comments: 155


PATTERN: Simplicity 5695
FABRIC: Bodice fabric from Purl Patchwork; top layer of skirt from Denyse Schmidt "County Fair" collection; second and third layer of skirt from stash

Oooo, that sewing rant felt good to have — thanks for listening! I think what interests me about the conversation, as always, is just the funky psychology of making things in general, you know what I mean? Why I like to do this, and not that? Why you like to do that, and not this? Obviously, love is like thread: love makes every stitch, and every seam. But there's so much more — more prosaic stuff, more grainlines and notches and sleeve caps and plackets — there, too. I find the individual choices and motivations endlessly fascinating (as you probably know I do). Sometimes I feel like I could write about it all the livelong day.

But definitely, after a long year of hard paper-work (both the adoption-paperwork kind and the book-writing patternwork kind, where Alicia-laziness was absolutely and obviously not even an option), it feels so good to just spend time deep in piles of fabric (instead of piles of paper), thinking about the little person who will wear these. Will she like dresses? Eh [shrugs], who knows. If she doesn't like 'em now, she'll probably love them in forty years when she becomes a sewing-pattern creator (believe me, I didn't think I'd be doing this when I grew up, either). Or she'll eschew our crazy, crafty ways and become a marine biologist. That'd be cool.

Either way, it's like, when you're sewing for someone you haven't met yet, what can you do but give them these little pieces of yourself, your own small versions of your hopes and dreams for them, spoken in your own particular sort of language. The sewing ideas are coming so fast, and the sewing is so much fun, even the parts I mess up feel funny and sweet and remind me of the me I used to be, long before sewing became a vocation, back when I was just motivated by wanting to see my dress. The one my mom and I talked about when I was seven, or nine, or eleven, as we thumbed through pattern books and then looked for fabric, and picked out ribbon, and found the right buttons. Some of my earliest memories aren't of my mom sewing as much as they are of being in the fabric store with her and my little sisters, thumbing through the big books, learning how to picture that dress in this fabric, with that sleeve (from a different pattern) and that ribbon (instead of lace). It never got boring. Ever. It still never does. For several years after my dad died in 2000, I would find myself on my birthday (which is also the anniversary of the day he died) at the fabric store, just wandering, wandering, alone among the books and bolts; I always felt so small and lost on that day. I would go with no plan. I would feel whatever I felt. But that place: No matter where in the country (or world) you are, no matter what year it is, the fabric store seems like home. It's always the same. And that process of just being able to conjure something beautiful out of it — not something perfect, just something yours: the dress for the girl you want to be — always has brought me peace. And brought me back.

To this day, that aisle-wander is still my go-to happy place, when nothing else feels right. Or even when it does. It's where I go when I'm happy or sad. My friend Sarah loves the grocery store. My sister loves the garden center. At one point in my life I would've probably also said Union Station was my happy place. Or sitting on the Empire Builder, a thousand miles away, somewhere near Cut Bank, Montana, sometime in (the golden light of) late August. Like the others, I see now that this little dress is just a little wish. This one: that our girl will know the beauty of the Big Sky.


This is my favourite of the little dresses so far! Its really lovely and pretty. I used to make dresses for my daughter and just like you say there were all those visits to the fabric store - sometimes with her in tow and sometimes alone. I used to take ages pondering and sometimes my daughter would just sit herself on the floor in amongst the fabric reading her book until I had finished. She used to read everywhere, even when having a pizza. She is not like me at all when it comes to making things as it doesn't interest her one bit. But she surely did love all those dresses! My Mother used to make clothes for my sister and I which we adored. We both went on to create stuff ourselves.

OMG.Toooo cute!It makes my heart smile :)

Julie G. in Iowa says: March 11, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Alicia, I read your posts every day while at work. Once in a while [like today] your beautiful way with words, and the care and love you put into your writing, make me tear up with your wonderful imagery and memories they conjure up. If you don't stop it soon, my coworkers will think I'm just an emotional wreck! [No really, please don't stop. That's just my tear ducts talking :)] -Julie G.

Oh your writing is so completely beautiful. And I think I love this dress the best of all. Maybe even more than the gingham one. (And my heart BEATS for gingham!) I can't wait to see the little girl IN all these little dresses!

I always find making bags with coordinating stuff, like a crayon roll or a pouch filled with colorful tape (every five year old I have known adores owning their own tape and ACE Hardware has masking tape in many colors). Maybe you'd enjoy those, too. I like that those gifts can grow with them.

I love seeing this all happen. SHe will be some really lucky little girl. :)

I know that feeling of being knee-deep in paperwork. The seemingly endless adoption forms can be overwhelming (not to mention the scrapbook, letter to potential birthparents, etc.). Sometimes it's just nice to create something that will LAST and be tangible.

My happy places are fabric, card, and scrapbooking stores. There's something magical in the possibilities of all those bolts of fabric and stacks of paper and stationery. Even the scent screams "potential" and "fresh" to me. I've found myself in those stores just wandering and daydreaming of possibilities to "center myself" in a way... I'm glad to know I'm not alone! ;-)

Kelly in Ohio

Oh my...memories of fabric stores are so much a part of the "fabric of my life." My mom also made quite a few of my clothes while I was a little girl, teen, and young adult. How I cherish those fabric store days of long ago. Your description of memories in fabric stores is precious and priceless! Lovely dresses on display in your blog. Thanks for sharing your sewing joy with us!

I can relate to the fabric shop being your happy place. I have lots of memories of my mom teaching me how to sew, and of sitting on the stools at the fabric shop, paging through the patterns, choosing fabric, zippers, thread and trim. Makes me feel good just thinking about it.

LOVE. THE. DRESS. I think this is going to be one happy little girl!

Love it! I would wear that!

My favorite place is the fabric store also. Being there in that place of infinite possibilities, is so inspiring that it usually snaps me right out of whatever funk I am in.

Sharon M. says: March 11, 2010 at 12:35 PM

Wow, Alicia, this dress is my favorite!! So far...

Now that is dress for running through the grass in barefeet until the bottoms of your feet are green! And then sitting down, and eating something good ... a popsicle, a bowl of berries, a sandwich gone a bit squashy in the sunshine. I hope you get to meet your little girl soon.

Alicia, you really aren't playing nicely! I am so envious...of your skill, of your style and of all the good things to come.
My girls are teenagers now and I don't get a look in on clothes...

My favorite so far! I had already made plans to take my daughter to the fabric store this evening and will now keep this post in the back of my mind as a way to remember that she and I are creating more than dresses.

Seriously cute dress! I love the gathers at the neckline and sleeves. I love the mix of patterns-I think its a skill unto itself to get that just right!

Your story about going to the fabric store reminds me of all the times I went treasure hunting at garage sales and places like goodwill when I was little with my mom. There's something to be said about the deliciousness of imagining and planning and possibilities.

And so its been many years since I did much garment sewing, once my kids grew up and i started working outside of the house I saved my sewing time for quilts. But in the last 3 years grandchildren have come along and I've started back on the sweet little clothes made with such dreams for who they are now and who they will be in the years ahead. Mayeb your girl will meet them under the Big Sky.

I have that very pattern for my Kate, but haven't gotten around to using it yet. The dress is adorable!


just a thought about little petunia idea is to take photos of her in the dresses you make her so then she can create with abandon (is that right?) which might include accidently cutting her dress(es) instead of the paper. also it's a great record of what you made her! i have another idea: when the word is out we can throw her a craft crafty stuff is so fun these kits, though, no kits.

Supercute dress! I picture the two of you reading Little House on the Prarie together or maybe Misty of Chincoteague and her wearing that, knowing she can do anything and feeling so happy.

Such a lovely thought. I am often drawn to the fabric store when everything feels unsettled. I've never been able to articulate why it's calming--to pass through rows and over bolt, to imagine projects coming to life, and buying no more than a pretty fat quarter (if that) to set me to rights.
Thank you for the picture.

Would you be open to adopting a 43 year old woman?
I love all your girly dresses.

My grandmother always used to tell my dad when he asked where was he before he was born. She told him behind the mirror, watching mommy and daddy waiting to arrive. Your little bundle is watching over you and I am sure is so excited!!

Enjoy this time of preparation. You are making great memories already.

I love this dress. Such great fabric. I feel the same way to you do about the fabric store. Just the thought of a fabric store puts a smile on my face.

What a pretty wish

I am addicted to this pattern! I am glad I am not alone. It is so fun to change the fabric and the style ... it is a quick fix for sure, as it comes together fast and looks amazing! Thanks for sharing your creation, it is beautiful!

wow, she's already 2!
darling dress and fabrics....and post, Alicia!

Yours is going to be the best-dressed baby ever!!

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About Alicia Paulson


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




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.