The first time I traveled solo was to go to the Our Maker Life event in Toronto Canada. It was a magical and the first time I got to meet my fellow makers. Which was why I was so ecstatic when I got invited to be an OML volunteer the following year.
When I first got the email from the OML team to volunteer I was psych and felt like I was being psych. It took me a while to respond because I could not believe it. I had to read the email over and over again. It was so weird, cool, and exciting that I was being considered and chosen to be a part of the team for OML2018.
Eventually, I responded with a giant YES and a meeting time was set for the Dream Team and Volunteers to meet via video chat. On the call everything was addressed. We mainly focused on the schedule for the event.
This year they would be implementing T-shirts for the attendees, the other tasks were breakfast, registration, Sponsor and Keynote speakers table. Everyone was very welcoming on the video chat. The team listened, answered questions, and made us feel comfortable, like a family.
The schedule looked something like this:
- 7:45am Arrive at the venue at and set up
- They even sent an email with the details of our job ie: bringing swag bags, setting up the registration table.
- 9:00am Event starts
- 12pm Lunch
- 4:30pm Event ends
- Break down until 5:00pm
- After party at 6-ish
After the call, I got super excited. Even though the event wasn’t until another 3 months I immediately started planning what I was going to pack, what I was going to wear, and what I would be making during the trip.
Knitting Rant + Tips
Traveling with yarn is always interesting. Depending on what you pack and how fast you can work up a project the options are endless and also quite restrictive. For example, let’s say that you want to pack light so you think to only bring one ball of yarn to make a chunky hat pattern. Sounds fine, right? It’s only one ball of yarn so it won’t take up much space. If you are a slow knitter then this might be the perfect project for you. However, depending on how long your flight is and how much downtime you have you may end up finishing your project mid-trip and that’s not fun. It’s a bummer when you have nothing to knit on the way back. I personally love to bring a Scrap/Corner to Corner blanket with me when I travel. Once I brought a whole shawl with me while plane hopping in Asia. It’s up to you one what project you’d prefer to have with you while traveling. I heard that knitting socks is the easiest carry around with you while traveling, but I prefer a heavier weight yarn with a mindless project.
For this trip to Chicago, I brought with me, yarn and knitting needles for these baby booties that I wanted to make. And realized that I didn’t bring a printed version of the pattern. I was in a dead wifi/data zone where I couldn’t load the page that the pattern was located on and it was horrible. I knitted nothing. Now I know to always print out a pattern when traveling, always. Or at least screen shot it. Lessoned learned.
Another quick tip is to always plan a day to go sightseeing. I made sure that when I picked my dates of trip that I left one day free to explore the city. That was something I failed to do with my last trip. Although it’s fun and enjoyable to meet up with people it was a shame for me not to be able to see more of the city. Some of the other attendees grouped together and drove over to Niagara Falls. The only thing I saw was the sports channel from the TV at my hotel. I don’t even watch sports!
Here are more travel tips. Including tips on booking flights, hotels, and how to navigate the airports.
After all that planning, I finally arrived in Chicago via the O’hare airport. I took an Uber to my hotel in downtown Chicago. The team had planned to meet up the evening at ROCKS before the event as a meet and greet. I got there first because if I’m not early then I’m late. Next came Jewell and she just started talking to me like an old friend. It was really nice and it made me feel like I belonged. It felt the same when I first met her back in OML2017.
The rest of the team came trickling in after the Trolley Tour ended. (The Trolley tour was a bus OurMakerLife rented to visit local yarn shops around the city.) Dinner with everyone was fun! I was so busy getting to know everyone that I wasn’t ready to order when our waitress came. And when I had decided what to get, she didn’t come back until the end of the night. I was so busy getting to know everyone I completely forgot to call her over. I will say that the burger was amazing when I finally got it! I didn’t get a chance to finish it though because it was so filling. I took it togo. While I was waiting for my Uber Nate and Kelly took the time to chat with me and see me off. I will always remember how they made me feel like I was part of the team.
When I got back to the hotel I found out that they charged $30 to use the microwave so I ended up not being able to finish my amazing burger. #liveandlearn
The next day, I woke up early. I had previously packed my bag with my event outfit the night before and dressed casually in the morning. Since we would be setting up the first hour, I expected to work up a sweat and I didn’t want to ruin my outfit. It was raining lightly when I caught an Uber to the event building. I was part of an Uber pool which means I was in the same car as other people who were headed in the same direction. One of the other passengers was chatting it up with the driver and I learned that my driver paid off his car within a year of purchasing it just by Ubering in the city!
When I got to the venue I thought I was at the wrong place. It looked like a small warehouse building. Y’all, I ain’t from the city so ya girl was confused. I double checked the address to make sure. My uber driver was worried about dropping me off since it didn’t look like anyone else was there. I told him that I would be fine. (It’s so good to meet people who actually care about you, it’s refreshing.) After walking up to the building and knocking on the door I discovered that it was the right venue. I met the OML team inside and we started setting up.
From set up to start time everything went by so fast I barely had time to change into my dress.
Attendee’s started lining up and the line went out the door. Everyone was so patient and understanding. While handing out the swag bags, I got to chat with a few people I met at last year’s event. It was great seeing familiar faces and getting the chance to gather again.
By the time everyone was in the room with their swag bag I was spent. There was still breakfast left so I grabbed a muffin while listened to Jewell kick things off.
Some time during the event I went to start on the project I had brought with me and realized that I forgot to bring the pattern with me. *despair.* It was fine though because we had amazing speakers this year, (as always.)
We breaked for lunch and started the raffle voting. The attendees put their names down on a piece of paper and place it in the pot of the prize they would like to win. We also had a corner with couches called the ChillSection and a wall for photo shoots.
During the lunch break, I walked around to find everyone who had made their dress and took pictures with them.
I also finally got to chat with Allison from MelonGirlKnits.
We have been following each other for forever on instagram. It was so amazing to finally get to talk to her in person. She really is a sweet girl!
I also got to chat with Brittany again. I met her at the previous year’s event so it was great to catch up with her. During her presentation she talked about an Action Plan for your dreams and broke it down into 6 steps.
Here is a sneak peek:
- Action Plan for dreams
- Read The One Thing by Gary Keller.
- Find out what you’re great at and use it to realize your dream.
- Step one: Brainstorm: Do a brain dump for 10-15.
- Then refine this list to 2 to 4 things that you want to accomplish the following year.
- Step 2: Build your support system:
- You need a strong support system.
- Fear is when you know you’re doing the right thing because you care about the outcome.
- “You are the average of the 5 people you mostly spend your time with.”
Brittany is an amazing listener. Supportive and encouraging. She has a website with several videos that to teaches you how to knit and crochet. She also has a podcast to help you grow your passions.
After lunch we heard the stories of our sponsors. One of which was Koigu. It’s a mother, daughter, and grandmother company who owns sheep, spin and dye their own wool naturally. It made me want to move in with them or at least own some sheep.
Following them was a panel with some of the most influential people in the community talking about various topics from how to be a better maker to controversial issues in the maker community.
After the panel, it was chill and knit time. Where we handed out WAK knitting kit to everyone. This year it was the Himba Snood (last year was the Downtown Snood.) We had options available for both knitters and crocheters and like last year, people were trading their yarn for the colors they wanted. I picked from the leftovers and I got the color Natural. Everyone broke up into groups. I ended up chatting with Jewell’s fiancé about his life as a violinist and his shift to a public servant.
At the end:
The event ended without a hitch and we started breaking down. Some of the attendees stayed behind to help. It was at that time I got to speak to Jessica from the.hook.nook. I say speak but all I did was squeal and fangirl. She was fine with it though and told me that it was flattering which made me fangirl even more! We finally finished getting everything from upstairs and while I was in the elevator I got to talk with Vincent from Knot.Bad. I was really nervous at first but he is just a normal person and it was fun to talk to him. The topic of my dress came up and I started telling him how I created it. It looks daunting but it really is simple once you break it down into steps. (I really should write a post on how it was constructed.)
After loading up Kelly’s car with the last of the items, we all said goodbye and headed to where we were staying to get ready for the after party.
I took an uber back to my hotel. I set down all my swag bags and changed outfits for the afterparty. I hopped on Instagram to talk about my experience at the event and as a maker. As a beginner we look at the end goal of what we want to achieve and sometimes it looks impossible, but it’s not. Your pace or end goal doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s but yours. Do what works for you. Everything will be trial and error but it’s all part of the process. Don’t give up.
I changed into another dress and walked to the destination of the after party. Well, I tried to get an uber to it but they cancelled on me. I was really confused until I realized the restaurant was only a 15 minute walk from the hotel. #suburbissues. It’s funny because I have never had to walk anywhere before. I always drove because the city I live in is not at all walkable. So I began my trek to the restaurant, Hoods and Howl. When I crossed one of the main streets, I found myself descending down a couple flights of staircases…outside. And I remembered one of my Uber drivers mentioning that the city was built in 3 tiers or levels. One level was on top of the other which is why it can get confusing when driving around in the city because you might be on the correct street but on the wrong level of the city.
There was something magical with walking through downtown Chicago. It felt as though I was a local who was walking with the flow of everyone else. Enjoying the Saturday evening air and walking with a purpose.
When I finally got to the restaurant I found the OML Dream Team and the rest of the volunteers and grabbed a seat. We relived parts of the events and chatted about expectation versus reality of the prep, duration, and breakdown of the event. The ladies chatted about various things. Most of us were from out of town and I happened to be sitting next to Stacey of @More_with_Honey_ who is a local of Chicago. I asked her about where I should go sightseeing. I had been sure to stay in Chicago an extra day so I would be able to explore a bit of the city before leaving. Stacey recommended the Art Institute of Chicago and The Navy Pier. With this knowledge, I was excited for tomorrow to come.
The rest of the evening, I went around the room and greeted and fangirled with everyone who could attend the dinner.
After After Party
At the end of the afterparty another group formed for the after after party. We went out in the town. Seeing the streets of Chicago all lit up at night was beautiful! Being surrounded by skyscrapers and with bits of nature all around is breathtaking. It’s not often that you get the perfect combinations of the two.
I broke off from the after after party at some point during the night, because I wanted to get up early the next day and fully explore all that I can in one day.
I got back to my hotel that night feeling so full. I was so blessed and honored to be included in participating in Our Maker Life in a different way. It allowed me to get a glimpse behind the scenes of what setting up an event for makers of all kinds looked like.
Ps check out my highlights on Instagram where I do a recap of the event and to find out what came in my swag bag. Don’t forget to sign up below and Join the Journey to find out about my exploration of Chicago.
PSS the last two photos are by Katelyn Todd. Go check her out!