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Sock Summit Report (plus a sock cast-on lesson)

Aug 10, 2009

"Sock it to me" is such a cliché, but it's true this time--I've been socked with sock goodness! Yes, I was lucky enough to attend the Sock Summit in Portland, Oregon, this weekend. Actually, I was only there on Thursday and Friday because I had to come home and teach a sock class at my LYS on Saturday--the irony.

The party started at the opening night kick-off on Thursday night, when Stephanie Pearl McPhee and Tina Newton talked about how they fantasized about, conceptualized, and organized the summit. The speech was hilarious, of course, and at times very moving. They thanked all of the teachers and people who helped them on their journey, and as those people stood up, I realized the magnitude of this event. They thanked people like Meg Swanson, Melissa Morgan-Oakes, Barbara Walker, Cookie A., Nancy Bush, Lucy Neatby, Cat Bordhi, and on and on and ON! It was a true meeting of the "knitteratti."

After the final standing ovation, we got to meet these folks, which was wonderful. Everyone was graceful and lovely; obviously they were as happy to be there as I was. (On a side note, I got to meet our own Sandi Wiseheart in person--finally--and she's just as sweet and welcoming as you would think she would be.) As I shook hands with Meg Swanson and then Barbara Walker, I realized how lucky I am to be working in knitting--meeting some of my idols and teachers (I've learned so much through these gals' books) as part of my job. Wow!

I got to knit a few stitches on the World's Largest Sock (photo at right), a traveling art piece that's truly incredible. There were probably eight of us seated comfortably around a table knitting on the same sock. So much fun to be a part of that.

The Sock Museum was also a highlight. There were sock examples for each decade, starting with the dawn of time. My favorites were the Confederate and Union socks sitting right next to each other--the North and South of sock knitting. There was also a fabulous stocking from the late 1800s. It was a really neat collection.

At right are the fab rainbow stockings that were the show-stopper of the Thursday night party. This gal sat on the stage and posed for photo after photo. Wonderful work here!

I met Brian (photo at left) from Skacel, who's in the process of knitting seven pairs of socks at once on a 100-inch number 1 needle.--one pair for each day of the week! The seven balls of yarn are held in a shoe caddy. Brilliant.

When I was driving in from the airport, I tuned in the local PBS station and who should I hear but Cat Bordhi! A local program was doing a special on the Sock Summit and sock knitting in general, and Cat was talking about the culture of knitting. She said something that really hit me in the heart when she was talking about how knitters form communities. She said that when knitters get together and knit, they become the best versions of themselves. I saw that over and over at the Sock Summit.

The overall feeling at the summit was one of friendship and kinship. I didn't really know anyone there very well, but I was welcomed by all and I felt like I was walking into a family reunion of sorts--I was welcomed as a longtime friend.

Perfect Sock Cast-On

In the spirit of the teaching and learning that took place at the summit, here's a lesson from Nancy Bush, Sock Summit teacher, about an Estonian cast-on that's perfect to use for socks because it's so stretchy. I like this cast-on because the space from my heel to where the top of my foot meets my leg is a little bigger than average, and if I'm going to have trouble with a sock fitting, it's going to be there. I always cast-on loosely, but I don't like the look of a really loose cast-on because it can be messy and "loopy." This cast-on is naturally stretchy without looking loose. Try it on your next pair of socks!

Speaking of your next pair, Nancy has written several classic sock knitting books, including  Knitting on the Road, Knitting Vintage Socks, Folk Socks, and the wildly popular lace book, Knitted Lace of Estonia. If you don't have at least one of these sock books, you are missing out on some amazing sock-knitting opportunities!

It's been such a pleasure to write this post--I hope some of the inspiration I got at Sock Summit rubs off on you and your knitting.




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Robbja wrote
on Dec 20, 2012 11:06 AM

Not understanding the cast on at all. It is not completly clear what she is doing.

Do not know which yarn is ball yarn or long tail. Not sure how to do the secon part.

MelissaM@2 wrote
on Aug 17, 2009 6:27 AM

Oh goodness. You put my name between Meg Swansen and Barbara Walker. I think I may need to go lie down now... ; )

I am so thrilled to have been a small part of this amazing event, and so grateful to Tina and Stephanie for making it come together seamlessly. What a weekend!

KnittinTiger wrote
on Aug 15, 2009 4:23 PM

Does the knit and purl row after the cast on occur in the round or flat?  K-P flat = 2 rows of stockinette vs. K-P round = 2 rows of garter?  My resolution is too fuzzy to decipher it from the sample socks shown.  Thanks

on Aug 13, 2009 3:30 PM

Is there any way to get this Double start cast on (Estonian method) in print.  I need to be able to read it and walk through it slowly.  How do we contact anyone at Knitting Daily with a request like this?  Sharon

on Aug 13, 2009 3:15 PM

What book would this Estonian cast on from show 212 be shown in?  I need more than a video in order to get this in my head!  Thanks.

JaymiO wrote
on Aug 13, 2009 1:26 PM

Also had a fabulous time at the summit!   For those of us who live in the middle of nowhere and have to be content with dial-up connections (which means we do NOT get youtube or any video) - could you post the Estonian cast-0n in text?

Thanks so much - and here's to another sock summit!!  

kwilts wrote
on Aug 13, 2009 8:54 AM

Just finished watching the video and knitting along to learn this new cast-on.

It is great.  Plan to pass this technique on to others.

Thank you so much for putting this on the site, and sharing the information about the Summit.  Only wish I had been able to attend.

on Aug 12, 2009 3:48 AM

Great Video!  I've never cast on like that and will definitely be trying it.  But what happens when you are done casting on and you still have that double loop?  Just cut it and weave in it?

Marji wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 3:31 PM

Is there a way to make the leg more stretchy when working from toe up?

SusanF@7 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 3:00 PM

Oh my God a SOCK Summit.I would have loved to go.Is there a chance of something like that in the NE, even Canada?I will try the estonian cast-on for sure with my next pair of socks. Is it in any of Nancy B's books since I do own most of them and would find that reference easier than finding the YouTube video.My memory seesm a bit suspect these days.

Canada Sue

MaryD@57 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 2:38 PM

So what do you do with the double looped tail???

CRAFT wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 2:04 PM

Thankyou so much. I really enjoied that lesson and will try that on the next pair of socks.



on Aug 11, 2009 12:40 PM

Ms. Walker is still with us, and she was at the Sock Summit. I think you might be thinking of Elizabeth Zimmerman, whose daughter is Meg Swanson.


Gabrielle wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 12:29 PM

Are you sure you didn't meet a daughter or granddaughter of Barbara Walker?  It would have been rather difficult to meet the ACTUAL person, since she passed away several years ago....

Just FYI


RebeccaH@37 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 12:11 PM

Thank you for your comments, Kathleen.  I was able to go to the Sock Summit only on Sunday.  Of all the conferences, shows, and conventions I have attended, the Sock Summit was the most organized, congenial, welcoming and friendly of them all.  There was such a spirit of comaraderie and kinship that made everyone so wonderful to be around.  The comment about being "our best selves" is a good one and certainly applied at the Sock Summit. I came home Sunday evening overwhelmed by all the goodness...both people and yarn!!

hatfiela wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 11:23 AM

Can this Estonian cast-on be used for just a basic sock?

on Aug 11, 2009 11:04 AM

Just wondering if this cast on method might be illustrated in one of Ms Bush's books?  I find it a lot easier to prop a book in my lap when learning new cast on methods.  :)   Sande

on Aug 11, 2009 11:00 AM

Wait a minute!  I knitted on the World's Largest Sock almost a year ago, and it was gettng pretty close to the heel.  Kathy's photo suggests that a new sock was begun.  What's going on?

Helen@138 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 10:42 AM

The SS was wonderful.  I wish I had found out about it in time to get into a couple of classes.

And I'm glad you found the local public radio station.  But here's a little knitpicking fact.

PBS is TV only.  You were listening to public radio!  In fact Oregon Public Broadcasting.

jyehui wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 10:34 AM

Great video...just in time for me to start my top-down socks. Once I finish the second toe-up sock that is. One question though, is there a step-by-step guide somewhere - ideally with pictures. I don't cast on very often (extremely slow knitter) so I'll probably forget by the time I get around to using this. Also, is there a way of downloading the video?

BlueJaye2 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 10:21 AM

I am unable to get the video.

Melissa@5 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 9:00 AM

Cathleen, I felt badly that I didn't recognize you at the reg booth but I'm so glad you felt embraced while you were at SS. It was an amazing event for all of us and I'm so happy you made it!

Asamandra wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 8:44 AM

@sewing shadow:

You cast on the number you need for a sock - if that's 58 stitches, and you knit each of them, you will have 58 stitches after the first round. The double strand is not forming the stitches, you can see that if you look closely. Step A and step B form one stitch each, and you simply repeat them until you've got enough stitches.

Lsharr wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 7:32 AM

My comment is not about socks but a question for you, Kathleen.  Are you wearing a plastic cape or jacket over your clothing??  It looks like they forgot to take the makeup cape off before the photo shoot.  

thanks for the cast on lesson :)

Maddie wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 7:07 AM


On Friday after reading you were going to be a the sock summit I looked for you.  Wasn't that just the most wonderful event.  I loved all the spinning stuff.  After you said you had not spun it made me look into it and decided to give it a try.  I bought my first wheel at the summit.

mzjohansen wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 6:56 AM

Love this Estonian Cast On For Socks! I am going to try that for my next pair and have book marked the video! Thanks!

EllenM@46 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 6:46 AM

Wouldn't it be lovely to have such an event in the midwest!  No way to get to Portland, and it sounds like a wonderful  festival.

on Aug 11, 2009 6:33 AM

I just learned how to make socks the month before the Sock Summit. My LYS offered a free class if you bought the materials there (YAY)! I'm doing my SECOND GUSSET EVER right now. And what could I NOT attend? Yup. The Sock Summit. I was soooo bummed. Thanks for the window into the show.

on Aug 11, 2009 6:09 AM

This looks like a very nice cast on method.  Do you cast on half the number of stitches needed or all the stitches needed?  Let's say I need 58 stitches around the cuff.  If I cast on 58 sts and then knit each one, I'll end up with 116 which seems like too many.  Any help would be appreciated.

JulieP@20 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 4:45 AM

like this cast on.  will definitely give this one a try.  thanks so much for your clear step by step video.

KateF@16 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 3:32 AM

Just a note of interest - if you use a contrasting color as one of the "doubled yarns", it will leave a lovely color design around the cast on.  I have no sound on my computer at the moment so I don't know if Nancy mentioned how beautiful this cast on is using a contrast color.  


Asamandra wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 10:30 PM

It's too funny what you can find out on the internet - I've been doing exactly this cast on for years. I learned it from a really short description in a German knitting magazine - no video there, not even pictures. Just a written instruction.

I definitely agree with Nancy Bush - it is quite stretchy and not sloppy, even if you leave the double stranded yarn around your thumb much loser than she does here (which I do often, because my family usually needs a lot of stretch in a sock). I even taught this cast on to a couple of my friends and some knitters in my family because they all wanted to use it themselves.

LaelW wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 9:13 PM

Your comments about all the famous people that were there reminds me of a time when I was at a local fiber festival.  I was going one way around the vendor booths and another woman was coming towards me going the other way.  We said "excuse me" and went around each other.  Later that day I said to my husband that she looked so familiar.  Well, I was new to knitting, but eventually put the face with the name - it was Meg Swanson - just a local girl here in Wisconsin, I guess!

littlelib wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 7:17 PM

In case you're not on Ravelry, the pattern and yarn (Beach Sunset Gradiance, super wool base yarn) are available at  The pattern is here:  Great patterns, great yarn, and great people!

AllisonG@6 wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 7:06 PM

Here is the link to the project on Ravelry.

MarnyB wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 6:13 PM

Is there any chance you could get us the pattern and yarn info for the rainbow socks?

Cagey44 wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 5:55 PM

"That gal" is Laura from The Unique Sheep. Love her stockings and the gradiance collection of handyes they have. Using the Peacock colorway now for a circular shawl and it is gorgeous. Can't wait to start on some socks in the Japonica colorway.

DianeD wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 5:50 PM

this is fabulous -  I've always had a problem with my cast on for socks - I could never get it stretchy enough for the heel/top of foot.    Thank you so much.

BarbaraG@18 wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 3:16 PM

will it be possible to see any of the socks later in the month in Portland?  Bg

Sewwriter wrote
on Aug 10, 2009 10:52 AM

Oh what fun! I'm ever so sorry I couldn't be there (well, I guess I could have been, but traveling at 7+ months pregnant in the summer didn't sound like a lot of fun). Reading about everyone's experiences sure makes me hope there's another some day at a slightly more convenient time in my life :)