Posts filed in: March 2016

Spring Swing

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Days of spring and flowering things. Our girl is busy and buzzing like a bumblebee, flitting from blossom to blossom, up, down and all around. The air is alternately chilly and warming, and the green is fluorescent and glowing. I love the quiet, gray mornings; the sound of crows swooping and calling; the clematis clinging and crawling along the fence, magnolia petals browning. Spring is so, so pretty. I had an impulse to weave something. I drove out to the country on a beautiful afternoon and bought a Schacht School Loom (I got it from Pacific Wool and Fiber in Newburg but it's not on their web site). I followed the directions that were included with the loom and threaded the warp (I'd never done this before, but it was really easy) and then just started weaving. Randomly. Here is a nice tutorial on getting started.

I can't seem to stop weaving now. It's incredibly calming. Have you done it? I remember that I've done it twice before — once as a really little kid, making a little blue weaving for my dad's birthday on a cardboard loom. The other time was in college when I was taking a studio art survey course. I remember that there was a lot of drama going on socially at the time, and I totally remember just sitting in the weaving studio going back and forth with the yarn and thinking, "Yes, please, I'd just like to stay right here and do this, then." It was also spring, then. It feels like a good time to start new things, and I've needed that lately. I'm excited. It's been a long time since I started something new.

I did a little cross stitch design for the incredibly talented Carrie Hoge's new project, details of which are coming soon. I love those two colors, mineral blue and rose-gold, together.

The illustrations are from two of the library books we got out this week, Hondo Escapes and The Story of the Root Children. Story time, when we're tucked up in bed in our nighties and tucked under our quilts and covers and (still) wool blankets (though it is staying ever more light outside), is fast becoming my favorite part of the day. She's listening so intently now.

Sweet, sweet spring. It's almost too much to talk about, so I'll just let these pictures tell my story for the past few days.

Season Change

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Saturday morning. Cuddles. Chat. It's still dark. We listen to the birds outside. The crow says caw. Caaaaaaw, caaaaaaaw. Amelia tells me that today is Ceiling's birthday. (Ceiling as in "the ceiling.") This is convenient, as we happen to be having a party tonight. I'm planning my dad's chili, potato-leek soup, and a chocolate cake. Our friends bring chips, salads, beer. Amelia decorates the cake (I use my cheater frosting — 2 cups of heavy cream, whipped, with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a box of vanilla instant pudding mixed in; claggy but yummy) with sprinkles, pink hearts, and gold stars. She asks for candles. I forget that it's Ceiling's birthday until she asks for the candles. "How old is Ceiling?" I say. "Four." Ah. But oh, how I love three. Flowers, rain-showers, wet grass. Sunshine. Squabbles. Passion. Planting and playing. She hits her friend square in the forehead with a toy teacup and her friend pulls her hair. Kisses and tears and not sharing and then sharing. Windows open. Trees blooming. Freedom and fresh air. No more high chair, no more baby gates, no more crib. "I'm so proud of you, honey." "I'm so proud of you, Mom." Holding hands while we walk all the way to the grocery store. I pick her a bouquet of grape hyacinths and pansies and she arranges them herself in a tiny vase for her new nightstand. I turn on the fake fireplace in her little room. We can hear the raindrops hitting the window as we read, propped up with pillows in the new bed. There are soft new white sheets, a new quilt, and the softest, squishiest little eiderdown I ever did see. I feather a small, warm nest for my little bird. At the party, everyone sings "Happy Birthday" to Ceiling while Amelia points up, then blows out the candles. I pray for peace in this world.

Rainflowers

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I just finished the quilt! I'm really happy! It's in the wash right now. I can't wait to see it after it's been washed and dried. I backed it with pale mauve-pink double gauze, soft as a cloud. I used cotton-wool-blend batting (I think it was Hobbs). I used a cream-colored fabric with tiny turquoise dots for the binding. I did the binding completely by machine: I used 2 1/4" cross-grain strips, folded in half lengthwise and applied to the front of the quilt sandwich with a 1/4" seam. I wrapped it around to the back and made sure it just covered the seam on from the back, and pinned it perfectly in the ditch, just catching the back edge. I pinned a lot. Then I stitched in the ditch all the way around, catching the back edge, and it worked perfectly. You have to go slowly, and you have to pin a lot, and you have to remember to look at the front edge of your presser foot as you stitch in the ditch — don't watch the needle, watch the groove in the front of the presser foot and make sure it's centered perfectly over the ditch. My stitches were almost imperceptible. The back edge was just barely caught and looked great. I always do my binding by hand on the back, but honestly, this looked so good and saved soooooo much time, and so many hand stitches, I don't know that I'll ever do it by hand again! Well, maybe I will, but not in the near future. This looked really nice. The trick is the pinning exactly in the ditch. If you've pinned in the ditch, and you've caught the back edge, you will catch it when you stitch. Just take your time.

To quilt it, I decided I really wanted it to be as soft and light as possible. I was thinking of tying the whole thing, but again I just didn't want to take the time, as the big-girl bed has been purchased and just needs to be put together. Tying this would've taken too long and I'm just getting more picky about what I want to put my hands through these days — tying is pretty hard on your fingers. So, proud of my ditch-stitching on the binding (and yeah, I bound the edges first; the double-gauze felt a little shreddy and I thought it would be best to get the edges completely enclosed before I started handling it too much), I decided to quilt it by machine-stitching in the ditch around every patch. I just started on one edge and tried to follow it as far as I could. This required pushing a whole bunch of the quilt under the arm several times, so I don't know how this would work on a regular machine on anything bigger than a throw (this quilt measures 55" x 57", and yes, this was a fairly random measurement on my part; I basically just wanted something that would work right now on that little bed, and I didn't want it to be too big that she couldn't curl up under it easily on the sofa after it's too small for the bed; conveniently this just fit on a packaged throw-size batting [60" x 60"], but that was sheer luck, because naturally I don't think about any of these rational things beforehand, good grief) but it worked out just fine on my machine. Anyway, I just kept  stitching seams, backstitching a bit when I would hit a dead end, and then starting over. The batting package said I had to stitch it at most 4" apart, which is pretty tight. On the bigger patches I added a few ties.

I daresay I've never enjoyed making anything more! A lady at Fabric Depot once said to me that the best quilts are fast, fun, and finished, and this one certainly was that. I'll be hard-pressed to ever do a quilt another way, honestly!

I'll take more close-up pictures once we get the bed set up. That's going to require the whole room being rearranged so it may not be until next week.

***Oh, oh — and for those who have asked, some details about my crocheted blanket (also for Meems's new bed) are here (and I think that stitch is called the harlequin stitch, maybe?), and the bloomers pattern I used was Style pattern #3206 from 1980.

Rainbow Bright

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I've been busy with some fabric and some bloomers and some dresses. Now at least Amelia has something to wear. I definitely don't. I should probably make something for myself one of these days. Instead I made honey-mustard chicken and rosemary potatoes, which was very good. Loving that whole put-the-skillet-in-the-oven thing. Finally I'm getting to the chicken!

After I sewed several things, there literally was no more room in the scrap basket. The scrap basket is enormous. It's about two feet tall and two feet in diameter, I think. I've had it in my office for . . . sixteen years now. Both Bridget and Violet used to sleep in the scrap basket when it wasn't overflowing. Once I started pulling scraps out of it I swear it was like one of those vacuum-packed storage bags, and it basically expanded to about twice its volume once the pressure was lifted. Slightly appalling. I threw half of it on the floor and started pulling out only the scraps I wanted for a new quilt (which I didn't plan to make until one second before — yet another SQMI [Spontaneous Quilt-Making Incident] — I can't count how many I've had now — I'm just wild like that I guess). I stood at the (newly lifted with bed risers) cutting table and ironing board and pressed and rotary-cut a big pile of scraps into rectangles. I had no specific sizes — I just cut everything into the biggest rectangle that I could get out of the crazy-cut scrap. When I had a big pile, I started sewing pieces together a lot like you do with log cabin blocks — I'd stitch one piece to another, then trim the longer one right at the sewing machine with a pair of scissors. When I had a few pieces put together, I'd press it and then trim it into another rectangle with the rotary cutter. It was amazing how out-of-square the "block" would get after a few seams. But I'd just keep squaring it a bit. Eventually, I had four or five big patched rectangles and then I stitched those together to make a long strip. I did all of this in an afternoon while my sister was standing in the studio talking with me. I was barely paying attention to what I was doing, and there's a lesson for me. I like this as much as any quilt I've ever made (so far). Not sure if it will be smallish, for Amelia's pending big-girl bed or really enormous, for our king-size bed. The last time I made one for that bed was four years ago (named, I was delighted and surprised to see — I didn't remember this! — the Spring Rain quilt). That was epic. It's a pretty cool feeling to make a quilt out of only scraps. Our foremothers would be laughing at that statement, I know.

Petal Powered

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Ohhhhhh, I loved your comments on the last post. Loved them. Thank you, thank you. Little poems. I was right there. I dusted off my perfume bottles and wore honeysuckle on Sunday and it was a delight. Such a little thing. Thank you for taking the time to write.

Such a fairy dusting of blossoms and blooms we have had this week, as our plum tree flowers and the city sprouts. There is every kind of weather — sunshine, rain, wind, sunshine, rainbow, hail the size of peas (which Andy scooped into a cup and Amelia ate with dinner), clouds, heat, cold. Everything. Spring is storybookish here, and it's impossible not to love every minute of it. I love the beginning before the beginning, and this is it.

When I'm not outside, I'm sewing, sewing. Dresses appear like dandelions — not here in the morning, out on the lawn by lunchtime. Martha took pictures of all of the fabric she's sending and I said yes or no to each; later I realized that almost all of them were in the patchwork pillow she gave me for my birthday! Pretty calicos. I splurged and bought some new fabrics, too — linens and lawns and double gauzes for bloomers and smocks and Easter and Birthmother's and Mother's Day. Ribbons I just wanted to have. I spent my free hour yesterday going through my (quite extensive) vintage pattern collection, matching patterns with fabrics and trying to get sort of a well-rounded wardrobe will last through summer, and last into size four, as well. She's three, but I keep sewing into size four, refusing to pre-wash my fabrics and hoping everything will shrink just a bit to make it work for a while. The light blue dress at the top is from Martha's '80s stash, sewn with McCall's #3470 from 1972. I made the neckline into a rounded one, and added a ruffle made from a 22" strip of fabric that I edged with the scallop stitch on my machine. I'd seen this done on some of the French sewing blogs and thought it looked really pretty. It came out nice except that I think my ruffle strip needed to be longer and gathered a bit more, because it really wanted to flip up on her. I finished the back with a continuous lap and a snap. Getting that whole snap maker kit for size 14 snaps with the decorative snaps (pink, green, blue, and yellow) is turning out to be one of the best things I ever bought. I think I originally got it for baby bibs. But I'm loving it for the backs of dresses, and it's actually really fun to do the snaps with the hammer, etc. I put the snap right under the neck binding.

The golden daisy dress is baby wale corduroy, so soft, made from my standby peasant pattern, vintage Simplicity 4719. I like the way the arms and neck is cut on this — not too full, though the dress itself is full. I added a belt — more on this below. I added pockets, because m'lady has requested that every dress have pockets. For flowers, rocks, acorns, berries, rose hips, and her leftover sopping wet cinnamon roll from the bakery.

The navy dress is such cute fabric (by Elizabeth Olwen and called "Go Your Own Way" — I'm not the only one having a Stevie moment, yay), also baby wale corduroy. Perfect for just exactly this time of year, when it's still a bit chilly but you want flowers. The pattern is McCall's #2997 from 1971, and it has a front tab and two front pockets (which are hard to see). It had a tie belt, that tied in back, but that seemed like folly to me; there's no way she would keep that on, and would be sitting on it, etc. I made a little belt that was a continuous ring, gathered along the back, that slips over her head and sits around her tummy. She didn't like that either and only kept this on for about a minute. I broke my new rules with this dress — it has a zipper, it has set-in sleeves, it has a wide hem. But instead of lining the yoke I finished the neck with some vintage bias tape that was the perfect color blue, and in my stash was a vintage zipper that was also the perfect shade of blue, so, what can you do.

My sweet little hand-dyed bunting is from Sugarhouse Workshop, and those little lavender sprigs I picked up at JoAnn's the other day for a song. And we got the loveliest package all the way from Niina in Finland the other day. Amelia's been happily playing with Moomins and postcards and licorice nibs for three days. Mud on her hand, flowers in her hair. Spring is so good.

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.