Archive for the 'Golden West' Category

Pygorean Theorem

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

The best-laid plans of knitters and spinners gang aft into the bit-bucket.

Beware the idles of blog, lest backwards story the tell to have shouldst thou.

Hair today, hair tomorrow.

OK, so the theorem part isn’t exactly ready for prime time yet - but at the rate things are going the pygorean part will be pretty soon. All of the above statements, however, are deeply true, and thereby hang many tales that I will have much ado to disentangle, what with the blogging mojo having been AWOL for so long.

Sorry about that… there’s been a lot going on, not all of it bloggily interesting - and during it I fell into the momentum trap, the one where you get such a head of steam going with a project that you fall fatally just a little behind with documenting it, and then next thing you know the behind-ness snowballs into totally hopelessly huge behind-ness. (Not to mention equally massive behind-ness on responding to comments. Planning to catch up soon. Honest.) I have been pretty good about taking pictures along the way, or in some cases about preserving samples from parts of the process that I figured I’d want to tell about later - but the triage and organization of all that gets a little daunting, and by the time I have a brain cell available for it I’ll probably have finished the project; hence the likelihood of telling at least part of the story in reverse.

And speaking of pygorean theorems, remember the magnificently bad shaggy dog story that wound up stating that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides? (Hmmmm - note to self: Way to ruin a punch line, self.) Well, this much I can tell you now about the dehairing of pygora fleeces: the doe of the pygora is definitely not equal to the son of the doe of the… oh, never mind. One of these days I’ll dig up my fleece samples and pictures and give you the run-down on how I went about prepping the fiber. Suffice it to say, for now, that the kid’s fleece was pretty easy to work with and yielded a pretty high percentage of lovely glossy locks; with his mother’s fleece I had to sweat and strain for every fiber and the usable yield was dramatically lower. OTOH the fiber itself was very beautiful - soft, fine, shiny, white. White enough that I knew the only way to get a reasonably consistent color was to blend the two, which meant de-hairing ALL of both before I started spinning.

Doe Fluff

Of course, I didn’t come to that conclusion until I’d already spun some 450 yards of singles from the kid fleece alone.


And on top of that… if you’ve been keeping score you may recall that at the end of my careful sampling I had decided to BLEND the pygora and the silk anyway. So what gives?

Just this: that I wasn’t entirely accurate in evaluating yield ahead of time. Basically, once I saw how much usable fiber I was getting from the first fleece, I rashly decided I could do the whole thing in pygora alone. So I dehaired a big whack of the kid and started spinning. Then I took a closer look at the doe fleece. A really closer look. Then I actually worked with a sample of it. The difference in overhead was so drastic that for a brief while I thought I might not be able to use it at all. It’s funny how a discovery like that will tend to make you more realistic in your approach to a project.


So anyway, that’s when Plan B C D E F kicked in. De-hair and prep ALL the pygora. Spin it, blending the fiber from the two fleeces. Spin a comparable amount of silk. Ply the two together. Deal with the bouclé-ish character of the yarn… somehow.

I finished the de-hairing on Monday of last week, I think. Now there’s a process that’ll put hair on your chest.

Hair on your chest
This is the first time I have posted a picture of my chest on the Internet.

Not to mention everywhere else in creation. I swear there is not a single surface or texture anywhere in my house or indeed within a two-mile radius that is not affected by guard hair. My guard hair has guard hair. And it’s fierce militant guard hair; you wouldn’t want to tangle with it in a dark alley. My lint brush is cowering under a chair.

It’s also stealthy guard hair, at least in the case of the doe. The kid’s guard hair is softer and it’s reddish. The doe’s guard hair is white like the rest of her fleece, distinguishable only by shape and texture - not always a simple proposition given the puffy cloudlike behavior of the soft pretty stuff. Every time you think you’ve really finished with a handful, you turn it over and dang, more chameleon-like white-ninja guard hairs lurking!

Doe Fluff

Even after that, I spun the first few skeins with tweezers ever at the ready. Then the tweezers went AWOL in protest; I think they’re still hiding out somewhere among the couch cushions. So I switched over to my jeweler’s needle-nose pliers. Just as good and easier to find.

Anyway, to leave a long story long without making it absolutely interminable… I ended up with just shy of 1,500 yards of singles.

Pygora Singles

About 32 WPI, give or take, soft and creamy and just a little rustic.

Pygora Singles

I re-skeined and washed them on their own…

Pygora Singles

…then spun up several of these.

Silk Singles

Mmmmm, this was fun. Mmmmmmm, undyed tussah, om nom nom nom nom nom. The pygora was labor-intensive all the way, what with the constant vigilance against guard hairs; it didn’t take all that long to spin but it FELT like forever. The silk? Hah. Long-draw, from the fold, and before I realized it I had blasted through half a pound of it.

Oh, that reminds me. I really should come clean about my wheel, huh. I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting the Romney lately; this is what I’ve been using for Project Pygora:


That’s a 24″ saxony I’ve been rehabilitating, and I love it madly. It’s a story for another time, but this I can tell you; the more I spin on it the happier it gets. As well it might, because until a couple of months ago it was mouldering in someone’s barn. (It sure didn’t look like that when it arrived here.)

The plying is also an interesting story for another time, and it’s about half-done so far.

And yeah, I know you’re supposed to FINISH plying for a project first, but, well… so sue me, I cast on last Friday. (Actually, it’s a good thing I didn’t ply it all at once. But as I said, story for another time.)

First Frogging

That’s how much I did on Friday evening before frogging back to zero. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. It wasn’t… about anything. On the face of it that may not seem to matter much, especially given that I’m intentionally going for soft fuzzy abstractish lace rather than something really representational. But still… wedding. Significant. Even if it doesn’t scream out to everyone in the room, there should be a theme and it should mean something.

Also, I wasn’t happy with the gauge.

So I took a deep plunge in the frog pond, rewound the yarn, went up a couple of needle sizes, and made a fresh start in a whole different idiom. And this time… it’s right.

Thematically - I’m revisiting the Seven Chakras, in fuzzier lacier form. It works for all sorts of obvious reasons, not least among them the fact that yoga class is where Lauren and I first met, and we still practice together.

It’s been fairly plain sailing ever since - well, until last night anyway.

It progressed through this

Three Chakras

to this

Four Chakras

and as of this morning it was here

Five Chakras

before I frogged back to the lifeline for the second time in a row. (That’s about 24″ diameter.) I’ll tell you about that tomorrow soon, but for now I think I’ll leave you with some detail close-ups.

Muladhara Chakra is here represented by a series of diamond figures clustered around the center:


Svadhisthana Chakra is an elongated and lacier version of the same Banded Crescent I used in the sock:


Manipura Chakra is a flame, of course - again similar to the one in the sock, but this time set off against a very open lacy background:


Anahata Chakra is a heart again, scaled down from the eyelet-edged one I used in Golden West, and set in a stockinette ground with an eyelet bead divider between repeats:


I don’t have a close-up yet of the Lace Lozenge variation I’m using for Vishuddha Chakra, because - well, if I’d been happy with it I wouldn’t have frogged it, would I. The pattern is fine, but I’d been playing just a little too fast and loose with the increase ratio, and the ovals didn’t have room to breathe.

By this time tomorrow, I fondly hope, that band will be redone and I’ll be making armholes… again. Which is yet another story for another time.

Memory Lane

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Most people do their year-in-review/year-to-come navel-gazing on or about January 1, don’t they. I suppose I do a little of that myself, what with that date being my official blogiversary and all. But for me the real change of seasons comes right now - as one TsockFlock Club year draws to a close and the next prepares to launch.

It’s been an amazing ride, this 2008 TsockFlock year. There was the late launch thanks to the Great (if by “great” you mean “scary-stupendous-boggling”) Yarn Drought of 2008; there was the big strategic game of catch-up - successful overall, to my relieved astonishment. Not that I didn’t think we could do it. But given all the circumstances, the massive changes we went through in the course of the year, I wasn’t 100% sure Jen and I would survive with our sanity intact. Heh. Yet here we are, all in one piece, with a year’s worth of Tsocky goodness under our belts, ready to up again and take another. (The sanity part? Let’s not go there.)

What a year. 2008 was the year in which Jen and family deflocked, sold the farm and moved to a new location and new business identity. 2008 was the year in which I became a spinner, or rather discovered that I was one. 2008 was the year in which we both hit critical mass on being a two-woman operation (and/or each hit critical mass on being a one-woman operation, as the case may be), the year in which our ranks were swelled by two, a host in themselves: Pixie for the Yarn Fairy, Tserf for the Tsarina. Oh happy day. How we ever functioned before that… I can dimly remember, but I’d rather not, thank you very much. 2008 was the year that saw us and our KALs nestled into our cozy niche on Ravelry, where we truly and riotously became a community and a family - again, I can dimly remember what life was like before that, but why would I want to?

Mostly, though, it’s been - if I do say so, and I do - one HELL of a fine year for Tsocks. Let’s review, shall we? Because… well, I’ve got my work cut out for me with the coming season, and right now I just kinda feel like basking a bit first, if I may. (And I may. I say so.)

Firebird Thumbnail      Our flagship Tsock for the tseason, still our emblem on Ravelry and elsewhere - Firebird. Or “The Boid,” as some of us came to know him affectionately.

Firebird Sock off Foot

Firebird Sock on Foot

Something of a baptism by fire(bird) for new club members, as he was worked on US #0 needles. The club rose nobly to the challenge, I might add, especially those bold souls who were new not only to the TsockFlock but to socks in general.

Something of a baptism by firebird for me, too, come to that - at any rate, during its development I found myself sporting a new and interesting kind of personal ornamentation.

Shaping the Bird Body


Frenchman's Creek Thumbnail      Frenchman’s Creek. How this one got as mysterious as it did, I’m not sure; somehow I got caught up in the fun of making people guess, and so our first big piece of Tstealth was born, culminating at last in a lightly-veiled reveal.

Both FC socks

I have to say I was proud to bring so many horses to the trough of Daphne duMaurier…

Bluebell Rib

… and delighted to see them drink willingly.


Great literature it ain’t, perhaps, but Frenchman’s Creek holds a warm place in my heart and deserves better than obscurity.

Lace Cuff

Besides… it was a fun, over-the-top design to do -

Ruby Picot

- and that’s what really matters, right?


York & Lancaster Thumbnail      York & Lancaster - a salute to the Wars of the Roses. Would have been #4 but for yet another yarn-supply hiccup on the planned #3, so we rolled with the punches and swapped them, and I don’t think the season suffered for it.

York & Lancaster

From the Festive Intarsia roses…

Lancaster Rose

… to the crenellated cuff and textured background…

York & Lancaster

I loved every stitch of this baby, even if its reverse-flap heel did kick my butt at first.

Reverse Flap Heel


Frozen Margarita Thumbnail      Tsometimes you have to be a little Tsilly, and Frozen Margarita fit that bill. It was remarkable for being the result of a casual vote by the membership - originally I had other plans for the year’s thematically “lite” sock, but popular acclamation turned me in a whole ‘nother direction.

A long, tall cool one…

Margarita Sock

… with plenty of lime…

Lime Slice

… and lots of salt on the rim of the glass.

Salt-Crusted Cuff

Worm and cactus optional.


Golden West Thumbnail      You don’t often get a chance to be totally high-falutin’ and totally lowbrow at the same time, but Golden West gave me that opportunity.

On the one hand, you gotcher Italian opera. On the other, you gotcher cowboy boot.

Golden West Sock

Really, the perfect balance.

I made the boot as anatomically correct as I knew how, with a lizard-skin upper and pointy toe…

Pointy Toe

… a top-stitched textured top…

Top-Stitched Top

… functional bootstraps, drops of blood…


… and of course a pair of aces.


Tsuspense Thumbnail      Meanwhile, back at the ranch… what IS that Tsuspense Project doing here throughout the year?


Chakras Thumbnail      Why, it’s evolving gradually into Tsock #6, AKA Seven Chakras, that’s what.

Seven Chakras Sock

I’ve been hatching this one ever since I started the whole Tsarina Tschtick, and glad I am to have brought it to fruition at last. From its root, Muladhara Chakra, beginning at the tip of the heel…

Muladhara Chakra

… to its crown, Sahasrara Chakra at the toe and cuff…

Sahasrara Chakra

it covered the physical and spiritual waterfront, while simultaneously driving knitters up a tsuspenseful wall.

Not many knitting projects can boast that, I fancy.

Stay tuned for a sneak preview of the 2009 TsockFlock season, coming tomorrow to a blog near you (ef the creek don’t rise between now and then).

TsockFlock members, this is your life!

Non-TsockFlock members… OK, I gotta ask, just WHAT are you waiting for? Come on. Join us.

TsockFlock Club 2009
Go ahead. Clicky. You KNOW you want to.

Get Up, Trinity

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

New Year’s Day.

Time for the dormant blogger to get up and get cracking. Especially if, like me, the dormant blogger happens to be celebrating a blogiversary at the same time.

Yup, this is my second blogiversary, and damned if I can figure out whether two years seems absurdly long or absurdly short from my present perspective. I think I’d have to say… both. I can’t believe I’ve been at it two whole years. I can’t believe it’s only been two years.

Two years certainly crowded with incident, from where I stand - and mostly, overwhelmingly, good incident. Not to discount all the various direnesses of the global situation, etc. though even they do not form a complete picture… but for ME, comma, Tsocktsarina AKA Teasock Tsarnia AKA Who Knew There Even Was Such A Thing As An Over-The-Top Sock Designer, Yet Now I Are One (and a Tspinner too, no less, but let’s not even go there for now because it’s way too vast)… personally and productively - it’s been a whole lotta year.

I don’t want to get into a whole specific navel-gazey year-end round-up, because that’s not… me. Or maybe because I’m too lazy for daunted by the hugeness of the task, because really as I look back on it it’s been one whomping landmark after another. So much so that it’s almost impossible to single out highlights, because every time I think of something that seems really pivotal it releases a whole ‘nother chain of other bullet points that I think are equally so. So to cop out and sum up - I’ve done stuff. I’ve learned stuff. I’ve met people. I’ve found friendships. I’ve made changes that matter to me and also to some other peopls. All those things are still going on and they’re increasing, cumulatively and exponentially. And any year in which that happens and keeps happening…? well, just how bad a year can it be?

Not very. At all.

Mind you, I’ve still got my work cut out for me, and that too seems to have some kind of exponential-growth thingy built into it. But mark you this: I’m not going to be bored, or indeed at a loose end, any time soon.

Which said, I’d better dive right away into the first course on my very full plate. There’s so much catching-up to do I hardly know where to start; some of it is Tstealth Tstuff for just a little longer, but there’s plenty that isn’t.

We shipped Tsock #5, Golden West, a few days before Christmas; and along with it, of course, the latest instalment of the Tsuspense Project. Two instalments, actually - Parts IV and V, together. At this point we have had to tstipulate (to no one’s surprise, I trust) that the Object is a tsock - it became necessary to do so because we’ve reached the stage where fine-tuning is needed for good fit. So the only remaining mystery now is… what tsock is it? because as I’m sure many people are sick of being reminded, every detail of it means something, represents something, ties into something, is done the way it’s done for a particular reason.

We’ll be shipping Tsock #6 before you know it (yes! we’re almost fully caught up!), and at that point all will be revealed on the Tsuspense front. Meanwhile, as usual, I’ve hidden a picture of all the Parts to date inside this safe:

Click Me

And with that - I gotta go get cracking not only on #6 but also on… #1. There’s something profoundly cyclical going on here, isn’t there - one year ends and another one begins, one sock club season winds down and another takes off - and it isn’t a coincidence, and I should probably say something pithy about it. But I’m fresh out of pith, and I’ve got Tsocks to work on, so I’ll leave you to fill in that blank; and content myself instead with wishing you a happy, and productive, and colorful, and whatever-else-you-want-it-to-be, New Year.


Sunday, December 21st, 2008

OK, guys, you’re overestimating my imagination. Or, OK, maybe not, since I apparently do have a pretty powerful one, but it doesn’t work along those lines. Anyway, in case there is still any question, I really did not write yesterday’s guest post. It really was, as suggested in the introduction, the work of the 11-year-old son of a fellow-Raveler - a kid who does not know me at all except as a user-name on his mother’s computer. She sent it to me, and I got a kick out of it - actually was pretty damn impressed - so I got her permission to share it, and the rest is history.

Srsly. Cross my heart and hope to die. (Also, thinking about trying to grow some spinnerets. They sound pretty useful.)

While I’ve got you handy, BTW, I should mention that “Golden West” is officially, at any rate partly, in the mail. International shipments went out on Friday. Jen was hoping to get the rest out yesterday, but Syracuse + 12″ snow - ploughing = frustration. So the tstateside Tsocks will go out tomorrow.

Boot, Saddle, to Horse, and Away

Monday, December 15th, 2008

All right, buckaroos, I sent off the last files yesterday, so here she is - “Golden West.”

Golden West Sock

That’s Club Tsock #5, and it’s as anatomically correct a cowboy boot as I know how to make.

Of course, it’s not just ANY cowboy boot. It’s Minnie’s cowboy boot, and it’s inspired by Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West,” possibly the silliest opera of them all - and that’s saying something, opera being fundamentally a silly business.

See, the opera is based on David Belasco’s play “The Girl of the Golden West,” which isn’t unusually silly as Gold-Rush Westerns go. But slap an Italian libretto on it, and what do you get? Spaghetti, of the spaghettiest possible kind.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the piece like crazy. And the music is beautiful and the scenario moving. But I can’t hear Minnie (whose name inevitably sounds like “Meanie” in Italian) sing “Hallo, boys!” or “Che c’è di nuovo, Jack?” (”What’s new, Jack?”) without cracking up. You gotcher good guy, Meesterr Deeck Joh-nson, da Sacramento (actually the bandito Ramerrez in disguise). You gotcher bad guy, il scerriffo (the sheriff) Jack Rance. Then there’s also one Meesterr Ashby, agente della Compagnia di trasporti Wells Fargo. And there’s a chorus of minatori (miners) and they’re always calling out “Hallo!” to each other and playing una partita di poker.

It’s… silly. And I love it.

(I also have a special feeling for it because my grandfather was present at the dress rehearsal for the momentous world premiere, at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910 - but that’s a story for another time.)

OK, so Meanie falls in love with Meesterr Joh-nson, not knowing that he is a bandito in disguise, right? And then when the scerriffo is after him, he comes to her door, and he’s wounded, and she’s shocked that he lied to her, but of course she still loves him, so she takes pity on him in his weakened state and she hides him in the attic. None too soon, because a moment later along comes the cruel lecherous scerriffo, who incidentally has the hots for Meanie, and she brazens it out and lies like a trouper, and just as she’s got him convinced that he’s on a wild goose chase… two drops of blood fall from the ceiling and land on his hand. So of course all is revealed, and things start looking pretty grim for Meanie and Deeck, who at this point makes a tottering appearance and promptly passes out at Meanie’s feet. She immediately goes all tigress, and desperately challenges the scerriffo to una partita di poker, best two hands out of three. If he wins, she tells him, he can take Deeck… and her, too. But if SHE wins… she gets to keep her virtue and her man.

Like a schmuck, he agrees. They play. She wins a hand. Then he wins a hand. The tension mounts and the music swells as they deal the third hand - then she stages a diversion, and when he’s looking the other way she pulls due assi (two aces) out of her boot, giving her the full house she needs to win.

And that’s just the climax of Act II.

So… the sock is a classic two-tone cowboy boot, with a surprisingly comfortable pointy toe…

Golden West Sock

… and a high (but not too high) stacked heel:

Golden West Sock

It’s worked from an i-cord cast-on at the ankle, which serves as a flat-felled seam connecting the lizard-skin upper…

Golden West Sock

… to the extravagantly-topstitched textured-leather top:

Golden West Sock

Of course the top of the top is split…

Golden West Sock

… and piped and curved…

Golden West Sock

… and of course it features functional bootstraps:

Golden West Sock

The two aces appear on the tongues, which also provide a little extra ease for the instep. One is a spade -

Golden West Sock

- the other a heart:

Golden West Sock

(Obviously this picture was taken before topstitching and assembly.)

The treacherous drops of blood are also represented, one on each boot:

Golden West Sock

This is, in short, exactly the footwear for saddling up, rescuing your lover from the gallows in the nick of time, and galloping off together into the sunset, singing “Addio, mia California, addio!” in swelling harmony.