Sock Summit: Being there

posted in: Knitting, Travel | 31

This part is mostly a blur of exceptionally fine memories.

I had three primary responsibilities at Sock Summit: teaching my own classes; assisting Priscilla Gibson-Roberts with her classes; and participating in the Luminary Panel on the final afternoon.

I'd also planned to attend the Sock Hop (I didn't have enough energy to move, much less dance, even though I love to dance), get to the Ravelry party (you'll see what happened instead), and cruise the marketplace (no time: I did manage a few dashes in and out, but didn't even get to everyone on the core list of vendors-to-check-out that I made in advance).

Here's the neat Sock Summit banner in front of the Oregon Convention Center:

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Priscilla's classes

Priscilla Gibson-Roberts can't teach any more because of physical challenges. Through a minor set of miracles, she was at Sock Summit and gave three lectures on ethnic socks and stockings. As she said, "If it wasn't all about socks, I wouldn't be here." (You add her "degraded south Texas accent," as she calls it, to that statement in your mind.)

Her sessions involved three tables filled with her own collection of socks, as well as two-and-a-half large-capacity slide carousels of slides representing both her own collection and socks and stockings that she's borrowed from other people over the years to document. Participants could examine socks firsthand and ask questions. There's a lot that isn't known yet about socks, and many socks identified as "Turkish" came from other parts of the world but were acquired by their owners in Turkey, which has been a trading crossroads throughout history. Priscilla identifies the provenance of many socks from the idiosyncracies of their construction and from the motifs used to decorate them.

My favorite socks were the Georgian ones, which have bright, flower-like motifs.

Priscilla also brought some of the socks she has knitted using traditional techniques and designs, many worked in her handspun yarns.

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It took two of us, in addition to Priscilla, to keep up with her . . . and some volunteers as well, to keep the media pieces of her presentation working and to keep her collection together and in the right places at the right times. Nelda Davis, who is in the upper photo of this set, has often helped Priscilla teach and was her right hand person. I was the back-up, except during the session where I was teaching elsewhere, when Susan Strawn filled in. (Susan is the author of Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art. I'm linking to the Powell's page for the book, although its description needs to be revised.)

My classes

I had the pleasure of meeting about fifty people who are interested in publishing their work or learning about the world of publishing in order to consider that step. Publishing can seem extremely arbitrary and bizarre from the outside (sometimes it just IS arbitrary and bizarre). My goal was to give people a map of the publishing possibilities; an introduction to the ideas and vocabulary and tools needed for success in publishing; and the knowledge that much that happens in publishing that seems weirdest isn't personal. It's a whole lot easier to have the necessary persistence to get published if you know at the start how crazy it can be.

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I taught better once I remembered I could take my shoes off. Those are handknitted socks, of course. Thanks to Fibergal for being willing to snap a few pictures in my class.

What we did one evening

I was planning to go to the Ravelry party. However, Lynn H (Colorjoy) had brought some marvelous textiles with her that we couldn't resist taking a closer look at. After dinner (Priscilla, Nelda, Anna Zilboorg, Lynn, and me), we retired to the hotel room and began an impromptu examination-and-documentation session. Anna sensibly went to bed after we'd resolved some of the questions, and the rest of us stayed up way too late.

Here are Priscilla, Lynn H, and Nelda:

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Nelda is quiet. You might think she's just a helper. NOT. She knows a whole lot about textiles. She's great fun to hang out with.

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She and Priscilla have been friends since graduate school at Purdue.

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We ended up with impromptu documentation of the socks Lynn brought: good thing our hotel room can equipped with a steamer (other people think it's an iron) and an ironing board. Lynn had pins so we could get good shots of heels from all directions. I had a tiny magnifying glass. We moved the lights in the room around. Nelda had a neutral-colored t-shirt that we used as a backdrop. The photos we took aren't great pictures, but they will let us remember what we were looking at in person.

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Nelda's had a lot of experience steaming textiles.

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Even the apparently simplest sock has a story to tell, when observed closely.

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For example, what was going on here?

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It can take some close examination and thought to figure it out. In this case, the knitter ran out of yarn and substituted something else that almost matched but worked up at a different gauge. That explains some of the stitch irregularities in the photo above, but not all of them.

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As we've all learned over the years, we can figure out a lot about a textile through careful examination, but the only way to be reasonably certain you've figured out how a knitter accomplished a task is to put yarn on the needles and knit, with the intention of replicating the results. (As you might imagine, those are Priscilla's hands in the photos of the sock. She thought she was tired enough to go to bed when we finished dinner, but she ended up as the ringleader in staying up late and documenting the socks.)

Knitting is endlessly fascinating in that way, and Lynn had brought four extremely diverse pairs of socks. We got to bed very late and we missed the party completely.

Luminary panel

This was really an intense time for the speakers, as you might imagine, and, of course, I don't have any photos. I was on the platform. See a few notes and photos in the blog posts by other people with more perspective on the event, noted below.

Two comments, however:

Why were we chosen to be on the panel? We asked. We learned that we'd been selected because we had all been working full-time or full-time-equivalent in a realm concerned with sock knitting for long enough to have seen changes and deeply enough to be able to speak to the questions the moderators had in mind.

As we were preparing to file into the ballroom and take our places at the tables, someone observed that NONE of us was wearing makeup. The observation turned out to be not entirely true: one of us had on eye makeup. But there was NO lipstick in sight. In sum, everyone up there was a "what you see is what you get" sort of person.

People who have shared their impressions of Sock Summit

These are some blog posts that reflect parts of what I experienced through Sock Summit—along with their writers' personal pathways through the events.

OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting): An interview on public radio called "The Joy of Knitting," an episode of Think Out Loud.

Periwinkle Sheep: The opening reception.

Periwinkle Sheep did an amazing and surprising (and smart) thing. Karin Maag-Tanchak dyed a colorway for each of the participants in the final day's Luminary Panel. As I mentioned, I had barely any time for the alluring and fantastic market. I might not have discovered the Luminary Panel yarns except that I was chatting with a participant named Deborah and she mentioned the skein of yarn she had bought—called "ink for Deborah"—and its origins in the Luminary Panel colorways. Having combined textiles and publishing for so many years, I was delighted to find myself represented by skeins in the color of what looks like fountain pen ink that's separated into its components of blues and purples, as if water had dropped onto the paper. These are colors that I wear, and they have a delightful metaphoric quality for my life. Karin graciously gave a skein of yarn to each "luminary" who came by her booth (I paid for mine, because a helper was in charge when I dashed in to check this out, so Karin gave me a second skein the next day . . . my design wheels are turning . . . ).

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Velma’s World: Overview snippets, plus the best photo I've found of the Luminary Panel.

Do Stuff! Leethal Blog: Personal overview, with quotes from the Luminary Panel.

Twin Set: Personal overview that covers a lot of territory and includes the crutch cozies.

Blog-A-Roo: Personal overview, including a photo of me with a chicken on my head.

In sum

You just never know what will happen when knitters get together.

Unfortunately, I missed a whole lot of what happened at Sock Summit.

Fortunately, what I did get to discover and participate in was all grand and memorable.

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31 Responses

  1. (sigh) I’m jealous. Of all of it.

    On the up side, I broke down and bought a new-to-me computer: my regular photographic store was selling the demo of the little sister of your desktop Mac at a steep discount.

    Now, if I can just finish off all the deadline work on the old box, and buy a copy of CS4, I’ll join the Leopard revolution.

  2. welcome home! we missed you.

  3. “Barbara Walker’s lecture on how she became a knitter took an interesting turn into how she became a skeptic.”

    Damn, I knew I wanted to come. LOL. Did you get to go to this talk?

  4. Wow. Looks like an amazing event. I’d love to hear what you all talked about at the Luminary Panel…

  5. Happy you found my LP pic useful, & thanks for the blog plug! Now that I’ve had a few days to decompress from the entire SS experience, I’m drafting a follow-up post with deeper impressions, if you are interested.

    On a personal note, I was surprised by my own emotional response to the panel discussion. Maybe it was all that estrogen in the room, but I was quite taken with all 9 of you.

    PS – Chicken head is a good look for you. 😉

  6. Thanks. . . . I’m still on the road! Glad YOU’RE home. We missed YOU!

  7. Thank you ever so much, Deborah. You are very kind. I am so glad that I dedicated that color to you! In fact, it told me who it’s for….:)
    I learned to write with a fountain pen as a kid, too, in fact I still have one.

    I am sending you those 3 additional skeins tomorrow.

  8. The Luminary Panel: how knitting has changed in the past 100 years (!), intellectual property and copyright and creativity, potential differences in being independently in business for women versus men, how the heck we got into this in the first place, balancing responsibilities among the parts of our lives. . . .

  9. I’ll look forward to your follow-up post! I’d be interested in hearing about your response to the panel discussion. It was quite a responsibility being up there, and somewhat dimmed our ability to perceive the event as a whole–we were focusing minute-by-minute. We had been offered the questions in advance, and all chose not to pre-think the ideas but to respond on the spot.

    I’m glad I look good with a chicken.

  10. Oh, and no, I didn’t get to her talks. I was teaching/assisting. I did get to visit with her casually several times.

  11. Barbara Walker is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. She is also one of the most modest and thoughtful. She knitted every one of the swatches in her stitch dictionaries. Thinking all the time, I’m sure. . . .

  12. Thanks to you, Karin! I’m looking forward to swatching. I have several fountain pens . . . not the fancy kind, but the kind that writes really well without being too precious to use.

  13. I’m soooo envious of those who could attend.
    Though I’m hearing a rumor that this was the *Innaugural* Sock Summit. And further rumors whisper of Toronto, which is drivable from here.
    Must start saving my pennies NOW.

    I’m in awe of that Luminary Panel. I would have been star-struck speechless…

  14. 🙁

    I met several wonderful and brilliant people on my travels this summer. But I SO would love to meet Barbara!

    Let’s get together soon. Coffee? Bagel? Lunch?

  15. Maybe I can teach my Lithuanian sock class next time! 🙂

  16. Very good thought!

  17. Yes, you would love to meet Barbara. Such a gentle, persistent, intelligent soul. “Soon” will need to be after I’m back in the state! Yes, then.

  18. Any idea if Barbara has agreed to go to the UK Knit Camp next August? I know Jo was going to invite her…

  19. I don’t know. I’m just putting together a post with more links to Sock Summit info, including some on UK Knit Camp.

    My guess is that Barbara likes her life the way it is and is not into disrupting it with a bunch of travel. I could be wrong.

  20. I quite like that all panel members opted for the “surprise me” route to questions. I think it encouraged more interaction between respondents; clearly, you were all using one anothers’ answers as springboards for your own thoughts.

    If you are still curious about my follow-up post, it is up at: http://bit.ly/8CkhQ Also, I meant to offer yesterday that you are welcome to use the photograph you liked in any way you’d like. (I’m working on my Plays Well with Others badge. 😉 Feel free to email me if you’d like the original .jpeg image.

    And I have chicken envy, to be sure. http://bit.ly/18Io0p

  21. It was staggering being at the Summit. As amazing as it all was I treasured the Luminary Panel the most. I’m afraid I was seated in the back and couldn’t always tell who was speaking. Was that you that commented that we have to keep the new ideas flowing when asked about copyright? I really liked what you said about how we have to take care of ourselves, it’s all too true. Thank you Deb for your insight!

  22. Funny how sometimes travel is a disruption and sometimes a treat!

  23. Yes, we were responding to each other’s ideas, as much as we could hear them! There was that microphone thing going on, where the mikes swallow (or partially swallow) the sounds on stage. We did pretty well, I think, considering that.

    Thanks for your follow-up post. It’s a pleasure. And yes, I’d love to be able to use your image (with credit, of course). I’ll e-mail you.

    Are those chickens on bikes wearing their helmets??? I think so, but can’t be sure!

  24. And sometimes both, simultaneously. . . .

  25. You’re welcome, Michelle, and as I’ve noted *we* couldn’t always hear each other up on the platform! We could tell who was speaking, but not necessarily what was said. We heard enough to keep things moving, but there were parts of the conversation that might have happened if we’d had clear auditory channels. Microphones just do that. It wasn’t as bad as sometimes.

    Yes, I said we need to keep new ideas flowing. Copyright and fair use always involves a balancing act between respecting the originators of ideas (and allowing them to earn enough from generating ideas to keep doing so) and the free flow of ideas that creates a healthy, creative, intellectual climate.

  26. Toronto would be cool! Crossing borders with trade shows is always a challenge, but since this event was international anyway it would just shift the responsibilities for massive paperwork around to different folks.

    Stephanie and Tina formed Knot Hysteria Productions. Hard to tell what they will come up with next.

  27. Thank you a hundred times over!
    Your report on the Sock Summit was the one I have waited for…
    I couldn make it and the draw for me was exactly all you posted about.
    To meet my “mentors” from the 70’s and 80’s at the birth of my “ravelry-like” enthusiasm for the fiber world -which has only grown richer.
    I saw so little about Priscilla anywhere else and I so wanted to hear how she was and see photos.
    I couldn’t even read all of your entries yet. I will treat myself to that thru the weekend. I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for all of you before I did another thing today.
    Regards
    Janet

  28. Oh, thank you! You will find more photos of Priscilla in some of the other blog posts that I linked to. It was *so* good that she was there.

    And I met so many folks that I have either heard about (Barbara Walker; Anna Zilboorg) or corresponded with by e-mail or through blogs (too many to list). They were all lovely to meet: as nice as you would want them to be in your best imagination.

  29. If so, that would definitely work for me: I’ve already got plans to be in Toronto next summer.

    It’s much further away, mileage-wise, from here, but infinitely cheaper (and easier) that going across the border.

  30. Yes, good for you on all counts. Understood about the greater distance / easier access!

  31. Thank you Deb, and I couldn’t agree more! I wish more people felt the same.

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