Posts filed in: February 2014

A Dress Like Maggie's

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It's been a quiet week here. Andy and I were fighting colds all weekend, and they actually came and went very quickly, but there wasn't much energy for things beyond the usual chores. Greta was called out of town unexpectedly, so all orders from this week and the end of last will go out today, when she returns. I cleaned the office and put away piles of things that had been stacking up. So weird how those piles happen. I shudder at clutter like that, so I think just going through some of the stuff I've been meaning to get to for a while actually made me feel better. That and a lot of Cold Calm, Airborne, and Sambucol, and orange juice and the amazing chicken soup (his specialty!) that Andy made for us on Saturday! Don't omit the dill or the peas on that one. It's ever so delicious.

One of the things in the office that stared me down and won was the gigantic fabric scrap bin that I keep under the table. It's overflowing. I had some 1 1/4" paper hexagons (that I found under one of the piles, actually) and finally got a brainstorm for pillows for Amelia's window seat. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for these pillows but recently I saw this gorgeous pillow that Kristen made (the one on the porch swing) and thought I would try that. It's been a long time since I made hexagons (back here, where I very pedantically explain how, and here, where I put them together a little bit). I ironed a few big handfuls of my scraps and then tossed everything in a basket to take out to the living room at night. I cut the squares with scissors just by eyeballing the square, around the paper hex. I've been doing them for about an hour or so the past couple of nights. My crochet and my embroidery are just sitting there. I seem to need something even easier — no counting, no reading, no papers of any kind to shuffle through — at the end of the day. When I get enough of these, I think I'll lay them all out and make an 18" square, and then turn that into a pillow cover. Well, at least two pillow covers, for the window seat. And actually I'm pretty sure we have two pillows at each end of the window seat, or at least we should, so that would be four. (If you're sitting in the window seat you gotta be comfortable.) I like log cabin pillows, too, so maybe I'll make a couple of those?

I really want to start sewing entirely from my stash, but I just love taking Amelia to the fabric store so much. She loves being in the shopping cart — any shopping cart, really — but the fabric store is far and away my favorite place to hang out with shopping carts. That said, I do not need one more fraction of a yard of fabric. At all. Ever again. Maybe we could shop for buttons, or ribbons. . . . I really, really want to use up what I have. I have so many plans for things I want to make for her. I made her a little Maggie Rabbit peasant dress yesterday (from vintage pattern Simplicity 7197), and when she saw it she grabbed it and kissed it (and then wiped her nose with it) and oh how that inspires a mama!!! My heart did little handsprings across the (now cleared) sewing table. Next up is the dark green calico in Simplicity 9532 (also vintage).

Thank you so much for the sweet comments on the quilt top! A few people also asked about my garland: Very easy. I used this heart punch, this circle punch, and this scalloped circle punch to make shapes out of this cardstock and this one. Then you just stack four of the shapes on top of each other and sew through them using regular polyester thread on the sewing machine. Hold the threads as you stitch the first shape or they'll get all tangled up. Just keep sewing to twist the threads and then add the next set of shapes (I just did mine randomly). When you get it as long as you want it just open up the layers and fold them outward until you get a puff you like. Easy. I'm not sure how good this is for your sewing machine, but I change my needles a lot so I wasn't too worried. But you'll probably want to change your needle after sewing it at least.

Windy and cold today!!!

Afternoon-Morning Quilt

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On Tuesday afternoon I felt the stirrings of a fit of restlessness. Usually when this happens it means that I'm on the verge of a creative tantrum. Thus it was that I found myself going to JoAnn Fabrics at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Also known as almost rush hour. Andy was home with napping Mimi, texting me to "take your time out there, honey." Ha! I scanned the quilting cottons as I approached, like an alpine skier at Rosa Khutor before the Super-G. [Horn blows!] I hit the aisles: Into my cart they flew, bolt after bolt, peach, pink, navy, olive, coral, lilac, pale mustard, cream. Groovy flowers, tiny flowers, gingham, whales. Elephants! A couple of solids, a couple of Little House on the Prairies. A couple of really?!?s. Eighth yards of most, quarters of a couple. Home by dinner, done, and done!

Apparently now my only shopping speed is lightning fast. This from the formerly slowest person on earth. Who used to be able to saunter the aisles at Goodwill for hours straight looking for the right tea pot without getting even slightly bored. No more, people. The next morning (Andy's day off) I was at the sewing machine by eight, drinking a smoothie so I wouldn't have to sit down to breakfast.

Oh, silly, silly lady. :)

I decided not to rotary cut anything — I literally took the 1/8-yard-cut-at-the-store strips, cut a couple of them into chunks (with scissors), cut one lengthwise into two skinny strips (eyeballed that), and then just started sewing strips together randomly. If you look at the photos you can kind of see how I did it. Sometimes I'd take a piece of a few sewn-together strips and cut off a few inches of it and sew it to another strip. When I had a few pieces I hung them all up on the sliding-glass door to see what I had. I didn't measure anything; I just kept sewing pieces together and trimming them a bit, or adding strips to get "blocks" that would match in length along one edge. Eventually I could kind of see how I could fit pieces together to make a big rectangle that would fill most of the door. And then I was done with the top by lunchtime.

Aw, it was so much fun. You have these ideas and not a lot of time, so you don't overthink it. And that can be really  liberating. If you're intimidated by the idea of making a quilt you should try one this way! My quilts are always simple and done pretty randomly, without patterns. I've never been one to belabor my fabric choices, for sure. I've always been a pretty intuitive and impulsive color picker. And I've never had the stamina (or the room) to lay a quilt out beforehand to see if everything is going to balance or match (except maybe for the Spring Rain quilt that I made a couple of years ago from that pattern I did on the computer; if you click on the links in that post's text you can see how that came together). That said, I don't know that I've ever made a quilt that I didn't look at immediately after finishing and wish I had done something different, added something, not added something. But before I can worry too much, the poor thing is put into service. Our quilts are so hardworking here. They've been sat on and under thousands of times and washed dozens. They've covered babies and cushioned dogs and been picked on by cats. They've been in the trunk of the car, on the front lawn, and at the beach. They've had formula spilled on them, tears cried on them, diapers changed on them, and feet running across them. We love our quilts but we do not coddle them; they earn their keep, like draft horses.

Now for the backing. And the binding. And the quilting. I want this to feel like a flowery, groovy, puff. Maybe two layers of batting. And some hand quilting, with big running stitches.Worked on my lap at the end of the night, when the house is warm and quiet.

Wild and Wooly

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To the north, the sky was pewter gray, that deep, thick color that means snow somewhere. Instead, we had wind and we had rain. All last night the wind wouldn't stop; it whipped the trees high above the house, and rain peppered the windows unevenly. Restless sounds. This morning the wind settled and the sky cleared for a bit and Amelia and I ventured out into the green and the wet. There were branches and debris everywhere, ancient, craggy limbs and sticks littering the road and the sidewalks. Spring signs pushed forth everywhere we looked. Spring in Oregon is blustery, wild, and wooly. It's slow to start and long to linger.

Thank you for your feedback on The Goldfinch! I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to give their opinions (especially ones that were different than mine)! That book was a major reading adventure, seriously. It was good to debrief — I needed it!!! It was so much fun to read a book that a lot of other people are reading at the same time, too. Thank you also for the book recommendations. We went to Powell's on Saturday. It was my intention to take my phone, pull up the blog comments, and look through the suggestions and leisurely browse for some of the titles you suggested. Nothing could've been further from what actually happened. It was sooooo crowded (doi — Saturday) and the store is being remodeled (doi — forgot); huge chunks of it are off-limits and the books have been moved to other sections of the store. Things are really tight now. The temporary shelves were great but the aisles were skinny. Andy was across the store and I had Amelia in the umbrella stroller dropping shoes, bottle, and barrette every few yards. We'd already had lunch and been lamp shopping and gone to Anthropology so the window of opportunity was closing, and I was on the run. Turns out, this may be a great way for me to pick out books! I pulled an Amelia, speed-reading my way through the flaps and blurbs, hurling used paperbacks under the stroller, and picking up tossed baby accessories as fast as I could. I got four books and I can't even remember what they all are (but I know one, the one I'm now reading, is The Little Stranger). There must have been thirty or forty people in line by the time we got to the checkout and I'll tell you what, they were doing an Amelia themselves, because we went through that line so fast it was actually funny. We were out before the nipper got cranky and even had time to go get a hot cocoa across the street on the way back to the car. Boom, done, and done [brushes off hands]!

But I am going to spend time looking through the suggestions and making a list for next time I get to go to the store. Thank you again!

Slowly but surely working on my crochet and embroidery at night while watching the Olympics. Very excited to be done with the lampshade and see how it looks. The pattern doesn't tell you which Minut lamp to get from Ikea, and there are two sizes with the same name. I got the smaller one and it seems to be fitting okay. We'll see.

Valentine lasagnas! And just look at how utterly scrumptious that adorable, wonderful, loveable, squeezeable, precious pudge of a baby girl was at this time last year:

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Oh my stars. Time flies. What an amazing year.

Snow Dream

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Though a massive winter storm is pounding the South and Northeast as I write, the snow that enchanted me here in town last week is completely gone. All gone. As if it were a dream. The temperature was so warm today it felt like spring. Everything's muddy, and green, and gray, and wet, and squelching again. I'm wishing good luck, safe days, and patience to everyone out east; the videos of the storm that I've seen on the news today are really astonishing. I hope you can stay inside and stay warm and safe.

I spent pretty much every free moment I had this past week finishing The Goldfinch and

 

! ! ! S P O I L E R    A L E R T ! ! !

Don't read below this if you haven't read The Goldfinch and plan to!!!

 

oh man, I was soooo disappointed in the ending. I almost screamed. I was putting up with my own confusion once Horst, and Sascha, and Ulrika, and Gyuri, and Martin, and Viktor/Cherry showed up in the story, and going along with things, more or less trusting that the end would be worthy of this huge, looooooong story. But his inability to write the four letters in the hotel room was just a complete cop-out. That, to me, was the worst moment. He writes two of them and then pretty much says, "Aw dang, these aren't as good as I wanted them to be — forget it." I went from being in almost total sympathy with him, through everything, to feeling so irritated and disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to get himself together — or actually, it felt to me that the author wasn't going to be able to pull the character together, because I really think it is actually inconsistent with his character that he blows it there. For him not to be able to be honest at the apex of his crisis, when there was nothing left to lose — I actually almost put the book down. That was such a disappointing moment, for me. Then, at the absolute height of the tension, to instead just have Boris show up and say, "Oh hey, here's your passport, don't worry, it's all good, the painting's safe now, oh and actually here's a bunch of money, OH and you're a hero!!!" WHAT?!? Seriously? It was such an "and then I woke up" ending. No, it was an "and then I woke up AND found out I'd won the lottery overnight!!!" ending. MAD!!!

And to still be engaged to Kitsey, a year later? No way. :(

Maybe I'm wrong that these things are inconsistent with his character. And maybe the story is, at the end, about someone who, I hate to say this, utterly fails. Because I thought it was a fail.

Did anyone else think that?

I write of my disappointment because I truly LOVED reading this book. I have read few books in my life so fast or so furiously. I talked about it to almost everyone I saw (and hardly any of who were actually reading the book). There was so much about it that I loved and admired. But the ending left me quite cold. . . . I felt like the book deserved better, somehow.

Now to find another book. . . . Hrmmmmm.

Snow Birds

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Super duper completely wonderful. Two whole days of snowing, snowing, snowing, and possibly more on the way. Apparently snow is like a cat: Threaten it with your complete disinterest and the next thing you know it's all over you. Oh joy, joy. I love it so!!! All delight. Before it started, we were already back from the grocery store, making blueberry muffins and planning pork chops, creamed spinach, sweet potatoes, and, for lunch, my childhood snow-day favorite, Lipton chicken-noodle soup, the kind in the little package with the dessicated pieces of chicken and powdered broth. Add more noodles and a pat of butter and it's right there: the blizzard of '79.

All afternoon on the first day Mimi and I watched it blow in. Light at first, the snow fell harder and faster through the afternoon, blowing sideways for hours, whipping pots off the front porch and filling the sky. The birds crowded our feeder, and in the house we could hear them singing with nervous excitement. We snuggled under quilts and watched the local news, its reporters stationed at all of the highest points in the metro area, on the worst roads, at the scene of cars rolling into ditches and people "WALKING in FOREST PARK!!!" as one reporter incredulously exclaimed. I giggled with envy — those luckies! When I opened the back door to let the puppers out (worried, worried — what was this??? — she tried to dive back into the kitchen) I could feel that cold, clean, icy air, unlike any other air, and took a deep breath. Yes, that's it.

Yesterday the wind had stopped but the snow remained. It could not have been more beautiful, and didn't even feel that cold. Andy was at work, up on the hill, texting us bird's-eye photos of the city. People cross-country skied past the window, right down the middle of our street. Neighbors came out and started shoveling (most, including us, with garden shovels, hilariously — that's what we have here). Cabin-fevered, Amelia and I bundled and braved the blanketed streets (Yaktrax, you are the best!). It was glorious. Pristine and white. Quiet as I've ever heard it (almost everyone in the city who was able to [not nurses, alas] stayed home from work and school, and there was no one on the road). It was like walking in the forest, but with houses. Everyone in the neighborhood was gathered at the park, pulling little kids in sleds, throwing balls for bounding dogs, skiing across the baseball field. We clustered at the little sledding hill and watched for a while, then came home for lunch, cold and flushed. That afternoon it snowed again, as much as on the first day. I held my breath — keep going!

This morning — oh my stars, it snows again. Andy is home. I'm still in my nightgown. Amelia is playing with her yellow boots on the floor, wearing them on her hands. Snow fills the air, so white I almost can't see them: Andy in an Irish sweater, shoveling the neighbor's stairs; Clover's fur dusted so white she disappears. Here's another neighbor, come to help. And another. Bright hats against the white. The sound of metal scraping the sidewalk, laughter. It's falling faster than they can shovel. So beautiful. I'm going up to get dressed.

Some Weeks

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Aw, it was one of those weeks. The kind where five out of seven days of it we were fighting with the furnace, trying to make it work. The repair dude was here at least five times. A different repair dude is coming this morning, after the first one basically shrugged. And this is the third time this winter the thing has gone on the fritz. Boo hiss. It's supposed to be cold this weekend. Yippee! And Yikes! I prefer my freezing cold tempered by lots of heat coming through the registers, so, er, we'll see. This is what I get for doing my Snow Dance all over the house. Winter Olympics start Thursday, so that may be a multi-sensory experience. Cold-o-vision. Some weeks are like this, nothing but phone calls to repair dudes talking about combustion and nozzles, and waiting, in layers of wool. It has seemed to take up every minute.

Nevertheless, signs of spring continue to tempt me into confusion. I ordered a raincoat and yellow boots for Amelia. After five hours yesterday, the repair dude left, and we sprung out the front door and pranced down the street, eager for fresh air. We walked and walked and walked. Went to the coffee shop and read for a bit. She sat on my lap and watched everyone and everything. She talks constantly now, in Amelia-language, chirps and squeals and mumbles and shrieks with the occasional cheer: "Dad-DEE! Dad-DEE! Dad-DEE!" Like he's trying to win a pie-eating contest. Her first "sentence": "Hi Daddy!!!!!" said so brightly, and in a voice so loud and clear Andy and I both almost fell off the bed laughing with pure wonder and delight. Joyful mornings all together, rolling around in the warm piles of pillows and blankets and flocks of stuffed animals, every one named, every one kissed good morning. "Hi!!!"

I've been working a lot, and it's slow going. I'm learning to do it that way, but it's not my natural way. My natural way is, apparently, to careen toward the finish line like a tölting Icelandic horse (here's your visual). Right? Lordy. At night, I decided that in order to retain my slender grasp, I would only do personal projects. So I've been embroidering the village and farm piece. It's from the early '60s, I think. It's not particularly relaxing, actually. You have to page through at least four different double-sided pages to try to figure out which colors and what stitches for which part. It's do-able, obviously, but the degree of difficulty is a little higher than I should probably have chosen. My tolerance is low. Like, garter-stitch-scarf low. That would be like a 2 on the scale. Paper-piecing hexagons would be, like, a 5. This crewelwork is probably a 8. Knitting lace would of course, for me, be a 10. Even smocking would be about a 7. A 1 would be sitting unmoving with any kind of needle in your hand while watching The Hills. It's like a pain scale of evening crafting after days (that start at 5 a.m.) with a one-year-old. You probably have one. (The scale I mean; possibly, the toddler, too, or did once, so you know.)

Anyway, every night I try to do one little part of the whole scene. I can't deny that it's quite thrilling to watch each little color make it come to life. What is it about little scenes that charm so much? I read to Amelia every day, and some of the books are just amazing in the depth of their illustrations. Brambly Hedge. Tasha T. Jan Brett is like that. Mimi's sort of a speed-reader at this point — her goal is to turn the pages of the board book as quickly as possible. I read out loud like an auctioneer: Here's a little baby onetwothree standsinhiscribwhatdoesheseeee? Quick, before she turns the page. If there's a character that she normally waves to or kisses as she goes through, she does it double-time, until she gets to the end — boom, done, next!!! I stare at the pages after she's done, trying to see every little thing. I love this book. Like looking into a rhyming sugar egg.

I wish I could point you to a pattern for Amelia's sweater but it's an old Bernat (6043-87), out of print. I think I found it on eBay or somewhere like that. You could try. I will say that that yarn (Fresco) is delicious. I think, out of all the things I've made for her, this is the softest and prettiest thing. Wool/alpaca/angora, with a delicate halo. Highly recommended.

Those pink flowers? On a tree. Anyone know? Viburnum! Bodnantense 'Dawn'. Thank you, Jennifer (and everyone!)

***Yes, the crewelwork is a kit available here; sold out, but it looks like they have more coming.

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.