during my last few days in new york, i began to panic because i thought i wasn’t being productive enough. though i really didn’t fill my schedule with outings and distractions other than running each day, i had spent most of the week on two designs only (granted, one was fairly complex; i couldn’t even have tackled it at home, haha) and was worried that i’d been “wasting” my retreat time.
when that sort of frantic panic sets in, there is almost nothing that will quell the anxiety and distraction of it like stepping away. reproaching my work after a break is often exactly what’s needed to give it fresh perspective, allowing the brain to stre-e-etch and work out the kinks. i know this, but i often find myself dismissing a break as an indulgence rather than a productivity tool . . .
last saturday though, cathy offered such a great opportunity for a diversion that i couldn’t resist and the fact that it offered wonderful blog fodder made it all the more appealing—we were going bike riding with a small group from her LBS, NYCe Wheels. with the added bonus that i’d get to try out the folding brompton bike, since NYCe wheels specializes in them—as well as a variety of alternate transportation solutions for city dwellers, from electric bikes to scooters (i love that).
our ride leader for the afternoon was jim, who is very knowledgeable both about the brompton brand and about local rides
he had completely researched, planned, and done a test run of our ride in advance and was full of helpful and fun information about our destination. he’s also really well-versed in how the bike works and how to get the most out of it. after getting each of us set up and comfortable on a loaner model, he demonstrated how to fold and unfold it handily for stops.
we rode uptown on the east drive of central park, then took adam clayton powell jr drive from the top of the park to st. nicholas avenue and rode through through harlem, sugar hill, washington heights, and onward to our destination—the high bridge, (NYC’s oldest standing bridge), newly renovated and reopened after a closure of more than forty years.
the city has a really great web of bike lanes and bike-friendly corridors to many outlying destinations. the ride up took about 30 minutes at an easy pace; anyone could do this, but it’s nice to go with a group so you can travel in a pack.
this bridge joins washington heights to the high bridge neighborhood in the bronx on the other side. everyone was out enjoying the day and this new city destination.
we rode over to the bronx, made a small loop, then took another small walkover bridge back to the manhattan side, landing near jackie robinson park, and used this as our turning point to head back downtown along the cliffside. david and i used to do a lot of weekend rides, sometimes with a group, when we lived in the city; i miss that! we still go, but mostly in the countryside here.
the view from the other side, a slightly different take on the river. the day was stellar for taking in the views. here on the bronx side, we are looking across the river at washington heights, with the hamilton bridge first (far left) and then the fort washington bridge beyond that. washington heights is one of my old neighborhoods, where i lived in the 1980s (when it was far less attractive, haha) for about six years before moving to brooklyn.
BTW, the brompton test drive was a treat—i thought this bike rode and handled very well; it felt a lot like a normally sized hybrid type bike, even when standing up to ride. if i still lived in the city or if david and i travelled more, i would totally save up to get one for commuting, because they are super light and handy. cathy rides hers to work each day and takes it wherever we meet up, coat-checking it as needed. it folds up small enough to go into the overhead bin on a plane or packed into a suitcase. i once went on a bike trip with someone who rode it exclusively for travel, and witnessed him climb some tough mountains in italy on it.
once small glitch is that it’s not very easy to change the back tire if you get a flat, like our ride mate did (which is easy to do on the street). david thought that a quick-release could easily be added to the back hub, though to make quick changes more convenient.
soon we were on our way again, having crossed back over to find access to our return street, edgecombe avenue.
at the end, happy and a little grimy, we took one last picture to prove we survived and were still smiling about it. i turned in my bike and headed back to brooklyn for the evening. i have to admit, i did not get back to work that night as planned—i was especially beat afterward, probably from the sun.
that day and the one before had been very hot—you can see that those pretty purple alliums had already cycled though their color phase by the time i returned that evening (wow, i’m glad i caught them at their peak!).
for the next few days i hunkered down to work and make the most of my remaining retreat time. i did take one more social break to meet cathy and agnes for lunch one day—a girl has to eat, after all. and i’m always glad for a chance to spend time with them; they are the best!
on wednesday i packed up all of my books, yarns, needles, and running gear for the trip home that evening; i was sad to go, but looking forward to seeing david, too
for my travel knitting, i chose to work on my lightweight shell in our new summer lace yarn; mindless enough that i can listen to announcements and pay attention to what’s going on around me, but knitting up quickly enough that i’m motivated to keep going. i was a little bit above the waist when i left brooklyn; i worked all the way through the body shaping in the airport (i was there a while), and then worked the armscye and some shaping on the plane. i’m about one-third of the way up the left shoulder. so far i have used just 1.3 ounces of yarn, can you believe that? i wonder if i’ll be able to finish this whole project with one skein?
hey, i’ve been having so much fun reading your guesses about what this yarn is spun from; do you want me to tell you more about it now? first of all, no one has come even close to guessing the right combination of fibers, much less the right percentages.
almost everyone thinks this yarn has linen in it and that would be . . . wrong.
we thought about working with linen and our mill even ran a few sample skeins for us. the linen just didn’t play as nicely with the other fibers as everyone would have liked. i personally don’t mind the slubbing, but combined with the other troublemaking that was happening and the fact that we found something else that was softer, the linen had too many marks against it.
instead, we turned to another favorite fiber—hemp. now hemp is sometimes thought of as a rough fiber (and some of it is), but look here
you can see when we put it next to the linen that it’s actually finer, silkier, shinier, and more evenly constructed, without the hairy hooks that can cause other fibers to snag and slub in blends using linen.
plus the hemp has that great golden color, similar to the unbleached tussah silk that we like to use in our blends (that’s the second fiber, BTW). i usually prefer the wild silks for their color, but it was interesting that when we ran these test samples, we found other good reasons to stick to the more earthy tussah, rather than the cultivated white mulberry (or bombyx) silk.
the tussah actually behaves a little more like wool; it has a bit of crimp and is less slick, so it blends more easily with the other fibers. our millers told us that the bombyx was too slick to use with the other fibers in more than a twenty percent proportion, constantly wanting to gum up and clump in the blend.
it does lend a little extra softness, though i’m not sure that’s actually benefit with this yarn; i don’t want the fabric to be completely without body. the color is quite cool compared to the tussah blend as well; i like it ok (and we might even choose to do a shade using it), but i love the tussah.
as you can see now, we’ve also got some merino in the mix—that’s where our gray marbling is coming from (and we will likely manipulate that coloring by changing the merino shades used). back to the photos of the test skeins, i think you can see the other reason we didn’t like the linen as much—it’s kind of hairy and not always in a good way; the hemp was much smoother while still adding some airy body to the blend.
so that’s what we’ve got: 40 merino/30 hemp/30 unbleached tussah silk—you like?
unfortunately, no one guessed the correct fiber mix or proportions and most of you didn’t even come close. karen c. came the closest, guessing a linen/silk/wool blend in nearly the right proportions, so i’m going to email her a hamsa scarf pattern. thank you all for participating though; i love having these games, don’t you?
can you believe the color green in this photo? this is right out of the camera, friends—no photoshopping going on here. the property around the ranch is GREEN. (which reminds me—signups for the ENVY club will close soon; don’t dawdle if you want a spot!).
while i was away, our area was subjected to a LOT of rain and it has continued since i got home. i’ve been squeezing in morning runs between the raindrops to keep up the fitness i earned back during my trip, but the yard is very soggy indeed. i know it’s been all david could do to try and keep up with the weeds, but they are just terrible this year.
nevertheless, there is much to celebrate in the garden—like these first fresh hydrangea mops; what could be more beautiful, eh? not a mark on them and still holding their early greenish tinge; just lovely with hose huge droplets pouring out of each blossom . . .
i have literally never seen our thyme bloom like this—it loves all the water it’s getting.
day lilies are preparing to pop as well; if you look very closely at the green photo up top, you can see hints of yellow breaking through on those stella door blossoms.
the thing i was most anxious to see though was around back—the vegetable beds. because the timing was all wrong for us, this was the first year that i was not able to do the planting and i really feel like i missed out. by the time our soil assessment was done and david was able to get the beds ready, it was mid-may and i was beginning a heavy round of shows, classes, and my NYC trip.
when i left he had just gotten most of the plants and seeds in, but was still setting the onions and seeding in the greens.
ten days later, just look at these onions! and everything is so tall; the eggplant look phenomenal (of course, they re the kind of plant that could drink water all day long).
all of our basil plants seem very happy for once, growing tall, with full leaves. this basil gigantic, which i got as a novelty has the biggest leaves i’ve ever seen, haha. they would be lovely for lining an antipasto or cheese plate to perfume it from underneath. or maybe rolled up with some kind of filling? i’ll have to ponder that one . . .
and there are tomatoes, yay!! again, all looking very good, climbing their ropes on the scaffold frame david rigged for them.
my very favorite thing to look at though is the showy flowering plants, like this dark eggplant with the intense bloom. this one has a long eggplant growing down below as well—one of those type that are great for stir frying. i saw some peppers forming as well, so we shall be soon eating such a dish from our own plantings.
and of course, king of the showy vegetable flowers, the squash is blooming like crazy, in all shapes and forms. this one is an intense orangey yellow with spiky, tightly curled petals.
on another plant, a more traditional looking flower with a wider opening and shorter petals. home to many ants, apparently . . .
ah, it’s nice to be back. i’ve got a busy few days ahead to get some things caught up, but all in all, the fort was held down very well and i’m not too awfully behind. i should be able to indulge in some garden work over the weekend; looking forward to that.
i’ll be back with a pattern and kit release on sunday—see you then.