Posts filed in: April 2018

Here We Are

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I want to redo my office soon, so I took some pictures of some of the pictures on my bulletin boards. Baby Mimi!!! So cute I can't even stand it. Aaaaaagh. And darling Audrey. XOXOXOXOXOX

Spring is heeeeeeere, and with it days in the 90s and nights in the 40s. Broiling and then freezing. Andy had a cold, then Mimi got the cold, now I have the cold, and Andy's poor mother has been visiting this week, right in the thick of the coughing, sneezing, and nose-blowing. And copious amounts of complaining. Boy, is she a good sport. She does not have the cold. Fingers crossed. We are having a lovely visit in spite of the gnarly sinuses and it's flown by. Everything in Portland is blooming right now. Tomorrow is our school's May Day dance and I'm hoping for warmer weather so that the children can dance outside instead of in the church basement due to cold and rain.

I've been sewing a lot, working on a pattern for a knitting project bag. That's it, above. I have to say, it's been really fun trying to make something with a very specific function in mind. I've made three so far and I think I've got it down. There is a pocket on the back side for you to keep a pattern in, and three skinny pockets next to that for DPNs or crochet hooks or pens. Inside there is another pocket with three grommets to thread your yarn through. I'd seen this on several project bags and it really was thrilling to find that it works. Cool! Right now I'm sourcing leather and hardware and zippers so that I can offer little packs of those things, along with a pattern for you to make your own. More info on this to come, as usual. But it's happening, and it feels good. I do love it when a plan I didn't even know I had comes together.

I made kind of a yummy pasta recipe, adapted from the New York Times cooking app. It's a classic you've probably had.

Pasta, Prosciutto, and Peas (adapted by me from the original by David Tanis)

1 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 heads of fresh broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 lb. rigatoni
4 slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
1 tablespoon finely cut chives
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Put crème fraîche, cream and butter in a wide, deep skillet over medium heat. Turn off heat as soon as mixture is hot, and stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.

Plunge broccoli boiling water and let cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a mesh spider or slotted spoon and add to cream mixture.

Drop noodles in boiling water and cook until almost al dente. Add peas to water with pasta.

Drain pasta and peas and add to skillet. Sprinkle with prosciutto and chives, then toss gently to coat with sauce. Divide among warmed bowls and serve immediately. Pass grated Parmesan at table.

Do you remember the sideways sweater I had started for Amelia a few weeks ago? I frogged it. I had dyed the yarn myself and couldn't get the vinegar smell out of it and it was annoying me. I don't use vinegar anymore (I use citric acid). I let her dye some yarn and I dyed some yarn and I started this same sweater again, alternating stripes of each of our yarns (hers is the pink, mine is the green). It's such a great sweater for TV watching. It's hard to find sideways sweater patterns like this that aren't in French. (This one is from DROPS, but a lot of this style are French.) I might write one for sport-weight yarn, maybe without the peplum. In all my spare time. But I think it would be pretty easy. It's kinda funny because the very first sweater I ever "favorited" on Ravelry was this one. And I still love it.

I think I'm going to try to get Andy to do a video of how I dye my yarn now, which even works with kids, to show you how I do it and how you can, too. Our ten-year-old neighbor was over one afternoon last weekend and I helped both girls dye their own yarn. And WOW do they ever have different personalities and learning styles. It was really fascinating and mildly freaked me out. B was careful and a bit anxious, Amelia was like a runaway train. Keeping them both on task at the same time was a serious learning experience for me. They are five years apart but get along really well. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to do and would make a really cool project to do with a small group for sure. I'll put that on my list. We'll see if Andy can make a video without setting it to ear-shattering heavy metal. Or maybe it should be set to metal. It's not that rad, but he can probably find a way to rad it up.

Spring-a-ling

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Halllllooooooo out there! Sorrrrrry it's taking me so long to do anything lately. I feel like I'm slamming around my life like a pinball, actually. This reorganizing thing is no joke. I've barely scratched the surface but . . . it's happening. Bit by bit. Andy and I are each trying to dig in to various parts of the house and come up with better systems. Then Amelia comes in and, tornado-like, wafts kiddo-debris from corner to corner: ponytail holders and Calico Critters and tiny bits of paper and pop beads. Bunny slippers and miniature Legos and a tennis ball and her collection of toothbrushes. Dried-up flowers and pieces of grass and wooden spoons and teaspoons. Puzzle pieces and straight pins and stickers and porcelain bells and brass bells and bathing suits and toy-veterinarian check-up cards and peg dolls and seed packets from Burgerville. Typo-correction tape. A slide whistle. A wind-up ladybug. A rhinestone tiara. A feather. A Saltwater sandal. More beads. It's as if a fire-hose filled with stuff from the bottom of every junk drawer and toy box in the world let fly its torrent of glittered swag upon the house all at once. And then, with a whoosh, she is off, and on to something else.

* * *

I had a friend once who said she didn't like spring. It was too much. Too dramatic, too capricious, too beautiful, too heartbreaking. Too gushing with promise, too inconsistent, too intense. Too beautiful. Too heartbreaking. It made you want to cry for the fragile, fraught, barely there-ness of the world, the newborn leaves, the colors more almost-colors than colors. The buds more pouf than plant. And as far as I know, she'd never been to Portland. Good thing. She probably would've screamed.

* * *

At home, I make lotion bars and twist wires into stitch markers and dye piles of yarn. I'm not sure what I'm doing but I think I'm planning to sell all of these things eventually. Aren't I? It seems there's nothing else to do lest the house be further taken over with mountains of lotion bars and mini skeins. I apply for wholesale accounts and think through tin sizes and sketch out packaging concepts. I bombard Andy with my every thought and question: Can you try this lotion bar? Do you like Ylang Ylang, or cedar? Cedar? Are you suuuuure? You like the cedar? You like them both. Do you like this color? You do? You don't. You do! Look! I made a stitch marker! I made five! I made fifty-five! I know! I made a hundred and fifty-five! No, maybe just fifty. It feels like a hundred and fifty-five! Yes, I'm still winding yarn. Now I'm dyeing yarn. Now I'm drying yarn. Now I'm winding yarn again. Let's make spaghetti! Will you make some spaghetti? THANK YOU HONEY!

I really want to do all of these things. I'm enjoying the experience of learning new things and developing new ideas so much I can't even believe it. It's been so long since I learned how to do new stuff, it seems. It's really exciting. We cleaned out our office closet and I went to Ikea to get a shelf on which to store my yarn supplies and lotion bar supplies. While at Ikea it started to pour. Andy was home with Mimi — it was early one Saturday morning and I was just planning to run out there quickly, alone, and get the job done. I enlisted a generous passerby to help me lift the giant box (it was more giant than I was expecting, and I was determined not to have to bring it back into the store to have it shipped) and slide it into my car. I pushed down that middle thing in the back seat and the box slid through the hole with not an inch to spare. Determination. Rain whipping. Windshield wipers going wild. I made it home and Andy put the shelves together for me and I think I was grinning the entire time I loaded them with bare yarn, my beeswax, my electric griddle (that's what I cook the yarn on), my tinfoil roasting pans, my food coloring, my dishpans. It was thrilling. I have a closet! My very own closet of stuff for my new hobbies, dream-scented with clary sage, jasmine, cedar wood, Ylang Ylang, bergamot, and beeswax. Opening it is like walking into another world.

Mimi wears her Thousand Tiny Tulips sweater from this post, a bit more than one year ago. I let her dye her own yarn the other day and she wants me to make her something with it. But what? Sport weight, about 430 yards, I think. I need to look for something. The weather is warming. I'd better be quick. . . .

Cross Stitch: Some Explanations about Counts and Fabrics

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Hello, dear friends! I'm knocking things off my list today. I've wound yarn, made stitch markers, taken pictures, and gotten all of the second-batch Time of Flowers kit orders out. Whee!

The PDF-only option for Time of Flowers is also now available and you can purchase it here.

Pattern Cover

This pattern is a digital download, and will be made available via a link on the screen immediately upon completion of payment. A link will also be sent (automatically and immediately) to the email address you use to order the pattern. Please save all downloads like this directly to your hard-drive in case you need to reprint in the future. As always, if you have any trouble, please let me know!

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write this little informational post for you. I've been meaning to do it for ages. I get a fair amount of questions about substituting fabrics for my cross stitch patterns, and I'm going to try to break down a few of the options, and make things like stitch counts and fabric counts more clear than they perhaps might be to you right now. I'm going to take a lot of the information in this post from a tutorial that I wrote several years ago that you can always find on aliciapaulson.com; if you haven't read that and you're still finding yourself confused by this, give that a look and then let me know how I can help clarify further.

But, generally:

Counted cross stitch is not worked onto fabric that has been pre-printed. Counted cross stitch uses special fabrics that are called evenweave fabrics. These fabrics are woven so that they have the same number of warp threads (or, the threads running lengthwise through the fabric) and the same number of weft threads (or, the threads running crosswise, from selvedge to selvedge). In counted cross stitch (and from here on out, I'll just call it cross stitch) you work each stitch over the grid of perfect squares made by the warp and weft threads of your fabric.

Cross stitch can be done on different kinds of evenweave fabric, including evenweave linen, some woven ginghams, Aida cloth (which has a very ponounced grid that helps you see the holes into which your stitches go), waste canvas (which is a removable grid you temporarily apply to a piece of non-evenweave fabric that helps you place your stitches), and various other types of fabrics made especially for cross stitching. The fiber content and type of weave of the fabric you choose to use is largely a matter of personal preference. I use linen fabric for my kits (and the samples I've made up for my patterns), but a lot of people ask me if they can substitute Aida cloth. And the answer is: Yes! You can! I'll explain further.

What really matters is the "count" of the fabric. Thread count refers to the number of warp and weft threads per inch in the woven fabric. Stitch count refers to the number of cross stitches per inch you will have in your finished design. Aida cloth, for instance, is labeled according to stitch count; 10-count Aida cloth gives you 10 stitches per inch. Evenweave linen, however, is labeled according to thread count; 28-[thread]-count evenweave linen will give you a stitch count of 14, since cross stitch on this kind of linen is worked over 2 warp threads horizontally, and 2 weft threads vertically.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0160/2544/files/Crossstitch2.jpg?1695

Look very closely at the photo above and you can see the crossed stitches going over 2 threads in each direction.

To work designs in cross stitch you follow a chart. Each colored box (generally with a symbol in it) on the chart represents one set of crossed stitches. Each set of crossed stitches is relative to the other stitches in the design, so you're only ever "counting" a few stitches away from the last stitch you just made. Each color on the chart represents a specific color of six-strand embroidery floss. A color key helps you define each color of floss.

TutorialChart(If the chart is too small for you to see comfortably, just enlarge it on a color copier. A good full-spectrum lamp is a must in dim light. I use this particular Ott light and I love it. When I'm not using it I fold it up and drop it down behind my side table and I never have to look at it. I used to have a big, huge gooseneck Ott light and I much prefer this tiny one; for what I'm doing, it works just as well, and in a small house is a better fit.)

"Count" is very important when choosing fabrics for cross stitching because the number of stitches per inch can drastically change the look of a design. In general, fabric with a lower stitch count will produce a coarser looking design, where the crosses will be larger and more pronounced. Fabric with a higher stitch count will produce designs that are smaller and finer. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to show you some different samples done on two different kinds of fabrics (Aida and linen) with different counts. So let's look at the first one:

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This one, as indicated, is stitched on 8-count Aida fabric. Aida fabric is a good choice if you are a beginner to counted cross-stitch, or if you've struggled with evenweave fabrics in the past. If you look closely, you can see that the stitches are made directly into four little holes in each of the corners of a "square" space. Each square space equals one square on your chart. The holes are very pronounced and much easier to see than they are on linen.

Linen normally doesn't come in a stitch count this big (or, in other words, in a number this small — remember, stitch count number refers to stitches per inch; the lower the number, the fewer stitches per inch. The fewer stitches the stitches per inch, the bigger those stitches have to be). Eight stitches per inch is really quite big, but I wanted to use it to show you exactly how the same design translates into different sizes using different count fabrics. Here's the same design on 14-count Aida fabric:

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Notice that the size of the scissors is fairly consistent here, but that the teacup is significantly smaller. Same design + different stitch count = different size finished piece. To see the same design on 28-thread-count linen (which, if you remember, is done over 2 threads, and so is actually 14 stitches per inch), regard this one:

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See how those last two, even though they are on different kinds of fabric, are the same size? That's because they both have the same stitch count at 14 stitches per inch.

My seasonal series (both First Snow and Time of Flowers, and the upcoming designs for summer and fall) are all done on 32-count Belfast linen, which has a stitch count of 16 stitches per inches. Compare this to previous samples:

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A bit smaller than the 14-counts.

A word about embroidery floss: All of the designs that I write patterns for that are worked on 28- or 32-count fabrics use 2 plies of floss per stitch. To separate plies, you simply take your length of floss by the middle and gently work the 2 plies away from the original 6. Some people even separate the 2 plies away from each other to sort of plump up the thread, but I don't. I don't like the way it looks. That's just personal preference, so do whatever works for you.

Now, here's something important to remember: Let's say that you want to stitch Time of Flowers but you don't want to do it on the fabric that I've used. That is perfectly fine, but let's look at something real quick. Please notice this line on the front cover of the pattern (and all patterns should have a line that reads very much like this on them):

Finished size of design area: 6"w x 8.5"h (15cm x 22cm); 101 stitches wide x 136 high on 32-count fabric

This means that, when finished, the width of the stitched area will be 6 inches, the height of the stitched area will be 8.5 inches on 32-count fabric. If you decide to use a different count fabric, you will need to recalculate the finished size of the design area. To do that, work backwards. Take the number of stitches the design is wide (101) and divide it by the stitch count of your fabric — let's just say you're going to use 8-count Aida.

101 stitches divided by 8 stitches per inch = 12.625 inches wide
AND
136 stitches (width) divided by 8 stitches per inch = 17 stitches high

Seeeeee how much bigger that difference translates to, in terms of the overall design? You're going from a 6" x 8.5" design that will fit into an 8" x 10" frame to an almost 13" x 17" design, not including ANY margins around the design area. That's a pretty big difference, so you just need to pay attention to that count. You can do any design on any fabric you'd like, but do make sure that you know how big the finished design area will be.

When you're purchasing fabric, you always want to make sure that you've got about 3" of extra fabric around each side of the design area. This allows you to easily mount your fabric in the hoop while you're working and also gives you enough space around your design area to stretch the fabric when you frame.

There are lots of places to purchase cross stitch supplies on-line. I know that Aida actually makes a 16-count fabric in Sea Lily (the color of linen I used for Time of Flowers) that can be purchased here. If you're local, I highly recommend you go out to Acorns and Threads sometime and visit Jeannine and the ladies there. This is such a gorgeous store with some of the best customer service you will receive anywhere, for anything. This store is a true local treasure, and it will inspire you more than I can say.

Did I miss anything? Please feel free to ask about anything that's unclear! Let me know!

Getting There?

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Whooooosh! That was spring "break." Yes, it almost broke me! Firstly, when I scheduled the shipping of kits, I forgot that spring break was the same week. Secondly, I thought, up until 8:00 this morning, that they went back to school today, but they don't. (Thank you, Joyce.) Thirdly, I did assemble and ship all of the Time of Flowers kits last week, and the last batch is going out to the post office today. And fourthly, the house is trashed. Like — I don't even know. It looks ransacked. I was going to clean it today while Mimi was at school but, as above, it's still apparently spring break until Thursday, so no go. Also, broken dryer that has finally bitten the dust, so: laundromat. Etc. Life! :)

Nevertheless: THANK YOU GUYS for all of the Time of Flowers kit orders! Oh, my heart swells when I pack the orders. So many familiar names, year and year. I'm so grateful to you for all of your support. Thank you. I have 56 extras that are in the shop right now. I will be working on my cross-stitch post and releasing the PDF-only option later this week, when Mimi does actually go back to school and I have a minute. But for now I truly hope you enjoy working on these kits and I sincerely thank you so much for your orders and your interest. Summer and fall designs are swirling around in my head and I have loved every minute of working on this series so far, with more to come.

Also swirling around in my head are . . . I don't know . . . a million things. Andy took a week off a few weeks ago and completely cleaned out our basement. It (and he!) is spectacular. Next up is my office and our "annex" office, which is where I store a lot of Posie stuff, including floss, yarn, fabric, packing supplies, works in progress, so much stuff. I've kind of been in a state of . . . I don't even know what to call it. Sort of a mania, I think. I'm changing as Amelia changes, I think. Her independence literally grows before our eyes. And as it does, I'm discovering new things for myself, as well. It's a seriously exciting time, but it's also, like, weirdly uncomfortable. I have a million ideas I want to pursue, but I need to totally reorganize my office first. The things in these small spaces that once served me — really, for the seven years (I think?) since we last re-did the office — just aren't serving me or my current interests right now. So I want to repaint (what color?) and remove things that I'm just not working with currently, and move in the things that I am working with (yarn, dyeing supplies, new doll ideas, etc.). This feels like a huge job. I'm reading the tidying up book and I'm all-in on it, conceptually — it's literally just a matter of finding time. And reimagining a space we've lived in for eighteen years without a major reorganization. So, it's almost like my brain is reorganizing and my space is reorganizing as I prepare for what it will be like to have Amelia go to kindergarten next year. I want to make all of these changes good for our whole family, you know what I mean? And I want to start thinking about it now, and working on it now, so that when we all get to that place next fall we are feeling good and excited and ready for the next phase. I can see that part of me has really been flying by the seat of my pants since becoming a mother, and honestly, I'm ready for things to feel a little more . . . dialed in.

Have you experienced this? I don't even really know how to describe what I'm feeling. I know this is abstract. It does have something to do with the fact that our child is no longer, like, pulling tablecloths off the dining-room table and can, instead, run her own bath. . . . You know what I mean? There's more time to think of things, in a way or, at least, I can see that time coming. . . . Tell me what you think.

***My mom has an incredible blooming yard as well as three chickens, so we have fresh eggs constantly and they are delicious. I love eggs! Also, we went to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show by the Oregon Children's Theater and we loved it. Highly recommend for this age.

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.