10-Year Celebrations and Other Thoughts

A lot can change in ten years.

Ten years ago, I was single. Childless. Spent my disposable income on, well, yarn.

Flash forward to now:  I’m happily married. We have three children. I still love yarn, but disposable income and free time to knit are largely things of the past (and, I hope, the future; this too shall pass).

Ten years ago, there was no YarnCon. Can you even imagine?

And yet in 2017, we’ll celebrate our tenth show. So much can change.

This month, in preparing for a knitting/dry-felting class I’m teaching at my children’s school, I visited one of our longtime YarnCon vendors, Esther’s Place. I needed some wool for the kids to use in needle felting, but really I wanted an excuse for a quick trip out of the city on a gorgeous spring day.

Mother and daughter team Donna and Natasha have transformed a lovely Victorian house in Big Rock, IL, into a colorful playhouse for fiber fanatics. Lush roving dyed in every shade and whimsical felted creatures are all around. I was drawn to the curly fleece locks dyed like little rainbows. My three-year-old instantly spotted the needle-felted Star Wars figures. It’s a fun place.


And guess what? Esther’s Place has been around for a decade. Another ten-year celebration! In fact, this weekend they’re hosting a Farm Days Open House to commemorate. If you’re in the western Chicagoland suburbs (and even if you’re not), head out to Big Rock this weekend for some fibery farm fun.


Donna Lehrer and Natasha Lehrer Lewis

Newsflash: Kids Love Wool

Armed with a pound of roving dyed in 16 distinct colors, a bulk order of felting needles and foam pads, and a basket of cookie cutters, I made my way to the Chicago Free School, where two of my kids attend.

We talked briefly about how felting works: how the wool fibers are built to cling to each other, and that with a little help from an absurdly sharp and skinny needle, we can mold and sculpt the wool into shapes.

They loved it. They dove right in.


There’s something about working with your hands, feeling the fuzzy wool and blending different colors together, and yes, stabbing something with a sharp object, that kids just GET. (Incredibly, in a room of kids ranging in age from 7 to 13, we only had one pricked finger.) As someone who works in the fiber world, I’m so gratified and rewarded at how excited these kids are about working with wool.



We started out with simple cookie cutter shapes this week, and next week we’ll explore creating landscapes on flat felt “canvases,” as well as sculpting 3D objects and figures.



Such a fun time.

Have you taught kids to knit, crochet, spin, or felt? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.





Food Truck Spotlight

Welcome to YarnCon week! Are you as excited as we are?

We are excited to announce the food truck lineup for YarnCon 2016! On Saturday, we’ll welcome Bruges Brothers and the Corner Farmacy. Sunday brings La Cocinita and the Fat Shallot. It’s going to be a tasty year!

Bruges Brothers

Back at YarnCon for a second year, Bruges Brothers brings crispy Belgian-style frites with a selection of tasty, hand-crafted sauces.






The Corner Farmacy

The Corner Farmacy offers a seasonally rotating menu that features fresh, locally sourced ingredients — hence the “Farm” in “Farmacy.” Also, they offer breakfast items all day!





La Cocinita

Literally “the little kitchen,” La Cocinita serves fresh, authentic, gourmet street food from Latin America. Their build-your-own style means you can customize your order to your own taste, to boot.




The Fat Shallot Food Truck



The Fat Shallot

How do delicious, made-to-order sandwiches sound? Just about perfect, that’s how. This husband-and-wife team grills up comfort food, elevated.

Eight. Days. Away.

YarnCon is only eight days away. SO SOON. Are you ready? It’s go time, people.

As you probably know, we give out goodie bags to the first 50 shoppers to waltz through the door each day, and there’s always a long line of eager folks ready to snag one. But what you might not know is that this year’s bags will include YARN. Not just any yarn, but custom YarnCon-inspired colorways created by 10 veteran YarnCon vendors just for this year’s show! For a tantalizing preview of these luscious lovelies, head over to our Facebook page — we’re highlighting one a day through April 17.

Also new this year:  FOOD TRUCKS. We’re lining up a great fleet of food trucks for your dining pleasure, and it’s going to be delicious. As always, we’ll have coffee for sale inside; this year’s vendor is one of our southside neighbors, Greenline Coffee. We’re excited to welcome them to YarnCon!

Want to wear your YarnCon pride year-round? By popular demand, we’ve opened a YarnCon shop with t-shirts and other fun things. Our pre-sale has ended, but you can still order online and have it shipped. Or buy one at the show and save shipping costs!

Don’t want to wait in line for a goodie bag? Need one of those t-shirts but can’t shell out for one? Become a YarnCon volunteer and we’ll reward you with one of each. Sign up now for a three-hour shift, and along with the thanks of a grateful YarnCon team, you’ll come away with swag.

See you at the show!

Fall, it’s finally Fall!

As I write this post, it’s in the 50s here in Chicago, and the leaves of many trees are turning yellow, orange, and red. Fall has arrived in the Midwest, and for many knitters that means a return to our favorite pastime. Lots of knitters take a break from knitting in the summer months because of the heat, but cooler temps mean we’ll welcome that pile of merino on the lap or the alpaca snuggling close by.

I grew up in Texas, where “fall” was never a season that meant much. September and October were (and still are, I imagine) simply an extension of the summer months, the only difference being that the kids returned to school. Temperatures often reached into the 90s Fahrenheit. Aside from the occasional red oak, there were no colorful leaves to speak of. Fall was a non-event for most of my childhood.

For college, I traveled to upstate New York and settled in for my first semester. Instead of immersing myself in my studies, however, I was mesmerized by the fall foliage. The colors were so bright and deep; vivid reds, oranges, and yellows. I spent my free time outside, photographing leaves on the ground and simply reveling in the colors, earthy scents, and cool, rainy weather. It was a revelatory experience.

Although my mom taught me to knit when I was eight years old, my love of the craft didn’t bloom until college. I only spent one year in upstate New York before transferring home to the University of Texas, but I’d been bitten by the autumnal bug. I felt the need to knit a sweater, even though by returning to my southwestern homeland I was guaranteed a short sweater season each year. I sought out yarn stores in Austin in early summer and found two, both welcoming and friendly places. The ladies in those shops helped me pick out a pattern suited to my beginning level, and also guided me to a wool/silk yarn, which would be lighter and possibly have a longer wearable season.

I worked on that sweater all summer long, knitting primarily in my student cooperative’s un-air conditioned TV room. Many of my 100 housemates were intrigued by the project and while I got some ribbing (oof, yes, intended) for *knitting* a *sweater* in *Austin, Texas* in the *summer,* I got a lot of support and encouragement, too. People wanted to check in on my progress each day and started a pool on how long it would take me to finish.

By the time I did finish, it was September:  technically fall, although it still felt like summer. I finished seaming it up and weaving in the ends and brought it to dinner in the co-op’s common dining room; after the evening meal each night was the designated time for news and announcements. When I held that sweater up to show the crowd and announced “It’s done!” I got a huge round of applause. It was a defining moment in this knitter’s early career. Who wouldn’t be inspired after a reception like that?!

It’s been 20 years since I left Texas, and I’m often homesick for one thing or another. But every year when fall rolls around, I feel that pull to pick up the needles if I’ve neglected them over the summer. The coolness of the autumn days that I’ve grown used to here in Chicago, along with the colors of the leaves, takes me back to that first real fall I had my first year in college, and I’m eager to get started on something(s) new. Three cheers for fall.