Ice Princess

“Turandot” is off the needles.

Actually, she’s been off the needles for a couple of days now. And when she was done I was so drained, I went into some kind of post-sock letdown - a 24-hour period with NO KNITTING, no blogging, no nothing. Upon regaining consciousness I plunged full-tilt into the Rush Blob, which is now coming into the home stretch - or would be if I didn’t have to duplicate it. (Ah, the disadvantage of knitting real socks for real people - they tend to prefer pairs, not singleton design prototypes. Second Sock Syndrome with a vengeance - I think I need to find me some one-legged friends.) So I think I’ve pretty much recovered. Who knoo this one would take so much out of me?

Not, I hasten to add, that it’s all that difficult to knit. But I felt compelled to squeeze 10 gallons of design elements onto about a quart of canvas - that’s the problem with projecting all this high-falutin’ concept stuff onto a… SOCK - and it was a tight fit this time around. (Funny, “The Nine Tailors” is another Ten-Gallon Concept sock, and then some. But for some reason on that one all the pieces naturally fell into place a long time ago. Go figure.)

Next I get to figure out how to ’splain it all. I might as well go ahead and have the vapors again and have done with it - this is going to take some doing.

Let’s start with the sock itself.

Turandot, Side View
Side View - note assistant playing footsie, or rather pawsie

Turandot, Front View
Front View

“Turandot” is inspired by the Puccini opera, which in turn is based on the play by Carlo Gozzi, which in turn is based on an old Chinese legend, which in turn has common roots with every three-riddles-to-win-the-princess fairy tale or myth you ever read.

That’s why there are three riddles on the instep:

Turandot - Three Riddles
“Gli enigmi sono tre….”

These are, of course, the riddles you must solve in order to win the hand of Turandot, the Imperial princess with a heart of ice. It’s not a challenge to be undertaken lightly: fail and you forfeit your head - like the unfortunate Prince of Persia, who goes to his death during the opening scene.

On the front of the ankle, the dynasty of the Emperor is symbolized by the Imperial dragon under a pagoda roof:

Turandot - Imperial Dragon

The dragon itself, incidentally, being a knitted interpretation of the traditional Chinese Dragon Knot:

Dragon Knot

Dragon Knot - Head Close-up

On the back of the ankle is the traditional Double Happiness symbol, again under a pagoda roof:

Turandot - Double Happiness Symbol

That’s a bit of a spoiler, I guess - fact is, after a certain amount of suspense and violence and bloodshed the story does end happily, with a wedding.

My favorite scene in the opera is the opening of Act II, which to my teeth-gnashing fury is often cut down to almost nothing, even though it’s the most picturesque and evocative thing in the whole piece. It’s a big hunk of exposition sung by the three ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong, and for me it sums up everything that makes Turandot fascinating. (The title character herself - at least, the stuff she sings - I can pretty much do without, I’m afraid.) They explain, they kvetch, they gesticulate, they apostrophize - it’s the whole opera in microcosm, from back story to longed-for ending. It’s poetic, it’s tragic, it’s comic, it’s epic. So that’s where much of the imagery in the sock comes from.

That’s why, for instance, the bamboo yarn and the bamboo stitch background - because Ping sings so wistfully about his house in Honan, with its little blue lake surrounded by bamboo (”tutto cinto di bamb├╣”).

That’s also where the cuff treatment comes from. Toward the end of the scene the three ministers indulge in a prophetic fantasy of Turandot’s ultimate surrender to some all-conquering prince, and they get pretty graphic and fanciful about it, conjuring up an idyllic night in the garden, with fragrant things murmuring and tiny golden bells tinkling - they invoke blessings on the coverlet of pale yellow silk that will bear witness to the sweet sighs of… well, um, so anyway, here’s some quilting in pale yellow silk (Zephyr, actually), and some tiny golden bells (they don’t really ring - I’m not a sadist, after all).

Turandot - Cuff

Alas, I couldn’t find room for the Tiger, or the earrings of the Prince of Sagarika, or the red and white lanterns, or the forests of Tsiang, or the garden at Kiu, or “the immense Yang-Tse,” or the beautiful scarlet palanquin… but that is what imagination is for.

19 Responses to “Ice Princess”

  1. Julia from NM Says:

    WoW!! The sock is soo beautiful–congratulations! And the references to Turandot have me scrambling to link this entry to all of my opera loving friends. Thanks!

  2. Gretch Says:

    First, love. LOVE. the sock - the icy blue, the slick bamboo, the temple bell fringe (that’s what I see). If that’s all it was, it would have been enough. More than enough, really. Then, all those Turandot references - knitted allusions - breathtaking. You and your sox, Madame Tsarina - make me proud to be a Knitter. You deserve a mini-break.

  3. stacey Says:

    wow. the workmanship in that sock is amazing - so many details - the sock truly tells a story!

  4. Cathy-Cate Says:

    Lisa, this is beyond words. No wonder the coming to light of Turandot, sock edition, has been its own epic full of tragedy/comedy/poetry. The tiny Chinese dragon is my favorite part, but it’s all amazing.
    Socks are like — oh, a sonnet — a defined and not very large form of expression; but those limitations can inspire marvelous creations. Hmmm?
    Lovely sonnet!

  5. Cathy-Cate Says:

    Sorry, I neglected to address you as “Schwenck”!

  6. Donna Says:

    No time this morning, but WOW!!!

  7. Em Says:

    That is a truly lovely sock design! I’m in awe, especially of the dragon knot. The whole work is so very inspirational! Perhaps those other elements you mentioned might not fit on a sock, but I could envision them working their way into a shawl…

  8. kathe hannauer Says:

    gorgeous…and you didn’t even mention “nessun dorma”!

  9. Astrid Bear Says:

    Oh. My. Gosh. That sock is amazing! It’s so . . . so . . . well, amazing. Words fail me. No wonder you’ve been incommunicado for a few days. Don’t overstrain yourself now — we don’t want to see you evaporate in a sock-induced brain fever. A little clear soup, a low diet, airing in the morning sun — not the afternoon sun, mind you — while well tucked into a soft blanket. Repeat until strength returns.

  10. onafixedincome Says:

    Wow. You have outdone yourself!!

    You should go curl up and Ptolemize for a while–you deserve it and so does he!

  11. Lynne Says:

    I never thought I’d see the day when somebody knit Chinese ideograms into anything, let alone a sock. The *concept* never even crossed my (alleged) mind. You, and the sock, are both incredible! I wish I was even a tenth as creative. I do most sincerely hope that this year hasn’t completely fried you and Jennifer, and that Art for the Feet will renew next year, so I can join! I wonder how many socks it would take to do the entire Ring cycle?

  12. Angie Says:

    It is an exquisite sock. I love that it tells a story. I like Lynne’s comment about how many socks for the Ring cycle! :-D

  13. Melissa R. Says:

    So, until you bind off the last stitch, Nessun Dorma at your house? Pardon the horrendous pun. It is the first opera I ever saw - and it is still one of my faves! Great sock - love it!

  14. gwynivar Says:

    I love it I love it I love it! The dragon is cool, but I love the totally cool yellow lace coverlet thing going on. How would that work on say, a rectangle shaped wrap? Wicked cool.

    Here’s my wish list for fantasy socks:

    I wanna see a Magic Flute sock. and Wizard of Oz sock. and a Peacock sock. and a Don Giovonni sock.

  15. gwynivar Says:

    hmm, and while I’m thinking about it, perhaps some serious classic ‘Americana’ stuff needs a little represent? For heaven’s sake, there’s a whole world of Disney princess socks just waiting for some classical re-write. Sleeping Beauty is totally the classiest dame out there, but SOOOO neglected. And if the Disney slant ain’t your thing (ya, ya, little mermaid blah blah blah), they ARE classical fairy tales in their own right… hmm, just picture it: “A sock for every day of the week: Doc, Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, Bashful and Happy”

  16. Sonya Says:

    And of course you couldn’t find rooms for a perspiring Pavarotti with a whopping great hankie belting out Nessun Dorma. Yes, I am back my dear, thank goodness you’re back from your 24 hour break!

  17. Deborah (a.k.a. Mt. Mom) Says:

    Lovely, just lovely! Congratulations!

  18. Emilie (also Arianne) Says:

    It’s beautiful! Your concept art sock creations are always…just amazing. I love it. I just love it!

  19. The Betwixt Says:

    I have a solution to your second sock crisis. Specialty Christmas Stockings. WHOO!

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