Whirl and Swirl

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One by one I've been reading all of the Beatrix Potter stories to Amelia at bedtime. They're quite edgy little stories. Some are too long for her right now. Some I knew and some I've never read before — actually, most classic children's literature was not actually a part of my childhood reading. But I'm enjoying them so much (likely more than Amelia, but isn't that always the way). When we got to The Tale of Two Bad Mice the other night I could not stop laughing: Tom Thumb and his wife, Hunca Munca, notice that the dolls have gone out for the day, so they venture into the dolls' house to have what they think is going to be a marvelous feast. When they find that the beautiful food is all made of plaster, they basically have a fit and trash the doll house. They smash the plates and then try to burn them in the kitchen fireplace, but that's fake, too. Tom Thumb throws all the doll's clothes out of the window. After pulling half of the feathers out of the doll bolster, Hunca Munca (who "had a frugal mind") remembers that "she herself was in want of a feather bed" and they set about stealing the bolster by dragging it to their mouse hole (along with a bunch of other furniture, including the doll-baby cradle). In the end, the dolls return (and silently survey the scene) and the little girl who owns the dollhouse puts a policeman doll in front of the house to guard it. Tom Thumb redeems himself by putting a crooked sixpence that he found under the rug in the doll's Christmas stocking to pay for the damages, and Hunca Munca sneaks in every morning with her broom and dustpan to sweep the dollhouse. I love this story so much. The first time we read it I went downstairs the next morning and stood gaping at Amelia's own utterly trashed dollhouse. "Did the two bad mice do this?" I asked. "Yeah," said Meems, chagrined. I convinced her to put it to rights, but I suspect that Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca might be up to their old tricks in our dollhouse again. . . . The funny thing is that when you start buying miniatures made by miniaturists, tons of it says, literally, "This is not a toy suitable for children under fourteen." Fourteen! Ha. I get that. Like, I think I had my first job at fourteen. When you go to high school you can play with your dollhouse, kid.

I've done almost nothing but cut calico fabric for weeks. Weeks. I stand in the studio, cutting strip after strip for the quilt kits I'm building, and think about things. Often I think about my own inspirations for these quilts in particular, which feel like a story I've been telling myself for a long time. I thought you might like to see some of the images that swirl and twirl around in my head when I'm coming up with a project, so I made this little collection of things, woven together with pictures of some of the actual fabrics that will be going into the kits. These are turning out to be kind of epic, if I do say so. I will give you more info as I get closer to releasing them in the next few weeks, so thank you for your patience. I will be offering a pattern for the quilt-comforter (in sizes from toddler through king, including throw) that you will have to download, and then about a hundred (total) toddler-sized kits to make the quilt top in seven or eight different general colorways. There will be options to purchase kits for larger sizes, as well, but I'm still working that out. I will say that, as with a lot of things that I do, these are a totally limited edition, even more so than usual. All of these fabrics have come from eBay and Etsy or estate sales or my own stash. They are rare. I've spent the past month combing every listing, looking for all of the best stuff, and it has been a massive project. I've cut close to 225 yards of fabric into 4.25" strips by myself. And I have more to go. But I honestly think you're going to be really thrilled when you see these. They're pretty special. Again, stay tuned for more info on these over the next few weeks as I get closer to finishing them. It's taking a long time, I know, but honestly, I pretty much spend every single free minute I have working on them and it's just been a huge project. I think, short of my books, it might be one of the biggest projects I've ever done.

There's no school again this week, for teacher in-service this time. Poor kids. It really never stops raining. We're way ahead of average rainfall for February. Oh that we could have some of this rain during the summer months!!! Yesterday, despite the weather, was a great day. Andy was home and we all went out to lunch and then came back and laid around the house, me knitting, Mimi and Andy playing for hours with the Matchbox car track. Andy made a roast chicken while Amelia and I watched the season one finale of The Great British Baking Show. You get so attached to everybody. It's a very sweet show. Thank for the recommendations of some of the other shows, too. I will check them out.

I finished reading The Orchardist last week, as well, and I don't know that I've ever been so disappointed with a book. (Not since my hissy fit about The Goldfinch, anyway.) When I finished The Orchardist I literally just sat there (alone in my favorite Thai restaurant) shaking — it was, in some ways, so good. But ultimately it felt so empty to me, and it wasn't until the very end, when I finished it and then just put the book down in slow motion, stunned with a very particular kind of Reader's annoyed-disbelief, that I realized how much more I wanted. Demanded. And it was a demand that felt entirely created by the beauty (the almost-beauty) of the book itself. There were so many places where it could have and should have pushed, where something should have been made clear and bright, where hard things to write should have been written and not just circled around and ultimately, almost stylistically and willfully avoided. Toward the end, when Evangelene throws her arms around Talmadge's neck in the wagon after he gets out of jail? There? Right there! That was a massive moment that should have been cracked wide open — even one brilliant sentence could have saved the book there, and it didn't get written. Well, I was mad about this. It felt like plaster food. I marched right upstairs and, though I didn't quite hurl the book, Tom Thumb–style, out the window, I did grab my copy of Howards End (which for me, does the hard things) and huffily opened it, needing my faith restored. Now I will expect too much from you, E.M. Forster. And so it goes.


Photos and illustrations, from top to bottom: 1. Cecile Veilhan, My Treasure 2. Eloise Wilkin 3. Unknown, from Pinterest 4. Carmen Hawk 5. Unknown, from Pinterest 6. Erich Heinemann, Siebenpünktchen 7. Ross Laurence 8. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 9. Girls in Laura Ashely Dresses with King Charles Spaniels, 1970s, from Paris Vogue 10. WIlliam McGeorge, Picking Blackberries 11. Anne Andersen 12. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Autumn Story 13. Still from Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 2008 14. Stevie Nicks 15. Tanja Kuvaa, from the Pretty Gingham blog 16. Edouard Vuillard 17. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 18. Sarah Freeman and Emma Ashley Photographed in Laura Ashley Dresses, 1960s, from Paris Vogue 19. Eloise Wilkin, from My Goodnight Book 20. Sleeping Mimi (by me) 21. Tasha Tudor 22. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Spring Story 23. Sydney R. Jones, The Village Homes of England


A beautiful post - love how you matched the fabric prints and illustrations/pics. And oh yes, the wonderful Beatrix Potter! I love them all and read them to my son when he was a little one. She never wrote down to children - her sense of humor shines through the stories. We especially liked The Pie and the Pattypan. My mother and I collected the BP figurines which I now treasure.
Thanks for the lovely dose of beauty!

I love Beatrix so much that I spent a week hiking in the Lake District for my 40th birthday ( a huge splurge!). I went to Hill Top Farm and did a walk with a guide from the National Trust. It was fabulous. And, yes, please...Brambly Hedge...did you know that Amy Chaplin mentions those wonderful books in part one of her cookbook...at home in the whole food kitchen? Kindred spirits.

Gosh, some gorgeous blasts from the past in those pictures. All the fabric cutting sounds such a mammoth task, I take my hat off to you. And oh, those maddening books that you've taken the time to finish but which leave you feeling decidedly underwhelmed. I suppose that's the downside of being a reader; something will come along every now and again which, for whatever reason, just doesn't cut the mustard.

Love all of the beautiful fabrics! I can't wait to see the finished patterns! By the way, all of the BBC versions of the Beatrix Potter stories (including Two Bad Mice) are on youtube. My kids and I watch them after reading the stories. They are so well done, and the intros are just beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EkDXp8KU00
You can also find all of the Brambly Hedge videos on there, which are all adorable :)

wow. i went through all of these pictures so slowly. i wondered where you were going with them. i always enjoy the things you share. i am so excited to see those quilted comforter covers.

I loved scrolling through the images that preceded your post, and then loved the post itself. Such a great mix of visuals and thoughts. Thanks!

Barbara H Swiss says: February 20, 2017 at 03:38 PM

Where are you selling your quilt kits?

t. a. knight says: February 20, 2017 at 03:43 PM

I am 38 and STILL not allowed to play with my childhood doll house. My mom had gotten wooden stirrers for coffee (she 'took' them out of Mc Donald's in the early 80s! I clearly remember) And then laid the wood floors herself and stained and sealed them. It still sits in my dads work shop untouched. I do have one (of the fisher price verity) for my girls and it gets used every day. I love Beatrix Potter and all your fabric prints. It all reminds me so much of my childhood.

I never read many of the most well-known children's classics, either. So, to remedy that (and I'm older than you) I just finished Winnie-the-Pooh. When I finish with Milne, I intend to read B. Potter. I got this idea when on the Ambleside website, curious about Charlotte Mason's recommendations for homeschoolers. (I don't have children) I look forward to reading these!

I *love* your images! Beautiful, all of them. Thanks for sharing. :)

Your images are breathtaking. I scrolled through quickly so I felt dizzy when I got to the text. I also hate being disappointed by a novel when my expectations are high. "The Japanese Lover" by Allende was one of those books last year. Barbara Kingsolver hasn't let me down so far. I've only thrown one book in the trash when I finished it - it was by Stephen King and I should have known better...

Great fabrics and pretty pictures! My daughter is at home at the moment before she moves into her own place in London and in the evenings we've discovered The Miss Fisher Mysteries on Netflix. Have you seen them? Essie Davis is amazing and her cloche hats are just ... just ... just perfect! Set in the late 1920's it's a great series - we're hooked and I think you might enjoy them too.

Martine Levy says: February 20, 2017 at 05:12 PM

Hello Alicia
I discovered your blog around Christmas, and i am absolutely HOOKED !
Your photography is very beautiful, so inspiring,and calming, a world away from what is happening these days! I come to your blog to " detox " and admire your crafts,and your beautiful home and enjoy your little girl!
Like you i love to knit and sew and quilt,and being at home ,feathering my nest. This month, with the grey skies and continuous stress from the news,i decided to put together an " all red" quilt, made of 2inches square of red printed fabric [lots of small floral prints, that i collected over the years] the whole project was fun to do, and cutting all this red fabric made me smile and brightened the room. I cannot wait to see your kits! Take good care of your wrist, cutting so many yards of fabric for so long can really give you a bad tendonitis [it happened to me years ago!]
Thanks so much for writing about Beatrix Potter 's books. I also read them to my kids when they were small [ they are adults now!] Not only her drawings are exquisite but also her stories are full of humor, and wonderful sophisticated words , that young children love to learn.
I enjoyed your ''gallery'' of children's book illustrations,and the calicoes to match!
Thanks for sharing with us your beautiful little girl and all you do.
I shared your blog to many of my friends and we are all ''Fans''
All the best!

Image 3 is so evocative. what a lovely place for a nap or to snuggle under the covers to read.

Please consider reading News of the World by Paulette Jiles. I finished this recently and when it ended I couldn't get it out my mind. I could have read it all over again right away. Now I want everyone to read it.

I'm a big GBBO fan and someone else noted the Great British Sewing bee is lots of fun too. The british versions of these types of shows are also much gentler and, well, nicer, than the american style ones, which seem to emphasis competition and conflict.

Love them all. especially the village pic and Brambly Hedge, of course. Alicia if you haven't read or watched Picnic at Hanging Rock, I think you'd like it.

I think you'd enjoy "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey... A fine line between fantasy and reality.

A lengthy and gorgeous visit with you, this post, and what a delight! I think I will spend some time going through the images - they are wonderful as a thinking collage. Hugs for a lovely rest of the week ♥

Alicia,Your fabric choices are wonderful - can't wait!
What a beautiful post - as usual :)

Help! No sewing skills at all. I sooooo want one of your quilts.
How would I go about hiring someone to make me one???
So love your pictures juxtaposed with the fabric. Made me love your calicoes even more!

Surely that is Amelia there on the right in the blackberry painting...?

i want to live in your collage .. the photos are utterly delightful and carry me away to such dreaminess .. the colors, combinations, illustrations and fabrication of it all is just too wonderful .. thank you for taking the time to put it together with all the credits :)

That;s Beatrix for you! She was true to her own nature and human kind as well. There was no political correctness trying to veil the way humans really are in those days and all humans have these thoughts and some act on them and some dont . I dont see why people are so surprised that they have a rotten human nature ..The key is when our pride rises up to say IM not that way !! LOL .

I am so excited you are building quilt kits! They will no doubt be the nudge I need to get me into quilt-making. Loved this post and the beautiful pictures. I still love the Beatrix Potter and Brambly Hedge illustrations so much, and I remember poring over every detail as a child, soaking it all up :) xxx

Two bad mice is one of our favorite Beatrix Potter books too. We really enjoy her books and I have always identified with Josephine Rabbit (except I don't hit my kids). I wish I could get my kids to like Brambly Hedge. I no longer have a toddler but I'd love to purchase a larger size kit.

What beautiful pictures, as always! I'm so excited for your kits. I can never find prints and colors like yours so this will be a very special project. I'd love to purchase a larger kit. Thank you for all the work that you're putting into these quilts for us.

We love Beatrix Potter books! Our boys' favorites (ages 2 and 6) are The Story of Miss Moppet, Tom Kitten and The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fischer.

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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 aliciapaulson.com




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.