Of course, I'd heard Threadbear was a big place with a loyal following, so I added those ten extra model releases to the stack just in case.
Harry was deeply concerned that I wasn't packing enough warm clothes. "I think you need some more sweaters," he said, peering over the edge of the suitcase. "And you can borrow my electric blanket if you want."
"You're made out of wool," I said. "What do you need with an electric blanket?"
"I have a very delicate constitution," said Harry. "My mother was a laceweight cotton blend."
"Ah. Well, maybe you should keep the blanket, then."
"No, you should take it with you," Harry insisted. "I was watching the Weather Channel and where you're going, it'll be so cold that if you sneeze outdoors at midnight your boogers will turn into an icicle."
"They said that on the Weather Channel?"
"Well, not exactly," said Harry. "They said how it would be freezing in Michigan and Dolores told me the other part."
Dolores had refused to come along on the trip even after I appealed to her vanity, pointing out that many fans might be expecting a meet-and-greet.
"Nothing doing," she said from the depths of the afghan-covered sofa. "I am a sheep; not a sled-dog, polar bear, or wolverine. You wanna skip across the tundra like Nanook, fine. Send me a postcard. But don't bother me with ice unless it's resting comfortably in a cocktail shaker."
So north I went, alone, via Amtrak's Blue Water line. We had no heat in the car, the bathroom broke down, the reading light above my seat fizzled out at Battle Creek, and we waited on a siding for an hour to let a cattle train saunter past. It was an uneventful trip, by the standards of American rail service.
The bears themselves, Matt and Rob, welcomed me with great cordiality.
Their shop was a shock; all descriptions had fallen short. Racks and racks of yarns stretching to the horizon, many of which I'd never seen in person or never even heard of. All good stuff, too–no fizzy gloppy crap just filling space. Threadbear faithful simply call it "Mecca," and now I understand why.
The next morning, on the way to the shoot, I noted that with snow falling thick and fast I hoped people would still show up. Rob snickered. He asked if there were anything special I needed. I said no, the set-up was quite simple, and I had sixty model releases ready to go.
"That won't be enough," he said.
I thought he must be joking, but he wasn't. As soon as I unpacked the forms he grabbed one, handed it to a convenient Bearette, and asked her to please get another 100 or so copies. I thought it a silly expense, but decided to let him have his fun.
Fifteen minutes later–a good forty minutes before the shop opened–cars began to arrive in the parking lot. Then they opened the doors, and suddenly I had twenty-two people in line.
Previous public shoots have always been jolly good fun, but this one took the frenzied merrymaking to new heights. Rob and Matt knew their clientele better than I. They came in droves, these people, sliding down glass-slick roads with carefree abandon, lured by the promise of five minutes in my chair and a whole lotta yarn for sale.
We had a family of four near the front of the line. Meet the Davises.
Mr. Davis was the last to sign on, apparently on the principle that if you're outnumbered, you better learn to purl damn quick.
I clicked and clicked and the knitters kept on coming, varied and numerous as the snowflakes outside (though not so chilly). I lost track of time.
We had a Podcasting duet, Kim and Kimber of Knit Therapy, running about with their iPod recorders to capture the atmosphere for an upcoming episode.
Jillian Moreno, she of Big Girl Knits and the forthcoming More Big Girl Knits, showed up and brought me two (yes, two) gorgeous birthday cakes.
After my brief encounter with Jillian, I have decided she is the knitter mostly likely to accept a cage-wrestling challenge from Dolores...and win.
Honnay (and her totem lamb, Mammy) drove up to Lansing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and brought Graeter's Ice Cream, packed in a cooler with dry ice, for which she has earned my everlasting gratitude. (I got a whole pint of double chocolate to myself. I have never felt so spoiled.)
This lady, who is known to all as "Dirty Sue" although she was not, so far as I could tell, visibly soiled, brought fried doughnuts with chocolate frosting.
Clearly, in Michigan one is never in danger of going hungry.
Maybe because Matt and Rob have built such a sense of community, such a snug harbor, this group seemed to open up more than any other. I heard amazing stories. People who knit their way through cancer, through divorce, through bereavement and depression; who taught themselves to spin their own yarn back when there was no decent knitting wool to be bought; and–perhaps most flattering on a personal level–who had overcome serious, long-standing phobias about being photographed in order to take part.
We finished up some time around...I don't know. Six? I truly don't know. Suddenly the roar settled down and Rob asked me, "How many did you get?" I calculated very quickly.
One. Hundred. And. Eleven. About 10 percent of the entire project. In one day.
That brings the grand total to 412. If this keeps up, folks, soon we're going to be talking serious numbers.
Thank you, Threadbear!