read this one

While I was in that room, I was queen for a day. People told me I was great without my having to prompt them. They asked to take selfies with me. Alasdair Post-Quinn, the double knitting guru and exhibition juror, came up to me to congratulate me, and he told me he had voted for “And That Was Called Love.” I showed him the double-knit neck band on the dress, feeling a little like a groupie. Barb Grossman, the organizer of  the Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival, asked me if I’d teach a class at next year’s festival, and I said yes, but I’d have to think of something. She told me to think of something and we’d talk. Meanwhile, my family was sitting at the back of the room eating stuff from the concessions stand and waiting for me to get tired of being a temporary celebrity. I don’t think it took that long, although they might disagree. I hadn’t slept enough and I was loaded up with a ton of stuff, like my coat, my knitting, and my cool swag bag, and I had talked enough about myself to strangers. I was ready to leave.

We decided to walk around downtown Pittsburgh and find a cafe. But on our way down the escalator, we watched a steady stream of young women dressed like guests at the Mad Hatter’s tea party and young men dressed like the Mad Hatter, all going up the escalator. So we turned around at the bottom of the escalator and went up after them, suddenly feeling very underdressed.

Crowd scene outside the Tekko conference
Meanwhile, a few yards and many worlds away from the knitters…

The event was Tekko 2018, an annual convention of the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society, dedicated to anime and Japanese pop culture, and this year’s theme was Wonderland, which explained all the Mad Hatter tea party costumes we were seeing on the escalator.

Then I saw two otherworldly creatures, a yellow one and a blue one. When I asked them for permission to take their picture, they posed as if they were used to such requests.

Attendees at Tekko 2018
Notice that the blue girl is wearing stilts, not prosthetic legs

My sisters noticed these two young ladies– how could they not– and came right over with their cell phones. They asked them to stand up and pose next to me. Yes, I’m not tall. I know that.

Anime costumed attendees at Tekko 2018 convention

Seeing these girls tower over me inspired the imp in Sanna. She asked the yellow giantess to bend over and give me a kiss on the cheek. And she did!

Photo op at Tekko 2018
I haven’t felt so little since I was under 3 feet tall, and probably not even then

No one could quite believe that Sanna had had the cheek to set up that picture. Mandy said this was her favorite photo that had ever been taken of me.

Even yellow anime giantesses get the giggles!

It was a charmed weekend. Everything that might have had a few difficulties went smoothly. Everything that was supposed to be enjoyable was even better than expected. We stayed in an Airbnb in Highland Park, and the house was comfortable and charming and the neighborhood had everything we would want in a place where we lived, walkable, good restaurants. We ate nice Thai food at a restaurant around the corner, slept well, spent the morning hanging out with each other, went for a long walk around the neighborhood, and then had a long brunch at another neighborhood restaurant where we marveled at the perfection of the weekend. We looked on our phones to research other juried fiber arts exhibition that I could enter so that my sisters and husband could join me in knitting tourism to those cities. The last thing we did before it was time to retrieve my dresses from the convention center was to visit the Frick Museum. The best part of it was the Car and Carriage Museum, which gave us some unexpected photo ops.

Hubcap selfies!

Reflections in hubcap of historical car at Frick Museum, Pittsburgh
Sanna at left, me, Charles, Mandy
Group photo in hubcap of historical car
Hi everyone! Sanna kneeling, Charles, me, Mandy
Group photo in reflection of historical Rolls Royce grill
Selfies in an historical Rolls Royce grill. Mandy, Sanna, me, Charles
Historical Rolls Royce at Frick Museum, Pittsburgh
Sanna asks: What is this car thinking? Mandy replies: It’s shocked and appalled that the internal combustion engine prevailed over electric vehicles

Then the time came for Charles and me to head downtown to retrieve my stuff from the exhibition, and for Mandy and Sanna to head back to Philadelphia. We vowed, with apologies to the final words of the Passover seder, “Next year in Pittsburgh!” It can happen, it should happen. Even if my work doesn’t appear in next year’s Fiber Forward exhibition, I was asked to teach a class there, and I do have an idea for a workshop on creating a knitted garment shape and filling the shape with improvised designs. Next year in Pittsburgh!

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6 thoughts on “Knitting Tourism: Pittsburgh

  1. Reading your post was a joy! My husband and I, who made a 4.5 hour drive from Allentown, thought our weekend was magical as well. I’m ready to move to Pittsburgh. I have heard for many years that the fiber arts community is beyond fabulous and the friendships and connections I made there prove that rumor to be true! You are spot on about my piece “Beginnings”. There are many interpretations. The name of the piece was inspired by my friend Sue, an ob/gyn, who declared that my piece looked like a pregnant woman– not my original intention but the more I looked at it, the more it made sense. The unconscious works in mysterious ways. Your work is wonderful. I hope to see you next year!!

    Liked by 1 person

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