The Big Sock Summit Report

Sock Summit was the brainchild of Tina NewtonStephanie Pearl-McPhee, and Cat Bordhi.  The idea, to hold a fiber conference devoted to sock knitting.  Turns out, this quickly became a wildly popular idea.

Go read about it on the internet, it was quite the thing.  The server got trashed during registration when tens of thousands of folks tried to register all at once.  I was one of the lucky ones who got through, and thus last Wednesday my friend Astrid Bear and I drove down to see what there was to see.

This was the first indication that we were no longer in Kansas:

Sock Summit welcome

Thursday and Friday morning I had classes with the incomparable Cat Bordhi.  The first day was all about her new pathways in socks (hint, gusset increases can go anywhere.)

Here’s me thinking very hard about wrapping and turning short-row heels.  The yarn I’m using was designed by Cat to have very short color repeats and really was a help seeing what was happening in the stitches.

The second day was all about designing new knit stitch patterns.  I was generally hopeless at this, until…I started using floats and figuring out how to knit weave structures.  Then things got fun.  I knit twills and was making good progress on huck lace when the class ended.

Even better than the classes were the people.  I met a man at the Skacel booth knitting a week’s worth of socks all at once.  (It’s a looong needle.)

One of the highights of the conference for me was turning a corner and hearing three women squeal: “It’s Syne Mitchell!”  And then finding out that the three women in question were Abby FranquemontDenny, and Sandi Wiseheart.  And they all follow and love WeaveZine!  Besides being notables in the spinning and knitting world, they’re weavers!!!

It was such an unexpected thing that at first I couldn’t believe it; I thought maybe Astrid had put them up to it, but no, it was real.  Turns out there are a lot of famous knitters who secretly or previously were weavers.  But that’s a topic for a future blog post.

I ended up having dinner with Abby, Denny, Sandi, and Jasmine (and her mom) from the Knitmore Girls podcast, and Ann Budd, and a whole host of really cool folks whose name I did not catch.  No pictures of that, as I was generally laughing too hard to take a picture.  Let’s just say: Yes, they really are as fun to hang out with as you’ve imagined.  Moreso even.

I stood in line to get autographs from Barbara Walker (the knitting one, not the weaving one) and Anna Zilboorg.  And although it was a long line, the folks who were in line with me were so entertaining that the time just flew by.  One woman had knit this wee little sock out of laceweight yarn.  It was amazing and very soft.  That’s a spider design from the Barbara Walker stitch dictionary on the back.

There were world records in the making.  First there was the chance to knit on the world’s biggest sock (still in progress.)

world's biggest sock

I did my bit to help out.

syne knitting on a sock

There was also an opportunity to sit in on an attempt to get into the Guiness Book of World Records for most people knitting together in one place.  The previous record had been 256 knitters in Australia.  We blew them away with 700+.  (Sorry about that, Aussies!)

getting ready to break a world record

We had to knit with straight needles (which I never, ever do) but it was for a good cause, so I broke out the Brittanys and did a bit on the center of a scarf.  It’ll be fun to wear it and think, “that purple bit there, I was breaking a world record when I knit that.”

It was a sock-knitting convention, but there was weaving if you looked for it.  Imagine my delight when I was wandering around the vendor’s hall and saw this.

weaving demo

It was a scheduled demonstration of weaving by Karrie Weaver (love the name!) on a Weavette.  (Karrie’s the one in green.)

Karrie Weaver teaching weaving

Many pretty little things were woven out of sock yarn.  Karrie had the brilliant idea of tucking a square in your purse as a cell-phone screen cleaner.

The dealer’s room was an astounding blend of colors and textures.  Tons of indie dyers were represented.  Most of what was there was sock yarn (of course) but there was also at least one skein that called out to me.

There was a sock museum filled with vintage socks and reproductions of historical socks.  It will soon be online, so I’ll just show you two of my favorites.

Hand-knit child’s socks from the victorian era.

victorian socks

And the Arggh-gyles (a more recent innovation.)

Last, but certainly not least was the luminaries panel.  Where the topic was how to make a living from your passion, women in business.  (Or at least that was the first question, things evolved from there.)

There’s a lot of talent up on that stage, from right to left: Lucy Neatby, Cat Bordhi, Deb Robson, Anna Zilboorg, Priscilla Gipson-Roberts (hidden behind the podium), Tina Newton, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Meg Swanson, Barbara G. Walker, Judith MacKenzie-McCuin, Nancy Bush.

And it was the kind of event where talent was often seated right in front of you as well.  On the left is Jes, one of the co-founders of Ravelry.

Not to mention the less-well-known but still fabulous knitters all around.

It was a week of geeky fibery goodness.  I’m so glad I went.  Thanks Astrid, for suggesting it, and Brenda Dayne for telling me I’d be A FOOL not to go.

Sock Summit Day One

Yep.  I’m still a weaver.  But a weaver who wants to know how to knit truly fine socks.

Today I took a class from the ever-inventive Cat Bordhi about her new sock architectures.  You know, the ones that can put the arch increases pretty much anywhere on the foot.  I’d bought her book, NEW PATHWAYS IN SOCKS, when it first came out, marveled at the beautiful designs, and then hit a wall when it came to knit from the instructions.  Some things you just have to see how the hand moves and be there to ask the questions.  I did that today and knit two of the new architectures: Upstream and Coriolis.  Fun stuff.

Like many good teachers, Cat throws out additional asides as she goes.  Teaching you how to knit a better Continental purl stitch, a smoother SSK, and one super-secret technique that she swore us all to secrecy about.

After the class, the marketplace opened up.  Wowsa.  It’s huge.  Bigger than Convergence was in Tampa.  And there are no looms filling up space.  Let’s just say there is a lot of yarn here in Portland.  I saw some familiar faces: Webs, Bluster Bay Woodworks, Jenkins Woodworking, and a whole host of others.  Frankly, after filling up my brain this morning and afternoon with new sock possibilities, I was too tired to shop, and so headed off to my hotel room to edit this week’s article.

Pictures tomorrow.  My camera is packed away and my roommate’s asleep and I don’t want to wake her.