Archive for the 'TsockFlock Club' Category

Garden of Bright Images

Tuesday, 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.

- 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


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,


its ground floor making up the entire heel flap.

Heel Flap

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


flying above the branches of the Willow Tree.

Willow Tree

The 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.


The Crooked Fence occupies the toe.


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



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….

Atsockalypse Not

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Remember back in 2012 when everyone was on about the Mayan Apocalypse? that is, the end of the world, which the ancient Mayans had supposedly forecast to coincide with the solstice on December 21?

At first blush, this seemed an enticing tsubject for a tsock.

It didn’t take much more than superficial investigation, however, to determine that the ancient Mayans, in developing their extraordinarily rich and complex calendar system, had forecast no such thing; that in fact what they had predicted was merely (hmmm - perhaps “merely” is not exactly the mot juste here) the transition from one great age to another, the end of the 13th Baktun and the beginning of the 14th.

At first blush, this seemed an enticing tsubject for a tsock.

But wait - there’s more. It turns out that the iconic image usually associated with the Mayan Calendar - you know the one I mean, yes? - is neither.

Calendar Stone

That is… it is neither Mayan nor Calendar.

It’s not entirely unrelated, however.

It is, in fact, the Aztec Sun Stone.

Now there is an enticing tsubject for a tsock!

Sun Stone Cover

Though not exactly a calendar, as such, the Aztec Sun Stone does feature symbols that represent the various time-keeping entities common to both cultures, and the deities and creatures that govern them.

Central among these, and decidedly more Aztec than Mayan in the fierceness of its implacable expression, is the face of Tonatiuh, god of the Sun.

Tonatiuh Stone

Like the Aztec Sun Stone, the tsock begins with the Face of Tonatiuh; a disk worked flat - though in fact it is anything but flat. It is heavily textured, with a protruding tongue shaped like tecpetl - the flint knife traditionally used for human sacrifice - and beads and ornaments and ears and hair worked in relief.

Surrounding the Face of Tonatiuh, picked up in its selvedges and worked around it medallion-style, is Tonalmitl - the Rays of the Sun (in Nahuatl, tona = sun; mitl = arrows; literally, then, Sun-Arrows).

Sun Medallion
Guess who forgot - thrice - to pin out and photograph the Sun Medallion before continuing to work the tsock? Yeah, that’d be me. Then again, behold proof that I actually knitted TWO complete tsocks. Almost three, in fact.

Where a conventional medallion would be flat, however, the octagonal Sun Medallion has an exaggerated increase ratio, making it gently hyperbolic, so that it conforms to the top of the foot, with Tonatiuh supplying ease for the instep.

Gently Hyperbolic

The structure of the sock is then built around the Sun Medallion, beginning slightly above it and working downward, using several different attach techniques for picking up stitches in selvedges. The two widest rays of Tonalmitl point directly toward the heel;

Heel Ray

… the two succeeding facets form the edges of the sole, and the shallow curve of the last two facets blends smoothly into the toe.

Edge by Toe

Atop all this - where of course it belongs - is Ilhuicatl, the Heavens.

Ilhuicatl appears around the border of the Sun Stone itself, and is composed of three main elements. At the top, a row of stars shines from the night sky; below this, the symbol of the planet Venus, illuminating the daytime sky, alternates with flint knives that represent the beams of the sun.

Side of Sun Stone


The knitted version of Ilhuicatl is part of the cuff; it folds over a foundation of twisted ribbing to crown the sock.


So this -

Sock from Right

- is Tsock #5 of…

Sock from Front Against Sky

… of…

Sock from Back

…yes, well… 2012. I am reminded of Douglas Adams subtitling Mostly Harmless “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy.”

Sock from Front

And of a friend of mine who is fond of pointing out that I have an anxiety-prone tendency to experience, in terrified anticipation, “ten out of every three” crises. (The inside of my head is NOT an easy place to live, I can tell you.)

Sock From Outside

There is no getting around it: New year or no new year, in my calendar it’s still 2012. It appears I could learn a thing or three from the ancient Mayans, or indeed the ancient Aztecs.

(End of the WORLD? Hah. Not even end of the YEAR.)

I was right about one thing, though. I predicted the 2012 season would be one hell of a roller-coaster ride. And there I’d have to say… naming calls. It sure has been that, beyond anything I could have imagined.

Chichen Itza with Tsock

And it ain’t over yet.

“Sun Stone” is in the mail now, I am happy to say.

And I have plunged straight into Tsock #6. Because even in my wacked-out Groundhog-Day world… 2012 can’t last forever.

World Without End

Monday, December 31st, 2012

TL;DR: Lots and lots and lots of illustrated exposition about surviving the hurricane, followed at long last by two announcements (you wanted me to shut up and take your money? sorry, I can’t do that first part…) - (1) a special Shark Week fund-raiser for hurricane relief, and (2) sign-ups for the 2013 Tsock Club.

And we’re all still here.

The world didn’t end on December 21.

(o hai. mai repreevd to-do list, let me sho u it.)

Since 2013 has not been called off… that means we can go ahead and open sign-ups for the 2013 Tsock Club. And at the end of this post, I’m going to do exactly that.

But first - as 2012 draws to a close - there’s something else I want to talk to you about.

Remember this?

The world didn’t end on October 29th, either, but for a lot of people in this part of the world it got pretty hairy.

These pictures aren’t as dramatic as the Daily Mail ones, except that I took them myself, right outside my house. NOT during the worst of the storm, because that happened at night. Still, you can see where things are going. A car shouldn’t throw this kind of wake.

And it has stayed that way. Hurricane Sandy isn’t monopolizing the headlines any more, but two months later we’re still hurting here. And by “we” I mostly don’t mean me - though I can’t exactly claim to be the exception, come to that.

Storm isn’t here yet, but waters are rising. It’s about ankle deep in the street.

Still… I’m one of the lucky ones. My house is old and it’s solid. It’s on relatively high ground, with a deep cellar and a first floor about four feet above ground level.

My front stoop; storm is almost here.

I knew it was safe. I also knew that for at least 36 hours it would be completely surrounded by water.


It was.

All these things that look like canals? They’re streets.

Alongside my house.

That’s not a body of water - usually. It’s my across-the-street neighbor’s yard.

Two blocks inland. Do we detect a theme here?

Dinghy in the street - about three feet above it, actually.

Nor any drop to drink.

Astonishingly, my neighborhood didn’t lose power until quite late in the evening, when the storm was at its peak. There were some fluctuations, but it hung in there until about 11 PM, when I’m fairly sure they shut it off intentionally to prevent fires from downed power lines. After that… it was a long night. Long, dark, and noisy.

Overall - I have to say I got off pretty easy. The high-water mark in my cellar, we were to discover, was at five feet; miraculously, just 1/8″ below the circuit breaker panel.

By the time I got down there the next morning the water level was down to about four feet. I know this because I waded through it to kill the main breaker, and it was up to here on me.

It was cold and it was nasty and it was not what you’d call clean. Still, it didn’t include any fuel oil or any raw sewage; lucky me, as I later learned.

With that much water down there it wasn’t really possible to assess the damage or chaos yet. It was a pretty safe assumption, though, that everything was a total loss.

Next day - the flood waters begin to recede.

Most of the streets aren’t usable yet, though.

When it finally became possible to walk around the block, this was my first look at the street behind mine.

Noon on the day after the storm. It begins.

It was to become a common sight over the next few weeks. That block - like most of the other blocks on this peninsula - is mostly slab houses. Unlike me and my immediate neighbors, these people don’t have cellars. There is no place for five feet of flood water to go except straight through their main living spaces.


You can’t exactly say they lost everything - I mean, their houses are still standing. So that’s something.


But all their stuff is ruined. Furniture, appliances, clothing, toys…




… wallboard, floorboards, carpet, wiring, plumbing…

This picture was taken just a week ago.


… all wrecked. Day after day after day, then and now, a constant parade of trashed belongings.

My area was without power for about a week, give or take. Some people were luckier than that; for others it was a lot longer. A lot longer.

Power Lines

You can see why.


For several weeks we had curfews and checkpoints and police escorts. Most of us were deeply thankful for this; anyone who wasn’t is about due for a serious reality check.


(The police were wonderful, I have to say. Well-organized, sensible, uniformly patient and kind.)


Three days after the storm, I got my first look at the lowest point of the street.


This isn’t the boatyard. This is ACROSS THE STREET from the boatyard. These boats do not belong in this guy’s driveway.

I was down this way because I was on the trail of the elusive Pump-Out Guy - someone knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who had a truck and a pump and a generator, and after much phone tag and pavement-pounding I was hoping to snag this guy’s services to get those four feet of water out of my cellar.

I found him at last, a couple of houses up from the boatyard, and was thrilled to learn that I was his next stop. This is one of the most beautiful sights I saw that week:


Yeah. That hose is coming from inside MY cellar. They had to climb in a window, because the outer door was completely blocked from the inside, by debris. But they managed it, and four hours later my cellar was reasonably close to dry.

We were leaving for the Fiber Festival of New England early the next morning, so I didn’t even try to deal with the cellar beyond that; was just glad to know I wasn’t leaving it full of water for the weekend.

That afternoon I managed to score a full tank of gas with only an hour’s wait; that was almost as exciting as watching the water gush out of the cellar.

It was weird, leaving the island. We passed gas lines that stretched for miles - people waiting hours for gas that wasn’t even there yet but that was rumored to be arriving later in the day. I felt a little guilty, looking at my gauge reading full. Felt a little more guilty crossing the bridge - like a rat leaving a sinking ship.

This was the loveliest and most exotic thing we saw on the way North - at a Home Depot in Connecticut:


Until it was surpassed by the beauty of the hotel room, with its working lights and working heat and apparently inexhaustible hot running water.

Got back from that weekend to find that my neighbors across the street had working lights. Next morning I went down cellar and switched on everything but the furnace and dryer circuits. Let there be light! I also got my first good look at the cellar itself. It wasn’t a happy sight.

Yes, that’s a freezer; a formerly white freezer. Yes, it’s lying on its back, open, no longer submerged. Yes, that’s rotting meat you smell.

We didn’t actually reach the freezer for almost two weeks.

Laundry Room
Post-modern sculpture? Why, no, that’s the laundry room.

We still haven’t made our way to the washing machine and dryer, but a couple of weeks ago we finally managed to excavate as far as the furnace and water heater. This is important. It means they can now be ripped out, carted away, and replaced. It gives us reason to hope that we will be able to have heat and hot water again some time in January.

It will be good to have heat and hot water again. Really good. At this writing, the weather isn’t getting any warmer, and I have to admit that living without a furnace is becoming increasingly onerous. Sure, I do normally expect to be able to see my breath at this time of year… but not in my living room, plz kthx.

The Way of All Flesh

And we are the lucky ones.

The Way of All Flesh
This book, of all books, washed up on a high shelf just at the water line. Before the storm it was in a box on the cellar floor - at the other end of the house.

In Gilgo we were even luckier, though it was a couple more weeks before we had power again there.


Starting with this BIIIIG BEYOOTIFUL generator, under 24-hour guard, which kept the whole community going until a few days after Thanksgiving, when they finally got us reconnected to the grid. That’s also when they eliminated the last of the police checkpoints on Ocean Parkway. They’ll be rebuilding the road for the next six months, though.

But our houses - unlike those in Breezy Point and Rockaway - are still there. Unlike many of those in the towns on the mainland, they are mostly intact. We are counting our blessings.

OK, so why am I telling you about all this now?

Because of all those people who are way way worse off and still in need of help; because I want to do something about that.

I may not have heat or hot water, but at least I didn’t lose anything irreplaceable; I’m OK, and so are my animals, and so is all the property that really matters to me. Meanwhile, a lot of people I know (and far more that I don’t know!) still aren’t able to use their houses at all. They’re camping out with friends and relatives while they try to repair or rebuild or relocate. They’re lucky if they managed to salvage more than the clothes they stood up in.

Every single house in my neighborhood, and in scores of neighborhoods just like mine, is infested with contractors of various kinds. Every day there is something being torn out or put in, replaced or repaired. Every day, even now, there are fresh piles of detritus lining the streets. More furniture, more appliances, more mold-ridden wallboard. Rusted pipes and oil tanks.

It is now way too late to make a long story short, but sooner or later we had to get to the chase, right? So here it is: I’m taking advantage of the freak popularity of Shark Week to raise some funds for hurricane relief.

You know how I said I don’t release club designs before their anniversaries? You know how I said I don’t release them as standalone patterns?

I’m making an exception. A temporary, unprecedented, special-purpose exception. By kind permission of the members of the current Tsock Club, I am making the Shark Week pattern available as a downloadable PDF, for a limited time only, at a premium price - most of which will go directly to hurricane relief.

Limited time: Through the first week of the new year. Maybe the second. (I’ve never done this before, and I’m not sure what to expect. So there’s going to be a little rolling with the punches here.)

Premium price: $40.

Yes, that’s outrageous. Or rather, it’d be outrageous for just a pattern. But most of it - 75% - will go directly to the local rebuilding effort.

The Babylon Fire Chiefs Association is giving out gift certificates to places that sell building and plumbing supplies and appliances; I love this, partly because it’s practical and immediate, answering a specific need; partly because I know that many of my hardest-hit neighbors are firemen themselves.

Save the Beaches is a non-profit dedicated to preserving and stabilizing the coastal environment - the barrier islands that protect the mainland, the reason that most of Long Island and Connecticut are not still underwater - and they’re going to need funds for dune planting. By way of full disclosure… here again I have something of a personal stake - the more so because my mother was a co-founder of the organization - but there’s a much bigger picture to be considered, and this may call for some explanation. It’s sort of the opposite of a domino effect. When a big storm comes in off the ocean, the dunes are the first line of defense for the barrier beaches; the barrier beaches in turn are the first line of defense for the mainland of Long Island; Long Island itself, on a larger scale, is the first line of defense for the southern coast of New England. The dunes along the South Shore of Long Island were pretty much destroyed by Sandy, but they served their purpose. The airbag inflates and it cushions the impact - this destroys the airbag, but it saves the driver and passenger.

Naked Dunes


The dunes have already been partially rebuilt…

Naked Dunes

Naked Dunes

… but they’re naked. Naked dunes are unstable; naked dunes are just… sand; sand alone is not enough to protect anything.

This is what healthy dunes should look like:




… and that is what Save the Beaches will be doing, come spring - putting in the grasses and scrub plants that anchor and stabilize this crucial coastal airbag.

Those are the efforts I’m looking to benefit, and depending on what sort of response I get I am hoping I can also set aside a little to help a few individuals directly; knitters who have lost their stashes as well as everything else they owned; members of the community who one way and another just can’t seem to catch a break.

Because, you know, there but for the grace….

And the good thing is - it IS possible to help. I think of Sandy Hook, and how desperately everyone wants to help the victims and survivors there, and the awful thing is that there is really nothing anyone can do to mitigate that loss. People are banding together to offer love and support and money and knitting, and doing that is important for both giver and recipient; it’s part of grieving; it’s a need. And yet there’s also an element of aching futility about it, because you know that nothing you do can ever actually make things normal and OK again.

I don’t know about you, but in the wake of that it is a relief to me to remember that there are still some situations where giving actually DOES help in a simple practical way. Where people who have been hurt CAN have some normal again, and all it takes is money. In the final analysis, that is the kind of problem to have; it may be broken, but at least it’s a broken that can mostly be fixed.

So this is your chance: You can have your feets nommed by tsharks AND help hurricane survivors, all in one swell foop. The community will thank you; the region will thank you; I will thank you.

The special hurricane-relief edition of Shark Week (all 50 pages of it, stuffed with profusely-illustrated technique tutorials) is was available for purchase and download on Ravelry.

As a little extra sweetener, after we close the fundraiser I’ll do a random drawing, choose three names from among the participants - and those three will receive full tshark kits, velcro and all.

Update: Fund-raiser is now closed. Many, many thanks to all who participated, raising over $23,000 for the two charities! Watch this space - and/or my blog and/or my Twitter feed and/or Ravelry - for final report and for results of the prize drawings; I’ll be posting these as soon as I’m out of the latest Pattern Purdah.

We Are Open
Sign in front of a local business, two days after Sandy.

And now, if you’re still with me and still awake… another moment that at least some of you have been waiting for. The Art for your Feet Tsock Club. For 2013. Sign-ups. Open. Now. Go there. Do it. You know you want to.

Happy New Year to all, from everyone on the Tsock Team… including your friend Bruce!


(Reminder to current club members: That purchase page is NOT for you! You guys have your own Speshul Renewal Page; if you didn’t get the letter about this, e-mail me, yes?)


Saturday, November 17th, 2012

An Open Letter to Shark Lovers

First of all, I want to thank all you lovely people who have been burying me in Shark Week love over the past couple of days. Um… Wholly Carp, Batman. Seriously - I’m whelmed, and overwhelmed, and ultrawhelmed. (And that’s just me. You should see the Tsock Team. Also, you should see my blog stats. Excuse me for a moment while I fan myself.) I’m scrambling as fast as I can to get blog comments approved and answered, but “as fast as I can” isn’t fast enough, so meanwhile… this. Thank you from the bottom of my strange and twisted little heart. Thank you for loving my tsilly tsharks; thank you for getting the joke and passing it along; and yes, thank you even for the weird and slightly mind-bending realization that literally tens of thousands of people world-wide have now ogled a picture of my left foot.

Second of all - wow. Sorry, I had to pause a moment to let that last thought sink in. Again.

Third - OK, here come the cold cruel facts that you probably don’t want to hear, but as you read them bear in mind that they are like the contents of Pandora’s Box: For every horrid U-No-Can-Haz-Nao there is a compensating ray of hope for the future. That said, I’m terribly sorry, but U No Can Haz Nao. Shark Week is not available - THAT IS, NOT YET - in any form.

There are lots and lots of reasons for this.

The primary one is that it is part of the current Tsock Flock Club, and is therefore exclusive to the members for a year; a deal’s a deal. (More about the club, and how you go about joining it, below.)

The other reasons are long and dull and (in some cases) whiny, having to do with me having the Insane Year from Hell and trying to do way too much all at the same time, and generally already being very far behind schedule with many things. We are in the process of rebuilding the Tsock Empire from scratch, and doing that has been a tremendous empirical lesson in how everything always takes much longer than you expect. (If you’re really a glutton for punishment, you can read a little more about this in my recent post In Which I Do Not Fake My Death.) We are a tinytinytiny business, gradually working our way up toward being tinytiny and then perhaps someday growing up to be tiny with fantasies of someday even being small, and we are perfectionists, and we’re already putting in about 48 hours a day over and above those pesky day jobs, and… well, the light we’re seeing at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train, but it turns out that the tunnel is way longer than anyone predicted. At the moment we do not have the personnel or the facilities or the supplies to put together a big production run in a hurry.

And on top of all that - we just had this storm. Sandy. You may have heard of it. It came rip-roaring through here almost three weeks ago, and we are still digging out - literally. (You don’t want to see what my cellar looks like after five feet of water. Srsly.) Some of us still don’t have power. Mine was restored a few days ago, but I still don’t even know when I’ll have heat or hot water. And I’m one of the really really lucky ones; at least I do still have my house. One of the reasons Shark Week shipped late is that for several days there was no power to print patterns or labels, no post office open, and no way to leave my house without swimming.

Right - so with all these production constraints, why, you may be asking, don’t I just release the pattern as a PDF download? Well - even setting aside Reason #1 above, i.e. my commitment to the club members - because that is not how I roll. With a few special-purpose exceptions, sock kits are what I do. Is that ever going to change? Maybe. But it isn’t something I can turn on a dime. It’d be a massive change to my business model, and those things demand time and thought and planning and discussion. Even if I weren’t running on fumes, post-hurricane, that’s not a wand I can just wave overnight.

Which is sad, because if there is one thing I hate, it is disappointing people, especially people who have shown so much appreciation for my work. But I have to. I can’t give you Shark Week for Christmas, alas. I wish I could. (And by “can’t give” I also mean “can’t sell,” and don’t think that that is not painful to me too. I wouldn’t at all object to the beneficial effect on cash flow, believe you me.)

All that said - if you can bear to be patient for a while, you too can see light at the end of a tunnel, light that does not translate to imminent railway disaster.

Here’s how this thing works.

1) All club designs DO eventually go public, typically on or near their anniversaries. In the normal course of things we should be releasing the public edition of Shark Week in time for Rhinebeck (October 19) 2013. That is, in plenty of time for NEXT Christmas. (Yes, I can hear the groan. I’m groaning it myself. I don’t like having to wait for what I want, any more than the next fiberholic. But… anticipation. Remember the Heinz Ketchup commercial? No? Am I dating myself? Sigh.)

2) The club is a year-long subscription thing, with a season loosely tied to the calendar year. In a normal year, membership includes six kits, plus assorted goodies and squishy surprises, discounts, etc. In a normal year, we would have opened sign-ups for next season on Rhinebeck weekend. This… is not a normal year. Club shipments are one of the above-mentioned areas where we are frankly behind schedule at the moment (for those keeping track, Shark Week is #4 for this season, and in a perfect world we should have shipped #5 by now), and that is one of the reasons that Club 2013 is going to be a bit different from Club 2012. We didn’t open sign-ups at Rhinebeck because we are still working out the details, but as of now we are planning a one-time-only scaled-down season that will probably include four kits instead of six, with pricing to match (still working this out too, but the ballpark figure is probably about $170, as compared to $250 for the usual full run of six). This, we hope, will give us a little breathing space to ramp up production capacity, bring more of the older titles back into the line-up, and start being able to make and fulfill on-line sales.

3) Speaking of on-line sales, you may have noticed I still am not doing them yet. There is a lovely commerce site that is very nearly ready to launch, but until very recently there hasn’t been any stock to sell (see above re production capacity, etc.). We’re just trembling on the brink with this, and even now there is limited supply and a waiting list for a lot of titles. Progress is being made, but it’s turning out to be like Rome - not built in a day or indeed in a year. But it WILL happen.

4) For those of you asking about buying finished socks - again, terribly sorry, but I can’t do that. Your best bet is to become very good friends with a knitter (knitters make really great friends, incidentally, so it’s not a bad idea to do this anyway). You’ve got a little less than a year to cultivate this relationship to the point of sockworthiness. It’s worth it - not for sharks alone, but more generally because hand-knitted socks are a wonderful thing to have in your life. There may well be knitters out there who would do this for you for money - I honestly can’t even imagine how much - but better yet, there are way more knitters who will do it for love and for the pleasure of the process. Tap into that resource; you will not regret it.

5) For those of you - that dizzying number of you - who are so kindly “liking” me on Facebook, a shamefaced confession: I am Facebook-challenged. I do have a Facebook presence of sorts, and I do see all those upward-pointing thumbs, and I do marvel at them… but Facebook makes my head go splodey, and I can’t respond directly as I would otherwise wish. It may just be because I am already overwhelmed with other things, or - OK, I don’t really know why exactly, but there it is. I blog; I tweet; I e-mail like there’s no tomorrow; I keep up (more or less) with Ravelry; but that seems to be my limit. So if I’m failing to interact with you on Facebook, be sure that IT IS NOT BECAUSE I DON’T APPRECIATE THE LOVE. I do. I absolutely do. I heart the love. I thank you for it. I reciprocate. In fact I… I think I’m having a Sally Field moment here. I just - well, for now I can’t really go there and do the thing at the place with the stuff, because I’m pretty sure that if I tried to do that it would swallow me whole and there would be no more tsock designing. I’ll find my way on this, someday. But not yet.

6) NOT LEAST. If you are still with me here, and if you are interested in any or all of the above, and if you have not done this yet (I see a lot of you have, dang, a LOT of you have) - please sign up for my mailing list. I haven’t sent out any announcements for a while, because I haven’t had anything big enough to announce lately - but I’m going to. When we figure out the details for the coming club and are prepared to open enrollment - there will be a mailing. When we release club titles for public sale, or bring back older titles - there will be a mailing. When the commerce site goes live, you betcha there will be a mailing. When Shark Week becomes available for public sale, boy howdy, you better believe there will be a mailing.

So that’s what I’ve got. Thanks, and love, and apologies… and promises. Hang in there with me. There WILL be gratification - it just won’t be the instant kind.

And now… I’m gonna take one more peep at the blog stats. Um, yeah… I’ll be in my bunk.

P.S. Behold my shamelessness. While you’re waiting… maybe you’d like to amuse yourselves by taking a look at Fronkenshteek. That one IS available as a PDF download, and I’m here to tell you it comes from the same place of crazypants brain. Plus - social knitting. Big fun. Ask me how I know.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe….

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

This one has been marinating in my brain for the past year and a half, and I wasn’t sure exactly when it was going to come to fruition. But then I started seeing signs…

Dangerous Sandwich

… signs of the times…

Fisheries Building

… signs of the end times…?

Dangerous Golf Course

… And Another Dangerous Golf Course…

… and it became obvious that the moment had really come.

Sometimes, Anna, a banana is just a banana. Every once in a while a tsock - or a pair of tsocks, as the case may be - must inevitably burst the bounds of the high-falutin’ high-concept fancy-schmancy… and just devote itself to One. Dumb. Joke.

This is that pair of tsocks.

Shark Week Cover

(I had some fun with typography here. The title typeface is called “Bite Me.” The tagline typeface is called “Amity Jack,” and I bet you can guess what it was used for in 1975.)

The shark theme has been done, of course; this, however, is the Tshark theme…

Both Socks

… and as such it is intended to go farther over the top, and deeper under the bottom, than your average sea-going pedator. (Check out my shiny new neologism that I just this minute made up! “Pedator” - a predator that is worn on the foot, geddit?)

Now just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels
And then, by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.

Hilaire Belloc,


One tshark has eaten your foot and is well on his way to finishing off what’s left of you;

Upward Facing Shark

his friend has already gorged on most of your corpus and has saved your toes for dessert.

Downward Facing Shark

Both of them are messy eaters, as witness the drops of blood and other scraps clinging to their pointy little sharky teeth; both have textured gills…


…and both are accompanied by the usual Remora…

Remora Remora

… which attach to the host wherever and whenever they please by means of… wait, are you sitting down…? by means of VELCRO.

Yes, Velcro on your knitting… on purpose. Ha ha, knitters, I am messing with your heads! Seriously, though - the top of a Remora’s head, by which it latches on to its host shark, actually does look just like a strip of Velcro, so I really don’t see how I was supposed to resist.

Remora Remora

Remora Remora

Remora Remora

You fuse or sew a little piece of hook Velcro to the top of each Remora’s head…

Remora Remora

Remora Remora

… and then you can slap the thing on ad hoc, or ad sock, so it clings to the shark’s skin and hangs from your sock wherever it will amuse you most.

Remora Remora

OK, so I got a little carried away with the remora thing. Can you blame me?

Toe-up? Top-down? Both. Neither. Some from Column A. Etc.

The Upward-Facing Tshark (as we call him in yogic circles) is more or less toe-up; his short-rowed tail flukes sandwich the sock toe, his short-rowed plump underbelly


embraces the sock heel, and his gaping maw

Gaping Maw

surrounds the ankle of his victim…

Gaping Maw

… its pointy picot teeth

Picot Teeth

biting into the tender flesh.

The Down-Tshark, as you might expect, is worked as it’s positioned, in the opposite direction. Its tail flukes spread upward…

Tail Flukes

… as it plunges downward to devour the last of its Victim. The latter’s Foot protrudes from the maw - slip-stitch lower jaw on the underside…

Lower Teeth

… upper jaw nearly covering the deeply-tanned Toes.

Victim's Toes

Victim's Toes

Both tsharks are worked in a rough tsharktskin texture…


… that is actually the wrong side of a variant on a classic herringbone stitch pattern…


… the result being that you spend much of your time knitting inside-out - that is, working inside the shark whose dinner you’ve already become, whose fearsome maw…


… has already engulfed you. Aside from the occasional confusion this engenders, the tsock isn’t really particularly difficult, technically speaking.

Not that it matters. After the Tsharks have eaten up every morsel of you, and licked their bloody chops, who will know the difference anyway?

“Shark Week” dove into the water last week, and its terrifying dorsal fins…

Dorsal Fin

… have already been seen circling the mailboxes of several unsuspecting Tsock Club members.

Watch out, my friends. You’re gonna need a bigger knitting bag.

Shark Week

P.S. Almost forgot to mention. The heroines of the dye studio took to calling this one “Bruce” for short… so that’s what we named the main colorway.

Nay, I Can Gleek Upon Occasion

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Well, the incubus Muse won that round, as is only right. Even if your medium is something as apparently inconsequential (to normal people, I mean) as sock design, it never pays to disregard the promptings of the Muse. Do that enough times and the Muse will abandon you altogether, and then you may as well start pushing paper for a living. Whereas when the Muse wins, nobody loses.

Whose note full many a man doth mark,
And dares not answer nay.

It was an epic battle, though. As I said in my last, I’ve had this tsock in mind for a long time, and I was so sure I knew how I was going to do it that I had knitted most of it, and was already more than half-way through writing it and discussing it with the test knitter when the No-No-You-Have-To-Do-It-THIS-Way Thunderbolt hit me. Giving that up was hard. HARD.

And to make you suffer with me, I’m going to take you through it more or less in excruciating chronological sequence. (As before, if you can’t stand the pain you can always scroll down. But you might miss something. You never know.)

Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;
But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.

This tsock, then - Tsock #2 of the 2012 Art for your Feet Tsock Club - is “Bottom’s Dream,” the second and final part of the Midsummer Night’s Dream miNIZZeries. Think of it as the low-comedy obverse of the ethereal fairy business that is “Love in Idleness.” They do say the pun is the lowest form of wit, yes? And so I give you Shakespeare, channeling his inner naughty twelve-year-old in just that form, by having Puck put the head of an Ass on the shoulders of a character named Bottom.

(The OED, incidentally, claims that there is no such pun here; that in Shakespeare’s time “ass” was not used to mean the same thing as “Bottom.” Sorry, OED dear, but on this one you are just plain WRONG. The theme of the transformation of man into ass owes something to Apuleius and very possibly also something to Ovid, but Nick Bottom the weaver is Shakespeare’s own - I think we do know the sweet Roman hand - and there is just no way his name is a coincidence.)

You may recall that in the first episode of this miNIZZeries we saw Oberon plotting to sprinkle the juice of Love-in-Idleness on Titania’s sleeping eyelids so that on waking she would immediately dote on the next creature she saw. Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, the Rude Mechanicals are rehearsing their ludicrous version of Pyramus and Thisbe; Puck, discovering them, seizes the opportunity to clap an ass’s head on the greatest oaf among them, and places him where Titania can’t help but see him when she awakens. Puck then scampers back to Oberon and announces “My mistress with a monster is in love” - and sure enough she spends the better part of the night murmuring sweet nothings in the huge hairy ears of Bottom the Ass, and sending her fairies hither and yon to bring him delicacies; while Oberon, as planned, takes advantage of her distraction to steal away her changeling page.

Well, I had the whole thing figured out ages ago. I was going to build a tsock out of all the best bits of the Hempen Homespuns and their silly play-within-the-play. I was going to approach the construction as it were the yang to the previous episode’s yin; a warm earthy colorway where the other was cool and mysterious; themes expressed in chewy textures where the other was all delicate lace. I was going to use Wall (”O sweet and lovely Wall”) as the background and Lion (”well roared, Lion”) and Moon (”this lanthorn doth the hornèd moon present”) as motifs, with maybe a little bit of Cobweb and Moth here and there. I was going to make Bottom in his Ass’s Head the high-instep focal point on this one, as Titania was on its predecessor. (Thus putting Bottom on Top… but I digress.)


I sent Betty links to a bunch of Brueghel’s “peasant” paintings, the various wedding dances and such…

Brueghel Wedding Dance

…and as requested she made me a wonderfully rich, subtly variegated colorway from those characteristically earthy reds with touches of brown. I amused myself by dubbing it “Fustian” - and while waiting for the final version of it I started swatching textured motifs.

I made a Wall.


I made a Moon.


(This is an early unfinished swatch in a different yarn, but you get the gist.)

I toyed with Moth.


I made Lion.


I made the Ass’s Head.

Ass's Head

I loved them. Everyone on the Team loved them, too.

By this point I had the real yarn, so I made a seed stitch toe, and I built a Wall on top of it, and I put the Ass’s Head on the instep, and I wrote and charted these things and sent them off to the test knitter, and she knitted them, and everybody was happy. (Not to mention comfortably ahead of schedule.) And then…


… then came the Thunderbolt. And what the Thunderbolt told me was that the WHOLE APPROACH WAS ALL WRONG. It showed me a foot and it showed me an Ass’s head and it dinned incessantly in my ear that the resemblance between them, like Nick Bottom’s name, was no coincidence, and that to ignore it would be to fly in the face of providence, indeed to look a gift Ass in the mouth.

And at last it broke me down.

Cursing a blue streak, I brought the design/testing process to a screeching halt, went straight back to the drawing board, and within minutes had… this:

Big Ass

More cursing and fulmination, more struggles and attempts at denial, but still I cast on to try it out right away, and as I knitted I knew. I knew. I knew. There was no help for it. The Tsock IS the Ass. The Ass IS the Tsock. All that other little cute stuff is just other little cute stuff. The little lion and the little ass won’t go to waste, but they will just have to live on the back burner for a while, because THIS is Bottom’s Dream.

Bottom's Dream

See what I mean?

Bottom's Dream Cover

Go Big Ass Or Go Home.

Actually, once I stopped resisting, the whole thing flowed smoothly, and the original texture-and-outline idiom lent itself beautifully to the new form.

The muzzle is worked in seed stitch, with stockinette nostrils outlined in twisted stitches…


… while the increase lines at the sides of the toe naturally form the mouth. The face is mostly stockinette, with ridges defined by reverse stockinette. Then the Eyes, like the Nostrils, are outlined in twisted stitches, with the whites done in seed stitch and the eyeball in reverse stockinette.

Left Eye

Between the Eyes the widening of the brow ridge produces additional ease for the rise of the instep; above the brow ridge, of course, is the Forelock…


Methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch.


… worked, incidentally, in what I flatter myself is an entirely new version of Loop stitch, much more stable than any I’ve ever run across.

Loop Stitch

Above the Forelock and the skull rises the mad glory of the three-dimensional Ears.


These stand out from the sides of the ankle in an anatomically-plausible fashion; they are worked in-line and are lined in a woven stitch - alums of The Boid will recognize their old friend Plaited Basket, here rechristened Tabby Weave in tribute to Bottom’s profession.

Between them a glimpse of the aforementioned Wall, its “crannied chink” formed by the gap in the short-rowed welt that gives volume to its stones…


… and above that the Hornèd Moon appears on the cuff:

Horned Moon

As for the heel? Why, a Peasant Heel, of course. What else would you use for this group of clods? I’ll spare you the rant about the difference between a Peasant Heel and an Afterthought Heel (it’s all there in the pattern, though), and merely point out that in this particular case the shaping is done by means of semi-randomly staggered decreases…


… to enhance the curve of the Ass’s Cheek - because Shakespeare doesn’t have a monopoly on childish humor, and sometimes I too am twelve.

And if you think that’s the end of the story, think again. Because after the prototype was finished and the pattern written and charted and in the final stages of testing, I looked at the eyes and decided they were too slitty. I blocked them and stretched them and they were still too slitty. So I frogged the heel (”and it shall be called Bottom’s Dream, because it hath no bottom”), and then I performed major surgery on the sock, snipping a stitch in the middle of the heel setup round, pulling out the strand a stitch at a time, and delicately dismantling the whole thing, splitting it in two.


Bad phone pictures, I’m afraid, but at least they do give you some idea of the extent of the carnage…


… not to mention the slittiness of the eyes, pre-surgery.

Frogged back to the beginning of the eyes and reworked them, wider awake and less demonic this time, and then grafted the whole thing back together and recreated the heel.

With the help of a surgeon he might yet recover, and prove an ass.

Bottom's Dream

And NOW truly methought I was enamour’d of an ass.

Bottom's Dream

“Bottom’s Dream” went into the mail today (well… Monday, I mean), and should start landing on knitters’ doorsteps by Wednesday.

As for me - after all these struggles and thunderbolts I have an exposition of sleep come upon me.

… Sing me now asleep;
Then to your offices and let me rest.