Monday, September 05, 2011


Finally, A Real Story ... About Sock Summit, This Time. At Last..

O hai! You still here?

The madness of the summer is almost over (almost ... I still have a couple of hard things to deal with) and now it's time to sit back, enjoy the fall and tell some stories.

And today, my story will be about Sock Summit II.

A word of warning -- this is going to sound like a negative review. It's not; I'm just trying to be honest. I'm really, really glad I went and I had, overall, a delicious time in a city that I love dearly. I just can't do it again.


I did Sock Summit the first time, two years ago, when I was just coming out of The Crazy. It was fantastic, and when the call went out again I was all over it.

I mean, is this a brilliant idea or what? Thousands of sock knitters filling up a conference centre and booking every room in town ... what? Who thinks of shit like this? I still think it's one of the most amazing things EVAR.

This year was very different from the last time. You see, work fucked me over -- hard -- in February. I could have fought it, through the union, and as my rights were very clearly violated I would have won. It would have taken memos and hearings and paperwork and bla bla bla but in the end I would have won; because I was in the right. It would also have engendered many hard feelings and I would never have been able to be comfortable at work again.

I decided not to bother -- I didn't need more angst -- and instead I cashed in some of my retirement savings, paid off all of our commercial debts (I still have some debt, but only a small number of personal loans ... basically we're debt-free) and bought a heck of a lot of fibre stock. I then signed up for every show in (and out of) town and started dyeing like a lunatic. THIS was the year, I told myself, that I would make my dyeing into a real business or just give it up and walk away.

So yeah, when SS came up I jumped, even though I'd lost money last time.

I booked a booth and paid the fees for that and all of the costs that go along with a show like this (insurance and so forth). I asked a friend in Portland if I could ship stuff to her so that I could avoid the hideous drayage fees and she agreed.

As we neared the time to go, I started freaking out. I was too little, we couldn't do this, we couldn't afford it, and of course nobody would buy my stuff, because it sucks (I do this before every show, but it was especially bad this time).

I would show up with two skeins of yarn and a stitch marker and all of the big kids would laugh at me ... and this time it would be even worse, because I was taking my daughter with me, and she would get to see me fail.

The friends I was going with kicked me fairly firmly in the taint and informed me that I had booked a fucking booth and I WAS going, no matter what I said, and they fronted me some cash so that I could actually ship my shit there, too.

The day we were to leave, I couldn't find my daughter's birth certificate and there were 90 different flavours of panic going on, seeing we had to leave RIGHT NAO. I finally found a photocopy (which is enough to get through the border, thank the FSM) and we took off, about 12 hours after we'd planned.

We missed setup and the preview but I figured it would be ok, we could just do it quickly the next day. Nobody ever buys anything at the preview anyhow ... it's just a lookie-loo kind of thing.

We arrived in Portland, finally, at 4:07 am (not that I checked the time), booked into the astonishingly scuzzy hotel (Motel 6 ... do not EVER stay there) and crashed like the Hindenberg.

I had wanted to have a bath before bed, but the bathtub plug was broken. Just one of the first of many insults rained upon us by that hideous hotel.

The next day (well actually technically the same day, but I'd had four hours of sleep) we hit the hall and I set up. The first thing that I noticed was that, even though I was a returning vendor, I was placed in Siberia. I was right at the edge of the marketplace -- there was nothing behind us but a big empty floor and then the doors to the loading docks. It would have been hard to find a worse spot. The second thing that I noticed was that right at the end of our row (all of the Canadians were in the same short row near the loading docks) was a double booth rented by a store that was closing down. They started the show with everything at 40% off. How could any of us even begin to compete with their prices?

My sense of impending doom was well-founded. After four days of standing on my feet and vending my silly ass off, I'd made far, far less than the cost of doing the show. Even my hand-paints didn't sell. The only reason I actually had gas money to get home was that I discounted some yarn hugely ... and even at that most of it didn't move.

I got to see a whole lot of people I love more than cheese. Franklin was there, and Jen from Holiday Yarns, Tracy from Crafting for the Peanut Gallery, Big Alice, Sivia Harding, Stitchy McYarnpants ... the list goes on and on, and I was so delighted to be able to spend time with all of them.

But I came home with a $2500 hole in my pocket, and as an indie I can't support that sort of thing. I've had to cancel every other show I had planned for this year, including the smaller ones, and my kid doesn't get to take band this year in school. I need glasses and dental work, and that's not happening. SHE needs glasses and dental work and that's not happening either.

I'm not going to sit here and sing "waah waah waah" for any length of time ... I have work to do, and we're going to come out of this just fine.

But I've gotta say ... if you're a small indie and you're thinking of doing a show of this mangitude; think again. There's a good chance it'll bite you hard in the ass.

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