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Lifestyles of the Upscale Colonials

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Dear Ann,
I couldn’t post this on April Fools Day because you would have been all, “Surely she’s not going to blather on about her American History Fambly Vacation–that’s got to be a joke!!”
But surely I am too going to do just that. What else is this thing good for, if not freeflowing blather?
After a day at the Manassas battlefield, which I somehow managed to not photograph, we left the 19th century, and headed on back to the 18th. First stop: Mount Vernon. (Because kids just love looking at old houses where you can’t touch anything.)
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Just like I pictured it. Magnificent. Dignified. Plumbing-free. It’s a calm house.
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Until you get inside. Few people know that our First President was a huge fan of Yarnstorm. Huge.
(Seriously: those are the real colors George and Martha played whist in. The restorers dug through 17 layers of paint, and this is what they found, the height of imported fashion at the time.)
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The children still reasonably cheerful, we drove 65 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, headed for Jefferson’s Monticello.
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Which strikes one as totally modern by comparison to Mount Vernon. A 21st century visitor could unpack his Design Within Reach reproductions of Eames and Barcelona chairs, and feel right at home. (Well, maybe he’d want to upgrade the Privy Situation.) (Go here for a fantastic virtual tour of Monticello. My only quibble is that the scale of the house is more human than appears in photographs.)
I highly recommend seeing Mount Vernon and Monticello on consecutive days, with a nailbiting drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains (don’t look down!) in between.
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Browsing through Charlottesville’s main street mall, I almost knocked over this sign. Not only did The Needle Lady have the exciting and mysterious Bamboo? –she had the 2 shades of Tahki Cotton Classic I was short for my take-along project.
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We were so taken with painter Eliza Evans that the kids sat for their portraits, right in the middle of the pedestrian street.
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Edith Piaf, as I live and breathe. Non, rien de rien….
Our final destination (stop rolling your eyes): Colonial Williamsburg. I was expecting a pseudo-Disney, quasi-educational experience. I halfway thought we might see Snow White strolling down Duke of Gloucester Street. But these jaded expectations were banished immediately. This is a wonderful place.
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The restored 18th century town reminded me of your Monteagle, Tennessee–but more recently painted.
You had been in Williamsburg just the week before, Ann, and I could feel your presence.
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Especially in the ornamental fowl. The Teeny Project Runway aura was very much with this chicken.
Carrie, who was too cool to don a mob cap, let alone allow me to rent her a colonial get-up, pronounced the historical reenactments “cheesy.” But cheesy is in the eye of the beholder, and it was certainly not in the the eyes of all the beholders.
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Here’s Benedict Arnold, big (and bad) as life.
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He really riled up the militia.
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Patriots were not amused. This one and his comrades took off running, gifte shoppe tags fluttering from their haversacks, to defend the capital.
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Joseph got a tip on carrying a rifle (which had not been invented yet, but never mind) on his left shoulder instead of his right.
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And that was the last I saw of him until General Washington rode off in glory for Yorktown. God Bless America!
What was I knitting?
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The whole way, I was knitting a second huge (288 stitches to begin with) miter onto something that will eventually be a blanket if I go on enough road trips with nothing else to knit. Each stripe represents one skein of yarn. I wish I had done the first miter with these fat stripes, but there will definitely be no ripsies on this project.
You know how I am always going on about how addictive miters are? How kicky? How fun?
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When they start with 288 stitches, miters are not addictive. You simply want to die.
Love,
Kay

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69 Comments

69 Comments

  1. No kidding on the miter front.
    I tried to cut some corners by mitering two squares together. Thought it would be a nice progress to the center and save a seam.
    But NO! 400 stitches to start and my rectangle is a pentagon. Oi vey I say.
    But I really love your colors.
    George and Martha Washington too. Who knew they liked peacock blue?!

  2. Drag them to enough historical sites when they’re young and when they grow up, the very WORD “museum” will send them screaming from the room. I know this because we have made countless uber-roadtrips, even one transcontinental journey where I stood gawking at the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel while my 13-year old son drummed his fingers on a bench and sighed heavily until it was time to move on.

  3. That painting is fantastic.

  4. good god. you were in MY town and MY LYS!!! I came this close to running into you …. hope you liked C’ville.

  5. I made one that started with 320 stitches. I didn’t speak to you for a month. Just for putting the idea in my head.

  6. Having moved to TX from Northern Virginia, I was so homesick when I read this. Mount Vernon is the one place our visitors couldn’t go by public transportation so I’d drive them. After 2 or 3 tours, I’d had enough so I’d sit on the porch in your photo and daydream that I owned that property (only w/ plumbing & electricity). What a beautiful place. Then having one daughter attend UVa, we were Charlottesville a lot and went to Monticello more than once, too (depending on who we took w/ us to visit the kid). And Williamsburg. It is terrific. The other kid almost went there (but chose Middlebury instead). Thanks for the memories!

  7. And my LYS-that-was, and my hometown, even if I don’t live there at the moment! (I worked at Monticello, too. As a gardener. We used to play against Mount Vernon in softball.) Thanks for the great pictures, and the major dose of nostalgia.

  8. I love Williamsburg. We spent our honeymoon there and have been back twice. And very cool on the miters. I love me a good miter!

  9. I love the blanket, and we did that trip when i was a kid too.

  10. Kinda reminds me of the three week “cultural trip” through the UK my parents took me and my kid brother on some 20 years ago. In the first week, driving from Dover to York we saw every single large cathedral on that route, sometimes two a day. Seriously puts you off your pointed arches… The week in Wales was more fun, with all the industrial ruins and mines.

  11. That portrait is beyond fantastic!

  12. Wow–you were in the neighborhood. I grew up in DC and Mom took us all those places. Not Williamsburg but I go there frequently with people. Love it. You are getting me closer and closer to miters. Looks like a fun trip! And the portrait is fabulous.

  13. Thomas,
    It’s called the ABC trip — Another Bloody Cathedral!

  14. I want to go to all of those places..We always go to historical type places as a family, but we usually don’t make it that far away from home..and that is a seriously cool miter..”When they start with 288 stitches…you just want to die.” HA! love it!

  15. OK, I’m making my husband read this post. I’ve been trying to convince him that we need to take the kids to Williamsburg, and now I *know* we do while they’re all still young enough to want to join that militia. My husband and I had a fantabulous dinner there about 14 years ago, with a waiter who I’m sure had come straight off the set of Twin Peaks. Are you going to Jamestown?

  16. You are on my dream vacation. I am now wondering if I and my (Mighty) Flock of Four could get a job in Williamsburg. Or some other Living History place, preferably where the grass is green and people are in t-shirts instead of here where there is still a 22′ section of solid ice in my driveway and my snowshoes are not coming out of the car *yet* because it Might Not be Over and I don’t want to give the gods of winter another opportunity to mock me.
    Thanks for sharing – it’s something to dream about!

  17. Did you know that I LIVED in Manassas National Battlefield Park?! It was incredible, I swear there are ghosts there.

  18. The Blue Ridge Mountains are gorgeous, I long to go back! I must say, that is one mighty miter!

  19. Holy crap, those are pretty miters!

  20. Oh, Kay. You just brought tears to my eyes. Until my mom died about 2 years ago, I considered Charlottesville my home. I love The Needle Lady, though I don’t know that I’ll ever get back there. And to see the downtown mall…
    Thanks for the glimpse of home.

  21. Years ago we visited Mt. Vernon and Monticello, and enjoyed the tours very much. Someday I’ll make it to Williamsburg too. Your pictures were great – looked like a lot of fun!

  22. The miter colors are fabulous. Seems like a recipe for meditation.

  23. Ahh you were just up the road from me. We trot up to Billyburg Jamestown and Yorktown every year. My daughter teaches middle school (angels await her in the dim future) and I get taken along as a “helper” Love all of them.
    When I was a kid, my parents took us to Fort Ticonderoga. My brother tried to push me over the fort walls. It put me off historic places for years :-}

  24. Having grown up in dairy country, my biggest shock when arriving at Williamsburg was seeing cows that had not been polled (had their horns removed). I burst out, “Wow, the cows have HORNS!” on the bus in, and got many weird looks. (I was about twenty-five at the time.)
    The colors are something at Mount Vernon, aren’t they? They didn’t quite capture the eye-searing green in that top photo. I remember worrying that my eyes would bleed when I stepped into that room.
    Bravo to you, for educational vacations with the little ones. They’ll remember this. (And sometimes fondly! And maybe in history class!)

  25. Ohmigod, when you were in C’ville you were a half hour away from my house. You may even have seen my house from one of the overlooks on the Parkway. Ah well, next time. I do hope you brought the kids to Chaps when you were in the Needle Lady – great ice cream. Come back and visit us again!

  26. It’s quite strange to see my very own town show up on the blog! The Needle Lady is my LYS, and I work across the mall from the shop. Like Kelly, I’m a former Monticello employee. I probably would have been all choked up to run into you on C’ville’s downtown mall! I hope you enjoyed your visit.

  27. What a great trip! We took a weekend trip to Colonial Williamsburg a couple of years ago, because they were running some insanely cheap special and it’s just 2 hours away. And we were BLOWN AWAY by how cool and well-done everything was. It’s so fantastic! Did you hang out with the cobbler and the tailor?

  28. I am totally going to take trips with my kid(s) when they’re old enough that are JUST LIKE THIS because I never really got to. Parents were too broke. I don’t care how I’m going to afford it, either, at this point. All I know is that someday, they will be glad they got their portrait painted by a street artist and got to see a reenactment.
    And I am also beginning my love affair with miters now, thanks to you. I’m starting with a baby blanket. We’ll see where that gets me.

  29. The Miter is the coolest, funnest needle-torture *ever*. The one you’re knitting is exceptional. I won’t be joining in, as much as you tempt me, dangling your pretty yarny bits all over your blog. Temptress. No, I will sit over here (resisting the siren song of The Miter) and watch to see a finished blanket, and I will raise a glass to your temerity, your persistence, and your madness. Oh, and there’ll be a few more glasses tippled in the meantime… by way of “cheering” you on, you know.

  30. I’m another Charlottesville lurker, and used to work at that LYS. We do love our little city, and hope you had a wonderful time!

  31. WOW! That mitre blankie is seriously lovely! The colours remind me of my (unfinished) rowan stripey blanket from about magazine 27 (it’s been unfinished for a long time) But now I sort of whish it was mitred instead of stripey.
    Looks like you’ve finally got to me!

  32. LOL we have just been discussing where to go today and Eloise’s only reponse was NO MORE GALLERIES!! A compromise has been made involving hot chocolate, dog walks and waterfalls (and just enough driving to enable me to finish my latest sock!)

  33. Fab historical tour. Rather worryingly, Joseph looks a natural for the militia !
    That painting is fantastic. Woth all the driving alone, I’d say. Your mitreing patience is admirable. It does look lovely.

  34. I too have taken my kids on the Colonial Tour….You have made me jealous…My daughter wants to go to William and Mary College so I may be spending more time down there!!!..You need to come to my neck of the woods…Philadelphia to round out the colonial tour!!
    I have never done any miter knitting…my LYS has workshops all the time and you may have just convinced me to sign up…right now I am two busy doing the Great American Aran Afghan project for a wedding present….and socks, socks, socks,….
    Happy touring!!!!
    Pam

  35. Now you just have to schlep the kids up to Lexington, MA on Patriots Day to see the reenactment of “the shot heard round the world” on Lexington Green. It’s really rather thrilling. Unfortunately, it’s very early in the morning. Fortunately, there’s a very well stocked yarn store just nearby.

  36. Did you get to take the evening/nighttime tour of Williamsburg? They tell ghost stories! And it’s fabulously creepy!

  37. I love family vacations! It looks like you went to some great sites. I was at Williamsburg/Jamestown just last autumn with my father… and husband (and we have no kids!) and we all had a great time. Did you see the period-appropriate sheep? (That may have been my favorite part. Perhaps.)

  38. Kay, Kay, Kay … you were TEN MINUTES from my house! Had I but known, I would’ve made you pie! I would’ve taken you to Knitting Sisters, Williamsburg’s sweet little yarn shop! I would’ve let you dress up all our stuffed animals!
    Sigh.

  39. Hey, you went to W’burg!!!! That is my family’s favorite place….my kids don’t think that the reenacting is lame….we spent a week camped out on the green behind the courthouse, right before the 225th of Yorktown (Oct ’06). You can see a few photos from there on my flickr page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/9562035@N02/?saved=1
    That is my son in the photo running across the battle field to take redoubt 9…he was a lot happier than his 18th C counterpart would have been…
    Did you see the Staymaker? And the women in the Millinary shop? Didn’t you just drool over those gowns? (I’m making one right now…pink striped silk) I’m going to a workshop with that staymaker up in Massachusetts next week! My daughter (the one picking leaves in the photos) is so proud when the Staymaker recognizes her and refers to her as the apprentice to one of his colleagues from up north (she is, too).
    If you like historical trips, go to Gettysburg…buy the cd, and drive around, listening to it, get out at EVERY stop, and figure out where all the things mentioned are, where the people went, and all that. My kids (aged 4-12) LOVED it. Later than our period, of course, so we learned a lot…the kids are only know-it-alls about Rev War.

  40. I’ll definitely keep miter size in mind. Yet another instance where bigger is better is not actually true (though I love the idea of each stripe being a single skein).

  41. Oh I love that part of the country! If I could live anywhere in this country, I’d live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Next time you head that way, go to Beckley, WV and visit Grandview National Park. Very, very beautiful.

  42. Oh, your post brings me back …. We did Colonial Willliamsburg with our kids last fall and loved it. Lucky for me, my daughter was still young enough to think the mobcap was WAY cool–so cool that she wore it to school the day we got back. (It was a good prop as she read her “Flat Stanley Goes to Williamsburg” essay to the class). And we love the Skyline Drive–we’ve been a couple times and are planning a return trip for this fall. Now if I could only figure out a way to knit while hiking….
    –Sydney

  43. Sounds like you enjoyed your stay in VA! I love hearing about peoples trips to places near me. I drive past Mt. Vernon every other day, and I went to school in Williamsburg, so I’m all jaded until someone else goes to visit them, and then I’m like, “Oh yeah, I guess they’re kind of important!” I hope you went to Wythe’s Candy Shoppe in Williamsburg. It’s one of the things I miss the most!!

  44. I was just in W’burg last week with 50 third-graders! They loved it even though it rained. I’ve been there many times but somehow never found the yarn shop. . .hmmm, next time. . .
    And I proposed to my husband at Manassas Battlefield.

  45. Hey, you’re stomping all over my stomping grounds! I hope you enjoyed your tour around VA’s historical sites. This is a beautiful state. And I love the blanket.

  46. How about that front yard on Mount Washington? If I hadn’t reminded myself of my over 30 status I’d seriously considered rolling down that puppy! No clue how I would have got back up. That’s a steep slope to mow. Great trip.

  47. I do historic paint color investigations like the ones used at Mt. Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg, right now I’m at the John Jay House in Rye, NY, and I swear when you see those colors show up under the microscope you think “wow, that’s bright” but until it’s up on the walls you don’t realize how totally nutty they are.
    I have long term plans to make a mitred blanket using the Martin-Senour Colonial Williamsburg paint colors as a guide.

  48. I grew up very, very close to the Historic Triangle (as the PR people call Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown…the locals just call them by their names), and this post made me all homesick! I’ve never been to Mount Vernon, though; who knew George & Martha were so fond of bright colors? Cool!

  49. What a small world it is!! I was friends with Eliza Evans in middle school, but have since lost touch after moving away from Charlottesville. Her art looks amazing.
    Love the large miters and am thinking I might need to make one myself. What are the dimensions on it?

  50. that painting is pretty fantastic, but pales in comparison to the model, i’m sure.
    and the miter blanket is pretty cool.

  51. I forget how lucky I am to live in the Appalachians until I see a post like yours. We drive the Blue Ridge Parkway several times a year (it’s great every time).
    Don’t worry that your kids will hate history when the grow up as a result of your dragging them to historic places. My family toured Gettysburg when I was ten and I’ve been a history buff ever since.

  52. You know, any visit to Monticello should be paired with a visit immediately to Poplar Forest, Jefferson’s other home.
    As for Colonial Williamsburg, my only quibble is that the residents and their clothing are impossibly (although authenticity would clearly act against tourism) clean.

  53. Lovely photos! I’ve been on that same car trip! I am screaming for the portrait of Carrie! Gorgeous! Just starting on “House Thinking” and many other similar books. I like thinking about the house a lot more than going through cabinets and closets!

  54. Ah, good times. I grew up in southeast VA, and went to William and Mary*, so Colonial Williamsburg really is a second home to me. It’s times like this when California really is too far away. *sigh*
    (*FTR, not “William and Mary College”, for so many reasons…)

  55. Oh, goody! I’ve been thinking about that mystery miter of yore, but wasn’t going to ask – who am I to pester other people about unfinished projects?
    The road trip makes me think of my father, who would insert about 27 hours of driving before we were at any sort of destination. I’m not sure if that affected my perception of how cool the destinations were, but could have been a calculated tactic. Or related to living in the boonies. Though I doubt he planned that just for the road trips.

  56. Ack! You were 5 minutes from my sister’s in Alexandria (Mt. Vernon), and OH so close to us here in SW VA!!!
    (sigh)
    We could have met for lunch or something!
    (((hugs)))

  57. KAY! Your blanket looks like cotton fabric. Like Merimekko. You are excellent with color.

  58. I love this post! It’s my life! I went to William and Mary so that seems very much like home to me, but more importantly we took our boys to all those kinds of places (battlefields, houses, reenactments…) when they were little, and they really DID love it. In fact older son David is a History major in college, and I think a lot of that has to do with how much fun we always had at places like this!
    We were always the family that the interpreters had to finally ask to move aside so other people could ask questions. We were at Nauticus (a VERY cool museum in Norfolk, Va) and they not only turned the lights out on us they literally sent a security guard to fetch the aforementioned David when he ignored public address announcements which MENTIONED HIM BY NAME. (And when the security guard said to him “David, you have to leave now, we’re closed,” David replied “Ok, just let me finish this one exhibit!”)
    And I ate on that very walkway in Charlottesville only a year ago, and bought sock yarn in that shop. Small world!

  59. hey guys, you should join friends of The Needle Lady on Ravelry!

  60. We are 20 min from Williamsburg and you didn’t stop to say hi?? Our kids, age 6 and under LOVE the history and we know plenty of families who are 100% into re-enacting. It’s a great place to sit outside and knit in the Spring!

  61. Loving all the Williamsburg love! And all the other William and Mary Alum posting replies! (Tribe Pride!)
    Looks like you guys had a great time. As I said to my fiance during our trip to Paris last month, “Isn’t vacation much more fun when you learn something?”

  62. If you like Williamsburg in the spring, you must visit there in the fall. Beautiful autumn scenery! When I went there, I thought it was going to be dull or boring, but it really was interesting and fun. I love Williamsburg and hope to go back soon.

  63. OK, after scrolling thru the comments, I can see why you didn’t let us all know you were heading our way, but DANG, we’d have loved seeing y’all. LOVE the portrait, may have to take my girls over there soon ~

  64. (from previous comment)
    Rolling down Mount Washington?! Yea, that would be a tumble. I meant Mt. Vernon. You knew that. Wow.

  65. Have you been watching John Adams, the new HBO show? It’s incredibly moving, really catches the period, and the chaos.

  66. We did the Colonial Tour one and a half year ago with our three german kids and they just loved it, as we did. They especially enjoyed Williamsburg and our middle son was very proud, when his english teacher told him, that the actor who played Thomas Jefferson was a friend of hers and he could give her a picture of him.

  67. I love the fat stripey miter with the skinny stripey miter! There’s a funny book called Land of Lincoln, by Andrew Ferguson, where he makes his kids go on the Lincoln trail with him.

  68. I finally read more of the comments….I have to make a correction. You SHOULD come to Massachusetts for Patriots’ Day….I could dress your son! _THEN_ you’d have great blog fodder! But the “Shot heard ’round the world” phrase was coined by Emerson (The Concord Hymn http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/concord-hymn/), who lived in Concord, adjacent to the North Bridge (no bridge was fought over in Lexington!), and _that_ was the shot (fired by the Militia, probably Acton Militia, in Concord, No fire was returned on the Lexington Green earlier, at dawn) to which he referred.
    And there is a HUGE reenactment, starting at the Bridge and going all the way into Lexington on the 19th, starting in the morning and going through the afternoon…the Lexington stuff previously mentioned isn’t on the 19th, it’s on the Monday holiday and is very very early and very very crowded, requiring you get there EARLY. But it’s fun, and there is a pancake breakfast nearby as your reward afterwards…so you should make a weekend of it and do BOTH. I’ve bailed out of doing picket duty at Lexington, or I could bring him right up to the ropes, if I dressed him….and then walk down to Wild and Woolly, a very nice yarn store _right_ there!

  69. When we pulled up in front of Mt. Vernon on Friday (the 4th) and saw 30 (no kidding!) tour buses out front, I couldn’t figure out what was up. NOW I know – a sighting of Kay and fambly had caused a stampede! As true Americans, we adjusted and ended up at IKEA.
    BTW – love The Knitting Lady in C’ville – great shop, always helpful, great inventory, AND Chap’s ice cream is just down the mall for child-bribing.
    Glad you enjoyed our home state!