Posts filed in: Fabric and Sewing

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 the 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

February Flowers

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Hello dears. The wind whips around the house today. Out every window is flashing daylight and blowing branches. Something on top of the roof of the studio clanks and clanks. It's some sort of metal flap. Over and over again it's slapping against the roof. The power went out once this morning and then came right back on. Every few minutes comes a raging, howling gust. I'd better write this quick, before all electricity leaves, as it seems it surely could.

I've been tucked into the studio, spending most of my free time with floral fabrics. This is good medicine. Why should it soothe? I don't know. Thank you for your kind words and enthusiasm about the new quilt and the pending quilt-top kits! I couldn't be more thrilled, and am trying to collect so many fabrics that I want for these. They're more rare than I thought. I can't believe how beautifully they all work together, though. In the back of my mind I'm constantly thinking about how to offer these kits. The amounts of each fabric that I'm able to get are so varied. I'm not sure exactly how to display what you'll be getting, as there will be too many different arrangements to photograph each individually. Maybe I'll have to describe them in general terms and let you trust my design sense. I'm not sure yet. I'm pretty much finished with the pattern, which offers a toddler size, throw size, twin size, full/queen size, and a king size. It's been kind of fun working on all of the layout diagrams for each size. It's not all there yet but it's getting there.

February. I don't feel quite ready for it. I think we'll make Valentines today. Spread a little love around.

Rest and Recharge

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I made a quilt-comforter. I patched the top and pieced the back, and for batting used an inexpensive polyester comforter from Ikea. All of the fabrics I used for the top are old calicoes, mostly from the '80s, I think. I did not bind it, but layered and turned it: comforter on bottom, backing right-side-up on top of that, then quilt top face down on top of that. I stitched around the entire outside edge with a 1/4" seam, leaving an 8" gap, then turned it right-side-out and stitched up the opening. Then I tied the whole thing, through all layers, with black embroidery floss. The finished patches are 4" squares, set on point; I cut all of the squares on the edges of the quilt in half along the bias (effectively turning them into triangles along all of the edges) once the whole top was sewn together. I have wanted to make a quilt set on-point like that forever. I really, really love it. It's about 76 inches square, a "throw" for me to sit on the couch with. Our couch is freezing when it's cold because it's right in front of so many windows. When I was done tying it, at about 10 p.m., Andy ran it downstairs and threw it in the washing machine for me. He dried it the next morning and it was a fluffy, poufy cloud of 1980s-calico bliss when it came out of the dryer. I was so happy. I am so in love with pretty much every single one of those fabrics, which cause such a nostalgia-fit in my heart. My best friend, Martha, sent me a whole bunch of them several months ago, and I also search them out at Goodwill and online and I just can't get enough of them. I love the Peter Pan and vintage Joan Kessler ones, especially. I loved the exact same ones when I was a little girl and a teenager, so some things never change.

Oh ho, that snow. Full snow-loving disclosure: By the time it left I felt weary and limp as a colorless dishrag, ready to be flung toward the hamper and retired. "I need a hot shower and some alone time," said Mommy, the introvert, who scores nineteen out of twenty on the introvert portion of the Meyers-Briggs test. Nineteen is a lot. I surprised even myself the first time I took it. I've taken the test for twenty years now and it's always the same. It means: Shhhhhhh. Let me sit in this quiet corner and recovvvvvvver. Parents never do get to do much of that, and the past month and a half has been extra-challenging. The ice and snow stayed for eight days. We were in the house alllllllllllll the time. There was no driving, and, once things started to melt and then refreeze overnight, the walking, even with the Yaktrax, was pure treachery. By the time the ice finally melted, Amelia had only been in preschool for sixteen hours in thirty-six days, including holiday break (I counted), and I only left the house only three times (I counted) during the entire week of snow. The only people any of us saw during snow week were our neighbors, and, well, mercifully, we are a tight, loving crew. Our kids romped and rampaged, and we adults sat around all of our tables, in turn, over chili and beer and tea and tangerines and talked, and talked. Yesterday I swept piles, actual piles, of dirt and dog hair and dust and mini-legos and ponytail holders and half-Cheerios and pine needles from the floors. I sweep all the time but we've lived hard in this house lately and, Tomten-like, I dream of flowers, again. I loved that snowstorm, but I do love flowers, too.

I have plans to make a toddler-bed quilt-comforter, like an eiderdown (but without the down), for Amelia that fits the top of the bed and does not need to be tucked in anywhere. Her bed is IMPOSSIBLE to make. She has one of those extendable toddler beds from Ikea, extended right now to the middle length. The bed is perfect for her but every single time I go to make it I 1) stub my toe on that middle bed leg, 2) break my back because the bed is so damn low to the ground, and 3) curse the inventor of duvets and duvet covers, which I unapologetically loathe no matter what their size because they always look like such a sloppy mess with the cover sliding around over the duvet and the corners of the duvet never staying in the corners of the cover and the whole thing weird and bulbous and I could go on and on. I get duvet-cover rage over those things. I prefer to buy good old-fashioned comforters but they are hard to find. At least ones that I like. So, I'm going to make her one that's similar to mine, and I might even make a pattern and a limited-edition kit for the just the top (toddler-eiderdown sized), with all vintage calicoes for it. Would anyone be interested in a kit for that? I would take pre-orders so that we wouldn't run out or make too many. I'm kind of excited about this idea. There is still winter left to get cozy for.

I ordered three different rolls of wallpaper today so I can (or someone can) wallpaper a wall in the dining room (the one with the big window), a wall in the living room (the one with the mantel), and a wall in the kitchen (the one with the back door). Should be here in a week or so. Our house has been in need of a bit of sprucing up. I folded up our red gingham curtains and got gray gingham curtains (from Country Curtains, but they don't seem to have them anymore), and got a new braided rug for the dining room (ours had been dog-puked on just one too many times). Feels good. January changes. I trimmed six inches off of Amelia's hair right after I took that picture of how long it was. I think it immediately aged her approximately eight months. Approximately.

Thank you ever so much for the sweetest birthday wishes! You are so kind. Thank you!

I haven't forgotten to show you the dollhouse but I'm still waiting for a couple of things that I ordered for it to get here before I take pictures.

***Paintings and illustrations, from top to bottom: Illustration from The Story of the Snow Children; bunnies can be found here; Little Miss Fairfield (1850) by William Matthew Prior; amazing watercolor of Mimi riding a rabbit, which was a gift for her from the dearest Emily Martin; illustration of the tomten from The Tomten, my absolute favorite winter picture book ever. I just love this book and we read it almost every night. Doesn't Clover kind of remind you of the tomten?

Happy New Year!

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Oh, the messy, bright blur and wonder of all of these days! For goodness sake. Where does the time go? I would've written sooner but I was too busy making a dollhouse floor out of Popsicle sticks and looking at every miniatures web site ever constructed for the perfect diminutive wallpaper. I certainly am enjoying Amelia's Christmas present! And everything else about the holidays. It's been a glorious few weeks. Christmas with a four-year-old is the absolute best.

Today the winter sun is shining ever so brightly, and it's so windy that my office is flashing with light. It's freezing cold. It's Amelia's first day back at preschool in three weeks. Ahem. Mummy is a bit  e x h a u s t e d. The holidays, no matter how "simple" you try to make them, wind up being crazy busy. At least for us. Yesterday I got to spend the day by myself, and that was the first day that I haven't spent pretty much all day (and night — she keeps waking up) with Amelia in the past weeks. I went out to lunch at the brewpub all by myself, and they gave me such an awesome table, right in front of the roaring fire. I ate fish tacos and read my book and texted my friends. Then I went to the bookstore for a few hours and then I went to JoAnn Fabrics. At JoAnn's, which was pretty much empty, I wandered aimlessly and thought about things like should I buy these seven little silver cones (apparently jewelry-making findings) for $3.49 or should I use an old toothpaste cap for a tiny pendant-light-fixture (made out of a drawer pull) escutcheon??? I think about things like this now, when I have time to think of things. It was quite wonderful to wander aimlessly. I even looked at a magazine. Yes. It was a really nice way to finish the "vacation."

I wish you all a very happy new year and hope that you had a wonderful holiday season! It's my birthday in a few days and I want to make something good for dinner but I don't know what. Any ideas?

***The raspberry thumbprint recipe can be found here; the dress pattern I made for Amelia is Simplicity #9297 from 1979, and the fabric is from the wonderful Pioneer Quilts; the dollhouse I got used on Craigslist (but the same one is here) and I was totally inspired to get it because of Artemis's darling version — seriously, is that not the cutest ever; and I made Meyer lemon pudding with some gorgeous lemons my dear friend Sarah gave me for Christmas the recipe is here. I honestly don't think you need to add the butter, and a little zest could easily replace half the lemon juice.

Snow Day

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Oh, snow. I wait, I wait. When it comes, I'm beside myself, even though, almost every time, snow in Portland quickly turns to ice. I can't get off my own front porch. The enormous orthopedic shoe I wear on my left foot has as much traction as a salad plate, and is almost as big. Nevermind; the winds were too strong to brave going out, anyway. The branches on the black trees whipped and whistled. The air was ice cold. I pushed open the back door against the wind and scooped cup after cup full of snow; she ate it with an espresso spoon. We sat in the upstairs windows and watched the slice of neighborhood we are granted to observe. No one came, no one went. The mail lady came and quickly went. Inside, Amelia nibbled on raspberries and watched Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I drank hot chocolate and took a bath and read Farmer Boy. By dinnertime it was raining ice. I flung salt toward the front path from the front porch. Not even from the porch — from the door. Ice covered everything. On the way home, around 9:00 p.m., Andy's bus broke a tire chain on the bridge. Everyone but Andy got off the bus and onto some other bus. He sat and chatted with the bus driver, who was from Cleveland. Eventually, someone came with new chains. He made it home and I relaxed. This morning, ice still covers everything but it's raining hard. We're having a party tonight.

Above: the ornaments I made for Amelia's little tree and our mantel. I loved making every single one of them. The gnome and mushroom and raccoon and owl are from Little Dear (Aimee Ray); the running bunny and animal portraits are from Bumpkin Hill; the angel is from I. Manufatti; and the winter girl is from Mimi Kirchner. I bought a bunch of these patterns last year and just never got around to making them. I made almost all of them over Thanksgiving weekend, and stitched the year on the back of each (unless I forgot, which I did sometimes). I got the stockings from Etsy, too; just search for "vintage quilt stocking." There are tons of them.

Every night, for weeks now, I have been knitting Amelia this sweater. It's bottom up, and I'm not even to the sleeve join. I've never knit anything so slow in my life. I love it but . . . ugh. Every. Single. Night. That lace pattern just doesn't grow. I've looked at a few versions of it on Ravelry and I like the look of the lace unblocked and sort of squished down, so, there ya go — even slower, then. Hopefully I'll finish it while it's still cold out. Last night while I was putting her to bed, we were lying in the dark and she said, "Mom? I want you to knit me a [insert me bolting upright here] sweater . . . with buttons on it, in the front." Me [feigning nonchalance]: "Oh, a cardigan? Sure, baby. I'd love to. What color?" Her: "Pink . . . no, rainbow!" It took every ounce of strength I had not to jump out of bed and run downstairs and start surfing Ravelry for patterns. Fifteen hours later and I've got pattern picked and yarn on order. . . . Hurry up, Faunajakke lace!!! I've got an order for a sweater from my kid.

Another conversation: "Meems, don't you think it would be nicer to keep your room cleaner and not have so much stuff on everything and falling off of everything all the time?" Her: "No." Me: "But don't you think that when it's too cluttered and there's too much stuff on your nightstand you can't see what you have to play with because there's too much stuff everywhere?" Her: "No."  Me [flailing]: "Oh. But if there's too much stuff in your way it's kind of overwhelming and you can't, like, play with it . . . very well . . . because it's falling . . . everywhere?" Her: "No." Me [twitching]: "Um. . . ."

Santa Lucia nightgown at the ready. Milk-white flannel. Tiny lace trim and a silk ribbon. Simplicity 3586. We do agree about this.

School Days

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Well, well. School has started and it has been wonderful. School days! All two of them so far! :) First day: All the parents and kids wait in the foyer for the classroom door to open. There is one moment . . . one quiet, worried moment . . . taking her boots off, hanging up her coat. I bend down close. I can see everything move across her face. Curiosity and courage win out. Twenty minutes later, when the door opens, she gives us our kisses and hugs, turns to wave, and walks right in, wide-eyed with delight. Reportedly, she was the first one out on the dance floor. At school they dance, play, sing songs, garden, bake bread, cook soup, go outside, make music, rest, eat lunch. Her teachers texted mid-morning to say she was doing great! I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath. After school, at pick-ups, she shrieks with glee and runs down the hall toward me, carrying Foxie and swinging her lunch basket. I scoop her up — she's so big — and hold her close, her weight heavy and limp with relief and fatigue. She presses her cheek so hard against mine and says, "Mommy . . . Mommy. . . ." I hold her for as long as I possibly can. Oh, my overflowing, fast-beating heart! School is intense! Even for us parents! I can only imagine what it's like for the children. So many new spaces, new places to put your things, a routine you've never had, new kids, new parents. My big, brave, beautiful girl. She inspires me every single moment. I love her so and am so thrilled for her.

After drop-off the first day, Andy and I, shaky with nervous energy, stopped for breakfast. Sitting next to each other, ordering the exact same thing, giddy with freedom (though we can't stop talking about Amelia), we linger for the first time in years. At home, with newfound empty hours and a huge list of chores I've been desperately needing to do, I do nothing, circling the rooms in a daze and working on my hand puppet. Andy gets a long-overdue haircut. The hours go perfectly slowly. Three mornings, twelve hours a week. It feels  monumental. I actually sit at my desk and space out. I can't remember the last time it's happened. After school yesterday we walked through the neighborhood to mail her birthday-party invitations and her six chain letters. The sun was shining, the air was cool, the leaves were red. She cried — bawled — when we passed her old friend's house and her friend's car wasn't there, and we didn't stop by. Maybe tomorrow, I said. Lillian might be at school, too. A different school. The bitter-sweetness of it all moved me. And her.

Another neighbor was cleaning out some old spaces and brought over a puppet she made years ago. That's hers, with the yellow hair. Amelia took down the tension-rod curtains in my office and brought them out to the back yard, and Andy set them up on some chairs. I listened to the two of them do a show (which lasted about four minutes) and it made me want to make a puppet. I got a dowel and some Model Magic and sculpted a head, then covered it with papier-mache (I just used newsprint and flour-and-water paste). She's my first puppet. I can't believe I've never made a puppet before, ever, even as a child (that I remember, anyway). I started off saying I was making this one for Amelia but now I don't really want to give it to her because it took me about three hours to put her yarn-hair on and I know Amelia will quickly peel it off, even if she says she won't. I told her I'd give it to her when she's fifteen. Guffaw. I'm probably serious, though. Usually I'm not like that — I gave her all of the stuffed animals I made (and who even knows where they or their clothes are now), I really don't care that much about my furniture or walls (though they haven't suffered too much, I don't think), and I certainly don't care how she destroys her clothes when she's playing — but I'm pretty sure I should keep this puppet out of reach. Better make another, less-precious one.

Actually, she's sitting in my office right now, holding the puppet (that I accidentally left on my table) and touching her hair very gently and then giving me a tiny little wave when she sees me watching her. Maybe there's hope. . . . Maybe I'll give it to her when she's fourteen. . . .

Sweet Summer

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Our lives seem to have this small circumference right now. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that but I've felt a sort of pulling in. When deciding what to do I'll choose the easiest, most do-able option, treading ground that's familiar and simple, staying in the slow lane. It feels like an instinct, some primitive reaction to the world at large (while trying to process the large, often terrible things in it, and failing, failing) making the same recipes over and over, cleaning the house, going to bed early. My days alone with Amelia are long and light and sweet; suddenly toddlerhood feels different, less about mitigating meltdowns and more about true communication, shared emotions, playing at so much make-believe, doing drawings of things ("This is a house, laughing; this is a flower, going down the stairs"), giving and getting the sweetest kisses and hugs. I've listened to almost all of the Janet Lansbury toddler-parenting podcasts in the past couple of months and they've added a lightness to my heart and sharpened my perspective on what's important to me, parenting-wise (and Andy; we see pretty much eye-to-eye on all parenting stuff). Watching Amelia play her days away is so fascinating and funny and just excellent. Listening to toddlers talking to each other is just about the sweetest thing in the world. She is no wallflower, and gravitates toward the slightly older girls, four or five years old. She walks up to them and says, "Hi! I'm Amelia! What's your name?" Then she'll look over to me and shout, "Mom! I made a friend!" Huge smile. Heart explosion into a thousand pieces of salt-water taffy, every color of the rainbow. I pray for peace for our children. All of them, everywhere.

When I've had some free time, I've been sewing a bit. The pink dress is the Hattie from Brownie Goose, and the pocket dress is Simplicity 8087 from Ashley of Lazy Daisy Jones. Super cute, and reminds me so much of the house-dresses that my grandma used to make for herself — also calicos, always simple A-line dresses with patch pockets, short sleeves, and bias-tape bindings. I don't think I ever saw my grandma in anything but a dress like this, though she preferred black and navy calicos. The fabrics were always worn so soft. I can picture them now. I wish I had a couple of those dresses now. I bought the Ann Carolyn smock pattern by Odacier for myself after seeing some really cute versions on Instagram so maybe I'll have some cute clothes too, one of these days.

Here is a meltdown: Yesterday Amelia was putting on a cute pair of mint-green jean shorts from Baby Gap and she freaked out. "Mom, the tag is in the back but the pockets are in the back! Why are the pockets in the back, Mom? Nooooo! Whyyyyyyyy? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?" Tears streaming down her face, very Nancy-Kerriganesque. Apparently the child has never seen a pair of jeans before. This is how you know you're a serious home sew-er (of mostly dresses).

The weather here has been, dare I say, practically perfect in every way. Cool. Bright. Sunny. Cloudy. Not too hot. Not too cold. If Mary Poppins and Goldilocks had a baby it would be the weather in Portland lately. Thumbs up there.

I'm starting to collect reading material and knitting projects for our cross-country train trip later this month. Cozy mysteries, and a fair-isle sweater for Amelia's birthday. Recommendations for cozy mysteries appreciated (they need to be reeeeeally cozy, and not too scary)! ***Oh, and yes, I've read almost all of Agatha Raisin! :) Love curmudgeons! Thank you!

Middle of June

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The apples on our Cox's Orange Pippin apple tree are already turning red. I'm not sure if that's normal, for mid-June, but it seems early. The weather this week has been blissfully cloudy, cool, rainy, and it even hailed yesterday, but the weekend should heat up in time for swimming lessons to start next week. Amelia is excited, and practices "swimming" circles around the living room, showing me how she will blow bubbles and paddle and put her face into the water like a big girl when she gets there. This age, oh man. It is just awesome. It is busy. It is mercurial. But it is fantastic. There's just so much going on for her right now as she gains independence and confidence and grows in physical and emotional ways. When she's angry, she stomps her foot as if trying to freeze the entire kingdom (thanks, Elsa) and her fury truly blazes, hot and sure. When's she's cuddly she'll wrap every long limb around me and tuck her face deep into my neck, or put her hands on my cheeks and look into my eyes. When she's sweet, she tilts her head to the side and talks to her stuffed animals in the sweetest little mommy voice, explaining things patiently and patting heads and tummies with reassurance. When she's silly she squeals and launches herself in wild arcs around the king-size bed, flopping and jumping and bucking and kicking, trying to reach the mobile with her feet. She's very tall for her age, I think, taller than the other kids who were exactly her size when they all started playschool together last fall. Every week we measure her against the yard stick at the library, and she's grown four inches since her third birthday, eight months ago. My sunflower, stretching and swinging and singing for the sun, sweet and big and brave and true.

I made honey/garlic/butter/coconut milk shrimp for dinner, and it was delicious. I made a couple of pairs of baby-doll pajamas (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5562, c. 1982) and a couple of shirts (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5757, c. 1964) and a couple of skirts (from vintage McCall's pattern #7882, c. 1982). I made plans for a birthday dress (vintage McCall's #2661, c. 1970) and ordered some beautiful Tana Lawn (Michelle, in Blue) for it. I finally started knitting a present for a friend (more about that later). I think I may have resolved to give away almost my entire yarn stash. I feel like it's just holding me back somehow, and I can't really explain that, because it's not that big, and I did feel like I was making a good-sized dent in it this past year. But there's just something about it that isn't helping me anymore. Maybe it can help someone else. I feel like my palette and my fiber preferences have changed, and my stash is reflecting a me that was, and not the me that is. I don't even want to have a stash at all, in fact.

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.

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

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.