I went to my first Stitches last weekend. I didn't do any classes because it was a last-minute day-trip, I didn't have time to do the pre-work, and since I was only there for the day, spending 3+ hours in a class that didn't really excite me wasn't something I wanted to do.
Plus, I'd missed most of the sheep & wool shows this year, I wanted the shopping time! The two hour drive wasn't bad, I think the hardest part was finding the up-ramp in the parking garage :)
I had gone through the vendor list and the general info parts of the Stitches East website a few times beforehand. At first it was curiousity, but the last week or so when it was looking promising that I'd be able to get down there for a day, I started making a must-visit list of vendors.
Walking into the marketplace was overwhelming - the booths, the colors, the noise, the people, everything. I did the Extreme Stash Wall (which wasn't all that extreme) first just because it was close to the entrance. It's a nice idea - 4 or 5 different yarns from about a dozen companies, already cut into 12" or so lengths. There was a poster size flyer next to the wall with all the name and rolls of scotch tape.
Then I started wandering, more or less, aimlessly up & down the aisles. It was set up like the vendor booths at Rhinebeck or the NH Sheep & Wool shows. Stitches East had much better lighting, and the rain didn't matter. The sheep shows have animals, but rain would make it less enjoyable. Stitches had a nice concession area (not a great food selection though) to sit & eat & relax. There's more food selections at the sheep shows, but not usually a place to sit and relax - the last time I went to NH it seemed like everytime I sat down at a picnic tables, I was asked to move because it was needed for a class (why they didn't bother to put up a 'reserved for class' sign, I have no idea).
Stitches East also didn't have anywhere near the amount of fiber as the sheep shows, even though I recognized some of the vendors from the sheep shows. On the other hand, I did find some fiber to buy though A small bag of qiviut from Windy Vally Muskox and a purple/white silk merino blend from um.. Ellen's Half Pint farms maybe. (I got receipts from everyone, but I didn't realize that almost none of the receipts have names.)
And some yarns...One skein skacel laceweight from Skaska and 6 skeins of Santa Fe Asland Trends sock yarn in the purple heart colorway, no idea from who.
And a bunch of patterns - Baby Mine baby sweater by the Yarn Harlot, Dual Cable Fingerless Gloves from Bijou Basin Ranch, a reprinted pattern of Galina Khmeleva's Orenburg Lace Triangle from Interweave Knits, the Portugese Fisherwoman's Shawl, La Valse shawl (Ravelry link), and Sneaky Socks from comicknits
I tried out the Kollage's square metal knitting needles and flat wooden needles from another vendor. I didn't notice any difference in holding the needles, but I did notice that when I slide the right needle tip into the stitch and then off the left needle, the needle 'jumped' a bit at the square edge. Not so much with the metal needle, but definitely with the wooden ones. I'm not sure if it's because the square edge was more rounded or because the rounded tip edge was longer with the Kollage needles. There was also square handled crochet hooks, but I didn't get a chance to try those - they were all packaged and I didn't see any available to try out.
I also tried the Signature needles with the stiletto point. Very nice - the points are nice and pointy and the rest of the needle has a bit of a texture that's not usually on metal or aluminum needles. Sort of like a super-super fine emory board feel. It was too noisy in the hall to hear if they have the same 'whine' as aluminum needles do. If they don't, I'd definitely buy them, if there were a little less pricey.
The only tools I got was a pair of flex needles in a size I don't have and a set of small double-ended crochet hooks (they're maybe 3" long) for picking up stitches etc.
Would I go again? Sure,but I'd rather go to one of the sheep shows instead.