Archive for the 'Animals' Category


Sunday, March 18th, 2012

The life of a designer is not without its frustrations. You know how every once in a while you’re trundling cheerfully along with a pattern and suddenly the incubus muse comes whomping down on your head and insists that you have to go off in a totally different direction? No? Let me tell you, it is not for the faint of stomach. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that it’s too late, that the thing is nearly done, that you’re already getting feedback from the test knitter… but the muse is an imperious and intransigent creature, and woe betide you if you try to disregard its promptings. They may or may not turn out to be right, but you have no choice about exploring them.

(The ludicrous aspect of applying this level of artistic intensity to socks, of all things, is not lost on me. But what can you do? I didn’t choose the medium any more than I chose the vocation. Some are born crazy, some achieve insanity, and some have madness thrust upon them. TSOCK doth sway my life.)

I’ve been ridden by one of these maddening whiplash experiences for several days now, and yesterday I woke up to find it had been haunting my dreams as well as my waking hours. So obviously there was only ONE thing to do.

I took the day off.

I had planned to take some time out anyway, because St. Patrick’s Day is Pea-Planting Day in these parts, as eny fule kno. If I hadn’t owed the muse a good kick in the butt I might not have made a whole day of it… as it is, I did and I’m not sorry.

First, a satisfactory tour of inspection. Preliminary spring denizens present and accounted for:

Dwarf Irises



Montana Rubens

Better yet, last week’s planting…

First Planting

… is already producing results:

Radish Seedlings

(This incredibly crappy picture brought to you by my excitement over the first two radishes-in-progress.)

Now for some wholesome labor; digging and turning soil, clearing weeds, and finally some planting. This is where the peas go:

Pea Bed

(That’s before. I’d show you after, but just how many pictures of plastic knives sticking out of mounds of dirt do you really want to see on a putative knitting blog? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Take my word for it, OK? - the peas are planted.)

Next week there will be seedlings to start indoors, so I gave myself the pleasure of screening a bucketful of finished compost to add to the starter mix. Until I started it up again last year, the pile had been neglected for several years, so this is from the 2002/2003 season.


Ahhhhh…. black gold. An excellent year.

That and some pruning done, and all the tools put away, it was time for another ritual tour of inspection. Beach walk; first of the season, and about time, too.


A mild winter; not much beach erosion at all.

You want some flotsam? I gotsam.


You want some jetsam? I can getsam.




I’m not the only one conducting an inspection; there’s a whole world of smells to investigate.


Luke and Horseshoe

Mostly, though, it’s just about meandering and breathing it all in - recharging the batteries with a much-needed dose of sea air.

Me and my shadow, and my shadow’s shadow…

Me and my Shadow

Shaggy dog is shaggy…

Shaggy Dog

Pensive dog is pensive…

Pensive Dog

I should not be able to do this at this time of year…

Cold Feet

We have left our mark here, I see, but someone else was here before us…


Time to retrace our steps…


Today, back to the salt mines.

Take THAT, tsock muse!

And Read All Over

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Tour de Fleece, Day 4.

Some time around the middle of April, Teleknitter posted her spring clip of CVM for sale, and I promptly had a fit. Here were some of the most fascinatingly beautiful fine-wool fleeces I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t justify buying one, because I had just splurged on half a Cormo. (Oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard yet about the Cormo, have you.) Which was also insanely beautiful, as you might expect from a Cormo bred by Alice Field… but it was also WHITE. And I have a lot of WHITE fleece. And I’m a sucker for naturally-colored fleeces, especially in shades of grey. And I was drooling drooling drooling over Florence’s gorgeous silver-grey and Rifle’s fabulous variegation. But seriously. I already had an attic full of fleece (Oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard yet about the Attic Full O’ Fleece, have you). I had just spent very nearly top dollar on the Cormo, and the CVM was in the same price range - and mind you, both of them are worth every penny. But there was something about buying one after the other that would have added insult to injury and overshot my guilt threshold by a country mile.

So I sternly told myself, “No CVM for you this season, my girl. It won’t hurt you to wait. The sheep will make more.”

And that lasted… oh, I dunno… maybe an hour?

I kept going back and looking. And looking. And looking.

Finally I couldn’t stand it and I compromised: I bought Rifle’s neck wool and seconds.

Rifle's Neck Wool

Not a bad compromise at that. A more modest quantity, a more modest expenditure - but I still got all of those colors and all that soft crimp. And a pound and a half is enough to DO something with.

The fleece on arrival was even more marvelous than it looks in Sarah’s picture. I couldn’t believe how soft it was, and how many different colors I was seeing in it.

It’s been waiting for an opportunity, and a couple of days ago it struck me that the Tour de Fleece was exactly that. So I broke it out, semi-sorted it, bagged it up, and scoured it.

While I was waiting for the tub to fill for the first soak, young Fosdick had his very first-ever wool-huffing experience.

By the time it occurred to me that at only two months old he’s probably too young for the hard stuff… it was too late. Don’t tell on me, ‘K? (Friend of mine looked at this and said, “Yup, that’s YOUR kitteh, all right.”)

I am madly in love with this fleece and its symphony in greyscale.

Sorting CVM

I’ve been sort of on the fence about how to spin this, but I’ve never doubted that I wanted to keep the colors distinct and use them to set each other off. I’ve been having fantasies of gradient effects, either in the spinning or in the knitting as the case may be. So obviously the first thing to be done with the clean fleece was to sort it by color.

I wasn’t sure how many colors I was seeing, so I started by picking out all the really WHITE white bits - those went into Bag #1.

Bag #2 is where it started to get interesting.

Sorting CVM

Bag #2 is the home of the pale blends. The locks that are partly or mostly white but are so intimately streaked with grey that it would be insane to try to pick them apart. I’m not being too scientific here, and what I want is to reflect the natural blending that’s already occurring in the fleece. So a lock like this one

Sorting CVM

gets to stay in one piece and it goes to live with its friends in Bag #2.

From that point on it was pretty plain sailing. Bag #3 is a soft and fairly uniform medium grey, with occasional streaks of paler grey. And so on, up until Bag #7, the darkest near-black grey of all.

Yes, sir, yes, sir, seven bags full.

Sorting CVM

(Incidentally, Fosdick is not the only feline in this household with an appreciation for fleece.

Sorting CVM

Not by a long shot.

Sorting CVM

Ptolemy and Juliet don’t insist on spinning theirs in the grease, though. And please do note how I color-coordinate my animals with my stash.)

With seven shades identified, I set out to experiment - those visions of gradients dancing in my head, I wanted to see how they would play out.

I broke out a handful from each bag, and combed each into a little nest of top.

CVM Gradient

I knew I wanted laceweight - I’ve been picturing a big lace shawl in graduated shades of grey, you know the kind of thing I mean - and I knew from my first pre-triage sample that it would be beautifully soft:

CVM Gradient

I broke each piece of top in half, and spun the same strand of singles twice over - all seven shades in sequence starting with the white.

CVM Gradient

Plied it together and wound it off.

CVM Gradient

It’s 84 yards, and it works.

CVM Gradient

Oh, how it works. It’s almost exactly what I envisioned - in fact, I can hardly stop looking at it and fondling it.

CVM Gradient

How I’m going to bring myself to unskein this in order to swatch it, I don’t know. I love it just as it is.

That said… am I going to spin the whole fleece like this?

I am not.

It would be a great parlor trick. And another cool parlor trick would be to prep and spin it as a gradient REPEAT. I can imagine doing exactly that for someone else’s use… but not for my own.

I look at this little skein in all its beautiful mesmerizing greyscaliness, and I realize: that is not the kind of knitter I am. As a spinner, I’d love to play with the color sequence. But as a knitter, I want complete control over what color goes where. It would be worse than counter-productive to make a huge single-gradient or repeat-gradient yarn and then have to cut and paste it into what I want it to be when I’m actually making it into something.

So here’s the plan. I’m going to prep and comb each shade separately, and I’m going to spin most - but not all - of each of them into a separate two-ply. I’ll have enough of each shade left unspun so that I can blend intermediate shades if I want them when the time comes. And when I knit it I will make it LOOK as if I’d spun the gradient skein of my dreams.

One way or the other - I have the oddest feeling that Rifle and I have not heard the last of each other.


Wait for me next year, big guy. I’ll be coming back for more.

The New Normal

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

If you’ve been around me at all in the past few years, you’ve probably heard me say “weird is the new normal” so many times that by now that notion of the New Normal is pretty Old News. (In a related story, I’ve been hearing rumors to the effect that pink is no longer the new black. Sic transit.)

So in the aftermath of death, with the Old Normal long gone but by no means forgotten, we are all trying to get our bearings and figure out just what the New Normal is; not surprisingly the clues seem to be few and far between. (This is as good an opportunity as any, though, to thank you, both on Lauren’s behalf and on my own, for all the kind thoughts and wishes. I don’t claim to know how or why that helps; it does, though, and that’s what’s important.) I don’t really expect a clear resolution on that question any time soon; it’s probably enough to identify the elements as they come along, to welcome the good ones and deal with the rest as reasonably as is, well, reasonable under the circumstances. Whatever that turns out to mean.

Here, then, in no particular order, are some of those elements, at least the ones floating nearest the surface of Tsarskoe Tsocko.

  • The New Normal will include… Any Minute Now… a new Club Tsock that is ANYTHING BUT NORMAL. Mind you, this is not to suggest that previous tsocks have been particularly run of the mill, but if I do say so myself (and I do) I rather think that I’ve gone farther over the top this time than ever before. Not for nothing was Jennifer heard to remark to someone, at MAS&W, “she’s so far outside the box, I don’t think there even IS a box.”

    As regards the Any-Minute-Now aspect of that - I’m out of Pattern Purdah and am just awaiting the all-clear from the shipping front before I blog it. This year we actually have an Official Internal Schedule, and we’ve been pretty much meeting it. And even though I effectively lost a week of work to the business of the funeral, I managed (thanks in no small part to the great good-will and adaptability of my dear Test Knitter) to make up for lost time to such good effect that I only missed my part of the deadline for Tsock #3 by a few hours. But - aha! you knew there had to be a BUT, didn’t you - fat lot of good that did, given that during that same time of craziness I, um, neglected to order toner for the printer. So there I was, panting at the finish line, with the pattern all dressed up and nowhere to go. Apparently the New Normal includes a healthy admixture of irony. (Fair enough - so did the Old Normal. Irony - oh yeah, I know how to do irony, all right.)

    Fortunately, and largely thanks to presence of mind on the part of The Tserf, that crisis passed fairly quickly. She is off to her well-deserved vacation, and Any Minute Now… I’ll get to unveil what I’m tempted to think of as The New Abnormal.

  • The New Normal, as you may recall, includes kittens. That may in fact be one of the best things about the New Normal to date. I’ll give you the full run-down on these two one of these days soon; for now here are a few more pictures. I’m afraid they’re over a week old (the pictures, that is, not the kittens - the kitten are about eight weeks old). I tried to take some new ones today but ended up with one blur after another - these two move FAST.


    That’s Fosdick (as in Fearless Fosdick), reaching down to beat up his little sister Annabel (as in… Annabel; it’s just her name).


    Fosdick almost always sticks out his tongue. He’s going to be long and lean and lithe - at eight weeks he already is. And he is bold and fearless and impudent. I think he’s going to give Ptolemy a run for his money.


    Annabel is Fosdick’s littermate and his temperament’s polar opposite. He is a thoroughly boyish little boy, and she is the girliest of little girls. She’s soft and cuddly and confidingly affectionate.

    They’re settling in brilliantly, eating voraciously, growing like the proverbial weeds. The New Normal has its silver linings - or at any rate its fuzzy black and grey and white ones.

  • The New Normal is going to include a lot of spinning and knitting. (Just as well, what with this being that sort of blog, don’t you know.) Just at the moment spinning is uppermost, because I get a few days’ break before I leap back into the Pattern Purdah backlog, and during that break the Tour de Fleece begins.

    This year I actually have my own team: Team Russian Underpants. It’s fielded jointly by two Ravelry groups, both of which I moderate; Antique Spinning Wheels and CPW Lovers. The team name is based on some of the deeply bizarre stuff we’ve seen eBay sellers do to wheels by way of adding value, including transforming them into lamps with outlandish shades that look like a cross between the Winter Palace and Great-Great-Grandma’s bloomers.

    Our team badge, courtesy of the lovely and gifted Blogless Fran:

    Team Russian Underpants

    As you can see, we take ourselves and our spinning VERY seriously.

    I am also spinning again for Abby Franquemont’s Team Suck Less, and this year I’ve also joined the Completely Pointless and Arbitrary Group Group’s Team Bacon Cakewaffle.

    The serious. I am all about it.

  • Incidentally, I can also foreseee that the New Normal is going to include frequent repetitions of the catch-phrase - or rather the catch-up-phrase - “oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about that yet, have you.” For instance, I was about to start telling you about the warm-ups I’m doing for the Tour, and I realized that they all require referring to backstories that I’ve never gotten around to blogging. If I have anything to say about it the New Normal is going to feature reasonably frequent blog entries (hey, I’ve done it before; I can do it again), and for a while they are going to be studded with that phrase until… it stops being true.

    To wit: As part of my warm-ups I’ve plied up all the Teeswater singles (oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about the Teeswater yet, have you) and finished the yarn; it’s drying now and will be skeined and tagged and photographed tomorrow. There’s still about another bobbin’s worth of Teeswater left to spin (oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about the Teeswater yet, have you), and I’ll probably do that during the Tour itself. I’ve also started a timed trial with the Cheviot (oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about the Cheviot yet, have you), so I can estimate speed and grist both for the Suck Less mile-in-a-day challenge and for the 18-ply (oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about the 18-ply yet, have you) that I’m doing as part of the Russian Underpants challenge (oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about the Russian Underpants challenge yet, have you). This time I’m spinning it, not from the lock as I did for the Infamous 8-ply (oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about the Infamous 8-ply yet, have you), but from hand-combed top (oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard about the combs yet, have you), so I figure a trial run is in order to see whether I think I have a prayer of getting it all done in time and of squeezing the resulting yarn through the tiny orifice of an antique wheel.

    Note to self: Blog the Teeswater, the Teeswater, the Cheviot, the 18-ply, the Russian Underpants challenge, the Infamous 8-ply, and the combs.

Hrmph - the New Normal is starting to look like a lot of work.

Good thing it has kittens, is all I can say.

Midst of Life

Monday, June 14th, 2010

A few days ago.

A few days ago I was working away as usual - among other things on writing a massive catch-up blog post, complete with already-edited pictures, to bring you up to date on the events of the past month or so (new kits, sheep & wool festivals, other gatherings, knitting, spinning, etc.).

And then two things happened; one tiny, one huge.

In strictly chronological order: I adopted a pair of kittens that a close friend had been fostering; and the close friend’s husband was killed in a car accident.

I know it’s almost outrageous, maybe obscene, to mention those two events in the same breath; but apparently the universe has no such sense of proportion or decorum, or they couldn’t both have happened on the same day, within a couple of hours/miles of each other, to the same small cast of characters. Could they?

Very obviously I don’t know, and I don’t expect to know. But I keep coming back to that question, and it doesn’t make my world seem any less random or surreal.

This is a crazy time and a busy one - I’m thankful every hour that there is so much stuff to DO when somebody dies. The show, of course, goes on; at some point soon I intend to finish that blog post and to follow it with others in what used to be the normal way… and there’s still the current tsock to work on and the next one to plan, and then there’s all that other stuff that makes up daily life and that doesn’t have the courtesy to put itself on hold when daily life is violently interrupted by personal tragedy.

But I still keep asking the question. And then at a certain point the best thing I can do is to go hang out with the kittens and try not to try to figure it out.


lots of string

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

hi, my mum says shes too tired to come to the blog today and would i tell you about what went on yesterday.

as far as i can tell, not much.

first she took a whole lot of stuff out to the car, like she does when were going on a long trip, so i thought we were probably going on a long trip. i noticed she didnt take my food and my bowl and my duck, and i wondered about that, but i figured she knew what she was doing. well, we got in the car and i was just getting ready to settle down for a nice nap when the car stopped and we got out and started to take stuff out.

so then this lady named kelly came out of this house and helped take the stuff into the house. there were a couple of cats there but they didnt want to play with me. anyway, then my mum sat down in front of that big round wheel thing and started to make string just like she always does at home. and kelly had a round thing too and she made string too. so it was pretty much like the same thing as staying at home. just them sitting and making string and string and string and more string, and me lying around doing nothing.

they had cookies and grapes but they didnt give me any.

there was a man and another man and another lady who were there sometimes, and i think they liked me, and they played with me some, but they didnt give me cookies either.

then mum and kelly and i went outside and i thought maybe we would have some fun there. but first they sat at a table and ate lunch and didnt give me any. then they brought those wheel things outside and made more string and more string and more string. at least there were some interesting smells out there and there were good places to roll around and sometimes there were little things to chase after. but mostly i sat around and sniffed and did nothing while they made string.

another lady came there and sat and talked for a while and didnt make string or give me grapes or cookies.

then that lady went away and it started to get dark, and mum and kelly went inside with the wheel things. and you know what happened next2 nothing new. they sat down and made more string. then they had peetsa and they didnt give me any. then they made more string.

seriously you just cant believe how much string they made.

then finally they decided to stop, and then they brought the wheel thing and all the stuff back out and put it into the car and mum and i came home.

she kept telling me that it was a really good day and everybody there liked me and said i was a really good boy, and she was happy because she had made something she called a mile. of course im glad she was happy but i dont know when she could have had time to do that, whatever it is, because as far as i could see all she did all day and all she made all day was string. the same kind of string she always makes at home. lots and lots and lots of string.

Mile of Singles

hey, whatever. as long as she had fun. i got to be with her, so that was good. and i did lots of barking and protected her from everybody, so i know i was doing my job. and the main thing is, she has plenty of string now, and thats good because obviously she really likes string a lot.

also, she said that next time we do this she will bring biscuits and my duck. so i guess its ok with me if we do it again. i really dont think we need any more string, though. she should think about doing something else besides making string next time. honestly, we have a whole lot of it now, and i think its probably enough.

Flying Tiger

Friday, February 27th, 2009

No more teasers. This is for real.

“Fearful Symmetry,” Tsock #1 for 2009, has shipped, and mail carrier stalking can officially commence.

I was exposed to, or rather immersed in, Blake at a very early age; I could spout this poem and a couple of the Songs of Innocence long before I had any idea what I was talking about. Almost as soon as I could talk at all, in fact. Apparently it stayed with me; this isn’t the first time that echoes of Fearful Symmetry have surfaced in my life, nor the first tigerish form they’ve taken.

It’s funny how an idea will take hold and keep changing shape over time. The tsock I ended up making is a longish way, via not exactly linear progression, from the tsock I first envisioned a couple of years ago, though it’s still true to those roots. It’s still based on my grey tiger cat Ptolemy; it still begins and ends with literal flames.

Fearful Symmetry

(Incidentally, it hasn’t escaped my attention that this is the second season in a row to start toe-up with a fiery stitch pattern in a fiery color. Is this going to be a tradition? Y’got me. Tune in a year from now to find out.)

As you saw the other day, the flames this time are our old friend the Flame Chevron, scaled down and tightened for snug sock fit.

Flame Chevron

They engulf most of the foot…

Fearful Symmetry

… and then when they reach the instep they end up being partially bound off in pattern, so you can work this Clever Transition in pseudo-entrelac…

Flame Transition

… until the Tiger, Tiger rises from the flames. (I’m apparently swimming somewhere between the literal and the surreal, here - channeling an inner Hieronymus Bosch I never knew I had, though I probably should have suspected it.)

What I love about this transition, and the reason I keep twisting my arm to pat myself on the back and call it Clever, is that the angled stitches create ease for the instep without a lot of extra increases or pseudo-gusseting. Well… that and the fact that I really like the way it looks.

You’ve already seen the Tiger’s face -

Fearful Symmetry

- which appears on the front of the sock. What’s on the back?

His tail.

Fearful Symmetry

Of course.

His pawprints…

Fearful Symmetry

… appear here, there, and everywhere - there’s some Knitter’s Choice in their placement relative to the path of the tail, which is also pretty much open to interpretation and characterization. Because you never know, with cats.

In another display of fearful symmetry, the flames reappear…

Fearful Symmetry

…at the upper edge of the ankle; this Tiger burns bright at both ends.

P.S. Hey, Marcy… NAO!