Songs of a Frog

April 24th, 2015

Canta la rana, canta la rana,
Y no tiene pelo ni lana.

The frog sings, the frog sings,
Though she has neither hair nor wool.

Old Andalusian Proverb

 

So you know… on previous occasions when I have thought and/or posted about not faking my own death, I’ve only ever envisioned one model for that particular phenomenon, and it basically goes like this:

  1. Premise: You ain’t dying.

  2. Appropriate Course of Action: Don’t go around saying (or hinting, or implying) you are… because, well, see #1.

It turns out, however, that there is a second model; one I have to admit had never occurred to me until very recently. And this model is a doozy:

  1. Premise: You are dying.

  2. Appropriate Course of Action: Don’t go around denying it… because, well, see #1.

This second model has been brought to my attention in the rudest manner possible - and now I’m adhering to it. Not that I have any choice in the matter. In the course of the past few weeks I have learned the hard way that there really is no way to sugar-coat this piece of news, so I guess there’s no alternative but to blurt it out: I actually am, fer realz and fer stupid surrealz, dying. Of a nasty hot mess of super-stealthy, super-aggressive abdominal cancers that have very literally tied my insides in indissoluble knots.

I’ve been in the hospital for a little over three weeks now; am hoping to head home pretty soon for some variation on a theme of hospice care. How long I’ve got left is anybody’s guess, but the best-educated guesses are not those pointing at the high end of the possible range.

What does this mean to YOU and to ME?

In reverse-ish order, what it has meant to me is a great clarification and simplification of purpose. There’s a whole lot I don’t expect to have time to do… myself, anyway. But damned if this ridiculousness hasn’t taught me - AT LONG LAST - what it really means to delegate the stuff that needs delegating. It means choosing the people you trust, because you trust them for a reason; it means having the conversations that matter, pointing in a direction, and then really REALLY letting go. And that leaves you free to do the stuff you actually do need to get done yourself.

What this means to YOU the club member: Those final i-dottings and t-crossings on the long-delayed Tsock #4 are taking place right here and right now. I hope to be able to supervise final kit and package assembly at home, but I’ll roll with the logistical punches and do it remotely from here if I have to. (As for those delays, BTW, and as for the slightly lesser delays in processing refunds to those who requested them - yeah, cancer is a harsh mistress, it turns out, but the commitment remains.)

What this means to YOU the show customer: We’re not doing the full Mayathon, but we will make a showing at Maryland Sheep & Wool. By “we” I’m afraid I don’t mean me - I’m now permanently tethered to various types of equipment that don’t travel well - but delegation is a great thing, and the Tsarina’s Finest will be out there with a pretty goodly selection. New (or returning) to the line-up since last year’s show are the new edition of TSOCKS 101, plus The DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT, and ROXIE - along with, of course, many of the usual suspects from previous seasons.

The lovely ladies of Bead Biz will be with us again, and I think we will have copies of Kate Atherley’s exciting new Pattern Writing for Knit Designers available (sorry, still playing e-mail tag with Kate on this one and I’m not sure how it ended up, but will clarify later if necessary).

Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival
May 2 & 3
Howard County Fairgrounds
West Friendship, MD
Location: N5

What this means to YOU the once and future Tsock customer/knitter? Well, that’s part of this whole Delegation Adventure, but file this under the heading of Irony Is Ironic That Way: It has long been my plan to put the Club on indefinite hiatus after the above-mentioned Tsock #4, precisely for the purpose of getting our act together on other fronts, like web commerce, like bringing back all the old titles to the lineup, etc. etc. Well, as it turns out, that is still the plan. I just won’t be the one executing it. There’s a lot still being figured out about the how and what of all that, and I don’t know exactly how it’s going to be managed. What I do know is that (see above) I have chosen the people I trust, because I trust them for a reason; it means I am having the conversations that matter, pointing in a direction, and then really REALLY letting go. I think and hope that for the foreseeable future they will continue the Tsocks tradition at least at Maryland and Rhinebeck, and that they will focus the rest of their not inconsiderable abilities on all this other development… including some new ideas that aren’t quite ready for prime time yet.

What this means to YOU the marvelous imaginary friends inside my computer? The ones who sometimes pop out of the screen when one might least expect it? The ones I meet at shows and events? That’s the hard part. I don’t know exactly when it’s really goodbye, the big one, the Heghlu’meH-QaQ-jajvam or Hokay-Murray-Dis-Is-It moment. I don’t think we’re there yet. I hope not. But I’m rolling with new punches every day, and there’ll come a day when the punches are one too many and the rolling stops. What won’t stop, even then, is the love and the weird adventurous joy that has been this fibery tsocky journey from minute one if not before. So there can be no reason to wait until then to thank you for it, for this indescribable thing that really has, for nearly a decade, been the gift of my life.

For some reason I am moved to think of the things my uncle said around deathbed time. Asked by some innerness-of-the-outerness person to leave five last thoughts for posterity, he said:

Things change.
Saran Wrap is good.
More is better.
I love my daughters

OK, so his idea of how many things make five may be a little off, or maybe that sort of rule becomes less important when you’re that close to the end.

But I love this list. Ain’t got no daughters, myself, but love a lot of people and have been wallowing in the love they have shown to me. Also, there’s this - my uncle’s posterity has had a fortuitous field day with one of those thoughts. One of my cousins, his granddaughters, makes things… as one does. And she took “Things change” and she used some kind of wicked cool tool to cut those two words out of wood, and somehow things got twiddled, and in the final design it became “Change things.”

I’ve never written a blog post like this one before, obviously, what with my previous firm adherence to Model #1. But I think somehow that is a fine note to end on. There’s plenty of profound out there, somewhere, and I’m probably gonna get a good wallop off of it any minute now. But for now, the transmutation from “Things change” to “Change things” - I don’t need to go no deeper than that, you know?

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!