once we had a few days to settle in after being away at the sheep and wool show, we got down to the intense work of discussing recipes and cooking up dishes for our pairings club menu. there was a lot to cover over the week i’d be there and we wanted to make sure we included a variety of interesting, seasonal ingredients as well as unusual picks from more far flung places. get any two cooks into a kitchen together and food ideas will soon start flying, books will be pulled form the shelves, and favorite chefs will be mentioned. there was so much to squeeze into four courses!
and so many dogs to help with that.
because i got to bed earlier there than i normally do at home, i was awake at dawn and spent several quiet hours knitting to start each day—it was heavenly.
katharine’s yard was busting out new and more beautiful blooms each day
and all manner of birds visited her feeders as well.
the hydrangeas were absolutely stunning—in the most perfect of stages, some still had that fresh, new green color i love. the tornado just missed getting them, all escaped unharmed by staying in their buds throughout.
at home we are at least a month out from hydrangea blooms—which i adore—so this was a real treat for me.
day by day my sweater back grew while i enjoyed these peaceful hours. it was just what the doctor ordered after two solid months of nonstop activity here at knitspot central.
on saturday we took a ride downtown to walk around old wilmington and see the beautiful homes, churches, and waterfront attractions.
this church is a marvel of roofing finesse—i can’t even fathom how those slates are installed (the angle is almost vertical), but they were recently replaced after a bad storm tore most of them down, so it can’t be impossible. i SO want to climb up to look out those windows, don’t you?
i loved seeing the temple of israel synagogue with its moorish design and patterned windows.
we hit the small farmer’s market at midmorning to search for a few ingredients we were missing for our last menu recipe.
it was filled with flower stalls, plant stalls, and those filled with early vegetables and fruits.
katharine made a beeline for the peonies (her favorite) and snagged a beautiful bunch of nearly unopened blooms. i scored a small container of the most awesome freshly ground roasted peanut butter i think i’ve ever tasted—just miraculous (yes, peanut butter can be!). we ate that with apples later on that day.
i also spotted a dog collar that just had to be peppa’s. she may not be a knitspot fan yet, but she will be. as soon as she learns to knit.
next we made our way to the cotton exchange, a pre-civil war complex of brick buildings that now houses shops along its cool interior passages, while maintaining some of the historical elements from its earlier days.
the rabbit warren effect of the conjoined buildings work in its favor—one can duck in and out of the heat to visit retail establishments or linger in the less populated stairwells to admire the architecture.
i really enjoyed this painting which is a study by ronald williams of the 1873 painting by edgar degas named the cotton office in new orleans. i didn’t really realize degas had been to the american south and painted there, but now i know he was; while the original was composed in degas’ studio, he combined elements he picked up from his travels in new orleans with models from his own family.
nearby, an old cotton bale sits on a wagon that was rolled to a spot just under the scale attached to a ceiling beam.
on the way back to the car we took the “walk of fame” over tiles memorializing well-known performers, athletes, and other distinguished natives of wilmington.
we had plans to go to another local attraction later in the afternoon, but stopped home to grab some lunch and get the flowers into a vase of water—it was a hot, muggy day. peppa seemed quite proud of her new collar; maybe it will inspire her to knit or at least to join ravelry?
once refreshed, we headed to the airlie gardens to enjoy some of the seasonal blooming plants and a 467-year-old oak tree.
the oaks were indeed magnificently bearded with moss that waved in a brisk breeze and made light shows with the sun pouring through.
all over wilmington the magnolias were opening that day; most were just barely popping out of their husks but a few were fully opened to plate-sized flowers.
several weddings were taking place at once in various garden areas from a spot under the old oak to one at the gazebo end of this path to the old church housed on its grounds.
the jasmine arches were breathtaking and we felt lucky to have seen them at their peak moment.
our main mission was to visit the bottle chapel, designed by Virginia Wright-Frierson and completed by a group of wilmington artists in 2004 as a memorial to minnie evans, a self-taught folk artist who was the gatekeeper at the gardens in her later years, from 1948 to 1974.
minnie sold her artwork at airlie through exhibitions she held on the grounds, sometimes with her paintings spread out right across the lawn.
the bottle chapel design, built from over 4000 bottles, metalwork armature, and concrete, incorporates figures and fauna of the type that appeared in many of minnie’s paintings, which were inspired by life in the gardens.
up close the surfaces created by every type of bottle imaginable ripple and unfold in waves of abstraction
stepping back you can see the larger compositions pull together from those elements.
the chapel has a definite relationship to a southwest or mexican style of architecture, though i’m not sure yet why. it was a real treat to be able to take it in on a sunny day when the bottles sparkled with light.
the lively kaleidoscope of color was repeated all around as we walked the paths to the exit; even in the tiniest of hidden places.
one last treat was the cemetery behind the old church housed on the grounds, with graves from the last century—so poignant.
there is even a mystery grave for an unknown person. it was interesting to see that each grave had both a headstone and smaller foot stone; i can’t remember seeing that before.
one small headstone caught my attention and i pointed it out to katharine—martha b, are you reading the blog today? i’m not trying to creep you out, but we thought this was kind of cool.
on the way home we ran an errand at the asian grocery where we got sucked in to walking the aisles to poke around in row upon row of unusual packages and ingredients. i desperately wanted to buy this breakfast cereal for the promises made on the package alone—who wouldn’t want to?—but i saw that the third ingredient is wheat so i left in on the shelf.
at home, the dogs had the right idea—time to lounge around and rest; we were tired! we didn’t cook that day so we ate an early dinner of yummy leftovers from our week’s work and planned our last recipe test for sunday. and evening of knitting and watching TV followed.
katharine swatched for her own illas cíes pullover project while i continued work on my sweater back until my head began to droop.
sunday was a work day—in fact dessert day! and if you think this is a dish of blueberries well, i’m just going to let you think that, because what we made is a secret. the day flew by in a flash and our evening was sort of the same.
pretty soon it was monday morning and the end of my visit—boohoo! over coffee we evaluated katharine’s sweater swatches (she’s knitting her illas cíes in ginny sport, color georgia—she was smart and bought some before our spring ensemble went live).
i put the finishing touches on my back piece and then cast on for a sleeve to knit during the plane trip home.
the dogs were alert that something was about to go down so they hung close all morning. they’re so sensitive, it’s really cute. we had a few things to do before heading to the airport, but eventually it was time to say goodbye and get on the plane.
well, thought i’d get more knitting done but i started dozing during my second flight and that was that.
back home i hit the ground running the very next day—there is always much to do after i’ve been away for a while and this time i was gone over a week. david has made good progress on preparing the garden and now we had everything in place for planting, yay. that was our weekend goal.
next to the garage, the poppies are popping—i saw the first one on wednesday when i got back from getting my hair cut (much needed, haha). now this lone pink one has been joined by a red one.
that afternoon i took out the finished pieces for the salt & pepper top i’d completed in NC and prepared them for seaming by pinning and steam blocking.
i wove in all my ends and started seaming at knit night that evening and finished before going to bed.
on thursday i woke up with a raging sore throat and a small fever, probably contracted during my flight—too much burning the candle at both ends lately as well. so i made an executive decision to stay off the computer and away from the office. instead i doctored myself and listened to a book while working on my neck and armhole finishes.
except for a short bit of harvesting in the garden . . .
the spinach and asian greens i planted in march really took off during the week i was away and now there are plenty of stir-fry greens to be had. not to mention a carpet of volunteer cilantro from seeds that blew across the path from where it lived last summer.
the small clump of hardy spinach that lived through the winter and began filling out again in april had quadrupled in size and was even beginning to bolt a bit, so they needed attention before we lost them. i cut off all the large leaves, which filled a good sized basket, yay. david is downstairs cooking them now into a pasta dish that he makes very well. and still i left behind plenty of small leaves to grow in; we’ll probably get another picking out of that clump. meanwhile, the new spinach plants are growing rapidly, though they didn’t germinate as plentifully as i’d hoped.
by late afternoon my sweater finishes were all done and i put it into a hot soapy bath to soak while i took a nap. of course, i didn’t wake up in an hour or so as planned, but slept til the middle of the night! no matter, it was fine to rinse and wet block at that hour.
the neck of the salt & pepper top is devised to be loose enough to slump a little at the front, forming a very short cowl (or you could go crazy and make it long! in the last sample i knit,i didn’t support it as it dried and i think that allowed it to shrink back a bit. so this time i supported the neckband with a rolled up washcloth to prevent it shrinking back.
much better. don’t be afraid to change or tweak these details to your liking—your finished sweater should be just what you want it to be. if you prefer the neckband sucked in and flattened all the way around, then pick up fewer sts around that lower curve and/or use a needle one size smaller.
sometimes i knit a neckband or sew in a sleeve two or three times until i’m satisfied; it’s not that the pattern isn’t “right” but that for my personal knitting style and/or fit preferences i may need to tweak it. better to spend a few extra hours getting it right than to have invested lots of hours in something i won’t wear because a small detail is off.
it’s true that sometimes i just want to finish and not fiddle, but if it turns out to need changes, a day’s rest from the project will usually reignite my interest in making it perfect, especially if i really like it overall. i’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, but that’s a whole other blog post.