Friday, August 14, 2009

I Just Don't Know Where to Begin.

I could begin at the beginning, but I am not certain where the beginning is. Would it be the day I found out about Sock Summit? The day I decided to throw my hat into the ring as a potential teacher? Or the day my phone rang and Stephanie's voice said "Hi Melissa. We'd like you to teach at Sock Summit"? Or maybe it would be the day The Teacher List was posted and - you were right, Stephanie, my mind was utterly blown - I saw that amazing collection of names and realized that somehow mine was among them? Or should I skip all of that and begin with the day I stepped onto the elevator at the hotel in Portland and discovered that the only other occupant was Barbara Walker. All I could do was reach out and push '1', since there was of course no possible way she and I were both heading for the same destination (which we were, 6th floor, teacher dinner) and since I wasn't capable of speech and had to do something with my hands.
I've already told you about the awesome book signing, amazing students, fan-girl moments with EZ's stocking that left me nearly speechless - or completely speechless, which for me is a far stretch, believe you me. I could start by telling you about my fantastic roommate, the brilliant Sivia Harding who's talent appears to know no bounds. I could really tell you about the dangers of shopping with Clara Parkes, who adds to the already painful temptation of excellent yarns by tossing out tidbits like "That's an amazing yarn..." which she then follows with a series of very real reasons why this yarn is exceptional, and why you need it. This creates a perfect storm of sensory overload combined with impeccable taste and such rational thinking that your credit card magically climbs from your wallet while you continue to fondle what's about to be your latest purchase. I think Mister Wonderful is upright now - for a while the yarn receipts had him flat.
When I was a kid my sister Laurie brought home the Woodstock album, the original, in 1969, an Aquarian Exposition tucked into a New York farm field. (I still have the album here someplace and am convinced that my birth in 1967 just prior to the summer of love has had tremendous influence on me even though I was reared well away from the Haight). Too young to grasp the drugs part of the equation, I just reveled in the idea of a peaceful, loving festival where people could gather and share. Sock Summit was my Woodstock. I saw great things, and met amazing knitters - and not just the famous ones. At breakfast one morning when the coffee mugs had run out and the staff were struggling valiantly to get by, I saw knitters jump up and grab coffee and water jugs and keep the place contented until order could be restored. Knitters are like that. Need help? We're here!
I had two classes stuffed with dedicated knitters with great senses of humor, and a true dedication to their craft. I experienced first hand the generosity of knitting culture when a knitter insisted I share her sleeper car from Portland to Chicago, and Mary Ellen, one of the moderators on the 2-at-a-Time Socks board at Ravelry became my personal volunteer, fetching chai and generally standing by in case of need or want, and when Judy Becker made her way into the center of Portland and retrieved my Flower Basket Shawl from the hotel where I'd left it behind in a hasty retreat.
It's taken me a few days to get to this as I noted above. A long train ride (pictures below) and the excitement of the event kept me musing for a while. But here's what I think you really should know about Sock Summit: No one can say enough good things about Stephanie and Tina and the amazing job they and their ST-2 team and all the volunteers and vendors and teachers and others did to make this event work as seamlessly and flawlessly as it did. No one. These are truly amazing women, with a handful of men in there as well. Every minute, from the teacher dinner that left me stunned and speechless as I scanned around the room and realized that the knitters who've most influenced me as a designer and as a knitter, the women who's books I turn to time and time again were right there, to the Luminary Panel that brought togethernot just an amazing group of knitters and women, but a wide variety of opinions and ideas about our craft,to Stephen's delightful and charming Janie Sparkles sprawled on her back while I rubbed her tummy - every minute was savored and every moment nearly perfection. And, a bit like Woodstock, if you can really remember Sock Summit, maybe you weren't there. Because if you're anything like me it just blew your mind.
I hope there are more, and I hope you all can come. I hope I get to teach again, and I am so very grateful to ST-1 for giving me the chance to be a part of the FIRST Sock Summit. I hope you get a chance to meet my fellow teachers, one and all, because they are amazing people.

Now, train trip eye-candy for vicarious travelers:
Sunset. I don't know where any more. In fact most of these images will just have to be pretty because I can hardly remember the trip!
The Great Plains - I have wanted to see them ever since I was a little girl enamoured of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Descending from Glacier National Park I spied a creek that looks exactly like Lorna's Laces Baltic Sea, I kid you not!

Mountain in Glacier I believe.

Wind power alive and well in Montana.

The little net cage thing in the sleeper to keep me from flipping out of bed should the evening get rough - and sometimes it does! Between some rough bits of track and the need for speed, there's a lot of banging around.


Leaving the mountains behind.

Glacier Park entrance, right on the rail line.

More of "Baltic Sea" creek


Sunrise, followed by a string of pictures that just speak for themselves.

A river in I believe Cut Bank, Montana.

Grain elevator. There's a lot of them. For miles and miles you see nothing but unhealthy agribusiness "farms" and grain elevators, with an occasional abandoned farm thrown in for good measure. Some of the farm house are in use by Agribusiness folk as offices, others are stripped, gutted and appear to be ready for demolition. There's a lot of sadness from my perspective, a lot of loss of the idea of a family farm, a lot of desolation in spots. Empty things, abandoned things. I saw a whole abandoned town smack in the middle of a factory farm growing what appeared to be soybeans.

Minot, ND. We stopped for a while and I got off and stretched my legs. I did that any time we were allowed, because it feels good, and is a nice break from trying to walk on the moving train.

A picture perhaps only my sister Jamie would appreciate - when we were younger we travelled across the country on Amtrak to visit family in California. My mother was obsessed with the french toast. When I saw it being served, I just had to take a picture of it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

View From the (Sock) Summit

This blog entry has been started and stopped so many times I've stopped counting. SO here's what I am going to do. You get some (few, really) pictures and blurbs and very brief bits. This thing, this Sock Summit thing? Indescribable on so many levels that I can't get words out. That and I am running on low sleep levels so words are nearly impossible at this point to form in my head let alone type. Therefore, without further ado I present an overview of the first few days of Sock Summit 2009:The Convention Center. Really a cool one, probably the coolest in the US. Very green, which makes me happy, lots of recycling, composting and - my favorite - low flush toilets!!Green landscaping. It's a huge log cut into cross sections and either planted or allowed to naturalize with local fauna. Lovely, and looks a bit like my backyard, only prettied up. And without deer and foxes.My first class at Sock Summit, none of whom died, all of whom made socks (YAY, CLASS!!) You'll see my second class in the next post, where we'll also delve into "market" a bit.For those of you who find my 2-at-a-Time Socks thing to be a bit mad, check this. Seven pair. Fourteen socks. At once. A man after my own heart, AND using my favorite needles. You can follow his progress on the Skacel blog. I was thinking that I could do this myself in time for Christmas gift giving. Opinions?!
Once upon a time there was a little girl called Meg - not my Meg, but a different one. Elizabeth's Meg. When Meg was a teenager she had these lovely arch shaped stockings that she wore (with garters, I might add). Meg, growing up with wool all around, only knew that she had some lovely warm stockings. Her 'Ma' knitted all the time. One stocking more or less is no big deal, right?
In time Meg came to appreciate these stockings as more than just a cozy place to pop one's shivering toes. Imagine putting on your well-loved socks and suddenly realizing that you're wearing something truly astonishing; a work of both art and science created by a woman who's brain many of us would love to be inside of for even a minute (just before we popped into the brain of Cat Bordhi for a little look around). Then try to imagine that you are generous enough to share not just the concept for creating these socks, and a pattern for those inclined to need one, but also a once in a lifetime opportunity for little upstart 2-at-a-Time Sock authors to not only touch and hold those stockings...
but put them on. Wear them. Knitted by your Ma; gone now but beloved by so very many. Not in an archive, not hidden away in a drawer, not pressed beneath glass and preserved. Allowed, with a love of the craft and generosity your mother would appreciate, to be revered by the people who's lives were and are so touched by her talent and skill.Either I have small feet, or Meg has big ones. Just saying.Meg Swansen is charming, disarming, open and warm. Also brilliant and technically gifted but with an acute awareness of the presence of neither right nor wrong in this craft. This was my fan-girl moment and for so very many reasons.
This is Raveler Ceels who also has a blog, and cats. She's from Australia. She's just been told who knitted this stocking.There was a lot of that sort of thing. It's nice to share one's knitterly geek-ness with others.
Knitters set a record, and we're hoping Guinness agrees...Impressive, and truly wonderful to be a part of.
There was a book signing during which I got to meet some lovely folks, like Robyn, who not only knitted these little beauties but shared one with me. This made me very happy.Cunning little hat. And this is Ann who's knitting up a pair of provisionally cast on Sugar Maples in the loveliest color. It's like cranberry jelly, with the whole berries.Mmmm!
And here on the left we have Megan who was wandering through the signing lines carrying her wedding veil and asking each of us to knit a bit on it. Honored to be a part of this project, and reluctant to hand it back frankly. Unfortunately I was so stunned by the beauty of the thing that I sort of ignored poor Ellie on the right there, who just wanted a book signed.I've said it before and I will say it again - I do not have A.D....D....what was I saying? Sorry. I saw a leaf drift by and...
You get my drift? I am about as focused as an eight year old boy most of the time.
This is a seriously brief update, in no way a full version - maybe on the way home I can write a bit more and post from the road. There is so very much to say, and I feel so very much honored to be part of this event. Grateful to Stephanie and Tina and the whole Sock Summit crew, the students who were stellar in both sessions; dedicated to their learning, bright and alert. There is something in the air here, something big and warm and magic.