Foundation and Empire (or… The Toboggan in the Bathroom)

January 11th, 2015

It occurs to me that I have never done any blog show-&-tell about the process that goes into putting together inventory and preparing for a show. Since I happen to be working (and working and working) on precisely that at the moment… well, there you go, blog fodder ready to hand.

Herewith, therefore, the first in a series on Tsock Infrastructure - literally from the ground up.

But first… behold the Toboggan in the Bathroom.

The Toboggan in the Bathroom

If you could see where I live - if you could see how completely flat (though neither stale nor unprofitable) is the ground for many many miles around - the first and very reasonable question you would be asking is, “Why on earth do you even HAVE a toboggan?”

Simple. I live in a Little Red Wagon community - a place where parking and dwelling are far enough apart that moving groceries and/or yarn and/or inventory between house and vehicle is a bit of a schlep. I actually have quite a little fleet of wagons, which competently handle some 90% of all my schleppage… except in the deep midwinter. When the snow drifts hip-deep and the paths lie unshoveled, my little wagon train just ain’t gonna cut it - as I discovered the hard way three or four years ago when I had a carload of food and firewood and literally no way to get it from Point A to Point B.

Enter the cheap plastic toboggan, which saved my bacon, and my milk and eggs and any number of other things, for the duration of that hard winter.

No, I don’t normally keep it in the guest bathroom.

That phenomenon came about organically, in the following manner.

This is the most recent incarnation of the Tsocks booth - Fiber Festival of New England, 2014.

NEFF Booth 2014

See the nice new show floor? It’s made up of industrial-strength interlocking carpeted rubber mats, with this Very Grown-Up and Professional beveled edging downstage…

Beveled Edge

… and I’m here to tell you, it is truly a valued rug; it does our feet and backs a whole world of good, and it really does tie the room together. I love the hell out of it, yes I do.

After two festivals in a row, however, it does tend to bring home a fair amount of fairgrounds with it - dust, dirt, mud, all thoroughly ground in by the tramp of uncounted customer feet.

Don’t want to be coming into Vogue Knitting Live with my floor all grubby!

So this is how I spent yesterday morning.

Washing the Show Floor

Hands. Knees. Bucket. Scrub brush.

Washing the Show Floor

(Note to self: Remember how you were planning to do this OUTDOORS - BEFORE the cold set in? Lay it all out, hose it off, leave it out to air-dry? Yeah, that would have been a really good idea.)

The scrubbing actually goes pretty quickly; this stuff is after all designed to clean up easily. The rinsing is a bit more chore-like; fortunately the mats fit comfortably in the stall shower in the guest bathroom…

Show Floor in Shower

… and as long as I remember to angle them AWAY from me, it goes pretty smoothly and doesn’t leave me unduly sodden. Also, a hand makes a fine squeegee.

It was at the next stage of the operation that I was suddenly and dramatically reminded that the bathroom floor is not exactly waterproof - a quick run down to the basement between batches and… wait a minute, what is that sound of copious DRIPPING…?

Right. That’d be the wet mats leaning temporarily against the bathroom wall, dripping their considerable excess moisture directly onto, and then directly through, the floor. A hand doesn’t make all THAT fine a squeegee after all, it appears.

Brief panicky scramble, followed by sudden light bulb moment.

Show Floor Dripping

Thank you yet again, ever-useful plastic toboggan.

Speaking of ever-useful, a folding laundry rack, lying on its side on a tarp, comes in very handy for the next stage of drying.

Show Floor Drying

(For further off-label applications of this type of rack, stay tuned for Adventures in Skeinwinder Tensioning, coming in a future instalment.)

Only problem with that is that it doesn’t allow for air circulation between the mats. Fortunately, those beveled edging pieces can multi-task with the best of them - every bit as well as the toboggan and the laundry rack.

Show Floor Drying

By this morning, the whole shebang was almost completely dry, except for about an inch at the bottom edge of each piece. The weather was cooperating, for once, so we took it all outdoors for the final stage:

Show Floor Drying

I was out all afternoon, and when I got back at twilight the wind was picking up; we are apparently in for some kind of Winter Weather Advisory of Doom tonight. So I dropped everything and made a beeline for my precious floor, rushed to gather in the harvest before the weather could spoil it. By the time I got there some of the mats were, well, no longer on the porch - but with one perverse little snowy exception they were all nice and dry.

Show Floor Clean and Dry

And clean. Ready to be stacked and packed, schlepped and deployed, for the comfort and delectation of everyone who passes through the booth next week. After which I imagine they’ll be bringing home a fine selection of Midtown Manhattan Midwinter Grime.

Which Grime will remain undisturbed until it’s hose weather again.

Next time: A Transport of Delight - Bring Me My Chariot of Fire.

Broadway Bound

January 10th, 2015

VKL Vendor

So that’s what we’re working on right now.

Dyeing. Printing. Assembling. Sorting. Packing. Organizing. Planning.

It’s very close to home, which is kind of refreshing, but it’s also going to be unusually complicated to plan and coordinate, because of the midtown Manhattan venue. Let me put it this way: The Vendor Packet is 83 pages.

Are we excited? Oh, yes.

Are we getting much sleep? Hah - what do YOU think?

Hop on over to the home page for the full run-down of just what it is we’re dyeing/printing/assembling etc. - all the Usual Tsuspects, plus a spiffy new edition of Tsocks 101. I’ve taken this out of kit form and re-worked it into a standalone booklet… all the better to assimilate you with, my pretty. (Wait… wait… did I just re-imagine the Wicked Witch of the West as a Borg drone? Oh dear, I think I did. What is WRONG with me?)

As of now we’re not planning to take pre-orders for this show; we’re packing what I dearly hope will be a competent supply of all titles, and hoping it holds out.

There may not be much in the way of bloggifying until this little adventure is over, but I’m trying to be good about taking pictures along the way, so at least I can report after the fact.

Booth #414 - hope to see you there!

SOME OPEN LETTERS

January 1st, 2015
  1. Dear Blog,

    OK, look. Here’s the thing. This separation is just not working for me. I miss you. I’ve kind of gotten used to missing you, and I don’t LIKE being used to it. Now, as you know, I don’t do the New Year’s resolution thing, but… well, it IS also our anniversary, after all, and I’m thinking that’s not a bad time for getting back on the horse. If you’re willing, I mean. What do you say? Can we give it a try? Seriously… it just isn’t the same around here without you.

    Love,
    Me

  2.  

  3. Dear 2015,

    Hey, it was nice meeting you last night. I’m looking forward to hanging out with you. But I’d like to set some ground rules, OK? Don’t worry, they aren’t very onerous ones. I know They Say that it’s really important, when going into any new relationship, to keep one’s expectations low; a hedge against disappointment. OK, fair enough. I won’t ask much of you. In fact, all I’m really looking for is this: Treat me better than your predecessor did. Trust me, it won’t take much! My ex-year - not to name names, but its initials might be 2014 - was petty, vindictive, vicious, abusive, self-important, self-righteous, and downright NASTY. My ex-year hated me; my ex-year hated itself. Now YOU - you’re all pretty and new and fresh and smiling and friendly, and yeah, I did like the way you wooed me with champagne on the first date. Not that I haven’t seen that tactic before, mind you, but I have to admit you did it with an air. I won’t say I’m feeling super-trusting just yet, but I’m pretty sure you can improve on that @*&^$#!?!’s performance in some respect, amiright? Yeah, with one hand tied behind your back, I bet. At any rate, for the moment I’m inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt. So what do you say? You willing to give it a shot? I am if you are.

    Love,
    Me

  4.  

  5. Dear 2014,

    Bite me.

    Oh wait - you already did that, didn’t you.

    So just get out. Be off with you. Nuts to you. Sing boo to you, pooh-pooh to you, and that’s what I shall say. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Go, and never darken my towels again.

    No love,
    Me

  6.  

  7. Dear Everyone Else,

    I’ve missed you too. I seem to have run out of new ways to apologize to some of you for balls dropped and/or delayed, and to express my gratitude to many of you for forbearance, and/or fidelity, and/or help and support, during what I don’t imagine I really need to characterize as a pretty damn crappy year-plus. Then again, do we need new ways? There’s really nothing wrong with the old ones, except insofar as nothing I could say would be adequate to the occasion. It’s better than nothing, though, for starters anyway. So happy new year, please, and I’m sorry, and I thank you - you know who you are, I trust.

    As I sit down to my guardedly hopeful plate of Hoppin’ John, I’m not sure exactly what happens next. The general idea, anyway, is that I am trying to get out from under the rock. Get re-acclimated here. Get back onto Ravelry. And Twitter. But not all at once - baby steps. I don’t quite remember how I used to do this, this figuring out which things to talk about and how, and which ones to leave in merciful oblivion, etc., so I’ll just have to work that out as I go along. Either it’ll come back to me or I’ll find a whole new way or, well, maybe a little bit of both. Anybody’s guess. Don’t mind me if I’m a little wobbly at first; I imagine it’ll take me a while to find my blog-legs again.

    In any case, let the catching up begin.

    Happy New Year, and may 2015 be decent to all of us.

    Love,
    Me

Here Comes….

April 29th, 2014

Little darlings, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. And I ain’t just talking Polar Vortex effect (though after four separate episodes I think I can fairly say I don’t ever want to see another frozen/burst water pipe thankyouverymuch). Little darlings, it’s been so long since I’ve been here…. But lo, the winter is past, the snow is over and gone, the time of the shearing of sheeps is come - and the spring show Mayathon starts THIS WEEK!

We are traveling with all the usual suspects as well as some exciting new ones. New friends and old joining us in the booth; new friends and old hanging on the walls.

Tsock-wise, I’m pleased to report that we’re bringing back York & Lancaster, as well as the companion Mitts of the Roses.

Shark Week? Oh yes, we will indeed have Shark Week. We are taking pre-orders on that kit and also on…

(AHEM…)

Willow Ware, which makes its official debut this weekend at Maryland Sheep & Wool.

As usual, full linky details are in the announcement HERE.

And as usual, I have to scurry off and finish assembling kits and get them packed into the Droshky. Looking forward to seeing you at one or all of the shows!

Tswim with the Tsharks at Rhinebeck 2013

October 10th, 2013

(Oh yes, I know - it’s been a long time. There are reasons, and they’re good reasons… if you interpret “good” according to that little-known definition that is universally translated as “bad.” Some things need to be explained and/or apologized for; others are best not mentioned at all. But this isn’t the time or place for that. Not with RHINEBECK coming up!)

Long story short: RHINEBECK. It’s NEXT WEEK. And after that, NEFF. And after that, Stitches East.

If THAT is astonishing to you as it is to me (in a where-did-the-time-go sort of way), it is less so than this:

In spite of the fact that we are carrying some 30 times more stock this year than ever before… and in spite of a couple of epic reversals experienced over the summer… we are very nearly ready. In fact, we’ve already got about 1/4 of the new inventory loaded in the trailer. Thanks to indescribable awesomeness on the part of Team Dye and the Tsock Tstaff, thanks to long hours and long days and long nights and long weeks - well, if I weren’t superstitious about jinxing things I would be bragging about being slightly ahead of schedule. But I am, so I won’t.

Anyway, that probably isn’t what you really want to hear about right now.

This is.

As promised in this space and others so long ago, the time has come at last for the public release of SHARK WEEK. Right on schedule, no less. That’s right, do not adjust your monitor; I really did say RIGHT ON SCHEDULE. And I meant it. We will have the first kits at Rhinebeck, and as long as dye and stamina hold out we will keep on producing more - for NEFF and then for Stitches and then for on-line sales.

Not only that - to mitigate the Saturday morning rush, we are making a limited number of kits available for PRE-ORDER and PICK-UP at Rhinebeck; that is, buy now and pick up at the booth any time on Saturday. If this works well at Rhinebeck we will do the same thing at subsequent shows. If it doesn’t - we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it. Hey, we’re figuring this out as we go along.

For full details on who/what/where/when/how, please see announcement HERE.

Sigh. Would love to stick around and chat - so MUCH to catch up on - but I’ve got to get back to assembling kits. See you at the shows!

Garden of Bright Images

March 19th, 2013

     When the bowl was empty she continued for a space to regard it silently, as though exploring the many-sided recesses of her mind.
      “You have claimed to be a story-teller and have indeed made a boast that there is no arising emergency for which you are unprepared,” she said at length. “It now befalls that you may be put to a speedy test. Is the nature of this imagined scene”—thus she indicated the embellishment of the bowl—”familiar to your eyes?”
      “It is that known as ‘The Willow,’” replied Kai Lung. “There is a story—”
      “There is a story!” exclaimed the maiden, loosening from her brow the overhanging look of care. “Thus and thus. Frequently have I importuned him before whom you will appear to explain to me the meaning of the scene. When you are called upon to plead your cause, see to it well that your knowledge of such a tale is clearly shown. He before whom you kneel, craftily plied meanwhile by my unceasing petulance, will then desire to hear it from your lips… At the striking of the fourth gong the day is done. What lies between rests with your discriminating wit.”

Ernest Bramah,
Kai Lung’s Golden Hours

 
 

There was a time when it did not occur to anyone in this pure and enlightened Empire to question the settled and existing order of affairs. Indeed, it is now no unheard-of thing for an ordinary person to suggest that customs which have been established for centuries might with advantage be changed — a form of impiety which is in no degree removed from declaring oneself to be wiser or more profound than one’s ancestors! How narrow is the space dividing such delinquency from the actual crimes of overturning images, counselling rebellion, joining in insurrection and resorting to indiscriminate piracy and bloodshed.

Blue Willow PlateAs the wise philosopher Ning-hy was wont to say: “Where the road divides, there stand two Ning-hys.” Indeed, thus and thus it is with the origins of the famed Willow Pattern composition, as depicted on porcelain bowls for many cycles past.

But who attempts to eat an orange without first disposing of the peel, or what manner of a dwelling could be erected unless an adequate foundation be first provided?

That which in justice requires the amplitude of a full-sized cask shall be pressed down into the confines of an inadequate vessel.

A well-known fable there is, purporting to explain the meaning of this thought-out design; an imagined tale, framed by the makers of porcelain to entice the credulous; and herein does its falseness cry aloud. Though frequently exalted in poetry, or delicately enhanced with music, by many meritorious purveyors of high-minded entertainment, the tragic romance of the maiden Koong-Tse and the secretary Chang is entirely without substance, a pure invention of those native to the Isle of Sceptres; for truly may it be said that the Willow Pattern is precisely as authentically Chinese as Kai Lung himself.

Willow Ware Pattern CoverUnrolling her threadbare mat in tribute to the latter incomparable relater of imagined tales, this wholly inadequate person now raises her distressing voice, and wields her disreputable needles, to recount in textile form the Story of Wong Ts’in, that which is known as “The Legend of the Willow Plate Embellishment.” This story is that of the scene widely depicted on plates and earthenware; the true and authentic legend as first related by the eminent Tso-yi.

 
Sock from RightHow cunningly imagined is the device by which objects so varied in size as an orange and an island can be depicted within the narrow compass of a porcelain plate without the larger one completely obliterating the smaller or the smaller becoming actually invisible by comparison with the other! This engaging display, combining simplicity with picturesque effect, might indeed be a scene having an actual existence at no great space away.

 
Sock from LeftIn its transmutation from porcelain ornamentation into whole cloth, not only has the embellishment suffered no real detriment, but there has been imparted to the higher lights — doubtless owing to the nature of the subtly shaded colorway used to delineate them — a certain nebulous quality that adds greatly to the successful effect of the various tones.

Thus and thus, and by the opportune agency of their own incomparable skill and dexterity, may this striking embellishment be transferred from its former disposition on select pieces of porcelain to a covering for the sumptuous feet of the esteemed if bewildered auditors of this tale.

For the rest, let the shadow move as the sun directs.
Birds

- with apologies to Ernest Bramah,
whose infinitely meritorious retelling of
the true and authentic Willow Pattern story
may be found in the second chapter of
Kai Lung’s Golden Hours

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Know, then, O most revered, that - oh, never mind. For the sake of everyone’s sanity - or what’s left of it - let’s fall back into the vernacular, yes? (If we can. It turns out that imitating Kai Lung is a little bit like reading “The Song of Hiawatha” - once you fall into either idiom it can be difficult to fall back out.)

This, then, is Willow Ware; Tsock #6 of 2012, the Tsock Club season-and-then-some that is coming to a close at last.

Did you eat off these plates when you were a kid? I did, and they are as familiar to me as my own face. I didn’t come to know Kai Lung until much later, but the rightness of that association leaped out at me long before I realized, to my infinite delight, that the latter actually had his own version of the Willow Pattern story.

The Willow Ware tsock is All Colorwork All The Time. It is not by any means the first knitted interpretation of these images, but it is more nuanced than any other version I’ve seen - as Fa Fai says in the Story of Wong Ts’in it has “a certain nebulous quality that adds greatly to the successful effect of the various tones.” BoatThis is due entirely to the varied depths of the Blue Willow colorway, which ranges from light to dark, emulating the illusion of tonal shading that is the result of changing line thickness in the original. (So the shading is a little more random than it would be with exact pixel-for-pixel color mapping, but it still works, I think, and it makes the knitting a lot easier. Ask me how I know.)

Willow Ware is worked cuff-down, beginning with a two-color braided cast-on that I verily believe I have actually invented. I know, I know, it looks a lot like the conventional braided cast-ons, but the process is very different - it’s worked a bit like a crochet chain, with the colors interlocked but never twisted, so that with a little practice it is possible to make it quite loose and stretchy.

The cuff itself is worked in two stages; first a decorative foldover band that echoes the borders of the plates, then (after a turning sequence that incorporates a contrary-motion braid and a change of knitting direction) a hidden foundation of 1×1 rib, supplying the elasticity that is necessarily lacking in the slip-stitch overlay.

Ming Quilting

Border

French Weave

And then the colorwork begins in earnest. It’s mostly festive intarsia, though really it behaves a lot more like stranded colorwork.

The Pagoda occupies the back of the ankle,

Pagoda

its ground floor making up the entire heel flap.

Heel Flap

The two Love-Birds appear on the front of the ankle,

Birds

flying above the branches of the Willow Tree.

Willow Tree

The Boat…

Boat

… sails over the right gusset -

Right Gusset

- while the Bridge, with its three Buddhas or Union Agitators (depending on which version of the story you endorse), is depicted on the foot.

Bridge

The Crooked Fence occupies the toe.

Fence

Other details are added with embroidery - some of it optional, though you wouldn’t want to omit the Willow Fronds and the Apples.

Willow Fronds

Apples

Fungus

Roof Peak

Roof Outline

Putting the packages together for this kit was nearly as much fun as knitting the tsock itself - but that is a story for another time.

Willow Ware went into the mail on Friday and Saturday, and has already landed in a number of mailboxes.

For the rest, let the shadow move as the sun directs….