Not Much

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Doing not much. Knitting and knitting and knitting. I have so many chores I should be getting to but . . . it's January. I just want to knit. So I am. And trying not to feel guilty about that. I'll catch up (won't I?) in February. . . .

Cinnamon rolls from Scandikitchen Fika and Hygge cookbook :: Sweet little baby Mimi :: Shawl is My Shetland Adventure pattern in Sunday Knits Angelic fingering in aqua :: Breakfast with my loves at our favorite, Besaw's :: Illustrations from My First Little House Books (which I like as much if not more than the original novels) Going West and Sugar Snow :: Andy and Mimi at the store right now getting ingredients for chicken soup tonight, as we all try to stay healthy :: Ranunculus sweater yoke in Arranmore Fine in progress :: Watched all of the first season of Victoria. Wow. So good!

Anyone watching or listening to good knitting podcasts? I am familiar with Woolful, The Gentle Knitter, and Kammebornia. Are there any others I should check out?

Ryðrauð-y Sweater for Me

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I finished my Ellen-ish version of a Ryðrauð-kind-of-yoke sweater and I wanted to show it to you before I get on to other things and forget to do it. Lately I feel like I'm getting behind in certain things and then they just disappear from my brain somehow. But I finished my navy-blue sweater yesterday and I am so pleased with it that I decided to have a nice time this morning taking its picture on the dining room table.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I used the Ellen Cardigan pattern in size XL and made no modifications to any of the math used in the pattern. My original version of that sweater (I finally put some stuff on Ravelry, and my Ellen is here, for what it's worth) fits me perfectly (for once). I was so excited about it that I cast on for this navy sweater almost immediately after I finished Original Ellen, and decided to use a modified/simplified version of the Ryðrauð yoke and pretty much plug it into the stitch counts for the Ellen yoke. The construction of the original Ryðrauð is bottom-up and completely different than my navy sweater, which is top down. But I think my flower pattern definitely gives a nod to the original Ryðrauð and that makes me happy. I still think the original Ryðrauð is really gorgeous and maybe I will make that actual pattern someday, I don't know. The chart I used is on this post and I think anyone could modify the number of repeats to use with the Ellen (which is a free pattern) yoke in any size if you wanted to.

Anyway, a few things about it: The floats were huuuuuuuuuuge between the first three rows of colorwork. Thank you to those of you who suggested different links so that I could look at potential solutions to that. In the end I sort of jerryrigged it (mostly because I had already knit it but also because the solutions seemed kind of complicated!) and literally just used a bit of embroidery floss to tack down the longest floats in the center. I didn't actually sew through the yarn there, but I sort of wove the floss over and under the strands, keeping them together but still letting them move. That said, I don't even know how much they needed to move. I probably could've tacked them all the way down. Either way, it seems to have worked just fine and it was super easy!

Also, I did cast on and knit the neckband before doing the colorwork, and then when I knit the button bands on I just picked up the neckband stitches, too. For some reason I got a lot fewer stitches on my buttonbands than last time and I had to kind of recalculate the buttonhole placement, which I did but I still kind of messed up by  couple of stitches at the end. But the buttons at the top look good and the placement is better for me than on the original Ellen.

What I really wanted to tell you, though, was how I lined the button bands. I really, really like this treatment of button bands because it adds some stability to your bands and knitted buttonholes and prevents the knitted button bands for stretching out and gaping when buttoned — I really do not like it when the button bands gape on a sweater. And also, the button bands are just so pretty and nice and kind of like a little secret luxury. No one really sees them while you're wearing the sweater but for some reason just having them on my very own sweater feels so luxurious and special and sweet.

I got some questions about this the last time I did it on a sweater for Mimi so I thought I'd elaborate on how I did it here: After the sweater was blocked, I laid it out on the table and lined up the knitted BB's (button bands) and measured how long and how wide each of them was. In my case, they were 21 1/2" long by 1 1/8" wide. Adding a 1/4" hem on each edge meant I cut two pieces of fabric that were 22" by 1 5/8". I cut these on the straight grain (instead of using bias tape, which you could also do) so that they wouldn't stretch. (You could also use a ribbon for this but I can never find exactly the ribbon I want when I need it.) I carefully pressed under 1/4" along all edges. Then I laid one of the pressed strips face down on the table and then laid the BB of the sweater right side up, directly over it. You'll want to take some time to make sure that both sweater and strip are carefully placed here; you could pin them together if you want to, but I didn't. I used a water-erase fabric marker to mark where each knitted buttonhole fell on the fabric strip, and then marked that through to the right side of the fabric. Then (after some testing on scraps of the same fabric) I used the automatic buttonhole feature on my sewing machine to stitch all of the buttonholes vertically on the fabric strip. (This feature is totally awesome. You put the button that you want to use in the back of the special foot, pick the correct setting, and press "play." If your machine doesn't do this, stop in a machine shop sometime and ask them for a demonstration of this feature; it's pretty life-changing if you like to sew clothes.) I opened all the buttonholes as you usually would, with a seam ripper, and then just whipstitched, by hand, each fabric strip to each knitted button band using thread the color of the sweater. Typically, if you use a ribbon you usually don't stitch down the inside edge. But with fabric you have a folded/hemmed edge instead of a finished edge and so I sewed it down.

I should also mention that my linings here are a bit different than the way you would do them if you've steeked your sweater. (This sweater was knit back and forth, not steeked.) Usually the lining ribbons on steeked sweaters are used to cover the cut edge of the steek itself, and I've always seen the ribbon falling just shy of the buttonhole. But I suppose you could make the lining or ribbon wider and do buttonholes in that, too, as I've done here. It's a bit of a laborious process but after all of that knitting, it's really nothing, and such a nice way to finish a sweater. If you've done this, or if you have any suggestions of questions, let me know. I'd love to hear them.

Mimi and I went to the fabric store yesterday and she helped me pick out the buttons so I sewed those on when I was done with the bands. I'm wearing the sweater as I write and couldn't be happier with it.

So Nice

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I had the nicest birthday. Every minute of it was so nice. It's wonderful to have a birthday fall on a Sunday! I loved it. I had a plan to make my birthday cake (I decided, after all, to do the usuals) and then make bolognese sauce and stuffed shells (from Craig Claiborne via my NYT cooking app). Stuffed shells have been my favorite food since childhood. Andy and Amelia went grocery shopping and got some very fancy ingredients, including handmade ricotta cheese, which was delicious. I made the sauce (but forgot to add the basil and cream at the end) and then my back was bothering me from sitting in the wrong chair for too long at lunch at our neighbor's the day before (it seems fine now) so A & A took over and made the cheese filling and assembled the shells for me while I knit and watched ice skating. It was great. Outside it was cold and gray but inside it was warm and cozy. I got sweet presents and cards and texts and talked on the phone a lot. Before we ate the cake, we put the big camera on the tripod and took some timer selfies of the three of us, which was so much fun. My mom had been reorganizing some things in her house and found a picture of my grandpa with me when I was a baby. She found it in his passport, where he apparently kept it for years and years. I was really touched, and I don't think I've ever seen exactly that picture before. The other picture is of my dad holding me above his head while my sister watched. He used to do this with us all the time. We're standing in front of his teal blue Cadillac. My dad passed away on my birthday, eighteen years ago. It's always a bittersweet day. But I was surrounded by love and family and friends and food and animals and light and warmth, which was the best present in the world.

Here's a delicious present for you:

Stuffed Shells from Craig Claiborne/New York Times

Bolognese Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (2 ounces) bulk sausage
1/2 cup onion chopped fine
1/3 cup celery diced fine
1/2 cup carrot diced fine
1/2 pound beef ground fine
1/2 pound pork ground fine
2 chicken livers, chopped fine, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste, if desired
Generous grinding of black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups imported canned Italian plum tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan or casserole and add the sausage, onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring, until onion is wilted.

Add the beef, pork and chicken livers and cook, stirring down with the side of a heavy metal spoon to break up lumps, until meats lose their raw look. Add the rosemary, nutmeg, salt, pepper, wine and tomato paste. Stir to blend.

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor or blender or crush them by hand. Add the tomatoes and the broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer, skimming the surface of fat, 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in the basil and cream and remove from the heat.

 

Ricotta Cheese Filling (stuffs about 18 large shells)

2 cups (1 pound) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely diced Mozzarella cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drop jumbo shells into boiling water and cook about 10 minutes or until tender but not overcooked. Drain.

Spoon layer of sauce over bottom of casserole large enough to hold stuffed shells in one layer.

Fill each shell with equal portions of ricotta cheese mixture. Arrange shells stuffed side up in casserole. Spoon remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake 25 minutes.

Happy New Year!

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Well, hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Hello. Happy New Year! I hope yours is starting out well. Lazy days turned into lazy weeks, here. It was glorious. It snowed. Things got cancelled. Things got rescheduled. Family came. Family went. The house got trashed. Movies were watched over and over. I knit and knit. Toys were played with. Books were read. Lots of treats were eaten. Lots of snuggling happened. Lots of days involved no driving whatsoever. Lots of mornings started incredibly late. Lots of baths got taken. Antidote to occasional intrusions of holiday stress: hours of mind-tranquilizing tasks. Like knitting row upon row upon row of stockinette stitch. Winding about a hundred skeins of embroidery floss onto tiny plastic bobbins and arranging them by color into boxes (a job that has needed doing for YEARS now). Cross stitching, ripping out, stitching again. Middle age descends: here's me, sitting in my cozy corner under a comforter doing these things while wearing a new flannel nightgown and watching Just in Time for Christmas. My happy place. I think I was purring. Ohhhhh, you know. It was lovely. I needed it. We all did. I hope your holidays were just as wonderful.

I blocked and put buttons on my Ellen Cardigan (still have yet to put it on Ravelry, sorry) and oh, how I love that thing. I'm really proud of it. It's the third or fourth sweater I've knit for myself and the first one that's ever fit me perfectly. As I mentioned before, I followed the colors of the original pattern exactly, and I made no modifications to the knitting (size 48). I loooooove it. I immediately started  another one based on the exact same sweater pattern, but changing the yoke design. For a while now I've been wanting to make the Ryðrauð sweater but I was nervous about doing any sweater from the bottom up, or, honestly, any sweater other than the Ellen (from now on, forever and ever) because I find it almost traumatizing to make sweaters for myself that don't fit. As I said, I've only made a handful for myself but, if I'm honest, there is something about every one of them that I just don't like. The neck on my Ramona cardigan is just way too big and falls off my shoulders. My Strokkur I made too short and I'm constantly pulling it down (well, I would be constantly pulling it down if I actually wore it). My Birkin sweater was tragic (yoke too deep, my colorwork too puckered, the neckline too funneled, body too big, sleeves started way too low on me, etc.). It just doesn’t fit my shape well. And that was size XL in fingering-weight yarn [shrieking]. I’ve seen plenty of people make this pattern now and it looks so gorgeous on them in all of the photos I’ve seen, but I just didn’t succeed with it. I don't have very much experience knitting adult-sized garments and I find it to be very intimidating and weirdly heartbreaking when I do finally take the plunge and it just doesn't work out. I know I should just chalk it up to experience but I don't. Instead, I just stop trying. But for some reason the Ellen Cardigan seemed like it would work out for me and then it did, and I don't know that I've ever been so happy with anything that I've ever made for myself, sewing included, and it gave me a lot of confidence. It was such a good feeling. Has that ever happened to you?

So, back to the Ryðrauð. I first saw Lori's version of that sweater a few years ago and I just thought it was so pretty. But, as mentioned, immediately after finishing Ellen I was nervous about ever making a sweater that doesn't fit like Ellen. So I took the Ellen colorwork chart for my size and figured out (on my cross-stitch software) a modified, simplified version of the Ryðrauð flowers that would fit right into the Ellen yoke and also could be done from the top down. And that kind of looked like this:

MyYokeSweater

I really had no idea how to do the chart the right way re: the repeat, so this is the whole yoke. Pffff! It worked out pretty well, except that as you can see there are huge spaces between the contrast color stitches of the taller motifs on the first few rows. I tried to float the yarn as loosely as I possibly could but it's still puckering a bit so we'll just have to see how it goes. But I think it's okay-enough. Also, I knit the neckband directly onto the yoke in the navy blue version; the Ellen has you pick that up last and I found that it curls a bit (and also makes the buttonholes space out rather poorly at the top, then).

Anyway, this morning I was trying to get caught up with my overflowing and neglected email in-box (yes, I pretty much suck at everything that has to do with answering all but the most urgent emails, even on my best days) and noticed that a blog reader named Kristi (hi, Kristi!) had suggested that I watch a podcast from Nicole at The Gentle Knitter. I follow Nicole on Instagram and love her work so much but I didn't really know about the podcast. I tuned in to the first few episodes and was totally thrilled to find that she was (or, actually, had been a year ago) knitting the Ryðrauð sweater (also inspired by Lori's version)! Snap! Well, Nicole is, like, the most patient, lovely, gentle creature on earth and she explains everything in such a calming way and she has so many interesting things to say about the Ryðrauð that it is well worth watching if you are interested in knitting it. She also talked about how you can catch long floats on the back of the sweater and I didn't even know that, so I will definitely have to look into that for next time. Also, I don't know, but if this navy version works out and I find myself with at least two sweaters in my closet that I love to wear, I might branch out a little more and risk making more things for myself. I purled the colorwork, above, and it's kind of a giant pain. So, all this is to say that 2018 might be my year of steeking more sweaters (I've only done it once before, for Mimi), and that's kind of an exciting feeling.

Ramble, ramble. I haven't gotten out too much lately.

What kind of cake should I make for my birthday?

This Little Light

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Christmas is coming. Funny how it makes you think of things. I was thinking about how my dad always saved all of his Christmas shopping for Christmas Eve day. I'd go with him to the Oak Park mall. We called it the mall then — it was a pedestrian mall where Lake Street used to be and now is again. In those days the street was closed and it was all pedestrian. When we were done we'd go to one of the two old-fashioned-type restaurants on the mall. I wish I could remember what they were called. One was on the corner, across from the bank. And the other one was a few doors down from the theater. They were both the types of places that served club sandwiches and Crab Louie and milkshakes in those tall glasses with the rest of it given to you in the big metal tumbler. At home my dad would burn frankincense and myrrh and cedar cones, and our relatives would come for Christmas Eve evening, or we'd go to my aunt and uncle's, or my grandparents', or my cousins' in Chicago. It was fun. It would snow, or there would be snow. It would surely be freezing. We'd be tired on the way home, and fall asleep uncomfortably in the car, then not want to get out. I miss those days. Christmas makes you remember things.

Here at home, Mimi and I are lazy and warm. Andy's just finishing up his stretch of work then he is gloriously off for a few days. My family is coming here for Christmas Eve and I'm going to make lasagna with my mom's sauce and another yule log. My sister Susie is going to sleep over and make sticky buns for Christmas breakfast. Mimi and I have been eating rice pudding (just make some jasmine rice, then keep adding milk to it along with a cinnamon stick and some cardamom and cook it on low for . . . quite a while, actually — it will keep absorbing the milk and get thick and yummy; serve with cinnamon sugar and a bit of butter and more milk). We're going to bake chocolate sandwich cookies with peppermint frosting today. It's kind of ridiculous, how decadent all this is. We should eat raw vegetables for dinner. Likely, once again, we'll have ham sandwiches on waffles with mustard. Christmas.

I probably will be too busy then idle to come back here before Christmas, and, likely, you will be busy with your holidays, too. Thank you for all of your kindness here throughout this past year, and many past years. I wish you ever so much peace and love and light this season of celebrations and slowing. Slow days, laughter (and mania) of children, friendship, fellowship, family, lots of movies, good food, snuggly animals, and lots of love. I wish you all of that from all of us here. XOXO

With love,
Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and Bridget Paulson

Sparkle Shine

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Oh, sweetness. The days are cold and sun-sparkled, though it's dark and warm in the house. I'm done with all of my shopping and shipping and general fussing now so I'm feeling fine. We have a shop, above, and we sell, apparently, pillows, earrings, "anything you want to put on Susie Sheep" (Susie Sheep [i.e.: Peppa Pig's best friend] is the name of our dress form), and ornaments if you need to do some Christmas shopping. We are open for business at 6:00 a.m., and ready for you.

Imagine this: I get all day today to work in the studio and cook! Andy's doing Daddy Duty all day, including school runs, grocery shopping, and ballet. I'm very excited. It's not often that I get to stay home all day without having to go somewhere or other. I'm going to bake cookies and make some more chicken and dumplings. I've put cedarwood, orange, and pine essential oils in my diffuser and I am pretty excited. I might even write a Christmas card or two. I made a couple of pomander balls from Kyrie's recipe and I'm waiting for them to cure. One of my favorite memories of childhood Christmases past.

The rosy-cheeked dollies are dressed in warm sweaters. A few people have written and asked me questions about the dolls, patterns, kits, etc. So, here's my plan: I'm planning to release a pattern for the doll with an outfit, just like all of the animals had. She will also come in a kit form, and you'll be able to choose between two different skin shades and four or five different hair colors. The kit will come with fabric, yarn, and embroidery floss for the outfit, which is likely to be an 80s calico peasant dress with an embroidered pinafore along with bloomers and knitted lace stockings. Then there will be many different new clothing item patterns available, both for knitted and sewn clothes, and maybe even crocheted accessories. So far I've got a wool cape, a cross-stitched peasant blouse, a gathered skirt, knitted cable turtleneck, colorwork sweater, pixie hat, knitted skirt, knitted cowl, and ballet outfit. I'm also going to repackage all of the existing animal-family clothes patterns so that you can buy and make each of them separately. I am outrageously excited about this, if you couldn't tell. Nothing will be available until spring, sometime. It takes a while to make it all happen. But thank you for your interest and I'll keep you posted!

We went to see The Nutcracker downtown this weekend and it really was magical. That picture of the Waltz of the Snowflakes is by Blaine Truitt Covert and I found it online. They are very strict about not letting you take any photos of the performance but years from now when I look back on this post, I will want to remember that stage, and what it was like for us to sit next to our little girl in the dark auditorium with the orchestra playing and glittering snowflakes falling through the air, and all of those ever-lovely dancers twirling. The sweetest dream. A perfect day.

December Now

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I haven't quite reached a peaceful holiday state of mind. I like the week between Thanksgiving and December better than December, in a way. As soon as December starts, I feel — in spite of my best efforts — like I'm being a little bit . . . chased. Chased by a calendar. I'm a cartoon character with legs spinning. I finally sit down to have some tea and a cookie. "Oh shit! I have to order the Christmas cards before they're not 40% off anymore!" Get back up. Go get stupid computer. Ugh. So many things like that. You know. Even though you try not to have too many things to do there are still a lot of things to do. . . . I resist feeling that anything is actually urgent but things feel urgent. . . .

Amelia decorated her little tree. It is so adorable. It looks like somebody stood across the room and threw lights and ornaments at it but in fact she was quite deliberate. Around the house she sings and hums a constant medley of carols, making up half the words. It's amazing how kids just . . . pick it all up, somehow. Every year there's a little more intensity to her experience. It's completely fascinating to watch her put things together in her mind. "Oh!" she exclaims, looking at her tree. "I need to go say my mushroom prayers!" A million things said like that a day, things I couldn't make up if I tried. It's like interpreting a Mad Lib. She is so engaged with everything she does, and it's done in her very own way. Five years old. Enchanting. Darling wonder. Sweetest, sweetest heart.

Frost Fields

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Oh, hello! How are you? I've been doing almost nothing but making dolls, doll dresses, doll stockings, doll capes, doll hair, doll sweaters, doll blouses, doll skirts, doll collars, and doll hats, and then remaking them trying to get them how I want them. It is so much fun. I have so many ideas. I'm thinking about all the details quite a lot. I dream about them at night and wake up with potential solutions in the morning. Then I try to work them out that night. Yesterday we forgot Amelia's ballet slippers and had to borrow some from the ballet mistress. She asked me what size slippers Amelia wore. I told her I wasn't sure, but said I knew what size my doll's feet were (16 sts around on size US5's in sport weight yarn). Everyone in the foyer laughed nervously. The teacher turned and asked Amelia. Amelia said she was size 11. I knew that!!! Sheepish.

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S.? We sure did. My family came and squeezed around our table and it was great. My sister Susie stayed on afterwards and made me laugh for hours with her work stories. Me, in nightgown, falling asleep: "Good lord, this story is taking forever!" Her: "Dude, I told you, I work 12-hour shifts! A lot of stuff happens!!!" On Friday I hung my two new prints that I got for my birthday last year from the English artist Jo Grundy. I had wanted these forever and I am so glad that I got them (for Andy to give to me [wink]). They inspired my mantel decoration this year, which is a frosty-winter-fields theme. Andy worked on Saturday and Amelia and I went out to Craft Warehouse and got some new little things: the lighted willow garland and a couple of little resin birds and her absolute favorite, the snowy owl. Believe it or not, I had almost everything else already, and a lot of it came from Craft Warehouse (a local indie craft store here in the Portland area) over the past few years. The little wooden plinths and the woolly trees and the metal houses (not sure where those were from, actually) and the cottonwood wreath I already had. Andy's grandfather carved the tall Santa many years ago. We bought a spray of fake frosted fern leaves and cut them off and scattered them around, along with a couple of little bottlebrush trees and juniper sprigs. The teapot was from Goodwill for $3. The snowflake garland I've had for years and years, and the stockings are from Etsy. We couldn't find Amelia's bunny stocking but I think it's in with the Christmas ornaments; we're getting our tree this weekend and I'm sure we'll find it when we open those boxes. Speaking of, Andy brought up everything seasonally related from the basement — Christmas stuff, other fake-foliage stuff for spring and fall that makes Andy insane, wreathes and such. We went through it all on Sunday and that was sort of an exhausting exercise. At some point while Andy was still cleaning I tried to pluck Amelia from the fray and took a bath while she played on the side of the tub. This is one of our favorite winter activities. I love winter baths and I never cease to give thanks for them, and for hot water. Afterwards, when everything in the living room was clean and pretty, Andy put on carols and made us some hot chocolate and it felt like the perfect start to this lovely (my favorite) season. Winter is here. I wish you peace and warmth and kind shelter and love in the days ahead. XOX

Wild Week

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Good morning, my friends. Hello, hello. I hope you are well! We've been well and buuuusy! Which I like, but now I'm tired. I didn't even take any pictures this week. But we have all of the First Snow pre-orders out and on their ways to you. The downloadable PDF-only version of the design is now available here. (And yes, the kit is still available, no problem — it is here.) I hope you like this pattern and kit. I wound up doing all of the shipping myself — Stacey was in Japan and is now back but will be taking more classes in January and won't have time to work with me anymore (tears). Andy and I wound up doing everything on this kit together. He pulled all the floss and cut all the fabric. I stuffed all the kits and did the shipping. But it was quite an excellent experience for me to do all of the shipping myself again. It's been a long time since I've done it. I found it very poignant, and got a little bit emotional. I love seeing everyone's names, and your addresses, and your streets and towns and cities and countries. I recognized sooooo many names from over so many years of doing this. It made me think of all the years, and all of our conversations, and all of your comments and your sweet notes and just . . . I don't know. How much I love all of this and how lucky I am to do it and how, when I was a little girl I think I actually always wanted to do this. My parents were into mail order and they had a few little businesses throughout the years. I had my first mail order business when I was thirteen. It was called Autumnbrook Farm and I made model-horse blankets and saddle pads and little stuff like that. I made enough money to buy a pair of really pretty dark-brown suede chaps at Hinsdale Tack Shop and I wanted to write a tearful letter of gratitude to the readers of Just About Horses magazine (where I advertised), thanking them for their orders of tiny horse halters and for making my greatest dream (chaps) come true. I did love those chaps so much. I guess I thought better of it then and did not submit that particular letter to the editor, but I feel the same surge of emotion every time I get orders and every time I ship. Thank you. You'll notice that my handwriting on your postcards looks deranged. Sorry about that. I don't really write by hand anymore ever. Do you? Compared to how much you used to? It's so weird! I was speed-writing, admittedly. But I can usually write much more nicely, FYI.

Anyway, so, thank you for everything you do here and for all of your kindness and support. I means more to me than I regularly say. XOXOXOXO

I've spent the last few days working on a new doll design based on my animal patterns. She will have the same body shape and size and will be able to wear all of the same clothes. The idea for her sort of exploded out of me the minute I was finished shipping everything. I actually do get a lot of ideas in the shower. It's really cliched but true. It's the only time I'm just sitting there not doing anything else at all. I think I had thought about doing a girl doll for a long time but I didn't really know it. I started cutting and sewing in every little spare minute, littering the living room with needles and felt and floss and yarn in a way that I haven't done in a while. My first animal patterns came out maybe in . . . 2013? It's been a few years. Maybe it was 2014. People ask me about whether we'll make more of those kits (there are five animals total). And no, we won't. There will now be these new doll kits sometime this spring, though. I've been thinking relentlessly of all the ways to do it. Andy cracks up when I have the making-fever. I read him the list of all of the clothes I had planned for the doll: new blouse, new skirt, and cable sweater, cardigan sweater, beret, flounce-collar blouse, cape, cable cowl, knitted skirt, bloomers, pixie bonnet, detachable collar, lace legwarmers. Your basic insanity. He gets me. Right now the doll prototype looks mildly feral. This is possibly no coincidence. I've turned into a wild animal.

I made a pattern for a Santa Lucia (which is December 13) crown with hellebore flowers, mistletoe, and holly for you. My model was freezing when I took her picture in her nightgown on top of Mt. Tabor on the only not-raining (though totally freezing) day we had a couple of weeks ago. She is part Viking-descendant but she doesn't like the cold. I love her.

Flowret for Blog

The pattern is free and you can download it here: A Flow'ret Bright Winter Crown Sewing Pattern. The candles are removable, so you could take them out and just wear the crown. It's adjustable in the back (elastic) so you can make it any size you want. I hope you like it.

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. We're having Thanksgiving here at our house and I expect we'll get our Christmas tree this weekend, and maybe start decorating. We usually do, anyway. I'll be back to show you next week. Until then, I wish you all a wonderful, wonderful week of peace and joy and slowing as we enter the holiday season. I'm very grateful for all of the love and kindness and deep thoughts and un-deep thoughts and humor and joy you share with me constantly. It helps me understand the world and understand myself so much better than I would otherwise. You all bring light to our days here and for that I sincerely thank you. Thank you. XOXOXO

Full Swing

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We're in it, here: full fall swing. Halloween came and went in a frenzy of costume-sewing/meowing/negotiating for candy. Kids are so obsessed with candy!!! Amelia says she wants one piece of candy after dinner after she accomplishes her "chores." The things she considers her "chores" include: setting up the pillows on the couch in a nice way and propping up various stuffed animals at charming angles to greet me when I come back downstairs after putting her to bed; putting her eighteen pairs of shoes and boots back in her baskets instead of leaving them in the middle of the floor; hanging up her coat instead of dropping it in the middle of the floor; putting away her scarf and hat instead of dropping them in the middle of the floor; climbing on all manner of furniture to reach the wood blinds to pull them down and close them before she goes up to bed; remembering to wash her hands without being told after going to the bathroom. Hrmmmmmmm. . . . Good deal for her, eh? These are all the things she is supposed to do anyway. . . . Maybe it's really a good deal for me. Now she does all of them in lightning speed while singing the clean-up song and then comes skidding to a halt in front of me, smiling and holding her cupped hands out to receive her treat. I don't bribe with sugar under normal circumstances, but hellity hell it really works! Good thing she only has three pieces of candy left. This is too easy. . . .

THANK YOU for the discussion on working from home vs. renting a remote space. That was really fascinating and I truly appreciate so many of you taking the time to share your experience and thoughts with me. I really needed to hear all of that and I am so appreciative of the perspectives. I would only be going to an off-property space during the time that Amelia is in school, and I would still probably keep my sewing stuff here, but honestly, I really am now thinking it's probably too complicated and too expensive to consider. I think I have fantasies of having a really cool, big, shared, white-washed space where other people would be hanging out doing creative things, and I could have room to store my stuff and still have it all within reach, and also not have it anywhere in the living space. Like, embroidery floss, for instance. When we work on kits, we have a palette of probably sixty? seventy? different colors that I routinely use in my designs. Each color has a big, fat 500g cone of floss. For kits, we break down the big cone by winding it onto several different smaller cones, depending on how many strands of that color you need in a kit. So in First Snow, for instance, we have over thirty colors and over fifty separate lengths of floss. Each length needs its own cone since we pull all the floss at the same time. So that's a lot of cones sitting in the office over the weeks that we are working on this. It's just not realistic to be schlepping them up and down from the basement every day. Felt and fabric, too — they take up a lot of space. Welllllll, you get it. But honestly, I took every single comment truly to heart and you gave me so much to think about. And I think the obvious conclusion Andy and I came to was that we need to clean out the basement thoroughly, and think of more creative storage solutions right here on our property. We have a pretty small basement, as half of the house only has a crawl space underneath it. We do have attic storage, although it's truly just storage, not standing room, and you have to use a ladder to get up into it through the ceiling in the hallway. But these are all just details I need to think through more thoroughly, and I think I can do that, especially when I have more time to think. As I said, I definitely have time to decide, as we wouldn't be doing anything (except reorganizing here) until the year after next. But just reading through everything you wrote gave me a more hefty appreciation for all of the great things about working from home, and that was really helpful, so thank you.

It's about the most blustery, Winnie-the-Poohish day you could imagine here today. The trees are whipping around outside my rain-spattered window, and the wind is howling. I keep hearing things thwack against the house and the porch. Tonight is our school lantern walk, and I don't know how those little lanterns are going to stay lit in this gale. I've been cooking and baking lately. I made a frittata like Megan's with roasted delicata squash, sauteed mushrooms, fresh spinach, and chevre, and it was delicious. I made the NYT's curried cauliflower soup and it was really nice, especially with the famous but no-less-delicious-for-that Dutch oven no-knead bread. I did Mark Bittman's speedy version as well as the long version, and quite honestly, there was no appreciable difference that I could taste or tell, so it's Version Speedy for us from now on, and bread in 4.5 hours. That bread is so good. I mean, what in the world? How is it even possible to get something that tastes like this out of a regular kitchen, with so little effort? I can't even deal with it. I don't even like bread that much (unless it's really, really good) but that thing is amazing. I've made it probably ten times over the past few years and it works every time. I also made Mark Bittman's Everyday Pancakes and those were very good. I've totally been getting my money's worth out of my New York Times Cooking subscription and highly recommend it. Everything I've made from it has been great. I love surfing it on my iPad for relaxation. The photos are beautiful. I don't know. I needed some cooking inspiration, and this has been good for me. I seem to need a lot of hand-holding in the kitchen. I love to cook but even after all of these years of cooking I absolutely need recipes. I cannot think of a single thing that I know how to cook by heart. Not one single thing! I'm also kind of a picky eater, so, in all honesty, a lot of cookbooks don't really work that well for me as anything other than inspiration or eye candy, because I find that I might make one thing out of the whole book. Maybe two. I keep the books because they're beautiful. But they aren't that practical for the way I cook. I totally cherry pick, and I like the "search" function. Anyway, this isn't an ad — I mean, I guess it is, but it's unintentional — I have just been happy with that subscription and it's getting me out of my cooking shell, or rather my non-cooking shell, and Andy and I are both happy about that. Maybe it's also just the season of cooking for me. I love fall and winter food so much more than summer.

I've also been knitting hats and gloves and cowls. I don't have any photos of any of them, apparently, but I will take some. I'm using this pattern and have bought lots of colors of Worsted Twist yarn in many of the same colors they show to make us a bunch of stuff that we need for cold weather, and I'm really enjoying this kind of knitting — lots of stockinette, lots of knitting in the round, nothing very complicated, small things that go quickly and feel soft and warm and utterly practical. I seem to need a lot of direction lately. It's kind of a wonderful relief, I have to say.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.