Did you know that there is a world of competitive knitting?
There is Sock Wars, a knitted version of the Assassin game where you “kill” your target by knitting and mailing them a pair of socks. This has been played online with lots of variations for a decade or more, as far as I can tell. I personally have never found a game in time to play, though.
There is Nerd Wars, where teams of knitters choose projects around a certain theme (you can guess what Team Browncoats knits the most of!) for points. There are Guild Wars, Hat Wars, Glove Wars, you name it.
And then there is Sock Madness.
Sock Madness has been going on for 7 years now. It started out as a Flickr group, but moved to Ravelry a few years ago when that forum became available. Sock Madness is a competition of speed and skill. There are seven rounds, and the pattern for each round becomes progressively complex. Knitters are divided into teams based on skill and speed, and a decreasing number of the fastest knitters from each team move on to the next round. Only the first place winner of the final round gets a prize, although other prizes are awarded randomly during the competition (basically “we think you are cool” prizes, as far as I can tell).
I actually found out about this one in time to join in this year, so I did! I discovered a fun and completely novel aspect to knitting. Sock Madness 7 started out with over four hundred knitters this year. Round 1 placed a little over 40 knitters each on seven different teams. The participants all contribute by sending donations to the moderators and offering up prizes. The moderators assign prizes to the winners, and notify the donators of who to send the prize too, so there is not much centralized shipping. Everybody who signs up can knit round 1, which is the qualifying round. Those who finish round 1 in two weeks get placed on a team and can progress. Those who get at least halfway done by the deadline don’t get a team, but they do get the patterns by email so they can knit along and cheer.
I found out in the warm-up round that it took me about 16 hours of actual knitting time to make these socks.
Round 1 wasn’t so bad. I knew I had two weeks, and that wouldn’t be a problem, so I just made my sock my primary project that I worked on whenever I was knitting. I qualified onto a medium-speed team.
Things started to ramp up with Round 2. Now speed really counted, and I found myself staying up late knitting, spending all day knitting instead of doing chores and schoolwork.
Each round still usually lasted about two weeks, as we couldn’t move on until the full quota qualified from each team, including the slower teams.
My finish times dropped from 4 or 5 days down to 2 or 3.
Then it got real. The last three rounds this year happened very quickly, as the moderators were anxious to wrap it up and get on with their summer.
Round 5, the zipper sock, was released on a Wednesday, and I had it finished by late Friday night, with knitted-in zipper and cables and bobbles and all.
Round 6, the swirling vortex sock, was released the following Thursday, and again I had it finished by late Friday night. Now I was starting to lose some sleep, but there was no rest, because Round 7 hit very, very early Sunday morning, and I knew the competition was going to be fierce. The knitter who maintained a solid lead throughout the final rounds, who I have affectionately dubbed Crazy Dutch Lady, had consistently been finishing in sometimes as little as half the time that I did. But Round 7 is completely different. Round 7 was colorwork. ALL the colorwork. 5 color cast-on, stranded garter stitch, spot intarsia, high legs (this is a problem with stranding because they have to go over your heels and stranding doesn’t stretch well). Maybe I’d have a chance, but I had to be on the ball. I loaded myself up with coffee pods and hot pockets so I wouldn’t have to cook. The family knew they were on their own. I was up at 5:45am, scarfing down a quick breakfast and some coffee before the pattern hit my mailbox at 6:30am. And what a pattern!
The 5-color cast on took me 4 hours. By the time the afternoon rolled around, the stress of the missed sleep, the constant knitting, and the pressure of watching Crazy Dutch Lady continue to amaze me took its toll. My hands started to shake, and I had to take a break for a nap. Two hours, and I was back up, but I was still slow. Before I went to bed for good at midnight, Crazy Dutch Lady posted her first finished sock. I was only at the heel, and I knew it was over. I got up and started knitting again the next morning, but it was too late. Crazy Dutch Lady posted the finish before I even finished the heel of my first sock.
What a crazy ride! It was a ton of fun, though. I certainly don’t feel bad about losing. I got all the way to the finals, and life did get in the way a bit on round 7. I have all these beautiful hand-knit socks now, and I’m considering ways to show them off. We’ll see if I’m up for entering the madness again next year for Sock Madness 8.
Who am I kidding? It’s a competition; of course I’m in!