Friday, March 23, 2007

Yarn Harlot and a Cast of Hundreds

Last night while Dorre, Kim and I were in NYC for the launch of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off, roundabout Exit 151 the final show of The Sopranos was taped at my favorite neighborhood ice cream parlor. Holsten's (not pronounced like the cow) is a cozy, old-timey place that serves excellent sandwiches and has a candy counter. Trendy types seem to prefer chain places like Coldstone Creamery or Rita's, but now [sigh] I guess everyone will want to go there and the place will be, er, mobbed.


Celebrity (or notoriety) is a peculiar thing. Town council initially refused to grant the show a permit to film because they didn't want people associating the township with the show's glorification of crime, violence, and negative ethnic stereotypes. Regardless, vast crowds (with lawn chairs) turned out to watch the, uh, shooting and to get autographs from their favorite stars. After a very busy day that extended well into the night, today Holsten's is closed (see the pink sign on the door?) and there's a police car conspicuously parked across the street to deter the acquisitive. [Eyeroll] I don't mind having missed it all – I'd rather a cast of knitters.

The book launch was held at the Fashion Institute of TechnologySeventh Avenue is Fashion Avenue, part of the state university system, located at Seventh Avenue and 27th Street in the Chelsea section of the city. For those who don't know NYC, Seventh Avenue is Fashion Avenue (the street signs say so). Chelsea has a colorful history, good Cuban-Chinese food, and some handsome architecture (below left, one of my favorite side doors on a Sullivanesque building). Perhaps appropriately, much of the FIT campus is in the International Style (main entrance, below right).

Favorite side door   FIT main entrance

Inside, the 750-seat Haft Auditorium was filled to capacity with knitters who came to knit. I saw some spectacular expert knitting – a magnificent Frost Flowers and Leaves shawl, a finely knit Dale sweater, several bold original designs. It was inspiring to be with so many knitters!

Capacity crowd in Haft Auditorium

I'd heard Stephanie speak twice before, at the celebrated Lord & Taylor event for bookbookbook1 and at the Rutherford Public Library for bookbookbook3. As before, the power of the Yarn Harlot was manifest – I can think of few other knitbloggers who could draw such a turnout. Anticipation was high, perhaps too high. I've not yet had a chance to read bookbookbook4, but I suspect that for the first time I may prefer the author's written voice to her spoken one. Others clearly had a different response – during Q-and-A, there were very few Qs, but lots of what could be called testimony. Oh well, I did like the buttons (pictured on Kim, with her funky bead necklace) and the posters. The campus security guards seemed amused by all the knitters taking pix of the posters.


As always, Stephanie prefaced her remarks by taking pix of the crowd and her traveling sock and confessing her nervousness. As always, Enchanting Juno handled the highly successful collection for Tricoteuses sans frontières. Then there were the surprises – for everyone. Stephanie had barely started speaking when she realized Joe was sitting in the front row (!). She murmured, "Omigoodness" (I would have shrieked!). Thanks to Jayme the wonder publicist there were goody bags with swag from the Craft Yarn Council and Storey Publishing, which came with an assignment: to knit a square for Warm Up America using the Patons SWS yarn and Boye needles provided (check). It was nice to see all the colorways. I got colorway 70128 Natural Blue (I think Dorre got the prettiest of the lot); what's left oughta be enough for small mitts.

Goody bag

From what I heard from Jessica, other events of the day went well, particularly the gathering in Central Park and the yarn crawls. In the past few days some out-of-town folk have seen more NYC yarn stores than are on my life list! I enjoyed hearing their fresh, frank assessments of my favorite shops – clearly my faves are not to everyone's taste (OK by me). My regret of the evening is I shoulda brought my film camera – my digicam is just too slow for such low light. I have no decent pix of much of the evening, including of the author.

An auditorium setting is not the best for schmoozing, yet such was the good spirit and inclusive fellowship of the group that following Stephanie's speech there was some quick-as-three-card-monte sock yarn commerce in the lobby and several impromptu dinner groups formed. Dorre, Kim, and I had had a bite beforehand at Once Upon A Tart in SoHo, so opted out. I love Once Upon A Tart – it's got tasty food and appealing window displays.

Tart   Window display

Not to mention it's next door to Purl, which currently has the Knit 2 Together trunk show [g]. Like many SoHo shops, Purl has cellar storage space which is accessed from doors set into the sidewalk. The cellar doors were open (!), so of course I had to peek down the Purl hatch (not to be confused with Purl Patchwork, a few doors up the street).

Purl   Purl cellar

A day later I've been trying to identify the capstone of such a capstone experience. For me, it would have to be the gathered community – so many knitters in one place at one time, all imagining global stash back to the dawn of time, all imaging their personal "Mick," all knitting afghan blocks for others. It seems to me that experiences of belonging and self-transcendence are increasingly rare these days, even for those who follow devotional practices or attend big sports events or big concerts, and therefore are correspondingly precious (and usually costly). There are so many forces – perhaps neutral in themselves, but malignant in the aggregate – that work to tear people down or apart. Here was something truly radical and counter-cultural, something that brought strangers together and made them, at least for a few hours, part of something more.

ETA: The Yarn Harlot's own account of her day vividly demonstrates her stamina and dedication, as well as the exhilaration – and strain – of such knitterly events.

Finally, to come full circle and in case you've been wondering, Dorre ferreted out this YouTube clip on what goodfellas and wise guys really do when they think no one is watching.


Suburbaknitsta said...

well said... where were those bunnies I so dont remember them... shows how observant I am :)

Kim said...

What a great post! You really summed up the whole feeling of the event. I'm glad I shared this with you & Dorre. I love places like Holsten's. They are becoming increasingly rare gems.

Calling Kahlo said...

THanks for the post, I haven't seen a lot posted on the net. My friend picked me up a book (yeah). I had been to Holsten's once but we never made it back again. Now, it will be packed.

--Deb said...

It sounds FABULOUS. I'm glad you had such a great time!!

Zarzuela said...

It was great to see you again. Wish I could have met up with you guys sooner though. The food sounds fab!


Beth S. said...

Ah, I am SO envious! What a great day.

I need orange said...

Thanks so much for sharing your day with those of us who live too far away to have been there!

Delica said...

How did you run across the You Tube video? What a great little flick - I laughed and laughed. Thanks for sharing!

mary lou said...

OH MAN!! Holsten's!! I live in St. Paul now, and will be seeing the Harlot tomorrow. But I am a Jersey girl and grew up in your neck of the woods (Sacred Heart School in Bloomfied) and Holstens is totally the BEST EVER! We used to call it the library. You know, like, Dad, can I have the car to go to the library? My sister even worked there. I can't wait to tell her it's in the last episode of the sopranos!

pixie girl said...

I can't believe you saw the Harlot - I'm incredibly envious:)! That's fantastic! Thanks for the happy birthday on my blog:)!!