The Boid

That night I said, “Blanche, how’s the boid?” She said, “Well,
The boid was delicious - he tasted just swell.
But as I fricasseed him, he let out a yell:
OYYYY WILLOW! Tit-willow… willow….’

Alan Sherman,

You wanted to see the boid?

Here’s the boid.

Firebird Sock off Foot

Firebird Sock on Foot

I had a time getting him to that point, I can tell you. Have I mentioned the multiple froggings? No? Well, these sculptural jobbies, where certain elements of the shape have to fall in certain locations on the foot… they’re tricky. You need to be able to plot them out ahead of time in three dimensions or you’re nowhere.

This was relatively easy when I was planning the twining serpent for Cleopatra - I put on an existing sock that was knitted at the same gauge (I used Oktoberfest, which is relatively straightforward) and just basted a piece of waste yarn into the path I wanted the snake to follow. I then carried that sock around with me as a template and worked from it. It was a pretty simple matter to count rows and stitches and place the transition points right where I wanted them. I did have to do one major frogging on grounds of stoopididity, but after that it was fairly plain sailing.

Problem with Firebird: I don’t HAVE another sock knitted at the same gauge.

So I took an old el-cheapo sock and put it on my body double AKA the Grossman Gam, and basted on that, figuring I’d pull the sock in progress over it now and then and get the body outline placed that way.

Problem with that: the gam is not only smaller than my real foot, it’s also soft and squishy, and getting the sock on and off it is a major production. And I found I wanted to test the outline at EVERY pattern row. I was spending half my time just tugging it on and off and futzing it into place.

I scratched my head about this for a while. What else do I have lying around here, I asked myself, that is foot-shaped and reasonably firm?

Finally it hit me.

Foot-Shaped and Reasonably Firm


At first I drew it in eyeliner pencil, but that had a nasty habit of smudging and getting wiped off. So I broke out the Sharpie and gave myself a proper template tattoo.

Foot-Shaped and Reasonably Firm

Worked a treat. I could try on the sock before every pattern row, and even take progress pictures while I was at it, almost without breaking stride.

Shaping the Bird Body

In the long run the only real problem with this scheme was that I wasn’t careful enough in checking the outline for accuracy against the original sketch. It wasn’t until the sock was finished that I took a cold hard look at the prototype and realized how I’d exaggerated the curve of the neck. In my eagerness to get the sock to match the lines on my leg just so, I had frogged and re-knitted so many times that I simply lost sight of the fact that the lines on my leg didn’t quite match the shape I’d planned for in the first place.

Oh, well. That’s what the SECOND sock is for - right?

Firebird - Second Sock

And you thought I never made the second sock. Ha. OK, so I haven’t absolutely finished the second sock here - there’s still the flame picot hem and the embellishments left to do. But I have corrected the silhouette - and the corrected silhouette is reflected in the chart.

Firebird Body Chart

I’ve done something newish and differentish (for me, at least) with this design - on the body of the bird I’ve eliminated the layout of individual stitches and just given indications of the demarcations between pattern stitch and plain areas and what needs to happen at those spots (and yes, I’ve done the same for the instructions). Like programming for exceptions only. I think it makes for a more readable pattern, because instead of having to count every stitch of every row you just look at where you are and follow the outline accordingly. (This is a particularly crafty strategy on my part, because it also reduces the likelihood of MY miscounting or mistyping the number of stitches in every section!)

We shall see whether or not the club members agree with me in the final analysis….

Some details:

Firebird Tail Feathers

Firebird Tail Feathers

Some of this embroidery is optional - hell, almost all of it is optional. When I finish sock #2 I’m going to eliminate the tail outline and probably some of the work over the feathers as well. But for the prototype I wanted to illustrate all the gaudy possibilities.

Firebird - Basketweave

This basketweave on the body is optional too. I probably don’t need to tell you why it’s there or how I feel about basketweave stitches these days. I totally love the way it looks - to me it’s vaguely oriental and phoenix-ish and also slightly pin-feathery at the same time, and altogether I couldn’t be happier with it. But it isn’t very stretchy, and it occurs in a part of the sock that needs to be plenty stretchy. There’s a goodly chunk of pseudo-gusset to counterbalance it (cleverly decreased out at strategic hidden points in the body outline), but even that may not be quite enough for the really high of arch - so I’ve proposed seed stitch as a possible alternative.

Firebird Talon

How much do I love having the talon overlaid on the short-row seam? Ridiculously much.

Firebird Head

The new version has a longer, steeper beak than this, and more room for the back of the crest to extend behind the head. But I’m fairly pleased with the fierce beady eye.

Still, after the assembly-line activities of the past few days I have to confess that right now my favorite pictures of this sock are… these:

I may have missed my calling as a sardine-packer. Thank you, USPS, for coming out with the New Large-Size Flat Rate Priority Mail Box exactly when I needed it! By the time all was said and done, my friends, I had filled two of those and an auxiliary envelope with THIRTY-SIX POUNDS of patterns and related paraphernalia. I realize I’ve already mentioned that circumstance, but… I’m here to tell you… dat’s a lotta boid.

So anyway… The Boid is on The Wing (yes, yes, I know, ain’t that absoid - I thought the wing was on the boid) and I’m hoping it reaches Jennifer some time tomorrow. Speaking of sheer poundage… for anyone who missed this stage of the proceedings, the yarn did reach her on the 22nd, and if you want to see what 500 pounds of undyed sock yarn looks like, you know where to go. She has been elbow-deep and hip-deep in the dye pots ever since - remember we’d been yarnless for more than a month by then, a month during which kit orders and yarn orders just kept coming and coming. Between that and the club kits, I’m not sure when she gets her next scheduled nap. I have to admit I feel a certain amount of survivor guilt about taking mine tonight.

But… not enough to stop me.

46 Responses to “The Boid”

  1. Marcia Says:

    I SO love that you drew it on your leg! Congratulations on a job well done :)

  2. Elayne Branson Says:

    I’m hoping my knitting is up to the task of this beautiful sock! You are a true artist.

  3. Sandy Says:

    I am so excited. It is gorgeous. And I love the basketweave but i have ridiculously high instep so i will do the first basket weave and try it on a lot and at worst give it as a gift. Seed is pretty too but not as pretty, i agree with you.

    It is a masterpiece.

  4. Deidra Says:

    It’s amazingly gorgeous and makes me supremely sad I had to miss out on this year’s Sock Club. Do you think Elizabeth Zimmerman/Meg Swanson’s arch-shaping on the bottom of the sole trick would help those really high-arched people out there? I always resort to that or stragetcially placed ribbing on the sole of all sock patterns because of my ridiculous arches.

  5. LauraS Says:

    It’s glorious! I especially like the fierce beady eye. I love the embroidery on the tail feathers. Also love the flamey top. OK, might as well just say I love everything about it.

    Thanks for posting the pictures of how you developed it. The pictures where it exactly matches with the drawing on your leg are great. Can you post a picture of sock number 2 when you finish it, so we can see where you decide to do the embroidery on that one?

  6. Caroline M Says:

    Ha, this is the first time I can be glad of my ugly, inelegant flat feet because I shall be able to get away with the basketweave. I think I like the leg best, it’s such a clever use of the natural feature of the heel.

  7. Mcknitty Says:

    I am overwhelmed by the beauty and work that has gone into that sock. It is beautiful and reminds me of the Firebird book I used to read as a child. It is stunning and takes sock knitting to a different level!

  8. Waltraud Says:

    I’mnotgoingtofaint, I’mnotgoingtofaint, I’mnotgoingtofaint, I’mnotgoingtofaint, I’mnotgoingtofaint, I’mnotgoingtofaint, I’mnotgoingtofaint, I’mnotgoingtofaint,

  9. Lynne Says:

    Words fail me - the boid is magnificent!

    I surely do feel sorry for Jennifer’s post office - they’re going to have to build an annex just for her!

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

    The sock is Gorgeous, and the sheer numbers/pounds are Astounding! Love the crest and “fierce beady eye”!

  11. Rabbitch Says:


  12. lawre Says:

    oooooh!! My knitting needles are all a-quiver with excitement, can you hear them rattling??

  13. Cathy-Cate Says:

    The talons are ridiculously perfect, as is the fierce beady golden eye.

    I may have to be a seed stitcher given bunions and a high arch (you know, a dancer!), but I could put the basketweave on the neck, I think that would be a nice accent while still allowing the sock to gain access to the foot.

    Now to wipe the drool off the keyboard….

  14. Mama Cat Says:

    Oh my … I cannot wait for the yarn to come and start knitting my Firebird!!! Beautiful, beautiful. What I love about it is:

    1) It is toe-up. Yay!
    2) As you said to somebody on Ravelry, it looks straightforward to increase the leg if you have good-sized calves (actually, I’ve established that my problem is comparatively narrow ankles for my size of foot & leg … but point is I can probably easily adjust to fit). This means the socks are for ME.
    3) They are red.
    4) They are abso-friggin-gorgeous.

    I love that you drew the template on your leg with a sharpie.

  15. RobinH Says:

    Wow. Just…wow. Fabulously gorgeous, and I really admire the cleverness of the design (love that little talon!). Congrats on getting it done, and sleep well!

  16. Lyrel Says:

    boid oh boid - what a sock! er socks I mean! this will be a fun knit - I am really looking forward to it (high instep here too, but I plan to prevail!!!) - I hope that both you and Jennifer can each enjoy a well deserved R&R soon.

  17. Tan Says:

    Super bird! But who will I pay to do the embroidery? I’m terrible at off-the-needles stitchery.

  18. Saralyn Says:

    It’s beautiful. You’re going to have knitters all around the world arranging to host cocktail parties in their stocking feet just so they can show it off.

  19. Veriton Says:

    I love the colours on that sock, and the pattern is so beautiful! Congratulations, yet another amazing design from you (not that you need me to tell you ;) )

  20. Emily10 Says:

    Ooh! I like the stocking-feet cocktail party idea almost as much as I like the Firebird.

  21. Maria Says:

    Wow. I don’t even like orange–or yellow–and I love that sock.


  22. Linda Says:

    Spectacular. Just. Plain. Spectacular.

  23. Ruby Says:

    Absolutely beautiful! I just hope that I can do your pattern…erh, masterpiece justice.

  24. Sandie Says:

    Stunning. Fascinating. Intimidating. Can’t wait!

  25. Kassandra Says:

    Wow. Words fail me. I hope my knitting ability does Firebird justice. Absolutely gorgeous. I’m sin awe, and I’ll admit, a bit scared too.

    Thank you both for such wonderful, dedicated service. :-))

  26. Jez Says:

    You deserve CAKE!! (can I say p%n*s cakewaffle in your comments?)

  27. RedScot Says:

    Oh my! This is soooo beautiful! Congratulations!

  28. Sukie Says:

    If this is your work, what do you do for fun? Cannot wait to start these beauties, hope I am up to the task! Congrats for the completion now get some rest.

  29. Phlelknits Says:

    It’s looking good. Yay for shipping kits this week. I’m already trying to calculate how to adjust the foot length to decide whether to make these for my size 10 1/2 shoe, or for my sister’s size 7 foot. Adjustments look……………..more than interesting on this one. Love, love, love the orange, even if it isn’t chartreuse.

  30. Cyd Says:

    The boid is simply beautiful, amazing and breathtaking. I love your 3d template, too.

    And now you more than deserve your nap.

  31. Jesh Says:

    not sure why I didn’t see this until now but OOOOOH. that is fan-freakin’-tastic.

  32. Elizabeth Says:

    That is the most beautiful sock I’ve ever seen. Ever.

  33. earthchick Says:

    Oh. My. That is just fan-damn-tastic. Will that pattern ever be available to non-club types? This is the first I’ve been to your site, and I am totally smitten. [have a thing for the whole Firebird story and music anyway, but aside from all that WOW this sock just blows me away]

  34. Laurie Says:

    O…M…G…..That is the most AMAZING sock I have ever seen!! I bow to your imagination and pattern writing prowess….

  35. did you know that cereal is the only food I’m never sick of? seriously. « organic matter. carbon art. Says:

    […] I’m currently waiting on the Firebird kit, which has theoretically been shipped. I can’t wait, so I started a new pair of socks. I may […]

  36. oh, life. « organic matter. carbon art. Says:

    […] break. Which sucks. But if I’m good for the next couple days, I’ll be able to start the Firebird Tsock when it gets here. Currently it’s at my real house in Berkeley, and my mom is mailing it up […]

  37. eSS Says:

    Oh Lord !!! I love every word of this post… I love the socks… I love everything…
    Congratulations on another successful design.

  38. Lazy… « The Pet Yarn Says:

    […] Firebird: […]

  39. The Boid « The Pet Yarn Says:

    […] I received the first kit for the Tsock Flock 2008, “Firebird” by Lisa Grossman, the Tsock Tsarina. The tsock is gorgeous. The yarn is gorgeous (thank you, […]

  40. MaryBeth Says:

    Oh I bow before your creative greatness!!!

    OH HOW does one get this and other of your sock patterns???

    In Awe…

  41. mamaursula Says:

    I found you through Ravelry and I have to say that you are the most talented (and possibly insane) sock knitter I have ever seen. Thank you for sharing your gift of knitting with us. Amazing.

  42. Sarah Says:

    This is an abosolutely stunning sock! Congratulations (and thank goodness for Sharpie markers)! I found you through Ravelry. Would love to know how to go about getting the kit if it’s available. Really beautiful work! :)

  43. Bridget Says:

    On Ravelry, you said this pattern will be available to the public early next year, right? I can hardly wait! What a fabulous design!

  44. Lauren Says:

    Sooooooo beautiful! And the Sharpie leg tattoo is full of win!

    When will those of us who can’t afford the club be able to buy the kit?

  45. Larisa Vilensky Says:

    Hi there!
    Interesting to find similarities between Russian flag restored from tsar era.
    In the link below there is a name of a person who drew the image of 2-headed eagle.
    You even used the word “tsar” for the name of your event.
    And your firebird – the Pava – is just marvelous.
    Russian culture seams inspired you this year. Though no word on the source of your inspirations.

  46. Jenny Brown Says:

    Is this pattern available to buy? Also the Willow Pattern sock; would love to knit both.

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