Hard to believe that it’s actually almost a week since the end of Stringtopia.
I know, I know - officially it’s slightly more than a week. But for me and at least two other people Stringtopia didn’t end until we got home late on Monday night - just as it began before the beginning, when we hit the road on Friday morning. Foretaste; aftertaste; 11 hours each way, totally part of the fun. It’s almost not surprising any more - almost - that three people who have never actually met in person before can embark on this sort of adventure together without the slightest qualm; almost axiomatic (almost) that they will discover along the way that they have a LOT more in common than a shared love of fiber. (Not that that wouldn’t be enough, if it were all. But it wasn’t.)
We knew we were headed in the right direction when we saw this:
photo courtesy Jenny Sethman
And we knew we were in the right place when we saw this…
… with this parked behind it:
That, in case you have never seen it before (I hadn’t, oddly enough), is the famed YarnVee, legendary home-away-from-home of Morgaine Wilder and a beautiful Siamese cat and, oh yeah, Carolina Homespun - and its contents are a wonder to behold and to wallow in.
A closer look at the outside of the YarnVee, incidentally, reveals a lot about its owner.
Closer look at the individual stickers? Sure:
Looks pretty benign, doesn’t it? But I’m here to tell you, that placid exterior conceals the workings of an evil, evil enabling genius. If you’ve ever had dealings with Morgaine, in her shop or at any of the myriad festivals served by the YarnVee, you already know what a horribly tempting array of merchandise she offers. But get this. Morgaine WAS the market for this event, and what did she do? What, I ask you? This: she kept the shop open all day and late into the evening, and she invited each of us to… wait, I’m not sure I can even say this, it’s so awful… :: deep breath :: …she invited each of us to RUN A TAB for the weekend.
And that is only one reason it’s appropriate that the first picture I actually took at Stringtopia was this one:
That’s the main lobby of the Golden Lamb (for more and better pictures of the hotel itself check out Missy’s blog and also Ercil’s photo album) on the Friday evening before dinner and Kickoff Bash, and no sign was ever more prophetic.
And this is where I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Because if I tell the truth about just how overwhelmingly awesome Stringtopia was, then EVERYBODY is going to want a piece of it.
So I think I’d better tell the other truth instead; the Dark Side of Stringtopia.
You already know about the brilliantly devious trap Morgaine set for our wallets. (It won’t surprise you, I suspect, to know that mine fell right into it, over and over again.) But what you haven’t heard about yet is Abby’s dreadful behavior.
Has anybody else had THIS PROBLEM with Abby Franquemont? That she begs you to behave all nice and sweet so as not to embarrass her in front of her home town and get her tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail… and then she turns around and mires you in temptations, sets an example of general iniquity that you can’t help following?
Plus there’s something hypnotic going on there, because apparently we all fell for it. Hook. Line. Sinker.
It started with the Bag o’ Swag. I haven’t the heart to show you pictures of all the goodies in there right now, though I have to say the local chamber of commerce obviously fell as hard for Abby’s special line of blarney as all the rest of us did: not an establishment in town that didn’t throw enticements our way. Beads. Cupcakes. These people KNOW what we like. The fiber community was also represented in both the goodie-bags and the door-prizes - hell, I fell for that one myself - there may just be a story here for another time, but if I told you all about all the door-prizes Shelly and Abby kept giving out…
…(two apiece, as it turned out; they just kept coming, and coming, and coming) I’d be here all night on that alone. You’ve never seen such hedonism and general depravity.
To give you just one small taste of the cavalier attitude with which this shindig was organized - well, here, take a look at this:
That’s my name tag, and I would like to draw your particular attention to the string from which it hung:
Yup, you’re seeing that right. That’s not a proper self-respecting lanyard, not at all. That’s yarn. And it’s not just any yarn. I knew it at first glance: it’s Abby’s handspun. See what I mean about her? Instead of going out and buying nice normal dime-a-dozen Walmart lanyards, she actually palmed off a piece of her own leftover yarn on each and every one of us. What a scam. Not only that… she even put the remnant of that ball of yarn in among the door prizes. And when somebody won it… there was cheering. Snake oil, I’m telling you.
Check out the baleful glare. She knows I’m onto her.
It gets worse. A lot worse.
This is the scene after an evening of fibery debauchery among the drum carders.
This is the wreck of a formerly respectable dining room after being populated by spinners for a day or two.
(Standing, to the left of the doorway, is poor dear Josh, the miracle worker who ran interference between us and the bar for three evenings in a row, and who somehow managed to bring the right people together with the right drinks and the right tabs throughout, even though we were constantly moving targets, rampaging - as unruly spinners are wont to do - all over five different rooms, not counting the balcony and the hallways.)
Now… one of the recurring themes of Stringtopia was tiaras. And it all started innocently enough… until Abby’s corrupting influence set in.
See, here’s Lara being crowned by Sandi Wiseheart.
Nice, huh? Sandi makes these amazing sparkly tiaras, and she was wearing one of her own most of the weekend, but this was one she made specially for Stringtopia, as a door prize.
Well, so then there was trying on of tiaras. Here’s Shelly wearing Sandi’s pink-flowers one:
(And incidentally, I would like to mention here that of all the awful goings-on during this dreadful wicked weekend, none of it was in any way Shelly’s fault. Shelly is just as you see her; she was wonderful. If Shelly had been in charge of organizing this thing without any interference from Abby it would have been lovely and nice and respectable and irreproachable, instead of the sinful sojourn it became.)
Well, at dinner on the final evening it was Morgaine’s turn.
Now I know I’ve made it clear that Morgaine was not the most innocent participant in the events of the weekend at large, but in fairness I have to say that at first she did at least display a proper sense of the solemnity of this moment.
Until Abby got ahold of her…
… and started undermining her natural dignity.
See? No respect, that Abby. None.
And Abby’s own Tiara Moment?
Now you might be wondering about the classes? There were classes, right? I hear you wondering to yourselves.
Oh yes, there were classes, all right. And some of us actually really learned some stuff - even I did, in the few rare moments when I wasn’t busy being bullied by scapegrace You-Know-Whom.
Of course we did. You wouldn’t dare NOT learn from THIS.
There’s the Authentic Public Long-Draw-Gasm - seeing half a dozen people experience it in unison is a rush that somehow never pales.
And then there’s the more esoteric revelation, the kind of thing you didn’t even know you wanted to learn, but dang, doesn’t it turn out to be cool to know how to do it and understand why it works. Here’s Sandi after a triumphant run of Intentional Structurally Sound Thick and Thin Yarn.
Sandi shd haz a proud.
She does. (Ahem. Hers was way better than mine. I stick my tongue out at her. Here and now.)
So then what happens?
On Sunday afternoon, just as we’re getting lulled into a false sense of security, what with with all the mind-splodey learning and the new ideas and stuff… Abby pulls a fast one.
First she cozies up all nice and friendly-like to Jacey…
And then, instead of spending the afternoon teaching us stuff about plying structures, that slacker Abby brings Jacey into her own class and makes HER take over, giving us a pretty amazing lesson on how to make a proper structured bouclé - under the thin pretext that this too, after all, is all about Plying Structure, right? Uh-huh.
But then a curious thing happens. Because… Jacey is supposed to be teaching this class, right? But look who’s doing the talking.
And look how polite and ladylike Jacey is about it.
Now, of those two, which one would YOU think was known as Insubordiknits?
The rude disruptive one, right? with all her bawdy talk about the shaft sliding in the thumb crotch.
So that’s how it was. All weekend long and then some; Abby poured the KoolAid and we all drank it and kept asking for more. It wasn’t until afterward when I looked at the pictures that I realized how completely we had been duped - hell, on Monday morning, after we’d somehow bamboozled ourselves into helping Morgaine load out before leaving, I had another wallet accident right out on the sidewalk, snapping up two
lumps of crack Abby-batts in mid-air as they were about to disappear into the Magic YarnVee. All kinds of scary JuJu going on there.
And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, and I figure we were all lucky to get out of there with our souls more or less intact.
And I’m not going to tell you about the outrageous quantities/variety of astonishing ice cream from Jeni’s that Iza brought in for us to wallow in.
And I’m not going to tell you about the gorgeous fleeces Nada brought.
Or about the Sekrit Project we did for Shelly right under her nose.
Or about how funny/smart/fascinating/warm/fuzzy everyone was.
Or about how silly we got on Saturday night.
Or about how lovely it was, on a balmy spring evening, to take our wheels and spindles out on the balcony overlooking Lebanon’s pretty Main Street.
Let alone about the outrageous mind-bending eye-opening stuff we actually did learn in the actual classes.
I’m certainly not going to tell you how good the food was, or how well-organized the whole operation was from the standpoint of feeding and housing and herding an hungry horde of spinners.
Remind me, also, not to mention the addictive apple butter.
Or to admit that from soup to nuts it was all-ointment-no-flies.
Because I wouldn’t want anybody to get the wrong idea about this crazy thing that was Stringtopia.
If I’m not careful, however… if I let my guard down for a moment… I might be beguiled into mentioning what I said to Abby (while still under her influence, obviously!) on Monday morning just before we left. Which was something along these lines:
Look, it’s apples and oranges, and I wouldn’t want to have to choose, and I’m lucky not to have to choose - but if I DID have to choose between this and SOAR… or in fact any other fibery event I’ve been to… it would be this.
But don’t tell anybody I said so, ‘K? Because I want that to be our little secret.