“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.
Side View - note assistant playing footsie, or rather pawsie
“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:
“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:
The dragon itself, incidentally, being a knitted interpretation of the traditional Chinese Dragon Knot:
On the back of the ankle is the traditional Double Happiness symbol, again under a pagoda roof:
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 bambù”).
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).
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.