Posts filed in: September 2015

Soup and Sew

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Well, thank you. Thank you, thank you. What an incomparably lovely experience it was to read your kind comments (for Andy, too; I don't know if you know he reads every post, and every comment as well). Thank you so much! I took the quilt top and the batting and backing (yep, I embroidered a tag, as well; I'll show you that sometime, probably when I'm completely done with it all) over to Modern Domestic for the afternoon that same day last week and used their tables to lay it all out and pin the quilt sandwich together. That place is pretty rad; you can pay to use their space and equipment to get stuff like this done, and I'll never do it at home again. The tables were nice and tall and I spent hours pinning and my back did not hurt at all (mine at home is way too short — I absolutely need risers — all my stuff is too short for me, actually, including the kitchen counters). Anyway, I got it all pinned together, and got the front part of the binding sewn on, and now I'm hand quilting a few squares and stitching down a bit of binding every night. I have two more weeks. I'll definitely finish. I'm really happy.

Answers to some questions that came up:

Yes, I changed the October patch significantly. I kept the same girl, because I really did not want to lose any of the continuity of this amazing design, but added a simple birthday cake from another book by the same designer and some bunting.

As far as getting the book that these patterns are in, it is (sadly) out of print. I found mine easily on Etsy, but I'm guessing there aren't too many of them out there, I'm sorry. I don't really have any good advice about how to get your hands on a copy other than Googling the title or ISBN (in the previous post), or trawling eBay, Etsy, or other Japanese craft book sellers.

The top was pieced with strips of the salmon/silver background fabric. I think I did all the blocks going down with short strips between (to make three columns) and then added four long vertical strips to finish. For the back I used this 100% cotton gingham in gray. The salmon/silver background calico came from JoAnn's. As far as the rest of the fabrics used to make the calico frames, er. . . . I'm not great at keeping track of that kind of info. All of it was already cut into strips by me at some point, and kept in my big 2" strip scrap basket. I buy almost all of my fabric locally, at JoAnn's, Fabric Depot, and Mill End Store, and also at Knittn' Kitten. Some of my fabrics are Liberty of London Tana Lawn cottons, which I've been collecting for probably twenty years. I have never been good at keeping track of the names and designers of fabric, and I really am going to try to be better about that. But my stash has been accumulated over such a long period of time and from so many places that it just overwhelms me to try to keep it straight. (And also, for the people who have asked where I find most of the vintage patterns I use for Mimi's dresses, I just get them on Etsy or eBay, or at Goodwill or Knittn' Kitten when I see something I like. Eventually I'm sure I will sell my collection of vintage patterns but I don't really have time to do it right now. I like vintage patterns because they have already been cut out [most of the time] and you don't have to fight with multiple sizes and giant pieces of tissue paper, or printing and cutting and taping, etc. And of course I just like the styles better, too.)

Anyway, I was mostly just kidding about not letting Mimi use the quilt. She'll absolutely use it, but I will try to keep it nice. I will absolutely try to keep Clover and Bridget off of it (they are going to be bewildered, seriously — I've never tried to keep them off of anything in their lives). I'm definitely going to wash it cold with some of those color-catcher things. I've never been worried about dye in embroidery floss running before, and of course I did absolutely nothing to mitigate the possibility, but in that June block especially, oh shasta. That one's gonna be tough to imagine not running, honestly. . . . That umbrella is so solidly packed with red thread (against a white ground). Ugh. Oh well. That's life.

Anyway, once again. You guys. Thank you. Your enthusiasm made my day just so big and fun and bright. I truly appreciate your kindness and, just, I don't know how to explain it anymore, but all the thoughtfulness that goes into what you say. All of the things you said, the stories you offered, the kindness you shared, all of it has also gone into that quilt now. And I don't know, that makes me cry, too. It's just cool. Thank you.

So, there's a lot of soup up there. There's chicken with wild rice. There's black bean. There's Andy's chicken soup (we were sick). There's a loaf of bread, as well, but it was a just a loaf of frozen white from the grocery store, which, though it only weighed about an ounce (seriously, I actually laughed out loud when I picked it up) after it was baked, made kind of a nice turkey sandwich, I have to say. Also, there's a Halloween costume. It's Little Red Riding Hood's dress from Simplicity #2571. I know. I . . . yes, I already made part of a Halloween costume. I have no explanation.

***Her poncho; her dress; her sweater.

A Birthday Quilt for My Girl

comments: 316

A few months ago, I stumbled upon this pin on Pinterest. It was a set of embroidered coasters designed by Japanese embroidery designer Hiroko Ishii in the (all-in-Japanese) book Stitch Ideas Volume 11 (ISBN 978-4-529-04826-2). Before I knew it, I had ordered the book, planning to make a birthday quilt for Amelia.

In the book, there is the pinned picture, another detail picture of a few of the coasters close up, and a tiny set of line drawings — each one about 2" square, maybe. I enlarged the drawings on a copy machine so that they were almost the width of a letter-size piece of paper, so about 8" square. I spent a day gathering my fabrics and planning colors and transferring the designs (I always trace my designs on a lightbox with either a fine-tipped permanent marker or a fabric marker, or in the case of the black one, a white quilting pencil). I kept most of the fabric colors, most of the floss colors, and most of the designs exactly the way they were in the original. (I changed October somewhat, to be more birthday-ish.) And then I started to stitch. And stitch. And stitch. And stitch. Every night, after she went to bed, I hurled myself onto my chaise lounge with a cup of tea and a bag of Raisinettes and some Ice Lake Rebels (obsessed) and got to work. Last week, I finished the embroidery. This week, I framed the squares with 2" calico strips and stitched them into the quilt top. Today, allow me to show you the months of the year that have occupied my every August and September night at the end of this glorious summer we had, the one just before our girl turns three years old.

January:
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Oh man. Someone draw me a bath and bring me a good book and pick up my kid from playschool and make some dinner for me, please. Then it'll be right back to work to make some money to start saving for the pony for her fourth birthday because there's just no possible way I can top this thing on my own, ever.

I'm rather proud of this. Andy came in while I was working on it and said, "Oh wow, that's awesome! That's too nice to use!" I said, "I know." He said, "But we are going to use it, right?" I said, "No." Then I said, "Just I am." Then he made that face like the emoji with the big eyes and the straight line for a mouth.

I actually did cry about four times while sewing the top together the past few days. One time was when I was listening to the song Little Waltz by Basia Bulat. Another was when I was remembering the day Amelia was born. And there were two other times. It was just getting so big and I was really happy with it, and kind of weirdly relieved that it was coming together, and my baby girl is growing up. It's strange to have hours to myself, sewing, and thinking, thinking about her, which is what I had over these past few days, alone in my studio. I did little else but work on putting this together, using some of the strips of fabric from clothes I had made her over the past year, the October block framed by the fabric that I'd used to make her birthday dress last week, the background fabric one I've just always loved — salmon-colored flowers against an opal-gray background, like the bright leaves on our dogwood tree against the autumn sky, as it was the October day we brought her home — and that solid-colored frame around the first calicoes the color of moonstone. Oh, my love.

. . .

The top's big, about 54" x 72", so she can use it on her toddler bed and hopefully on her double bed when she moves into it. The back will be 1/2" gray gingham and the binding a sort of pale mustard with lilac dots. I'll try to finish the back today. I'm using cotton for the batting because I have it already. Everything for the top and back I already had in my stash, or got out of my scrap basket. All of it, even that, felt really good. I can't say enough about how much I love Hiroko Ishii's design. It's like a sweet, quiet, wistful, charming poem. What an privilege it's been to make this. I think it's my favorite thing I've ever made, ever.

Now to make the quilt sandwich, and then to sit under it while doing the quilting and binding. By hand (it can be no other way, I don't think). I may not finish it by her birthday. I doubt I will. It'll be close though. You can't rush hand sewing. You don't want to.

It was really hard to photograph this, for some reason. I apologize for the wrinkles. I dragged it all over the place looking for normal light in my house which apparently I don't have. Nevertheless, thank you for indulging me. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll answer them here. I'm gonna go eat a sandwich now and watch Judge Judy.

Hello there!

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Hello there! How are you? We're settling into fall here. It's come on with speed and determination. At 6 a.m. this morning, Amelia and I laid in bed in the dark bedroom, listening to the rain outside. She noticed it. It sounded beautiful. It's so dark in the morning now. We snuggle until the quilt and the wool blanket, both kitters and puppers in the bed, too. After a long summer of tremendous heat, everyone's suddenly cold, and grateful for that. The transition to new season and new routines has been unexpectedly hard for me these past few weeks, though. I feel like I'm scrambling to find traction somehow. I think I'm getting it, but I've been a bit all over the place. I was so anxious for it that I immediately started panicking and flailing about once it happened. Typical.

We went to the river for the last time this summer. It was so shallow it was hard to believe. A flock of geese sat on the sandbar all afternoon. The leaves, tinged yellow, fell into the water. I really loved all the days we spent there this summer. I know Andy and Amelia did, too. Our intrepid explorer has grown so much these past few months. What a blessing, to have these nearby places to be free together. Home by dinner, bath, and then early to bed, clean and tired.

Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comments lately, and for all of the glorious-sounding apple recipes, and for the big-girl-chair advice. I made my sour cream apple pie and this thing just never, ever disappoints. Highly recommend. Double the topping if your pie plate is big and wide. (Put tinfoil under your pan if you think that stuff might bubble over and drip off, though; you don't want that spilling in your oven.) Next I'm going to go through the recipes you suggested and find some more that sound good (they all sound good!). I'm getting back into the whole cooking routine I was so excited about a couple of months ago. SOUP is going to make life just ever so much easier. It tastes just as good the next day. I made kale and potato soup with corn and chorizo and it was fantastic. I had it again the next day and it was absolutely just as good. Tonight I'm making the chicken with wild rice soup I made last year, because I know that was really good. Should walk up to the store and get some sweet potato to make biscuits to go with. And boom, that's tomorrow, then, too.

The big-girl chair is a work in progress. We got a Keekaroo — I happened to spot one at the kids' resale shop that cost the exact amount of the credit I had. I like it (though, as everyone says, we've tripped over it literally every single day since it's been here) but the seatbelt has got to be replaced — she is totally able to take it off herself, thus completely defeating the purpose. Dinnertime now is a constant negotiation where I try to get her to stay in her seat. Last night I said, "Well, I just started eating, and if you can't stay in your seat for a little while I might have to go get your old high chair and bring it back, if it's really hard to stop getting down." I thought that warning might work, since just last week the idea of sitting in the high chair was so distasteful it caused all sorts of pandemonium . But she just got these big, bright eyes and said, "Oh! Can I have my high chair?" Pfffft! LOL. But the big-girl chair'll be good with a toddler-proof seatbelt. The clip is just too easy to snap open. She's not quite ready to be free yet, and, quite frankly, neither am I. Getting there, though. She and I eat dinner alone three nights a week when Andy is at work, and our days start around 5:00 a.m. By 5:00 p.m., I just need to sit for a little while.

Do you like the poncho? I think I like it — well, I love the pattern, I just don't know if I like my colors that much. Does it look like I went to Michael's and got one of those little strips of acrylic paint pots (the "country" colors), and then matched them? Maybe that works, I don't know. This has yet to be blocked. I was going to wait for a warm day and block it outside on the outside table so it will dry faster. The details are on my Ravelry page. Her groovy dress is from a vintage nightgown pattern (Simplicity 4719) that I shortened. I like peasant dresses that gather onto a bias strip, and have a continuous placket and a snap in back. I added pockets to this one but I matched them to the fabric so they almost don't show. It's the softest baby wale corduroy, from Fabric Depot, a few years ago now, I think.

Some very cool vintage postage stamps to use on Amelia's birthday invitations. And paper party hats I can't stop making: I used some of the floral designs in this most awesome book, printed them onto lightweight cardstock on my ink-jet printer, then traced my party hat pattern, glued them together at the seam, added some cotton rick-rack, and made a yarn pom for each. These are for everyone besides the birthday girl (who will get a felt one, of course). I absolutely love party preparations. Love them.

Wuthering Heights

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When the rain came, we were at the top of the butte, sitting in the burnt grass. The purple clouds had stacked up and marched across the sky. I'd talked her out of wearing two tutus at the same time and jabbing at things with the enormous umbrella. At the top of the hill, there I feel free. I would rather be on top of the hill than almost anywhere, everywhere. At home, down the hill, our houses pile up on each other, with fences and hedges and trees and houses and wires and houses and trees so close they block half the sky. On the hill, she runs, stretching her legs, twirling her skirts, chasing seed angels. He blows them out of their pods for her, and I wonder what flowers will bloom next year from this moment. My heart swells with joy. It's good to sit down and rest. I look out over the brown flowers, the dry ponds. The meadow is lovely in its withering. The sky is hyperactive, changing by the minute, the clouds moving so fast I hardly dare look away lest I miss something. They're different, too, in every direction: This way, they're lighted cotton balls; that way, they're whooshes; over there, it's a solid curtain of gray. Far off to the west the sage-blue hills are covered in ever-more-opaque veils of gray; you can see that it's already raining there, and raining farther back, as well. I've forgotten this color scheme: violet/lighter violet/more violet. I turn my face to the sky in gratitude and relief. This saturated air is pure nutrition. When the drops finally start falling, my skin absorbs each one in an instant. I hardly feel them at all I'm so deficient. Rain. Real rain. There's a sudden scramble involving crying, shoulder sitting, a too-big umbrella someone insists on holding, and then more rain, so it's into the stroller, legs tucked up under the hood, more crying, some juice, then quiet. Quiet. Walking. The umbrella, closed, hangs from the push-bar. There is just rain and wind and the lovely crunch of wet gravel. I imagine what the rain sounds like from inside the hooded stroller, her rolling personal tent. Andy and I have stupid-big grins. We push and walk, getting soaked, in perfect happiness. Home, and dumplings for dinner. There are some days you wish would last forever. Powell Butte, Saturday, September 5, 2015. That was one.

Honeycrisp

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Autumn weather is taking her time, coming in in spurts, though the apples are already mostly picked, with brown spots and worms in the ones that are left. We found a few small beauties, sweet and crisp and filled with summer, still. This is the time of year when I feel the most longing. I can't seem to get traction. September sparks emotions that are russet-colored, and crackling, and capricious. I feel one way and then another. The grass is colorless, defeated. The skies routinely cover-over in a merciful low, gray haze. Right now I'm looking out at my backyard and it's as still and clear gray and matte-flat as I've ever seen it. There is no breeze, but it is cool. I hear squirrels and birds and, a-ways off, cars. No one's mowing a lawn, no one's cutting down a tree, no one's nailing shingles to a roof. There are no flashing highlights, no glints, no searing-white light-spots. It's very quiet. And I feel relieved, for a moment. I wish it would stay.

I want to stand in the kitchen and peel fall things, apples and squashes and onions, and I want to saute mushrooms, and roast garlic heads, and make oatmeal for my boo. I made Eve's Pudding (it was okay, not life-changing) and have plans for my pie, and a cobbler, and a crisp. I love apples. I crocheted a toddler poncho and have embroidered ten out of twelve panels (still need to take their pictures for you) on my girl's birthday quilt, all of this at night, on the sofa, watching Ice Lake Rebels and a movie my friend Martha recommended, The Grand Seduction. At night, the breeze blows through the windows at my back. It gets dark before Andy gets home from work. I'm still in my summer nightgowns. I'm trying not to rush so much. It's so hard to break the habit with some things.

***Any apple recipe recommendations?

Forest Flower

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It was finally cool and cloudy enough to go for a walk in the woods. Oh sweet mercy, how I have missed them. Ever so much.

Her Forest Flower, made ever so many years ago, now a perfect fit.

This still-green canopy, and this little wanderer, soothing my hot, dusty little heart. Wishing you a cool, peaceful, love-filled, very sweet start of a lovely new season.

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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.