Archive for the 'Ptolemy' Category

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.

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!

The Shape of Things to Come

Thursday, February 12th, 2009


Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

     FS Teaser


FS Teaser


Miniature Flame Chevron       
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

     FS Teaser


What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


                                 FS Teaser


FS Teaser      When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?


Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake


TsockFlock Club 2009.

You know you want to.


Sunday, November 30th, 2008

I finished the Porcupine Moebius last night.

As expected I had enough yarn to finish the repeat, but also as expected I decided I wanted more, so I went all out and spun up all but a scrap of the remaining fiber. This netted me another 130 yards of 3-ply, plus very small odds and ends of singles. (NB if anyone’s keeping track, which I hope no one is, this means my YPP estimates were way off and/or that the yarn wasn’t quite as even as it looked and felt. What the hell, though - what with the forgiving lace pattern and all, it knitted up as even as I wanted it to.) Enough to do the additional pattern rep and the interminable bind-off, with a few not-yet-counted yards to spare.

FO before blocking:

Before Blocking


Before Blocking

Boiled ass. Also as expected.

I don’t have after-blocking pictures yet, as such, because it is blocking now.

But… how????

I had some fairly wild ideas about how to go about it - none of them very practical. In the event, what I decided to do is fairly anticlimactic. But I think it’s going to work.

I ran a couple of blocking wires through a little less than half of it and pinned that out flat on the ironing board, because it happens to be a convenient size and shape:

Moebius Blocking
(Why, yes, that DOES happen to be a drum carder on the window sill at top of frame - why do you ask?)

I’m going about equally for width and length, and obviously it’s not a precision job with the wiring or pinning - this is meant to be rough shaping, not fine points.

Then I put three of my blocking tiles between the layers, and wired and pinned the upper part to those.

Moebius Blocking

The twisty part is… well, it’s the part where I pretty much decided the weird ideas weren’t going to work, so I just wired and pinned most of the length of this section, leaving the twisty part a little loose.

Moebius Blocking

Once it’s dry - which won’t take long, even though there’s no air circulation to speak of between the layers, because it’s near the radiator in the warmest room of the house - I’ll undo it and evaluate the part that’s currently twisted. I’ll almost certainly do a little spot-blocking for just that section, wetting it and pinning it out flat on the ironing board and letting the blocked dry part just hang underneath.

To give you an idea how quickly I think it will dry…? I spun the last of the yarn yesterday afternoon, and did all the usual finishing, soaking, whacking, etc. Hung it to dry in the same spot, and it was ready to wind and knit when I came back in the evening. Four-five hours, max.

And now, for your edification, several thousand words’ worth about why I do my blocking behind closed doors.

Who, Me?
Who, Me?

Not Interested
Totally Not Interested

Overzealous Assistant
Well… OK, maybe a LITTLE interested…

Overzealous Assistant
That bit right there…

Overzealous Assistant
… just smells so… hey! there’s ALPACA in this, isn’t there!

Overzealous Assistant

Overzealous Assistant

Overzealous Assistant

Overzealous Assistant

Overzealous Assistant

Yeah. My assistant can get a little overzealous. Especially when there’s alpaca involved.

Bluebells Again

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

But before I get into that, I would like to assure you that Luke and I are entirely reconciled. I have apologized (in the form of extra biscuits and snuggles at bedtime) for scolding him, because hello? which one of us knows how to close the door? and which one of us forgot? and which one of us knew better? Um, yeah. That would be me, and of course I knew it all along. Bad Tsarina, bad, bad.

Incidentally, I would like to point out that Luke has a classic velvet mouth. He may tear a plastic bag to tatters and reduce a cork to pathetic crumbage, but I hope you’ve noticed he never damages the precious knitting, never causes any harm at all to the lovely yarn or the fragile wooden needles.

Ptolemy, on the other hand…! Last night I was sitting quietly, minding my own business and innocently knitting an oak leaf, and damned if Mr. Evil didn’t mount a stealth assault. Not just on a ball of yarn, but on the ball I was using at the time. Damn, that cat is subtle, and I’m telling you, them pussycats is quick! It was right next to me and I never noticed him picking it up until he started to run off with it, me still tethered to the other end all the while. By the time I caught up with him, gasping with mingled curses and laughter, he’d made a trail of yarn down the hall and down the stairs and around the living room. Luckily something startled him, and he dropped it while he was still out in the open, or I hate to think what it would have ended up winding around.

Then as I was gathering it up and rewinding it, who should blunder along and get tangled in it but poor Luke.

Needless to say, I have neither pictures nor video of these 30 seconds of insanity. Which is just as well, because there’s already enough blackmail material out there as it is.

Anyway, I got the ball safely rewound, finished my leaf, and moved on to the next - no harm done, and I even got a little healthy exercise. Another bullet dodged.

So as I was saying… Bluebells again. Sort of. You may recall that I’ve played in this arena before, but now we’re upping the ante some. And I’m not going to tell you anything about it yet - I have to Maintain My Air Of Mystery, you know - but at least I can show you the yarn candidates and the beads, all of which arrived today.

Mai pretty yarnz, let me sho u them.

FC All

Disclaimer: I’m having the usual problems with color balance. On one of my monitors these look much bluer and less purple than they really are (though actually Jennifer did, at my request, skew these pretty heavily toward the blue side); on the other they look pretty close to accurate. So if you’re not seeing the purple you’ll just have to take my word for it, I’m afraid.

Close-ups? Sure.

In order:

FC #1
FC #2
FC #3
FC #4
FC etc.
FC White w/ Beads

Actually - that little red skein is a little red herring, part of a separate and and mostly unrelated project that… hmmmm, can’t tell you about that one either, I’m afraid. All I can say right now is that the white and the beads, and one of the blues, will be used for the next instalment of the Flock Sock Club. Now to figure out which blue is… exactly right. Decisions, decisions. This is one of those moments when it’s really tough being me.

I can just tell already that you sympathize. Deeply.