About Me

…about me…

Lisa Grossman, AKA the Tsarina of Tsocks, is a writer who knits – and/or vice-versa – on the South Shore of Long Island, surrounded by the usual sort of fluctuating menagerie. (Why she is writing about herself in the third person, she is not at all sure; force of habit, she guesses, after a lifetime of bios….) She is pleased and perhaps a bit relieved to be sporting such a benign moniker these days – as anyone might be after being known as “Amiable Slut” and “Rat Lady.” A charter member of the Wall-to-Wall Patrick O’Brian Road Company, she is the surviving co-author of Lobscouse & Spotted Dog, Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels (W.W. Norton, 1997/2000); her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Independent, Napoleon Journal, and Tin House literary quarterly – and most recently in the new Tin House anthology Food and Booze (October 2007). Currently on her literary back burner: an annotated translation of the works of Marie-Antoine Carême; Talleyrand at Table, a sort of multi-gastro-biographical work about Carême, Grimod de la Reynière, Brillat-Savarin, and the eponymous Talleyrand; and City Built to Music, a biography of the collaboration between Samuel Chotzinoff and David Sarnoff. So many books, so little time….

She learned to knit at her mother’s knee and has been knitting her own designs since – oh, project # 2, or so.

She wonders where socks have been all her life.


Pattern Corrections and Addenda

When/What Where/What Now reads Should read
10-27-2006 – Correction to directions for Kitri Under “Stitches and Techniques,” in the general Note on the three versions of Kitri’s Fan “Work the k2tog-b as follows: s1 to rn; s next st twisted by inserting rn from r to l into back of st and pulling it off of ln” “Work the k2tog-b as follows: s1 to rn; s next st twisted by inserting rn from l to r into back of st and pulling it off of ln”
10-27-2006 – Correction to chart for Kitri At end of key to “fan” charts; line missing from some copies “(see glossary and” “(see glossary and written directions for further detail)”
10-27-2006 – Correction to chart for Patterned toe chart, row 3 stitch 21: ssk
stitch 23: k2tog
stitch 21: k1
stitch 23: k1
      ”    row 4 stitch 21: N/A
stitch 23: N/A
stitch 21: k
stitch 23: k
      ”     row 11 stitch 18: k stitch 18: ssk
10-27-2006 – Corresponding correction to directions for Kitri Patterned toe directions, row 3 * k2tog, yo, (k1-b, p2) five times, k1-b, yo, ssk **, k1; rep once from * to ** k2tog, * yo, (k1-b, p2) five times, k1-b, yo **, k3; rep once from * to **; ssk
      ”     row 4 k1, * k1, (k1-b, p2) five times, k1-b, k2; rep once from * * k2, (k1-b, p2) five times, k1-b, k2 **, k1; rep once from * to **
      ”     row 11 k1, yo, (k1-b, p2) five times, k1-b, yo, k1 k1, yo, (k1-b, p2) five times, k1-b, yo, ssk
10-27-2006 – Clarification to chart keys for Kitri Both keys [N/A] For patterns worked flat, symbols should always be interpreted according to their RS results; e.g. a stitch depicted by the purl symbol is purled in RS row but knitted in WS row.
10-27-2006 – Tip for working fan lace in Kitri Clustered stitches in Row 10 of Three-Quarter Fan Lace, rows 10 and 20 of Patterned Toe [N/A] Since this is not a true cluster (in which the yarn might be wound more than once around the group of stitches and the stitches themselves might not be worked at all), I like to use the following trick to avoid having to slip stitches back and forth: without droppping the yarn from the left hand, with right hand reach under left (i.e. between the left hand and the needle) and pull the long end of the yarn around the tip of the left needle so it runs back to front and hangs in front of the work. Work the clustered stitches. Release the yarn from the left hand; pick it up from the front of the work so that it reaches across the clustered stitches; continue working normally.

About the Kits

Each of them contains a pattern booklet and enough of Jennifer’s Flock Sock yarn to make a pair of socks in Women’s Medium. Please let us know if you need a larger size; I’m working on new editions of the pattern booklets which will include such sizing instructions, and we can arrange to supply larger skeins of yarn as needed.

The copiously illustrated booklets are 5.5″ x 8.5″, put together with book rings so you can use them like flip charts. Pattern stitches are written out step by step but are also charted; you’ll find the charts and a glossary of abbreviations on cards at the back of the book, so they can be removed and used separately if you like – placed on a chartkeeper, etc.

Jennifer’s Flock Sock is a 4/14 (4-ply, 14 ply-meters/gram, so 3.5 meters/gram overall) superwash merino/nylon blend; suggested gauge 8 sts x 12 rows = 1″ on US #1 needles. It is hand-dyed by Jennifer VanCalCar of VanCalCar Acres, who also handles inventory and sales. Here are some pictures of dyeing and drying in progress.

Thalassa – the colorway that inspired the Poseidon sock.

Crimson Rioja – the colorway for the Kitri sock.

Crimson Rioja still in the dye pot.

The Kitri kit also includes a small skein of Zephyr laceweight (50% merino/50% tussah silk) in Ebony, and a package of beads, for the lace overlay.

Broadway Bound

So that’s what we’re working on right now.

Dyeing. Printing. Assembling. Sorting. Packing. Organizing. Planning.

It’s very close to home, which is kind of refreshing, but it’s also going to be unusually complicated to plan and coordinate, because of the midtown Manhattan venue. Let me put it this way: The Vendor Packet is 83 pages.

Are we excited? Oh, yes.

Are we getting much sleep? Hah – what do YOU think?

Hop on over to the home page for the full run-down of just what it is we’re dyeing/printing/assembling etc. – all the Usual Tsuspects, plus a spiffy new edition of Tsocks 101. I’ve taken this out of kit form and re-worked it into a standalone booklet… all the better to assimilate you with, my pretty. (Wait… wait… did I just re-imagine the Wicked Witch of the West as a Borg drone? Oh dear, I think I did. What is WRONG with me?)

As of now we’re not planning to take pre-orders for this show; we’re packing what I dearly hope will be a competent supply of all titles, and hoping it holds out.

There may not be much in the way of bloggifying until this little adventure is over, but I’m trying to be good about taking pictures along the way, so at least I can report after the fact.

Foundation and Empire (or… The Toboggan in the Bathroom)

It occurs to me that I have never done any blog show-&-tell about the process that goes into putting together inventory and preparing for a show. Since I happen to be working (and working and working) on precisely that at the moment… well, there you go, blog fodder ready to hand.

Herewith, therefore, the first in a series on Tsock Infrastructure – literally from the ground up.

But first… behold the Toboggan in the Bathroom.

The Toboggan in the Bathroom

If you could see where I live – if you could see how completely flat (though neither stale nor unprofitable) is the ground for many many miles around – the first and very reasonable question you would be asking is, “Why on earth do you even HAVE a toboggan?”

Simple. I live in a Little Red Wagon community – a place where parking and dwelling are far enough apart that moving groceries and/or yarn and/or inventory between house and vehicle is a bit of a schlep. I actually have quite a little fleet of wagons, which competently handle some 90% of all my schleppage… except in the deep midwinter. When the snow drifts hip-deep and the paths lie unshoveled, my little wagon train just ain’t gonna cut it – as I discovered the hard way three or four years ago when I had a carload of food and firewood and literally no way to get it from Point A to Point B.

Enter the cheap plastic toboggan, which saved my bacon, and my milk and eggs and any number of other things, for the duration of that hard winter.

No, I don’t normally keep it in the guest bathroom.

That phenomenon came about organically, in the following manner.

This is the most recent incarnation of the Tsocks booth – Fiber Festival of New England, 2014.

NEFF Booth 2014

See the nice new show floor? It’s made up of industrial-strength interlocking carpeted rubber mats, with this Very Grown-Up and Professional beveled edging downstage…

Beveled Edge

… and I’m here to tell you, it is truly a valued rug; it does our feet and backs a whole world of good, and it really does tie the room together. I love the hell out of it, yes I do.

After two festivals in a row, however, it does tend to bring home a fair amount of fairgrounds with it – dust, dirt, mud, all thoroughly ground in by the tramp of uncounted customer feet.

Don’t want to be coming into Vogue Knitting Live with my floor all grubby!

So this is how I spent yesterday morning.

Washing the Show Floor

Hands. Knees. Bucket. Scrub brush.

Washing the Show Floor

(Note to self: Remember how you were planning to do this OUTDOORS – BEFORE the cold set in? Lay it all out, hose it off, leave it out to air-dry? Yeah, that would have been a really good idea.)

The scrubbing actually goes pretty quickly; this stuff is after all designed to clean up easily. The rinsing is a bit more chore-like; fortunately the mats fit comfortably in the stall shower in the guest bathroom…

Show Floor in Shower

… and as long as I remember to angle them AWAY from me, it goes pretty smoothly and doesn’t leave me unduly sodden. Also, a hand makes a fine squeegee.

It was at the next stage of the operation that I was suddenly and dramatically reminded that the bathroom floor is not exactly waterproof – a quick run down to the basement between batches and… wait a minute, what is that sound of copious DRIPPING…?

Right. That’d be the wet mats leaning temporarily against the bathroom wall, dripping their considerable excess moisture directly onto, and then directly through, the floor. A hand doesn’t make all THAT fine a squeegee after all, it appears.

Brief panicky scramble, followed by sudden light bulb moment.

Show Floor Dripping

Thank you yet again, ever-useful plastic toboggan.

Speaking of ever-useful, a folding laundry rack, lying on its side on a tarp, comes in very handy for the next stage of drying.

Show Floor Drying

(For further off-label applications of this type of rack, stay tuned for Adventures in Skeinwinder Tensioning, coming in a future instalment.)

Only problem with that is that it doesn’t allow for air circulation between the mats. Fortunately, those beveled edging pieces can multi-task with the best of them – every bit as well as the toboggan and the laundry rack.

Show Floor Drying

By this morning, the whole shebang was almost completely dry, except for about an inch at the bottom edge of each piece. The weather was cooperating, for once, so we took it all outdoors for the final stage:

Show Floor Drying

I was out all afternoon, and when I got back at twilight the wind was picking up; we are apparently in for some kind of Winter Weather Advisory of Doom tonight. So I dropped everything and made a beeline for my precious floor, rushed to gather in the harvest before the weather could spoil it. By the time I got there some of the mats were, well, no longer on the porch – but with one perverse little snowy exception they were all nice and dry.

Show Floor Clean and Dry

And clean. Ready to be stacked and packed, schlepped and deployed, for the comfort and delectation of everyone who passes through the booth next week. After which I imagine they’ll be bringing home a fine selection of Midtown Manhattan Midwinter Grime.

Songs of a Frog

o you know… on previous occasions when I have thought and/or posted about not faking my own death, I’ve only ever envisioned one model for that particular phenomenon, and it basically goes like this:

Premise: You ain’t dying.
Appropriate Course of Action: Don’t go around saying (or hinting, or implying) you are… because, well, see #1.
It turns out, however, that there is a second model; one I have to admit had never occurred to me until very recently. And this model is a doozy:

Premise: You are dying.
Appropriate Course of Action: Don’t go around denying it… because, well, see #1.
This second model has been brought to my attention in the rudest manner possible – and now I’m adhering to it. Not that I have any choice in the matter. In the course of the past few weeks I have learned the hard way that there really is no way to sugar-coat this piece of news, so I guess there’s no alternative but to blurt it out: I actually am, fer realz and fer stupid surrealz, dying. Of a nasty hot mess of super-stealthy, super-aggressive abdominal cancers that have very literally tied my insides in indissoluble knots.

I’ve been in the hospital for a little over three weeks now; am hoping to head home pretty soon for some variation on a theme of hospice care. How long I’ve got left is anybody’s guess, but the best-educated guesses are not those pointing at the high end of the possible range.

What does this mean to YOU and to ME?

In reverse-ish order, what it has meant to me is a great clarification and simplification of purpose. There’s a whole lot I don’t expect to have time to do… myself, anyway. But damned if this ridiculousness hasn’t taught me – AT LONG LAST – what it really means to delegate the stuff that needs delegating. It means choosing the people you trust, because you trust them for a reason; it means having the conversations that matter, pointing in a direction, and then really REALLY letting go. And that leaves you free to do the stuff you actually do need to get done yourself.

What this means to YOU the club member: Those final i-dottings and t-crossings on the long-delayed Tsock #4 are taking place right here and right now. I hope to be able to supervise final kit and package assembly at home, but I’ll roll with the logistical punches and do it remotely from here if I have to. (As for those delays, BTW, and as for the slightly lesser delays in processing refunds to those who requested them – yeah, cancer is a harsh mistress, it turns out, but the commitment remains.)

What this means to YOU the show customer: We’re not doing the full Mayathon, but we will make a showing at Maryland Sheep & Wool. By “we” I’m afraid I don’t mean me – I’m now permanently tethered to various types of equipment that don’t travel well – but delegation is a great thing, and the Tsarina’s Finest will be out there with a pretty goodly selection. New (or returning) to the line-up since last year’s show are the new edition of TSOCKS 101, plus The DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT, and ROXIE – along with, of course, many of the usual suspects from previous seasons.

The lovely ladies of Bead Biz will be with us again, and I think we will have copies of Kate Atherley’s exciting new Pattern Writing for Knit Designers available (sorry, still playing e-mail tag with Kate on this one and I’m not sure how it ended up, but will clarify later if necessary).

Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival
May 2 & 3
Howard County Fairgrounds
West Friendship, MD
Location: N5

What this means to YOU the once and future Tsock customer/knitter? Well, that’s part of this whole Delegation Adventure, but file this under the heading of Irony Is Ironic That Way: It has long been my plan to put the Club on indefinite hiatus after the above-mentioned Tsock #4, precisely for the purpose of getting our act together on other fronts, like web commerce, like bringing back all the old titles to the lineup, etc. etc. Well, as it turns out, that is still the plan. I just won’t be the one executing it. There’s a lot still being figured out about the how and what of all that, and I don’t know exactly how it’s going to be managed. What I do know is that (see above) I have chosen the people I trust, because I trust them for a reason; it means I am having the conversations that matter, pointing in a direction, and then really REALLY letting go. I think and hope that for the foreseeable future they will continue the Tsocks tradition at least at Maryland and Rhinebeck, and that they will focus the rest of their not inconsiderable abilities on all this other development… including some new ideas that aren’t quite ready for prime time yet.

What this means to YOU the marvelous imaginary friends inside my computer? The ones who sometimes pop out of the screen when one might least expect it? The ones I meet at shows and events? That’s the hard part. I don’t know exactly when it’s really goodbye, the big one, the Heghlu’meH-QaQ-jajvam or Hokay-Murray-Dis-Is-It moment. I don’t think we’re there yet. I hope not. But I’m rolling with new punches every day, and there’ll come a day when the punches are one too many and the rolling stops. What won’t stop, even then, is the love and the weird adventurous joy that has been this fibery tsocky journey from minute one if not before. So there can be no reason to wait until then to thank you for it, for this indescribable thing that really has, for nearly a decade, been the gift of my life.

For some reason I am moved to think of the things my uncle said around deathbed time. Asked by some innerness-of-the-outerness person to leave five last thoughts for posterity, he said:

Things change.
Saran Wrap is good.
More is better.
I love my daughters

OK, so his idea of how many things make five may be a little off, or maybe that sort of rule becomes less important when you’re that close to the end.

But I love this list. Ain’t got no daughters, myself, but love a lot of people and have been wallowing in the love they have shown to me. Also, there’s this – my uncle’s posterity has had a fortuitous field day with one of those thoughts. One of my cousins, his granddaughters, makes things… as one does. And she took “Things change” and she used some kind of wicked cool tool to cut those two words out of wood, and somehow things got twiddled, and in the final design it became “Change things.”

I’ve never written a blog post like this one before, obviously, what with my previous firm adherence to Model #1. But I think somehow that is a fine note to end on. There’s plenty of profound out there, somewhere, and I’m probably gonna get a good wallop off of it any minute now. But for now, the transmutation from “Things change” to “Change things” – I don’t need to go no deeper than that, you know?

Little Bits of String

Yeah, I know, way to spoil a highly successful exit line. But I SAID it wasn’t quite the Big Goodbye moment yet, and I meant that. I don’t propose to keep up some crazy perfect storm of blogging, but there are still things to say and I certainly hope to say some of them before the ol’ 16-ton anvil hits.

The first and most important of them is that I have been completely blown away by the response to my previous post. O ye gods and little fishes, all this love and support and all these marvelous memories! How wonderful are you guys? and how wonderful is it to feel one is being remembered and thought of in that way? I will have to leave your imagination to do the answering, because this is where all my vaunted way with words leaves me realizing that some things… just aren’t about words. Between the threads and PMs on Ravelry and the blog comments and the tweets and the hand-delivered expressions that have reached me… I desperately wish I could respond individually to every single message, but the sheer VOLUME – that’s more stamina than I’ve got kicking around under the circumstances. Just know that I thank you and love you – I treasure all those memories too – and am warmed and humbled and heartened all at once.

Next – I’ve noticed several people bemoaning the loss of opportunity, assuming that the end of me is also the end of the line for the availability of Tsocks. NOT SO! Take heart, and never say never. That is not the plan – on the contrary, I am doing my best to arrange with my deeply-committed co-conspirators that the present kits will CONTINUE to be available, indeed eventually in larger quantities and via web as well as show. Furthermore, they also plan to keep bringing older titles from the line back into circulation, including a few that most of you have never seen because they were club kits that never made it to the blog. So there are still treats in store, and we intend to KEEP them in store. Stay tuned.

Third – a few people have asked about Luke. I’m sorry it never occurred to me to mention this, but as of a couple of weeks ago there is no longer anything to worry about in that department. After a good long happy silly life, Luke is already at rest. It was his time, and he went easy. Pretty soon he’ll be my guest blogger in the Happy Hunting Grounds, if that’s how the Mystery plays out.
Esprit d’escalier department: I suddenly realized that this is the perfect explanation of what ails me. Spinners beware… and clicky: