Hi hi hi! I’m back from vacation! I missed everybody so much!
I’m at that stage of re-entry where, venturing into the back end of our beloved website, I had to squint really hard to locate the “Add new post” button. Which is a testament to the wonderfully carefree time I had in France at the end of August.
I put all responsibilities on hold and spent every minute enjoying time with my college-days bestie, Maria-José, and the lovely man who whisked her off to France in 1982. In the early days of their living-in-France-ness, there was no What’s App, the telephone was wildly expensive, and we were both short of time for letter writing, so we developed a practice of simply holding on for months and years before we could see each other, and then picking up exactly where we’d left off. This training has come in handy in a pandemic. We picked up right where we’d left off in August 2019.
For almost two weeks, we wandered around southern France, in the Landes and Dordogne regions, staying first in an Airbnb and then with friends. We saw the sights, ate the eats, and laughed the laughs. Thanks to being in the sticks, and the French “pass sanitaire” (health pass, a proof of vaccination or negative test, required to be shown to sit down in a restaurant or enter a museum), we didn’t have to worry much about Covid. We were mostly in tiny towns, many of which—apart from Fotomat-style laundry islands in grocery store parking lots, what a handy thing—showed little signs of change since circa 1960.
We spent the last couple of days accomplishing a goal I’ve had since the filmstrips (look it up, kids) we watched in 7th-grade French class: to visit the famous châteaux of the Loire Valley. There were a lot more people in these massive tourist magnets, but again: pass sanitaire to the rescue. Everyone had their mask on and kept their distance, and it felt ok.
Up top are photos from what may be the grandest château, Chenonceau. I went in intending to read every plaque and learn loads about its architecture and its inhabitants over the centuries, but my handwork-loving heart had other plans: I became transfixed by the lushest flower arrangements I’ve ever seen. They were in every room, more than a hundred of them (200, I later learned), and clearly they did not come from 1-800-fleurs; they were stuffed with garden flowers, plants, and wild foliage. No two were alike, and they enlivened the old stone and tapestries like nobody’s business.
These folks are as excited about the flowers as I was.
Thing I learned: if you have ten gardeners and several florists at work (one of whom holds the coveted title of Best Worker of France), mind-blowing things happen. All of the photos in the gallery are of Chenonceau’s amazing flowers and my extended inspection (accompanied by indulgent pals) of the vast cutting gardens. (If you’re interested, here’s a dreamy video from French TV featuring springtime scenes from the gardens and floral workshop, which show the best worker doing his thing. Now that I’ve learned that they change out the flowers every week, I’ve got to go back. Obviously.)
In the midst of this luxuriance, the most arresting arrangement was one that anyone could make. In the chapel, in front of a bas relief of Madonna and Child, were white posies in jam jars.
I nearly fell over from the perfect simplicity.
I am unusually partial to a jam jar, it has to be said.
The whole trip, I was faithful to a single knitting project: my Hana Pullover, which I’m making in an erstwhile alternative brand of the sadly discontinued Rowan Denim, aka my personal paradise lost of cotton yarns.
Thanks to Hana, I’m wildly in love with cables again. Like, wow, aren’t cables the absolute best? My brain on cables is a more serene and orderly place.
It’s a beautifully written pattern, and the cables are rhythmic riffs on three motifs. I’m loving knitting my first (but not my last) Junko Okamoto design.
The wavy one is my favorite, with its tracery of twisted-stitch ripples.
All three parts of the back are finished (parts 2 and 3 are picked up and knitted onto part 1, log cabin-style), and part 1 of the front is nearly there. When the parts are finished, I’ll outline the sections in embroidery to give the illusion of patchwork. Although I think it looks cool as-is.
Let’s all laugh and laugh at my notion that I was going to finish this project on my trip and needed to travel with a full back-up sweater quantity of yarn. But still: better safe than sorry, and no regrets. I’ll pack two projects again next time, you can count on it.
Lesson learned for the 100th time (at least): working several hours a day on a single project leads to zippy progress. I’m going to try to summon some discipline and finish Hana before turning to my next project. Speaking of which…
My Next Project
Here’s some startling news: Rhinebeck, aka the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, is only (shriek!) 7 weeks away.
Therefore, my next project is to put the finishing touches on the ultimate Rhinebeck sweater, Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Daytripper cardigan.
I got quite a bit farther than this.
By finishing touches, I mean the rest of the body, the sleeves, and the small matters of a steek, bands, and buttons. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not. (Narrator: It’s a lot.)
I was having so much fun knitting this cardigan last spring, and I have no recollection of putting it down. Fate must have intervened, in the form of a deadline, a shiny object, or lack of moral fiber.
Luckily the Daytripper is a clear-cut pattern, and I left it in a good spot.
In case anybody else did the same thing, I’m officially clanging the Rhinebeck Sweater Action Alarm: Get busy and finish your Daytripper Cardigan in time for fall festival season. You’ll be so glad you did! (And also: I think we will need to have a Daytripper meetup at Rhinebeck, so stay tuned for news of that if you are Rhinebeck-bound this year.) If you’re looking for supplies, count on the MDK Shop for a fantastic selection of Léttlopi—many colors and fun bundles to try out color combos.