May 1, 2008 / 4:13 PM / 11 years ago

Die-hard knitters prepare for sock battle

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - There may be nothing scary about socks, but a cut-throat competition involving hundreds of furiously fast knitters with pointy needles is enough to send even accomplished enthusiasts’ pulse racing.

Leann Nassar from Half Moon Bay posed in her hand-knit socks. Nassar, a 52-year-old executive assistant from Half Moon Bay, California, was the winner of last year's Sock Wars II competition. Sock Wars III, billed by its organizers as the "bloodiest death-by-knitting tournament," enlists players from around the world to partake in an Assassin-style game that goes to show knitting is no longer just a grandmothers' hobby. REUTERS/Handout/Leann Nassar

Sock Wars III, billed by its organizers as the “bloodiest death-by-knitting tournament,” enlists players from around the world to take part in a game that shows knitting is no longer just a grandmothers’ hobby.

It was started by Julie Gardner, a 31-year-old freelance TV and film production manager in Belfast, Northern Ireland, a couple years ago after she heard about StreetWars, a game that uses mock weapons and is popular on college campuses.

Gardner was excited about pitting knitters against each other with a sudden-death spin.

“I love the fact that we have had competitors ranging from teenagers knitting their first socks through to silver surfer great grannies in their 70s,” she said.

Around 1,000 women — and some men — have already signed up for this year’s tournament, which starts May 9. The deadline for applications on www.sock-wars.com is May 3.

Each contestant must knit a pair of socks from the same original pattern for another player in a specific size and mail it to another contestant, or target.

When the targets receive the finished socks from their assassins they are “killed”, or out of the game, and must mail their assassins their unfinished socks. The assassins must then finish that pair of socks and mail them to their new targets. The last sock-knitter left wins.

Knitters from the United States, Canada, Britain, the Netherland and Australia took part in last year’s contest.

“I think it’s brilliant,” said Amy Singer, the author of knitting books and editor of Knitty.com, an online knitting magazine based in Toronto.

Knitting’s feisty new image has been boosted over the last decade by books such as “Stitch and Bitch”, “Chicks with Sticks” and “The Friday Night Knitting Club” — a bestselling novel that has been turned into a new film starring real-life knitter Julia Roberts — as well as the Internet, knitting clubs and cafes.

Fans insist it’s not just a fad.

“Knitting is not the new yoga, knitting is the new knitting,” said Singer.

The prize for the past two tournaments has been a pair of socks. This year, every competitor is promised a pair of socks, while the grand prize winner will also receive a $500 supply of yarn.

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