Posts filed in: November 2005

A Flow'ret Bright

comments: 19

Village

I love my little mantle village. Several of these sweet little abodes were my Grandma Ieronemo's, my sweet little Italian grandma, who wore house-dresses made of calico trimmed with bias binding, who had a plastic holder for her milk carton, who was so shy she almost couldn't bear to be photographed. At family parties, I remember her sitting shyly off to one side with her coat on, her little legs crossed at the ankles, her hands folded over her purse in her lap, as if one of the relatives might make off with it. She adored my father, her only and very-late-in-life child, and I remember her flustered, waving her hands around, laughing "Mickey, Mickey, put her down!" (my dad's name was Al, but his parents and their friends called him Mickey) as my dad would lift each of us in turn with one hand, straight up over his head. Oh, he provoked her. She could hardly get the words out for fear, so convinced he would drop us, bang on our heads.

My grandparents owned a big old city apartment building on Oak Park Avenue, across the street from St. Edmund's Church and School. I lived here until I was three, and then I moved a couple of miles away to River Forest, but my grandparents continued to live in the buidling for several years after that, and their big living-room window faced the street and the church. I spent a lot of time in my grandma's apartment. At Christmastime, the church set up a life-size nativity scene in the churchyard. I don't know if they still do this, but I hope so. It was illuminated at night, and against the backdrop of that lovely Gothic-y church and rectory, there was nothing prettier, especially when it snowed. Before I was old enough to go to school, I watched the uniformed kids cross the street on their way to St. Edmund School with its wrought-iron-fenced courtyard and enormous doors, and I prayed to age quickly so I could go too. It has been my lifelong dream to wear a school uniform, though I never have. We got married at St. Edmund's in 1997, and the photographer balked when I staged a pic with my grandma and grandpa's building in the background. It is the only picture, out of hundreds taken that day, that I  truly love and where I think I look just like myself. My grandparents died when I was in high school.

My grandma had a white feather tree, and she kept it on a short, square glass table in the living room. On the tree, no disheveled handmade ornies for her; I remember only royal blue balls evenly spaced, and not the glass kind, the kind that are wrapped in some kind of fiber, like angel hair. Is that right? It's how I remember it, at least. The ornaments are long gone. The village sat under the tree on a snow blanket, and there were a dozen houses and lots of little trees, and a tiny mirror-pond with two metal skaters, frozen in permanent glide. I think this tree would be so fashionable now, though my grandma was homey and practical and seemed to eschew fanciness. As with so much else, her mysteries reveal themselves to me in time.

I have several things of my grandma's. Four paper houses from her original village -- the others in my scene are antiques I picked up or new reproductions -- and a few green bottle brush trees. A Red Riding Hood cookie jar, which always held those crunchy, ribbed coconut cookies from Dominick's. And a funny little purple calico drawstring bag. It closes with a crackly golden tie, and holds my crochet hooks, just like it held hers. Her name was Archangelina, for the archangel. But they just called her Angie.

Sugary Sugarplums at Ella Posie

comments: 6

Featherwreaths Ella Posie, our shop, looks so pretty right now! It's such a sweet little shop, and it always seems to be made for this time of year. We've finished our displays, and everything looks so charming and romantic, like it's been dusted with sanding sugar. It makes me happy just to sit and look at it. We have these feather wreaths, and bluey paper garlands with sparkling snowflakes, and little white bottle brush trees. We have sweatery stockings and 12-inch pink feather trees, and little tree-topped paper houses. We have flocks of knitted stuffies and sock puppies; yummy handmade lotions and orange-vanilla sugar scrubs; the prettiest Christmas cards and vintage-wallpaper notes; and scores of tweedy, wool-y handbags. We have sweet stocking stuffers by indie designers we love, like Jill Bliss wallets and checkbook cozies, Kingpod postcards, The Small Object birth announcements and family trees, Margaret Nicole cable clutches, Eli Halpin cupcake paintings, Omondieu! blossom rings, Jess Hutchison's Unusual Toys for You to Knit and Enjoy, the Portland crafty girls' Supercrafty, and Petite Pirouette fluffy tutus, to name just a few, including all things made by yours truly.

I love simple, sweet, old-fashioned Christmas. Every night for the past week I've been tucked under my flannel snow-village-printed (from Garnet Hill, last year, or maybe the year before) sheets with my Baby Cashmerino-covered hot water bottle (it is freezing in our room, compared to the rest of the house -- I need to knit some elbow-length fingerless super-soft gloves so I can hold my little book up and out from under the covers without getting cold!), reading Nigella cookbooks like novels. I do adore my Nigella. She has such a lovely way of putting everything in perspective, and such a clever vocabulary! (I hope they bring her TV show back, or at least her holiday special episodes. I watched those things like I was studying them for finals, and my favorite parts were all little sidebars: her walking around her house, her dropping Bruno off at the nursery, her shopping in wonderful, breathtakingly charming London, my favorite city in the world.) Anyway, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I've got all my lists still in my head, so I'd best be off to Zupan's to pick up the stuff. We've got Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture 2 still in its wrapper (though I've been threatening to break it out for weeks) to play post-dinner, and plenty of kindling to keep the fireplace happy. Tonight, I'll wish for snow. . . .

Still Life with Pups, and Denial

comments: 8

Sticherystuff_1 I know, I'm still here going on about the sock pups. I found out on Friday night that my little Volvo needs $1,500 (gasp, gurgle, curse, honk) worth of stuff done so that it will continue to lovingly haul me around town. The news promptly threw me  into a flurry of panic. I wailed in horror, then hurled myself toward the sofa like a harassed manatee, fumbling to find a needle and thread, or a crochet hook, or some warm soft yarn to comfort me. Instead of thinking about the car, I busied myself  with my new heart-topped pins and pretty little spools of thread and cutie-pie stuffed pups (Joy, Pear, Pontouf, and Tot) with a single-mindedness that, I must say, was impressive. I managed not to think about the car until just a few minutes ago when I sat down to write this and looked out at the street and saw the you-know-what. Once again, I ask the universe, Why can't we all still ride horseback if we need to get around so bad? Man.

Felt lovers have spoken, and if you've heard back from me (as should have everyone who's commented about the felt giveaway up until this very minute) your felt should be on your way to you soon -- probably, honestly, after Thanksgiving, because I have to cook. If you were late in reading this, maybe I'll offer some more after the New Year; I'll let you know. For now, though, the felty offer has expired. Maybe everyone who does get some will show us what they eventually make with it? If you feel like it, I'd love to see.

By the Chimney, with Care

comments: 31

Pho_stock_illus_lg Oh, how I do love felt. It's so warm and beautiful and colorful and fun. I especially love it when I can make it out of sweaters that someone has already thrown into the washing machine, probably on accident, and donated to Goodwill. I just want to extend a big thank you to those unlucky peeps, and to my husband, Andy Paulson, who apparently invented going to Goodwill, as he informed me this weekend as we made our way around Puddletown to various locations. (In case you didn't know, as I really didn't, who invented the art of going to Goodwill, it was he, so don't go thinking you might have been the first, or even possibly that someone else was the first, because you weren't, nor were they, it was Andy.) Anyway, there are not many things better than pulling a big huge fluffy load of wool out of the dryer on purpose. Hence were born these stockings, which cheer me so.

Thank you (and here I utterly forgo all sarcasm) to everyone for your incredibly sweet comments on the posts below. I am moved and humbled to read them, and your further insights into the topics are fascinating, funny, encouraging, and so valuable to me -- thank you. As promised, I have some answers to some of the questions people asked in comments that I thought I'd post here, honestly not knowing what the proper etiquette would be, so I hope this is okay. . . .

About the turquoise felt bag: It's one of my first, actually. It's crocheted then felted from either Cascade 220 or NatureSpun -- I can't remember -- worsted weight, and I was inspired by a pattern in the Fall/Winter 2005 issue of Family Circle Easy Crochet. As with so much that I make, I didn't use the pattern exactly. And I used half-double crochet, which I think goes (grows) faster than single, and I like the more textured result. I actually prefer crocheted/felted items better than knitted/felted. I like seeing the original stitches a bit, and crocheting results in a thicker finished thing, which I like too. But anyway, I'm sure this issue is still out there and you'll probably have better results if you pick it up and use their pattern than if I try to remember mine, which pretty much results in the same shape. A sack is a sack, after all. I've done a few others that live in the shop only, made out of stripes generated by the Random Stripe Generator, at right. This web site is absolutely addictive if you like stripes. If you haven't tried this thing, I urge you to play around with it a bit, especially if you're trying to use up your stash.

About the sour cream apple pie recipe: It's the best, most beautiful, and yummiest pie ever, but that's just my opinion. A few months ago, in an effort to find a way of automating our shopping list and easing our problems actually making dinner instead of, say, popcorn, I found a recipe-management web site called BigOven.com. I can't say this is the best one by any means because I really have no idea, but I think it's quite cool. They have a library of 140,000 recipes or something that you can access and share, and you can store as many of your own personal recipes as you want -- providing you have the energy to retype them (which I am in the process of doing. Even though they have it set up so that you just type the first few letters of an ingredient and it fills the rest it for you, this still takes quite a while, and it has the maddening habit of capitalizing random words, which drives me crazy, but I let it go, sigh). The reason this is all worth it, though, is the shopping list function: You add recipes to your "calendar" and it automatically generates a shopping list that is cumulative and organized by grocery aisle. Nice. You have to buy the software -- I can't remember how much it was, maybe $30, but I think as a member I can send you some kind of coupon for friends, so let me know if you want to try it. I originally got the recipe for this pie from my chef-friend Kristin via a 1992 issue of Gourmet, but I just use packaged pie dough -- like the Pillsbury kind. Don't try to stuff it into a frozen pie shell because it will overflow and start a little fire in your oven, like it did in mine Thanksgiving of  '96, and give your pie a barbecued taste, which is not what you're going for with this creamy delight. (If you're going for flashing lights, sirens, and four enormous firemen with axes and boots tromping through your studio apartment where you are cooking a surprise dinner for your boyfriend who had to work on Thanksgiving and was feeling a little homesick, this being Missoula and home being Chicago, then use the frozen shell. The performance will leave your nerves so jangled that you'll completely lose your appetite, and wind up getting up, starving, at 5 a.m. the next morning to enjoy a giant and private piece of pie while sitting on the sofa while said boyfriend sleeps [he having missed all the nerve-jangling action and proceeding blissfully to eat himself into a nice tryptophan-induced 10-hour slumber], thinking to yourself, "Hmmm . . . this tastes like . . . hamburgers.")

I digress. What I wanted to say today was really only this: I have a TON of wool felt, on the bolt, from National Nonwovens, in just about every color. I bought it several years ago and have since had to admit that I won't use it all in a thousand lifetimes, and I'd like to share it*. I have scraps and I have yardage, and if you need some (and, as above, who doesn't?) please let me know. I'll bung some in a box and ship it off to you and then you can figure out what to do with it. You'll actually be doing me a favor, I swear, since I just bought a few scrap bags from the Denyse Schmidt web site and I'm going to have my hands full with that, any minute now.

*Note added later: I'm not selling it -- I'm just going to give mixed pieces of it away (for a little while, at least) so we don't have to worry about colors, how much, etc. I'll just surprise you. It's an early Christmas present! Just leave a comment and I'll email you when I get a sec.

Happy on the Poorly Bed

comments: 12

Poorlybed Well, one of us seemed to be. Quite a cozy little nest she made for herself, eh? I, on the other hand, didn't look anywhere near this cute during the last week and a half that I spent next to this thing on the sofa, blowing my nose, downing my Airborne, coughing my head off. All better now, but jeesh -- that was not too fun.

Wednesday was fun, though. The lovely Amy from Angry Chicken, my blogging inspiration, sent her readers over here, which was so nice of her. Amy is pretty much entirely responsible for my having a blog at all, and I barely know her. I met her in real life a couple of months ago when I was interested in carrying some of her cards at Ella Posie, and she stopped by to drop them off.

I didn't do a lot of internet surfing (other than struggling to keep my own sites up, which seemed like more than enough, somehow) until a couple of months ago, when I bought a laptop and we got wi-fi at the new Ella Posie. Um, wow. Now I get it. Previous to that, I would look at people's sites and blogs occasionally, but think, every time, "How do people find time for this?" When I got the laptop, and the wi-fi, and found myself in the shop with several quiet hours on hand every day when customers weren't in and chores were completed, I discovered where I might find the time to explore this medium -- at work, of course. Now I see! The craft blogs are so beautiful. I've been a subscriber to Martha Stewart Living since 1994. When I was younger, when I lived with roommates and only dreamed of having my own house, I used to spaz out every month when the issues would arrive. I'd retreat to a corner of whatever university coffee shop I haunted, and spend hours going over the pages, dreaming. The craft blogs feel to me the way that MSL did once -- like indulgences, collections of dreams, representations of the best kinds of creativity and inspiration. They're also just so very sweet, and everyone who writes and reads seems so kind and sweet -- that really appeals to me.

Anyhow, as I've mentioned in a previous post, by the end of this summer, I felt fairly shredded. I also felt a distinct disconnect starting to happen between who I am and want to be, and what it takes to have a successful little crafty business, especially when that business is something you used to do just for fun and relaxation. Turning what you love into what you do full-time for a living results in some tricky maneuvering, as we all know (or can imagine), and all artists struggle with this, sometimes more, sometimes less, as things progress. The constant pressure of making enough money to support oneself looms daily, for the reality is that if you can't support yourself by doing what you love, you won't be able to keep doing it. As much creative energy necessarily goes into keeping the bills paid as goes into cooking up new adorable product lines -- sometimes more, if you want to know. A product starts as a creative idea, but quickly becomes limited by reality: If you are to make a living financially by making the thing, that thing needs to be developed affordably, produced in (albeit limited, but still, the fifteenth one you make is nowhere near as fun as the first one you made, I'm sorry) quantity, marketed, and sold, all while retaining the highest quality of craftsmanship and style. This is not easy. And whether or not I'm successful in my Posie-ish endeavor truly remains to be seen. It is an expensive job to have, financially. It is the ultimate job to have, creatively. The struggle to balance those two . . . situations . . . is a struggle I wage daily. I don't share the struggle part with many people: To other designers or creative types, it is obvious and just kind of comes with the territory. To other people who have "regular" jobs that they don't particularly like and are dreaming of doing what you do -- well, when you're doing what you want to do and they're not, they are not too into hearing you complain, for whatever reason. And I can understand this, too -- I am reluctant to complain. But I think of the monologue not so much as "complaint" as an exploration of solutions, a constant effort to seek a better way, to make it work. . . .

But anyway, as I was saying, at the end of my not-too-gracefully-endured summer, sweet Amy came into the shop one morning. We  chatted  about her blog and she told me that I should do one, too. It was shocking to be encouraged in this way, as if I could participate. It hadn't even occurred to me. I quickly said that I might consider it if I could do it in the service of the business, blah blah.  As it came out of my mouth, I wanted to run screaming away from myself. I could see I was scaring my new friend. She hadn't known that I was a corporate automaton, apparently unable to consider doing anything that wasn't somehow in the "service of the business." I started to back-pedal and make excuses, but I got confused; however, an awareness of something was creeping in.

"Well," she said, "it's really good if it can come from the heart."

Now, I don't know if you've met Amy, but this girl glows with sincerity and generosity, and the beauty she creates and represents in her blog is wholly apparent in her person. She radiates. Not everyone has this, but Amy does, and the effect that it had on me was profound. I suddenly couldn't remember the last time I'd done something that wasn't for Posie, the business of Posie, somehow, and I realized that I couldn't even remember how to do something that wasn't "work"-related, because all the creativity and even fun that I have is funneled into the business. (Occasionally, I go bowling, because it feels like the absolute opposite of owning a boutique and manufacturing a product line. )

My response was so automatic I hadn't even realized that I was thinking in this way, because I always feel so behind. There are always so many things to do and not enough time to do them that I simply couldn't imagine allowing myself to do anything fun or creative that didn't have some end work-related purpose. What really alerted me further was the suspicion I'd been having that I wasn't happy -- but I hadn't spent much time trying to figure out why (too busy). I'd thought it was just that I wasn't working hard enough and that I was worn out from feeling so "behind" in all the things I need to do to keep Posie happening, even though I truly felt like I was working all the time. But perhaps it was that I was working in the wrong way.

That afternoon I went to the TypePad web site and figured out how to put the page together with the sole intention of doing something just because I felt like it. I decided that I wouldn't care who read what I was writing (in case they didn't like it), I wouldn't care what they thought about it (in case they thought it was stupid), and I would allow myself the opportunity to make room in my life for doing something just because it was fun. I would make some room for making things just because they're fun to make, for sharing things when and how I wanted to, in a different way from the sometimes relentless burden of the actual Posie and web site, from the thick-skin you have to build up when you have a retail store and you're there selling (or not selling, as is often the case) your own work to people directly day after day.

I do believe that all my work comes from my heart -- of course I believe this. What I do is, in a million ways, a labor of love, a labor I toil at in earnestness, with the best of intentions, to the very best of my abilities. I honestly know I couldn't do any better than I am trying to do, and I'm very proud of what I've put together. But I know that part of making it work means continuing to love it, and that may mean a little less work, and a little more play. In this one place, at least, I'm here to play. And it feels really great. Thanks, Amy. I really needed that.

Felting Myself

comments: 19

Feltybag I don't know if this happens to other people who have TiVo, but I've noticed this strange tendency in myself during the last year that we've had it to not pay very close attention in real life, thinking (mistakenly, of course) that I can just rewind and re-listen if I really want to. If you're not sure what TiVo is, it's basically a digital recorder that is always "on" when you're watching TV, so you can record things with the press of a button on your clicker. You can then fast-forward and rewind at will (and also use the search engine function to search for movies or actors or subjects or whatever you want, but that's another topic entirely).

Anyway, when you're watching TV and you have TiVo, you have the perpetual option of rewinding everything, immediately, and re-watching it with ease. It's hard to explain how simple this is until you try it, but suffice it to say, when you get your TiVo, you will find yourself rewinding live TV constantly. For instance, last night on Arrested Development we replayed the scene of Lucille "laughing" about three times, and it got funnier and funnier. The rewind function is also good if you didn't hear what someone said, or if you just want to see something in the background this time, etc. You get what I mean. It's extremely convenient.

Well, a couple of months ago Andy and I both confessed to a separate but persistent tendency to want to "rewind" regular life, just for a sec, to hear something more clearly, slow it down, watch it again. Me: "What'd that guy say?" He: "I don't know, rewind it." Me: "Can't. It's real life. Darn real life!" Of course, this is the obvious result of way too much TV in general, yes, but I would be curious to know if any regular-type TiVo watchers want to do the same thing. Do you do this?

I've noticed the same thing happening with regard to . . . felt. Like, I keep thinking, as I go through my day, "Well, it'll probably look a lot different (i.e.: better) when it's felted." Which is true if you're actually knitting/crocheting something to be felted, but decidedly not true of things like your hair. Dinner. This outfit. When you knit or crochet something to be felted, you basically make something about twice as big and floppy and droopy as you can stand, because during the magical felting process, all is tightened, smoothed, and squeezed into permanent shape.

But, when you are getting dressed in the morning, something that doesn't work is to be too lazy to blow dry and smooth out your hair and just think, instead, "No problem -- it'll look better when it's felted." If you overcook the pasta, and ruin your whole dinner, something that doesn't work is to think, "Can't we felt that?" If you are trying to get dressed after a week of laying on the couch with the flu and your outfit seems generally wrinkled, floppy, and disheveled, don't think, "I just need to felt all this." If you're butt has actually grown during the week you laid on the couch, unfortunately you won't be able to felt it. You can want to, but it won't work. I feel like I could really use a good felting, and get these puckered edges smoothed and shrunk.

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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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.