It's official: I failed at Sock Madness this year.
Sock Madness is this crazy online, international sock knitting competition. It's loosely modeled after March Madness: we form teams and compete in elimination rounds. Each participant knits a pair o socks from the same pattern to at least minimum standard (length, gauge - that sort of thing). Round one is a qualifying round: if you knit the pair within the 2 week time frame, you get placed on a team. For each following competition round, a specific number of participants who finish the socks by the deadline will move on to the next round. That means we not only have a time frame but also have to be faster than our teammates. Or at least faster than our slowest teammates. Some knitters are freakishly fast, knit an entire pair of complicated socks in 24 hours or there abouts. I am not one of them.
I love hand knit socks. They just cozy up to the toesies, all full of warmth and tenderness. They are fun to knit, too, small and easy to stuff in a bag for a take along project. Sitting in traffic that just isn't going anywhere soon? Pull out a sock and knit away the aggravation. Feeling antsy in a meeting and need to pay attention? Pull out a sock to keep the hands busy so the mind can focus on the speaker. Stuck in a waiting room with obnoxious strangers? Pull out a sock and knit away the desire to smack someone. And then there's the yarn. One skein of a really luscious yarn is often enough for a pair of socks, so it's permission to splurge on occasion. Sock Madness is permission to splurge more often.
I've participated in Sock Madness several times, got to round 4 once or twice. I have no hopes of ever winning. Or even advancing beyond round 3 or 4 because I am a slow knitter. Tiny needles and thin yarn piss off my hands so they don't cooperate. I can knit many patterns within the 2 weeks, but I'll never overtake even many of the slow knitters.
How did I fail? Deadline for the qualifying round passed by and I only have one finished sock. I need a completed pair. This sock is twisted. Literally, many, if not most of, the stitches are twisted. That's very hard on the hands. I had to take a lot of breaks to keep my hands from long term injury. If I did the "admin" stuff correctly (project page and reasonable effort email), then I get to be an official cheerleader and still get the patterns, but I do not get to compete. My hands are happy but my heart is not. Oh, well. Try again next year.
And if that's not enough disappointment, the one sock is too big. I can rip it back to the gusset and reknit from there, then of course knit a second one to match. Or I could just frog the whole thing and use the yarn for a different pattern. I don't want to decide that today while I am mad at the sock. Because of course it's the socks fault, not mine, right?
But the thing is: just participating is pretty much a win. There is a camaraderie that builds up, support from teammates even though we are competing against each other as well as the clock. Just mention some discouragement and at least a few folks jump right in to talk you through it. And when you post a triumph, lots of folks cheer for you. And along the way, you learn. A lot. I remember clearly the couple years of sock intimidation. Much too advanced for me, all that shaping and those tiny needles. But I finally dipped my toe in the pond (all too often the frog pond - so named because mistakes get ripped out: rip it, rip it, like a frog noise). After a couple years of knitting fairly basics socks, I heard about Sock Madness and joined up. Since then, I've learned to knit lace and cables, sometimes in the same sock. I've learned to add beads to my knitting. I've learned new constructs for heels and gussets and toes, learned to knit toe up, starting with a cable. So this year might not be my banner year, but I'll be there happily cheering for those who did conquer this qualifying sock because that's participating to the best of my ability this year, and just participating is pretty much a win.