Felicia's Notebook, Knitting

Sock Summit 2011

Brilliant colours by Sincere Sheep. All naturally dyed.
Brilliant colours by Sincere Sheep. All naturally dyed.

A mere 24 hours after returning home from my honeymoon, I was back at the airport, on my way to Portland for the incredibly popular Sock Summit. Who knew that something as specific as hand sock knitting could draw nearly 6,000 knitters from across the country to Portland? I didn’t go to the first one two years back… I can’t recall why. But after hearing how “amazing” it was, could I live with myself if I let a second Sock Summit go by without seeing what all the fuss was about?

I arrived on Thursday morning at PDX. The flight from Vancouver to Portland was a mere hour and 30 minutes. But then waiting for the hotel shuttle took me another hour and 30 minutes. That was a rough start, but made so much better by the fact that I randomly ended up sharing the hotel shuttle with Stephannie from Sunset Cat, a technical editor and designer. Turns out Stephannie and I knew all sorts of people in common and we hit it off quite well. It lessened the frustration of feeling like I wasted my morning sitting outside the freezing cold airport terminal.

Going to these knitterly events always makes me a bit nervous… it’s like the first day of school. I don’t think I’m going to know anyone and I figure everyone’s already going to be hanging out with their friends and that it’s going to be all awkward and weird. And it was. A bit. Just at the beginning.

Natalie, Cloudy with a Chance of Fiber
How could I refuse?

It was just before lunch and my class with Amy Singer was going to start in the afternoon. I knew I had to eat. But I wanted to make the most of my brief Portland experience. I’d heard so much about the incredible Portland food carts, so when I saw a girl with a sign that said “GOIN’ TO THE FOODCARTS 4 LUNCH :)” I just knew I had to follow her. Turns out, she is Natalie, one half of the “Cloudy with a Chance of Fiber” podcast AND she is a Portland-native. Strangely, I felt completely comfortable getting on public transit without a map or direction, following someone I had just met. She was going to lead me to amazing food. I (and Kathy and Heidi) followed. Natalie was great to chat with and we even recorded some of our conversation for her podcast. You can hear the episode, plus an interview with Maia of Tactile Fiber Arts on her site or off iTunes.

Amy Singer’s class in the afternoon was like dessert. It was a scoop into the Knitty.com editor’s mind to see what she sees and learn what she likes or doesn’t like to select for the Knitty issues. The class was called “Making the Next Monkey” and gave great insight into how to get your pattern submission selected. Students in the class got to informally present designs that they were considering submitting or had already self-published, just to get a reaction from Amy and see how it might fair in the selection process.

My second class, “Kids’ Socks” was on Friday morning with Sandi Rosner. Sandi is a knitwear designer, technical editor (for Twist Collective among others) and teacher. I found her teaching style quite practical and hands-on. She began by getting us to ask her the questions we have about knitting socks for kids and she wrote them all up on the board. As the class progressed, she answered each and every one of the students’ questions. And at the end, she walked around the entire room (maybe 25 students?) and gave each student some one-on-one help with their sock pattern. I learned new tidbits and confirmed other bits in my brain… now it’s time to actually put that knowledge to good use.

Scaling new heights in excellence in handspun yarn. Cheryl of NewHueHandspuns dyes and spins all this laceweight yarn and it’s sublime.

The rest of the time I spent trekking through the supermassive marketplace. I know there are lots of knitters who were blown away by the Sock Summit… the list of teachers, the classes, the vendors, all the crazy auxiliary events like the Sock Hop and the flash mob… but honestly, I think it was simple, practical things that made it for me. Just silly things like how they offered free WiFi to all the participants or how the lighting in the marketplace was not merely adequate, but actually bright. Overall, my gripes with these kinds of conferences is that the rooms are always freezing cold and that there’s no good food within walking distance. I got a lead to go to a Japanese-run grocery store for sushi but the offerings were seriously sketchy. Raw fish at left room temperature? Eww.

The speed competition. I believe the winner clocked in at 60 sts per minute.

I’m happy I got to go and meet so many fellow dyers and knitters and would love to go again. The Sock Summit crew seems to have this event organization business down pat. They captured the spirit of everyone from the technical knitters to the social media/twitter knitters to the nerd audience (Sockgate anyone?) as well as the crazy Rockin’ Sock Club membership. Something for every kind of sock knitter.

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About Felicia Lo

founder + creative director of SweetGeorgia // designer + dreamer // wife + mama // dyer, knitter, spinner, weaver, youtuber + author // been writing this blog about colour and craft since 2004 // see what I am making @lomeetsloom and @sweetgeorgia.

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5 thoughts on “Sock Summit 2011

  1. Thank you for including such a beautiful picture of my booth, Sincere Sheep.  I can see that I must have been off shopping when you stopped by since my friend Velma is in the picture ringing people up!  I hope we get to meet next down you are down this way!  We have a history of almost meeting that goes back to you visiting Deep Color over 6 years ago on one of your trips to the Bay Area!

  2. Mary says:

    I saw you at the Clara Parkes lecture, but was just too shy to say hello.   You were the one brave enough to follow a stranger for food!  :)

  3. Would you mind to write a note/post about what you discovered about Portland’s food carts???! I enjoy reading about your food adventures as much as your knitting experiences. Please advise for my next trip to Portland…

  4. Loriangela says:

    Thanks for bringing us along. I have already rearranged my schedule so I could have a chance to go if there’s another one. Sivia Harding and Sweet Georgia in close proximity! I apprecieate the smaller scale exploration, much more like I would do. thanks for finding a few gems and polishing them for us.

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