One of the great benefits of writing a novel with lots of knitting in it is that you get to hang out with knitters in the name of book promotion. So, no one had to twist my arm to visit Raleigh NC for the Carolina Fiber Fest earlier this year. Go to a yarn show in the Carolinas to promote my Carolina-based WWI knitting novel? In May, when the weather’s downright splendid? What’s not to love?
I admit that while I love the grand scale, I find some of the larger shows like STITCHES a bit daunting. The yarn equivalent of drinking from the firehose--in the very best sense of the word. By the third aisle I’m drowning in a case of the “gimmies” and wondering how much yarn I can fit in the house before relatives call the staff of Hoarders.
The Carolina Fiber Fest is a perfect size--large enough to have all kinds of goodies and a few surprises, but small enough not to overwhelm. Add to this the fact that the staff--in this case my contact was the lovely Trishia McNeill, whose husband painted these lovely sheep that now grace my walls--is just plain charming. It’s pretty much the perfect experience. Coming to Raleigh was like hanging out with old friends--and actually, the trip afforded me the wonderful opportunity to meet a few longtime readers (Hi Julie! Hi Kimberly!) face to face.
My Friday daytime was taken up with introducing the Teen Male Offspring to Duke University. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful campus in May, really. I walked around with my mouth open, he shuffled around grunting mild approval-based phrases like “Yeah, I could go here,” and “Do you think they have good pizza?”
Actually, the pizza’s okay but there is awesome barbecue to be had in Raleigh...but I’m getting ahead of myself...
Friday night I was adopted by the Ol’ North State Knitting Guild. This organization educates knitters as well as gathers them together for community and service. They meet monthly, and also sponsored a booth and a contest at CFF. This night, the ladies of the Guild swept me up into a meal of good mexican food and Friday Night Knitting at Downtown Knits in Apex. That’s the magic of knitting’s community--you’re instant friends with other knitters. What a wonderful store--artistic, adventurous, warm and friendly. We occupied the couches and were talking like old friends within minutes.
I’ve visited enough yarn shops to know that atmosphere is never just coincidence. I know that owner Michele Riggs works hard to create that kind of welcoming community. Her stock is full, deep, and inspiring, the store has that artsy vibe I need when considering new projects, and the staff is top notch. It’s no surprise that she’s gained a loyal customer base--I saw many Downtown Knits t-shirts wandering the Fiber Fest.
Michelle sent me home with two hanks of a gorgeous local fiber: Curly Ewe. The Blue Faced Leicester (seen in my paintings, by the way) fleece is spun to a versatile DK weight and dyed to a heathered violet that reminds me of twilight on a summer evening. I used this opportunity to use Ravelry’s search engine to find patterns made with the amount of yarn I had on hand (something I’ve never done before), and decided on designer Annie Lee’s Autumn asymmetrical scarf. This is new twist for me: usually at DestiKNITions I am given the pattern but get to choose the color. This time I had the color chosen for me and I get to choose the pattern. I’m giddy at the prospect.
Now, no good DestiKNITions episode would be complete without a nod to local noshing--and I’ve got a pair of lovely spots. Time was a premium, so this had to be a one-shot adventure; I asked for a lot of advice on where to meet the Teen Male Offspring’s barbecue needs. Everyone said the same thing:
328 W. Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
Oh my goodness, were they right. I would fly back here tomorrow just for the warm pumpkin cornbread. It’s that good. It’s easy to see how owner Bob "Mr. Barbecue" Garner has earned his "Minister of Barbecue Culture" title. The night we were there, he came to every table and asked how each diner enjoyed their food. It can be a justifiably long wait, so you might want to use Open Table to make your reservation ahead of time. I love this restaurant reservation app, especially when traveling. My son and I received an education on North Carolina’s different types of barbecue sauce from our very friendly team of servers, then dug in to a plate of fabulous food.
Now, meat alone would have made the trip for the boy, but right across the street was one of the highlights for me:
327 W Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601
The scent wafting out onto the street is sheer heaven. And I loved that you could stand at the counter and taste every flavor they made. It’s the perfect way to entertain yourself while waiting for your table--just wander across the street to the chocolate factory while waiting for your barbecue. Really, it couldn’t have been more ideal for my son and I. Everybody got what they wanted. And everyone was insanely happy.
Will the boy spend his college years in Durham? It’s still too early to say. But I know this much--I won’t mind a bit if he does. I’ve not even scratched the surface of the Raleigh-Durham area’s collection of yarn shops, so maybe next spring I’ll meet you at the Carolina Fiber Fest for yarn, chocolate, barbecue, and more adventures!
Follow along as I stitch up the Autumn Scarf to take me through Summer’s final days.