Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Amazing feet — ‘Bigsock’ takes monumental knitting effort

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

At 5 feet tall and growing, this is one sock that isn’t likely to get lost in the washing machine.

Barbara Waters, of Kenai, has taken on a knitting project of record-breaking proportions. She’s taken custody of the aptly, if unimaginatively, named “Bigsock.”

The sock was started in 2006 by Joanna Ratcliffe in the United Kingdom, who wanted to hold a charity knitting event for U.K.’s National Knitting Week. She wanted to start a giant circular knit and contacted the Guinness Book of World Records, but they weren’t interested. A giant sock, though, got their attention.

“They said, ‘Oh, cool, that’s been done. See if you can top it,’” Waters said.

The Sheep Farmers Association of Austria holds the current record for the largest hand-knit sock. To beat that project, the Bigsock must measure over 12 feet long before the heel is turned. It’s about 23 feet in diameter, or about 11 feet wide. Ratcliffe started the sock with 1,500 stitches cast onto 10 needles. It takes about an hour to knit one row all the way around the sock.

She had no intention of knitting the entire thing herself, however. After getting it started, she sent the sock out into the world, into the hands of other knitters who could contribute some time and yarn to the cause.

The sock has been to New York, Georgia and Colorado. Waters heard of it through an online knitting site,, and decided it’d be fun to bring it to Alaska.
“I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll take it and get as many rows on it as we can,’” she said. “I’m just weird enough to do something like this.”

She signed up to host the sock and it got to Kenai in early October.

“So it arrived on my doorstep, this humungo box that weighs like 40 pounds,” Waters said. “My husband said, ‘Did you order something?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that sock I told you about.’”

He may have forgotten about it at the time, but Waters’ husband won’t soon forget it now, since he’s been elected to lug the thing around during its time on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Waters brought the sock to Mugz coffee shop in Soldotna on Oct. 11 and had six to eight people help knit more rows on it, including a few ladies from the local Soldotna Knitters group, the coffee shop baristas and even a 3.5-year-old girl.

On Oct. 18, Waters had the sock at the Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai. The shapeless heap of multicolored thread was pooled at her feet in front of the fire.

“There’s no theme. It’s the sock of many colors,” Waters said. “People have put fuzzy yarn in and sparkly yarn. Most knitters have a stash of balls of yarn left over from projects.”

A rotating cast of knitters kept Waters company throughout the morning as the sock slowly grew. Twenty-two or 23 people in all knitted Oct. 18, including two of Waters’ daughters and five of her grandchildren. For many, it was their first time knitting. Waters was happy to demonstrate a skill she’s been doing since she was 14.

“It’s just one of those things where you relax and do it. It’s all in fun,” she said.
Waters figures the central peninsula has been responsible for about an inch and a half of the sock’s current 5-foot-plus length. She’s taking it up to Anchorage next, and it may make a trip to Fairbanks before coming back to Waters. She plans to have another couple knitting events locally before plunking down the $100 it will take to ship the sock off to its next destination in the Lower 48, where more knitters will contribute.

“I’m touching something that’s been touched by so many different people,” Waters said. “That’s the fun part of it for me.”

Waters’ daughter, Jennifer Ticknor, was less philosophic about the experience than her mother.

“Think about how many germs are on this,” Ticknor said.

Waters was undaunted, and said she is happy she has a chance to participate.

“How often do you get a chance to try for the Guinness Book of World Records?” she said. “But none of that is why I did it. I don’t know why I did it, it’s weird.”

For more information about the Bigsock, and to track its journey, visit the Web site,

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