The tender-hearted artichoke dressed in its armor, built its modest cupola and stood erect, impenetrable beneath a lamina of leaves, burnished to a pomegranate glow. And then one day, with all the other artichokes in willow baskets, our artichoke set out to market to realize its dream; life as a soldier. But look, here comes Maria with her shopping basket. Unintimidated, she selects our artichoke, she buys it, she drops it in a shopping bag. Once home and in the kitchen she drowns it in a pot. And thus ends in peace the saga of the armored vegetable we call the artichoke, as leaf by leaf we unsheathe its delights and eat the peaceable flesh of its green heart.Pablo Neruda,
“Ode to an Artichoke“
Ahhhhh. A brief hiatus between Purdah and Purdah. Club Tsock #4 is being printed and packed, so it’s time to show it to you.
I’ve always had a weakness for artichokes - as food for palate, as food for thought, as food for metaphor. They may well be the most misunderstood and controversial vegetable ever. I’m telling you… it isn’t just any piece of produce that could get itself banned in New York as a casus belli (or maybe that should be casus belly) for the Cosa Nostra.
|Somewhere on my overcrowded back burner is a pile of preliminary notes and research for a gastro-botanico-historico-literary monograph on the subject, and this design has absorbed a fair amount of that literary juice. Shakespeare, Neruda, Dumas, Sabatini, Pliny, Theophrastus, Cesare Borgia - they all play a part here, along with the occasional nod to Greek mythology and romantic poetry.|
Here, then, is what I thought was going to be this year’s tsimple tsock - Blessed Thistle.
It’s an artichoke, see? Well, kind of an upside-down artichoke, with the ribbed cuff for the stem, and little vestigial leaves just like on the stem of a real artichoke.
(Yes, I know. Technically they are not leaves, they’re bracts. So sue me.)
Um. Maybe you can tell I’m kinda proud of those? And maybe you’ll concede that I have reason to be, when I tell you that they are worked in-line as part of the cuff, so there are NO ENDS TO WEAVE IN! NONE!
And then comes the part that should have been simple - that I actually thought WAS simple until I started trying to explain how I had done it.
As on a real artichoke, there are smallish leaves at the base, i.e. on the ankle…
… and as with a real artichoke the leaves get bigger as you reach the widest point of the circumference.
So the leaf lace pattern is worked in three different sizes, omitting a single set of decreases to accomplish each transition, so that the sock widens as the leaves do, with the biggest leaves forming the instep.
Then a couple of the leaves curl under to form the heel…
… and then there’s this funky little Japanese-inspired pickup thing that happens underneath to start the sole moving forward…
… into a kinky little short-rowing sequence. And then the leaves start getting smaller again, until at last the whole thing ends in a puddle of melted butter at the toe.
It all seemed very organic while I was doing it - in fact, I got so cocky with the omitted-decreases trick that I actually scaled the lace pattern to four different sizes, using #1-#3 for the medium-size tsock and #2-#4 for the large. And then… then I sat down to try to explain it all, and that’s when my brain exploded into a thousand pieces. (Some of them splattered so far and wide that they hit my poor test knitter, at a range of a coupla hundred miles, and she was wiping up the mess for days. That woman is made of stern stuff, I’m here to tell you.) Sometimes the things that are the simplest to do are the hardest to describe. And vice versa. I mean, it’s just a plant, right? What could be simpler or more natural than smaller leaves growing into bigger leaves?
It turns out that when you make something grow really organically on your needles it is almost impossible to go back and figure out, not only how you did it (actually, I always understood how; it was only articulating it that was hard), but where. Like trying to retrace a woven-in end that you’ve hidden too skilfully, or undo a graft that you’ve worked too evenly. The unincreased increases turned out to be sneaky little devils, hiding their lights under the bushel of angled-stitch camouflage.
Then there are all the red herrings inherent in working a half-drop lace pattern in the round, even at only ONE size let alone four. Then there’s the only-half-intentional invention of a newish (so far as I know) kind of heel.
All in all, what I came away with was partly this: next time I set out to design something tsimple… PLEASE will you slap me upside the head and remind me what that word MEANS!
And yet. And yet the tsock is not difficult to knit. No, seriously; I mean it - stop laughing. It’s NOT. I think - I hope - I trust - that it’s pretty straightforward even if you just follow the directions and charts carefully. But if you are any kind of a hand at all at reading your knitting and following its rhythm… it’s practically a walk in the park. Or at any rate in a field of not-too-prickly thistles.