Signs of Spring

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Oooo, my stars, it seems I actually have a day to myself, and it’s a chess day (so I don’t pick up Meems until 4:15). I literally can’t remember the last time I had time to blog. It was probably March 1, the date of my last blog post. More like a million years ago, it seems.

Nashville is over and everything is back home except of course for the one box filled with patterns that got lost and never made it there. Lost forever, according to USPS. In the weeks since, I’ve spent the days unpacking, creating electronic orders from handwritten order forms, establishing accounts, writing thank-you emails, formatting a list of stockists, reprinting patterns and getting them mailed out to people who wanted them but couldn’t have them in Nashville because, of course, they never made it to Nashville (or, in the case of The Stitcher’s RSVP, it actually sold out, yahoo!). But, it’s all good. I think mostly everything is in hand now. Beth, Natalie, and I have not had time to have our official Zoom debrief but I’d love to do that when the dust settles. I’m so grateful to all of the shops who purchased my patterns! I have stockists now! If you have a local needlework shop of your own, stop by and see all of the wonderful things I’m sure they brought back with them. There are so many absolutely brilliant designs out there! People are just so clever and wonderful. 

Outside, the weather has been slowly but surely turning to spring. We Portlanders are still wearing our heaviest coats and standing in the rain while waiting to pick up our kids most days, but on Saturday it was sunny and in the ’70s, and the power of that warmth and light could not be underestimated. I felt reborn. A friend from my neighborhood-moms chat hosted an impromptu potluck dinner at the pavilion at school and it was just so great to be outside without coats on, eating with new friends and our families, and watching all the kids play on the playground until dusk. Dang. It really takes so little sometimes. Life has felt kind of cold and rainy and quiet and lonely lately, and I really needed a party.

We couldn’t get our yard done so we hired a crew to come and take away the piles of dead oak leaves, cut back last year’s dead perennial growth, and haul away the massive butterfly bush that bit the dust in the snow storm, and also a giant, rotting tree trunk that had been growing mushrooms and was left, inexplicably, in our driveway. I don’t even know when or by whom. (Our driveway is kind of a black hole, bordered by fences and a woodshed, and is too skinny to drive a car up, so we never have.) The guys came the same day we called, and, in a frenzy of leaf blowers (ugh, I know), rakes, and clippers, blew the whole place out. I asked that they cut all of our ornamental grasses back to the ground and that’s what they did — now the borders look like they’ve all had horrendous haircuts, and there are stray pieces of dried grass everywhere, along with some ravaged, forlorn daffodil and tulip leaves that got caught in the crossfire. I should’ve had all of this done before the new growth had started, I know. What can I say. One of the problems in our perennial borders (we have four small ones, all more-or-less identical) is that every single thing in them gets cut back to the ground in early spring. So just as spring is springing and daffodils are sprouting and things are unfurling, our garden looks bald and . . . seriously hacked. It will all fill in, I know. I hope it doesn’t take too long. It could use some compost and mulch, for sure. That would help.

Spring break is next week and I am looking forward to Mimi being home, and getting a chance to just do some fun Mimi-things — going to the mall, going to a movie, maybe getting some new clothes, playing mini-golf with Andy. We will have new designs and kits for you in early April. Everything is here, we just need time to put it all together! I will show you everything at launch, including two new digital versions for things that I am planning for summer. Ah, summer. . . .

Snowwww no!

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Oh HELLO! Hello, hello! It's March 1, oh my. March 2023. March 2023!

Gosh. I need to let that sink in for some reason.

All of you, first of all, we truly thank you for every one of your kind and gentle comments on the loss of Andy's beautiful mom. I always think of each of them as a small prayer, and each one bring us comfort, and makes us feel less alone in our sadness. Thank you so much. It has been almost a month now, and there are so many moments in the day where I just want to tell her something, or send her something, or send her a picture of Amelia, or tell her something funny that she said or did. All the little things. She delighted in every one of those things, I think. Pops (Andy's dad) got the surprise birthday gift of a new kitten from our nephew, Max, a veterinary student, and I believe he picks her up sometime this week, and we'll find out what he is naming her (he's keeping that secret for now!). There are not many days in life that are better than that first day with a new pet, and I am excited for both him and Miss Kitters, and I know they will bring joy to each other.

We got a very unexpected snowstorm here exactly a week ago, and it was absolutely bonkers for a while. I picked up Amelia an hour early that Wednesday because the forecast suddenly got very real (and my reconstructed foot does not do well on snow or ice). At 3:00 p.m. it started snowing . . . and snowing, and snowing, and snowing. By nightfall, roads were at an icy standstill; it took my friend's boyfriend almost six hours just to get across town. Andy decided to stay overnight at the hospital because the busses had stopped running up the hill. I was home frantically packing boxes for the Nashville Needlework Market, starting to wonder if everything was going to get there in time. We had a small window of about one week in which to get our stuff shipped there; nothing could arrive before February 24. I shipped the box with my stitched models on the 21st. The snow had started flying on the 22nd. By the 23rd the post offices were actually closed (along with almost everything else). By Friday we were able to get our car out and get down to our local P.O., which was mercifully open. And by this morning, March 1, sixteen of my twenty boxes have been delivered, and I am just anxiously tracking the last four, and hoping they get there by Friday, when the show starts. . . .

Normally you know I would be so into a freak snowstorm! But not when I have to ship twenty boxes to arrive somewhere across the country within a small window of time! Golly day!

Andy made it home late Thursday morning. The weather was still really gnarly — very cold and windy, and quite icy. He took Amelia sledding on Friday and then Amelia and Iris sledding on Saturday (we had no school Thursday and Friday), and then we went roller skating with our other friends Stefan and Mia on Sunday. There was a LOT of falling down, a few tears, a corn dog, some Slurpees, lots of fun. Some aches and pains on Monday!

I'm here in a quiet house today. I'm trying to plan for summer, as many summer camps' sign-ups start today. It's basically impossible for me to plan things for summer. I have no idea what's going on or what we will be doing, and I'm terrible at committing. Which, as any parent knows right now, that just won't do, because things fill up fast, and there isn't that much availability to start with, so . . . I need to pull it together. I literally look at the calendar and just blank out, and start sweating.

I have three new designs that will debut at Nashville this weekend. I will show them to you next week! I posted them on Instagram but I need to resize the photos for the blog. I will do that. Literally as soon as I got home from the post office, I started designing two new things, as well. It's funny how that happens. It's like the creative part is literally bottled until the non-creative parts are absolutely done (I had to finish the tax stuff for the accountant this week, too) and then it just comes bursting out. I designed two things in about four days. I've been stitching on the nursery rhymes design I made a few years ago (not sure if you remember that, or when I ever posted it, or I would link to the digital). I watched all of the series called Slow Horses with Gary Oldman and I thought that was really good. I tried to watch The Recruit on Netflix and it just got too ridiculous, so I stopped watching it. Andy is still watching Indian Matchmaking with me and it's the best. I love that show.

I recommend, as always, this spicy chicken and sweet potato soup, which we now make about once a week. And this winter squash and wild mushroom curry was awesome. I've also been watching Indian Food Made Easy (it's a BBC show but I watch it on FreeVee) and it has some great ideas. I haven't made any of the recipes yet but I am going to.

I hope you are all well! What has everyone been doing? What is giving you joy these days?

XO

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My beautiful mother-in-law, Suzan, passed away unexpectedly last weekend. We're heartbroken and I hardly know what to say. She and Andy's dad were just here a few months ago for Amelia's birthday, and I'm so grateful for that. It was their first visit since Covid started and it was a wonderful visit. So many things remind me of her. So many toys and clothes and books and stuffed animals and dollies and cute, purple, soft, darling little sparkly things that she gave Amelia. She was a generous and doting grandmother, endlessly patient, endlessly loving, always up for a party, truly tireless when it came to everything and anything Amelia wanted, needed, or even mentioned. They FaceTimed every single weekday during the time that Amelia was doing school at home (Sue was a retired longtime special-education teacher), reading chapter books together, Charlotte's Web and Beezus and Ramona and Little House in the Big Woods, and I never stopped marveling at her incredible patience, how she would delight in just watching Amelia play Minecraft, or play with her stuff, or just barrel around the house. She was a true ray of sunshine, with a beautiful smile, and she loved her music, her books, her crochet, and especially her family. I remember when we went to Door County on the train to celebrate Andy's parents' 50th anniversary. There was one day we were there that I had wanted us all to take the ferry to Washington Island, where I had, coincidentally, vacationed for many years as a kid. The day was so hot. It was so hot. There was a lot of walking. The island was bigger and . . . emptier, and less interesting (and fun) . . . than I remembered, and as it had been my idea to go, I was especially anxious. It was a long day, with long, hot ferry rides, a lot of walking in the sun, and a squirelly four-year-old. :) And my parents-in-law were so cheerful, so game, so willing, so tireless although they were tired, never once complaining (unlike me), always in a good mood, doing every single thing it took and more to make sure that everyone was having a good time and enjoying themselves and the world. I mean, I have thought of that day, that blue, blue water, that big white boat, that sunshine and those pine trees, their happiness, so many times over the years. It was such a total example of their good nature, their cheer, and their enthusiasm in spite of any challenges, big or small. I see so much of this in Andy. So much of this. I love and will miss you, Sue. I will miss your enthusiasm and support for every random new thing I tried, and how you always thought I was so good at all of those things. I will miss your hugs and the smell of your perfume. I will miss getting texts with different ideas of things you wanted to buy for Mimi. I will miss how you loved us, and especially how you loved your Mouse. Rest in peace, dear one. Rest.

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New Year's Sale on Dollies and Softies!

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Let these sweet dollies and softies share some love with you this winter! I promise you will love making them for yourself or sharing them with a Valentine. To ring in the start of New Year 2023, from today through the end of January all of my kits and patterns for dolls and softies are 23% off! But you must use the code "newyear23" when you checkout. (And if you want to use PayPal or ShopPay, the discount-code window will be on the screen after you choose either of those things, FYI.) Gosh, I just love all my little babies so much! I don't think I've ever done a post that has collected them all in the same place (these aren't even all of them — you can see them all here) and I mean, come on, how cute (and jeesh, baby Mimi!) are they??? If I do say so myself! Enjoy them! Lots of love, a

Happy New Year!

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Good morning! And happy new year!

My, my. Where do the days go? I've been busy as a bee. Have you ever heard of the Nashville Needlework Market? It's a needlework trade (wholesale) show that is organized by Needlework Retailer magazine and takes place near Nashville, Tennessee, every year. Needlework designers and manufacturers of fabric, floss, and supplies come from around the country (and the world) to exhibit their designs and products. Retail establishments, including brick-and-mortar and online embroidery stores, also come from around the country to shop for products to carry in their stores. This is a cash-and-carry show, so designers bring thousands of paper patterns (along with as many stitched samples as they can fit on their displays in their hotel room) and sell them directly to store owners at the show. Each designer and manufacturer gets a room in a big hotel (it's a hotel that is organized around a central atrium) in which to display their wares. Shop owners have the weekend to visit almost 150 designers' rooms, see their designs, and purchase patterns (and supplies, etc.)  Last summer I was having lunch with my dear friend Beth Twist of Heartstring Samplery who is a longtime cross-stitch designer and exhibitor at the expo. She generously invited me to share her hotel room and exhibit Posie alongside Heartstring Samplery this year. I was so excited and touched that she would offer to do that! It's too far for me to travel right now, so I have a wonderful new friend named Natalie who will be going in my stead and representing me there. She is an avid stitcher and has always wanted to go to the market, so I think it is going to work out great (though oh my gosh, do I ever wish that I could go myself — hopefully someday!).

So since it was decided that Posie would be participating, I have been working to get ready for this show on March 3-5, 2023. Early in 2020, before Covid hit, I had begun working on reformatting all of my cross-stitch patterns to make them appropriate for wholesale. Basically I needed to do several things: Firstly, I wanted to update older patterns that had been designed using my older templates so that they would all be on my new template (the one with the mint-green cover). This took a while. Secondly, for wholesale, I really needed to remove a lot of references to very basic beginner stuff, like how to do a backstitch or separate your floss. Pattern-page real estate is precious and most people who are shopping at needlework stores know how to do these things and don't need written instructions (though I do have stitching tutorials on my web site for them, just in case). Thirdly, the industry standard for needlework shops is to use black-and-white symbol charts, not color charts. So I needed to reformat all of my old charts, because even though they used colored boxes with symbols, a lot of the symbols I used were the same for different colors, so obviously that doesn't work.

I mean, it's bonkers to me that it took me three years to finish this, but it did. I have twenty-five older patterns and three three new patterns (two kits) that I will release for you this spring. Not a huge catalog compared to some designers but I am really proud of the work I've done over the years. It's been kind of an emotional experience to go back through all of these designs and revisit them again, and think about what inspired them again, and just get reconnected with them. When I finally sent all of the older twenty-five to the printers last week, I stood up from the computer and felt such relief. I am so happy to have that project finished. I'm now waiting for the patterns to be returned to me, and then we will be here stuffing 2,500 patterns into bags for the show (and I still need to send the new three to the printer).

Then this weekend I worked on framing all my stitched models. I had some of them stretched and framed but lots of them were not, because I tend to take my cover shots as just flat-lays that are stretched but not always framed. I actually really like finishing work. First, you need the right frame, and that can be sometimes fun, sometime frustrating. I tend to purchase a lot of my frames on eBay or at antique malls or Goodwill. Vintage frames can have really bizarre, nonstandard sizes, but for some reason I have been soooo lucky finding exactly the right bizarro size for something I've already designed and stitched. Many of my designs are done on 32-count fabric and work out to finish at about 6" x 8", which fits really nicely in an 8" x 10" frame, so that's pretty easy, especially if you don't mind modern frames. Sometimes I'll buy inexpensive modern frames (sometimes even plastic) and paint them with acrylic paint. Anyway, once you find your frame, you just need to make sure you will be able to drop about a 1/4" piece of fabric-wrapped foam core into it, and have it be pretty flush with the back. I remove all of the glass, backing, and any old hangers or hardware that might have been part of the frame. Once I've done that, then I can measure the exact size that I need to cut the foam core.

I measure the foam core (I buy these in bulk, but you can get other sizes, and also black) and cut it with an X-Acto knife, trimming it always about 1/16" scant to leave room for the pins and fabric to wrap around the foam core and still fit into the frame opening. Then I wrap the stitching around the foam core and secure it with 1/2" sequin pins. (For a tutorial on this, see here.) Then I add a piece of brown paper to the back with 1/2" heavy-duty double-sided tape (you can use a paper grocery bag if your tape is sticky enough — I find that double-sided Scotch tape is not) stuck all the way around the back edges of the frame. Then I add a little hanger. These D-hooks are really nice, too, and are used with picture-hanging wire. I've used those when I haven't been super lazy, and they do make for a nicer finish.

I finished eleven different pieces over the weekend and I had a whole little workshop going in my office. I watched Indian Matchmaking while I was doing it and now Andy wants to watch it with me (and I want to watch it again, so yay). At some point we all went out the antique mall in the rain to look for more frames (I still needed seven more to finish everything!) and found three great ones. I ran out of foam core, so now I'm waiting for more of that to arrive, too. But it feels good to finish all of these things that have just been hanging around, half-done, for a very, very long time.

Anyway, I'm sorry if this is sort of a boring, pedantic post about the little details, but it's literally all I've been doing for weeks and I don't even have a single other thing that I can think of to talk about.

What have you all been up to?

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My intrepid assistant, Agatha Paulson.

My Favorite Picture of the Year

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It occurs to me, as I try to resize these many photos, that I need to hurry, hurry, as the wind is absolutely howling outside, and everything is whipping around. I have The Holiday on in my office, and it's in the California part, sunny and warm — but here, oh boy, it's absolutely frigid. And from the looks of the forecast across the country, many of you are feeling a similar Arctic blast. I'm scared we may lose power, as it is supposed to start raining ice later. . . .

All of us have been home sick all week! We don't seem to have Covid but we definitely have something, all of us: fevers, mostly, though mine's been gone for several days, and lingering coughs. Lots of pajamas, lots of blankets, lots of carrying the heating pad around the house, lots of orange juice. Lots of television. Gifts have been wrapped and long-since shipped, groceries have been gotten, cards went out last week. The first half of The Sound of Music has been watched, along with several Hallmark Christmas movies, and many more episodes of Alone (season 6 now). In spite of feeling off-and-on poorly, we're having a lovely, lazy time now. The last few weeks have been just nonstop busy so in every way it feels so good to just be resting. I must say.

But Nutcracker week was so, so special! It kind of does literally feel like a dream. There is just something just so excellent about first times. Everything about it was truly magical. I think I mentioned that photographing the actual performance is prohibited, which is always so sad! But I get it. My friend Claire took the lovely picture of Amelia backstage, waiting to go on (the swish in her dress, oh my stars) and I will treasure having this forever. The rest of the pictures of her in costume are from dress rehearsals at the school, etc. The first time she walked into Lincoln Hall for the dress rehearsal on the actual stage she was bouncing up and down and she said, "This is so exciting! This is the best day ever!" It was really, really fun, watching her be that excited. Someone snuck me into the theater to watch her group onstage in the dress rehearsal (Andy and I of course later saw the actual performances, and even a few she wasn't in, but I was as excited getting into that dress rehearsal as I've been about anything in years — I later got choked up thanking the person who had gotten me in, ohmigosh — I'll never forget it — I don't even know the lady's name). Amelia had been nervous about being on the big stage, but the dress rehearsal on Monday night went well. The next night was a night off, and, she got a bit nervous again about having an audience there the next time. It was almost bedtime and I had just come upstairs. She said she was feeling nervous and I told her to sit quietly and play the music in her head and go through the whole dance in her mind. She sat right down and started to do it. That's what she is doing in this picture. She sat like this for ten straight minutes, occasionally closing her eyes, and sometimes I could see her fingers or her hand moving to music I couldn't hear. I don't even think she noticed one bit when I quietly propped my phone up and quickly snapped a picture. I've literally never seen her sit this quietly for this long (not that long but it's long for her). When she was done she just turned her face to me and gave me the biggest smile. I said, "How did it feel?" And she said, "It felt just like Monday night!" And off she went to bed like no big deal.

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I don't know, it was just one of the best moments of my own life, right then, and I can't even believe there's a picture of it. Watching her find her way, right before my eyes. It's so, so good to be part of the world again!!! My big, brave, beautiful girl, finding her way!

I wish you all, from our family to all of yours, a Merry Christmas, and a very Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanza, and a blessed Winter Solstice, or whatever you might celebrate at this time of year! I'm so grateful for all of you who have been here with me through my days this year, and these many years. Thank you for your patience and your encouragement and your cheer and your always-kind words and your optimism and generosity. I know these past few years have been very challenging for so many of us for so many different reasons. I am just so glad and lucky that I have all of you to share my days with, and I cherish your attention and kindness to me in the million ways that you show it. Thank you for that, more than I can ever express. I wish you every blessing in the coming days, and a warm and wonderful start to the new year.

Love always,

Alicia, Andy, Amelia, and Agatha Paulson
XOXOX

Getting Done and Getting Ready

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Oh, hello!!! Sorry for the delay in responding! I've been paaainting. And I mean paaaaaaaaaaaaaaainting. A lot of painting. I painted . . . 72 things! Seventy-two different little things and I haven't enjoyed anything as much as I did those paintings in years. Literally, years. Every day I painted. I loved every single minute of it. I've made a calendar out of them. I will show it to you soon. Right now I am printing up calendars to give to my family and friends as Christmas presents but I may sell them if I can get more together in time for new year!

Painting all of the items was so much fun. I feel like a painter now. I have opinions about paper and brushes and paint. I am stunned that I have opinions about these things because when you are just starting like I am, you watch videos and the artists in the videos are always talking about their paper, or their brushes, or their specific brands and colors of paint and I would be like, "Uh . . . I don't care about that. How do you paint a flower?" And I mean, they do show you how to paint a flower. But a lot of painters will give you the details of the actual stuff they use and I would never care about that. Until — I guess this is how it happens! — eventually I had painted enough that I actually cared! Tell me about your paper. Tell me about the brushes! What kind of paint again? That was so weird! But that's how it went. I mean, that's how it goes! Imagine learning to knit and actually caring about whether your yarn is plied, or highly twisted, or, you know, superwash or something. You don't care about those things until you care about them, and, I don't know, it's kind of a really fun moment when you find that you can care about them. Like, you have enough knowledge and experience and confidence to have even the slightest opinion or interest in them, and that's just kind of a cool little moment.

To learn to paint I have been watching some YouTube videos, mostly from Shayda Campbell and Emma LeFebevre, as well as some Skillshare classes. I have taken Skillshare classes from Elisabetta Furcht and Nianani. I love taking Skillshare classes. I love Elisabetta's classes the most because she is very calm, she talks at my pace (Shayda and Emma can be a bit fast-talking for me), and she does not focus on a lot of technical stuff (Nia is very technical, if you like that). Elisabetta just has the style that I really like, so I love her. A few days ago I got a book out of the library called Everyday Watercolor by Jenna Rainey and now that I am done with my calendar I am going to do this book. Maybe a little backwards to paint an entire calendar of paintings and then do a beginning watercolor course but even though I am happy with my paintings and I love them because they are truly a snapshot of where I am right now, I have a lot to learn. And I am really enjoying the learning process. I love that I can do this at home in my office with my TV on during the day while I paint and I don't have to go anywhere to do it, too (like I did with pottery). I don't know how long this particular fever will last — will it be short-lived like my other lock-down passions? Or will it be something random I decided to do and refused to give up on even though I sucked at it for a very long time (like knitting — here are my knitting stories, here and here, if you are interested) that is thirty years later a major part of my life? I don't know. (That first knitting post isn't entirely true anymore, I realize — I do knit for "work" sometimes and have written some knitting patterns at this point — but I don't really like writing knitting patterns that much and still don't do it that often. But I mean, I have an entrepreneurial spirit and have been selling stuff I make [or design] since I was thirteen years old, so I should never say never.)

Anyway, speaking of knitting, I knit the little mittens for Amelia from this pattern and embroidered them with Appleton's crewel wool, loosely following the suggested pattern (but not using stabilizer because I couldn't find mine). Yesterday at drop-off Amelia's friend said to me, "Bye! Great job on the mittens!" and I'm still thinking about how cute and sweet that was. :)) I also made her a new hat (the pink one with the ties, not the one she's wearing in the mittens photo; that was another one I forgot about. I'll try and get a photo of it, too) using this pattern and some hand-dyed DK-weight yarn, but I don't remember the brand and it was already caked up. Very fun pattern to knit although I had to do it twice because the beginning is a bit of a bear until you figure out what is happening. Interesting construction, and the pattern is sized from babies to adults, which is nice.

I also made a hat for Andy like this:

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A Woodsman's Hat for Andy:

Gauge: 14 sts x 20 rows per 4" using two strands of worsted-weight yarn and size US10 needles

Cast on 64 sts, PM, join in round.

Work 1x1 rib for 4" (brim), then stockinette for 5".

Now, decrease:

*K6, k2tog; repeat from * around to end.

*K5, k2tog; repeat from * around to end.

*K4, k2tog; repeat from * around to end.

*K3, k2tog; repeat from * around to end.

*K2, k2tog; repeat from * around to end.

*K1, k2tog; repeat from * around to end.

*K2tog; repeat from * around to end.

Break yarn and thread through remaining sts. Pull tight, weave in all ends, and block.

Getting ready for Christmas. I'm going to use this pattern to make some more gifts. I haven't knit that many hats in my life and it turns out they are really fast and easy, especially when you're making them pretty bulky and warm, like Andy's.

We got absolutely sucked into watching seasons 1 and 2 of Alone. Oh wow. I loved that show. Note: I am linking to it on the History Channel but I honestly don't know if there are any spoilers there; there are several seasons and I want to know NOTHING about who wins the seasons I haven't seen so be warned, I haven't actually looked at that link. Just look for it on your TV to see if you will like it, honestly. I loved it. I'm trying to get into season 3 (they're in Patagonia now) and I can't seem to get into it — I'm not sure if I was so into seasons 1 and 2 because they both took place on Vancouver Island, and that terrain is pretty much exactly like what we have here in Oregon so it felt very familiar and to me as a viewer, and you could tell it was pretty unfamiliar to most of the contestants. I was turned onto the show from listening to the SmartLess podcast (with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes), which my sister told me about and which I listen to while I'm waiting for Amelia to get out of ballet. Those guys are all into Alone (I think it's all of them — it's definitely Jason and maybe Will). I think it's a funny podcast and I laugh out loud constantly while listening to it, which feels really good right now (though it's not for kids, so just listen while you're driving alone or waiting or whatever).

We're gearing up to start nonstop Nutcracker stuff next week and beyond, so we need to get our tree and decorate this weekend. I'm wishing all of you a wonderful start to the holiday season! 

Pretty Skies

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Oh, guys, it's been a wild and wooly week! First and most sincerely, THANK YOU so, so much for all of your orders of the new kits! In spite of the chaos that ensued almost immediately after I posted my last blog post (basically, Typepad went down and went down hard, for many days, without much information, causing panic; I am so sorry if you were trying to get here and couldn't). Eventually the blogs all came back online and hopefully everyone is able to see the photos now. I'm so thrilled with the orders and have gotten everything out except for everything that has come in since yesterday morning (and I'm hoping to do those today, or definitely tomorrow). I am so grateful for you and how many return customers that I have. I also just loved reading all of your special skating and winter activity memories. Gosh. I needed all of that. If you have more, please share. I really want to hear them. Thank you!

It's a gorgeous, gorgeous morning here, cold and clear and sunny and soggy. After a weekend of copious amounts of rain and dark clouds, it is so nice to see the sunshine, I must say. The house feels happy and bright (if messy). This picture of Agatha just waking up makes me laugh so hard. She sat like that for a full ten minutes, just blinking into the light. My photo is not great because I was rushing to get it, not realizing that she wasn't going anywhere. (Often when I run to grab my big camera to get a picture of her doing something cute I never get the shot because she normally doesn't linger.) But she looked so much like a grumpy little girl who just got woken up in a cold house. (She is very grumpy about it being cold out.)

I was lucky enough to get to spend last Friday morning with Amanda when she was here last week. We got to sit around in my living room and drink chai and catch up and I just wanted her to stay for hours and hours. I love her. And then Andy was home all weekend and he made stuffed shells for me on Sunday, which was so nice. The amount of stuff I sweep up off the floors after he goes back to work after a weekend is stunning. I think it's a hard time of year for the floors — lots of muddy boots banging around and spilled popcorn everywhere. But I mean, look at his view! The photo of the city from above was taken by Andy, and that is his view at work. He sends me photos of it every few days and it never ceases to fill me with joy and wonder. So beautiful. (Though I totally missed the lunar eclipse this morning and I'm so mad! I was up and everything, just forgot to look!)

Anyway, yes. I'm home alone this morning and missing both of them terribly. I frequently experience the fervent desire to have some time to myself only to fall into absolute gales of loneliness once I have it. It's the most bizarre thing. Nevertheless, I'm working on learning Adobe Illustrator and also painting a lot of watercolors lately. This is my latest thing. I absolutely love it. Amelia and I have been doing Skillshare painting classes together (here is a link to a free trial if you are interested) and it's really fun. I've been painting a lot on my own when she is done. I don't really know what I am doing but I am enjoying it more than I can even say. I've been meaning to tell you that, yes, I totally dropped the ball on my "Tender Year" series after June. I have to confess I was already struggling to do the embroidery patterns every month and then when mid-summer hit I knew I had to get my fall and winter cross stitch designs done and I just could not get it all done. It was too much, especially with no school. I instead started to paint all of the little things I had drawn and embroidered so far. I don't know why. I played around with maybe making a calendar out of them. I'm not sure where it is all going, but I'm riding this wave. I'm learning to just go with these things are do my best. I am hoping to get back to Tender Year next year. It will be Tender Years, apparently. Well, they are. So I guess I should've seen it coming.

It's soup season. I need to go hunt down my favorite recipes. And bake some bread. That's what November is for.

New Designs Now Available!

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Evening Skate Blog

Update regarding Typepad problems: Apparently the problems at Typepad have been solved and the blog should be working these photos should look normal now — I truly apologize for the frustration, and thank you all for the orders! Back tomorrow with a normal blog post, fingers crossed everything works!!! Agh!

BUT: Hello! Do you like WINTER? Oh boy I do. I have three new designs for winter and Christmas for you! The first is EVENING SKATE, above!

This design was inspired by its frame. Weird, I know. But one morning I was browsing eBay for vintage frames, as I do, and I found four of these matching frames available for a pretty decent price, so I bought them. They're nice and generously sized — the frame opening is about 9.5" x 12.5" — and the frame itself was thin, the way I like. The wood color and finish just reminded me of some of my mom's embroideries from the '80s. And it got me thinking about what I wanted to design for this.  Since I had four of them I knew I would do a seasonal series for winter, spring, summer, and fall. And I've been wanting to do something kind of Grandma Moses–inspired for a while. So I had the idea of the ice-skating rink I used to go to in my old neighborhood, when I was a child. It was an outdoor rink at Keystone Park in River Forest (Illinois), a few blocks from the house where I grew up. Every year they would flood the park and make an ice-skating rink for the neighborhood. On winter weekends when we were growing up, my friend Monica Sloger and I would meet up at the end of my street and walk with our pom-pom-decorated skates hung over our shoulders to Keystone Park to skate. It would be so cold, so we'd have double-socks on, and hats and mittens and scarves. Sometimes we'd bring thermoses of hot chocolate to drink in the warming house there. Oh, we used to skate for hours and hours. They would shovel snow off of the rink and pile it up around the sides. Sometimes the big boys would play hockey on one side of the rink so you'd have to watch out. Neither Monica nor I had ever taken any lessons or anything like that, so we weren't very good. But we'd hold hands and try to help each other skate backwards, occasionally do a wobbling spin. When it got dark, we'd head home, walking under the train tracks and near the woods. Funny how I was never afraid then. If it was Sunday, I knew my mom would be making dinner, maybe spaghetti sauce (just "sauce," if you're Italian — we are [though apparently not by DNA, I've come to find out — story for another day]) or chicken and dumplings or beef Stroganoff. Something rich and warm. And my fingers and toes would be just bone cold, and I'd run them under warm water, trying to resist turning it up as hot as I could. Gosh, I just loved ice skating. I remember when I first moved to Portland twenty-five years ago I was stunned to find out it doesn't really snow here. I'd had no idea! I'd never lived anywhere that it didn't snow, and Portland seemed pretty far north to me? But no. Skating happens indoors here (and I have a reconstructed foot, so it doesn't happen for me now at all). But those starry, sparkling-cold nights walking home from Keystone Park still live in my dreams as one of the best parts of childhood, and one of the things that I look back on with longing.

So Evening Skate is my tribute to that place and that time. I have three more designs for spring, summer, and fall planned, and spring and summer are already designed. All four designs are similar in that they share the same alphabet and general design elements, though the details are different. Spring is has a group of people planting a garden, summer has them swimming in a pond, and fall will have them picking pumpkins in a pumpkin patch.

It is stitched on 32-count Belfast linen in Mystic Gray. The design area is 8.63"w x by 10.5"h (22cm x27) on 32-count, and 138 stitches wide x 168 stitches high. The work is done with DMC six-strand cotton floss. Almost all of the design is done with 2 plies of floss over 2 threads EXCEPT for the doggie, which is done 1 over 1. It's not as hard as you'd think, so please don't be intimidated by that. (I just needed that dog to be a dog, and I couldn't do it 2 over 2.) Kits include a printed full-color pattern with a four-page chart, the fabric, and all the floss you need. The frame is not included in the kit. :) The kit is available here. The PDF pattern-only is available here with both full-color and black-and-white four-page charts. This is a big pattern. I recommend printing patterns at 100% (no scaling) at high quality for best results.

ChristmasisComingBlog

Next up is CHRISTMAS IS COMING! This is a cross-stitch ornament kit that includes everything you need to make the four ornaments here. The finished size of them is about 3" x 3" (and the stitching area is about 2" square). The pattern with the kit includes full-color charts as well as a photo-illustrated tutorial on how to mount the stitching to make the ornaments. The kit includes the cross stitch fabric (32-count Belfast linen in Stone Gray), the cardstock on which you will mount the stitching, the vintage calico fabric, quilt batting to make the stitching a bit puffed up, the ribbons, and four of these cute little "2022" charms with 8mm jump rings to attach to the back (or front, if you like):

CharmBlog

Cute! We have Andy Paulson to thank for these! (And I still have many extra charms on-hand, so if you are buying the PDF pattern for this but you need some charms, please email me and I’ll send you some!)

Anyway, these little ornaments were designed kind of on a whim – I don’t know but I have just been feeling so nostalgic lately, and yearning for things that remind me of home (as in, childhood home). I was remembering this time when I was around Amelia’s age, probably a few years older, and I was in a play called Ebenezer. It was a version of A Christmas Carol that was put on every year by the Village Players in Oak Park (Illinois) and I was a member of the children’s cast for several years (any suburban Chicagoans out there remember the Village Players?). We kids had a pretty small roll (it was a mostly adult community theater company) so the group of eight or nine of us kids spent a LOT of time just hanging out in a room backstage, waiting to go on. It was such a fun time. The production was Victorian and we had to have our own costumes. One year (this was sometime in the early 1980s) I saw the cutest outfit probably at Marshall Field’s or Weiboldt’s (those were two of our department stores in Oak Park) and it was a long skirt and a vest made out of dark green velveteen trimmed with cream-colored rosebud calico, worn with a high-collared, full-sleeved kind of prairie blouse with a little self-tie at the neck made out of the same calico as the trim. Oh, I wanted it so bad! But it was expensive and my mom said it was too expensive. At the time, Weiboldt’s still had a fabric department upstairs. And I remember we went up there and looked through the pattern books and found a pattern (seriously, it was probably this one, or something very similar to this) and found green velveteen fabric and cream rosebud calico and she literally made me practically the exact same one that I wanted but even better. It was perfect. I loved that outfit so much. I felt so excited to wear it every night of that play. My mom could and would sew me anything I ever wanted, even in college, and it was all beautiful.

Well, these little calicos are vintage ‘80s and remind me exactly of that outfit, and the cream rosebud one might have even been the exact fabric that my mom used for my outfit. It looked exactly like that. I wanted to design something that was very simple with very few colors that would be really good for beginners, or if you just wanted to whip something up for a friend or co-worker in one evening. And if you want to make all four for your own tree I think that would be wonderful. And I hope they spark a happy memory of days gone by for you, too. The Christmas is Coming! kit is available here. And the PDF pattern is available here. :)

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Now on to what I think/hope might be a memory for Amelia. This past summer, the ballet school she’s been going to since she was three closed down permanently. Amelia is a casual dancer – I mean, I don’t think she’s serious enough about it (or anything yet) to really pursue it to any great extent. But she enjoys it well enough and I want her to do some kind of after-school sport (I have a lot of thoughts about this that I find myself needing to express to someone, anyone, somewhere, but I will spare you here and save that for a post for another day), so we decided to keep doing ballet but at a different ballet school (further away, more expensive, but we’ve decided to give it this year to see if it’s still something she wants to continue to do. This school is lovely (from what I can tell; parents aren’t let in the buildings anymore, unfortunately) and they do quite a production of The Nutcracker every year.

When Covid hit, Amelia was in first grade and she was a couple of months away from being in her first ballet recital, which was scheduled to be held in the big theater at a nearby community college. That got canceled and never was rescheduled. Then they had a very small in-person performance for just parents this past summer, but it was basically in their regular classroom and not particularly fancy. So this year, she will be in her new school’s production of The Nutcracker and it feels like kind of a big deal! She is a “party girl” from the “rich family” (which of course she is thrilled by, ha!). This is in the party scene at the beginning. She is wearing a fancy white dress (and apparently her sash is purple, though I didn’t know about the purple sash when I designed this, or I might have made it purple instead of blue; though I guess blue feels more traditional) and also a “wiglet” (I wish I had a video of the first time I showed her the wiglet – her face was hilarious – she just stared at it like she was trying to figure out what it was and then she finally understood it and burst out laughing – it’s basically a cluster of ringlet curls that they wear over their buns).

Anyway! I personally love The Nutcracker and I designed this for Amelia because I think, even if she doesn’t decide to continue to dance, this will be a memorable experience for her, just like my childhood theater stuff was for me. Aside from singing one song onstage with her first-grade class at parents’ night a few years ago, she’s never been onstage before. I just wanted to make something to celebrate this ballet that is beloved to so many people during the Christmas season. In my design, NUTCRACKER SWEET, Clara wakes from her snowy, sweet dream under the giant tree. . . .

Nutcracker Sweet Blog

I had more fun stitching this than I have had in a long time! It is done on 32-count Belfast linen in Blush with DMC threads. You could easily change Clara’s skin tone and hair coloring to reflect your own dancer’s with a little bit of extra floss that you might have, or if you need some let me know what kinds of colors you need and I’ll be happy to send along. My favorite parts of this design are the owl clock and the mouse crown (which Amelia herself suggested). I will say that it has been really difficult to get this Belfast Blush here – I’ve been waiting for it for way over a month, and they were only able to send me seven yards. (“Supply chain issues” are real, and really frustrating.) So we have a total of only EIGHTY kits in stock right now – if you want this one, don’t wait. We will make more when more fabric comes in, but I’m having a very hard time pinning my distributor down on when exactly that will be. So I honestly feel incredibly grateful that they were able to send me seven yards, and I’ve been waiting to launch these here until I had it in my hot little hands (because mama has been burned before, people). Anyway, we have eighty kits in stock right now and will be shipping all orders next week. The Nutcracker Sweet kit is available here. And the PDF pattern (with both color and black-and-white charts) is available here.

And to go with this, my gosh this is a lengthy post, but we also have a new lotion bar, called SUGARPLUM lotion bar:

Sugarplum Blog

Yes. I could not resist. This would make such a sweet little stocking stuffer. It is a bit more petite than our other lotion bars. It is made with beeswax from the local bees of Mickleberry Gardens (and their beeswax is absolutely the best, and I have tried a few); coconut oil; shea butter; lanolin; and a natural fragrance oil from my favorite trusted source for apothecary supplies, Brambleberry (you can read about the difference between essential oils and their natural fragrance oils here). It has a sweet, fruity scent that is a mix of grapefruit, raspberry, melon, sweet pea, rose, and coconut. It is perhaps a less sophisticated scent than our other lotion bars made with essential oils. But it is just delightful and I’m so happy to add it to our collection for the holiday season. We have just restocked ALL of our lotion bars after being sold out for a while (they go quick) – but Andy made a ton of these for me last week while he was home on vacation, thank you babe! So they are ready for you and make great little teacher gifts, stocking stuffers, or hostess presents. As always, they come in a reusable tin, ready for gifting.

Sugarplum Blog 2

Okay guys, I have rambled on for a long time here. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to post this but as I said, I needed to have that pink fabric in hand before I said a word about any of these, and on top of that, Typepad does not seem to be working properly, either (I can see that these photos are cut off on the side, but I think it's on their end, so will try to investigate). I also think I will trot out my backlist winter designs (I forgot to do it for fall) again here soon because I do like to do that on the blog to see all the seasonal stuff together, but that will wait until next week. I’m so excited to have these new things out here, and I truly wish you many happy hours of stitching these designs in the coming colder days. Much love to you all, and thank you for being here. Xo, a

Also: I'm just so curious: What are your memories like this, that you find yourself returning to? Specifically, I mean? Do you have a certain winter memory that just makes you smile, or cry, or . . . something in between? If you have time please share them here with me, especially the little details. I'm feeling so strangely full of longing these days (maybe this happens when your baby turns 10? I don't know) and I really want to hear if anyone else can relate.

Big Birthday Girl

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My baby is ten years old. I know. I can't, either. I just cannot believe it. My big, beautiful girl is ten. She had such an amazing birthday weekend. Andy's parents flew in from Chicago for the first time in three years. It was pure joy having them here after so long. One of Andy's family's traditions is to wake-up the birthday child (or adult!) in the early, early morning with a rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" and a plateful of lit candles for them to blow out, so we always do that here. It's super sweet. By some awesome stroke of luck, Amelia didn't have school on her birthday, and her grandparents had arrived the day before, so she got to spend the whole day with them and my mom, who we met at the food carts for lunch. The weather was bright and sunny all weekend and we had so much fun hanging out. Amelia decorated her own cake on Friday afternoon and I made chicken paprika and dumplings for her for dinner. (I make it in the Instant Pot so I need to rewrite that recipe.) On Saturday we all sat around and played with the things she had gotten for her birthday, and then on Sunday afternoon she had her friend-party at the roller-skating rink. That was absolutely wonderful. Her friends all came and skated for an hour or so and then they were all able to have pizza, juice, soda, cotton candy, and cupcakes (!!! I know!) in the cafe. They all did so well on skates I couldn't believe it. I mean, don't get me wrong, there was a whole lot of wiping out and a few tears, but overall they were all smiles and I think everyone (Andy and another dad skated with them, but most of the kids did pretty well on their own) had a blast. It was just a great day, and a great weekend. We dropped Andy's parents off at the airport yesterday morning and they made it home safe and sound. We all slept well last night. I am so proud of Amelia. It was a long, busy, wonderful weekend, and we will still be trying to hook up with more family and birthfamily in the coming days, but this girl is a partier!

Did you see the crocheted bonsai tree that Andy made for Amelia? Amazing. He's been working on it for weeks. (Here is the pattern he used.) He has crocheted something for her for her birthday every year since she's been born. I made her a bowl in my ceramics class. She's so cute opening her presents. I always forget this, especially on Christmas, but Amelia is a very slow present opener. She does not tear through her gifts to get onto the next one. She is very slow and deliberate about them, and generally looks carefully at everything. It's very, very sweet.

I just can't believe she's ten years old. I'm overwhelmed with love and so grateful for the miracle of her life. I'm just so, so grateful to be her mama. My sweet, amazing, darling girl. You have been pure joy since the moment you entered the world. I love you so.

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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