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Sock Summit

I've spent part of my four-day weekend at Sock Summit 2011. It's a convention for people who knit socks.

I'm not a sock knitter (or wearer, for that matter), and am only a marginal knitter, and I live just up the street from the Oregon Convention Center, so my participation was pretty casual, and I can't give much in the way of insider rapture.

But as a general craftswoman I can say that Sock Summit is a very impressive thing. I took a specialized class ("Cast On Cornucopia") on Thursday, and today I had a chance to wander around the vendor market; both experiences confirmed that creativity is absolutely going off the charts.

People are putting new materials to ancient uses (carbon fiber knitting needles! Plastic drop spindles printed on 3D printers!), and pushing out the boundaries of labor-intensive manual processes like hand-painting fleeces. You can knit with a range of fibers unimagined by the average American knitter thirty years ago (bamboo! hemp! yak!). You can accurately replicate socks worn by 12th century peasants in Norway, and socks worn by rich gentleman-golfers in 1890, and silk stockings from a Constantinople lady's wardrobe in 1500.

And here's the thing: there's not a craft or hobby being practiced today that isn't experiencing the same kind of explosion of creativity, digging into the past, borrowing from the future, leveraging technology, and spreading ideas across the world.

So although I managed to escape the show floor with only one purchase, a handmade wooden tabletop swift of truly elegant simplicity and functionality, I came away absolutely loving life in the 21st century, and glad to be alive in such an exciting time.

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