Dovegray Dolls Coming Soon

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Well, hello there! How are you? It is raining here this morning and I am well. It's been a busy, exciting, intense couple of weeks since school started. All is well and we are each getting used to our new routines, together and on our own. Kids are so dang brave. It's really incredible to watch, isn't it? It's beautiful. I'm constantly in awe of their abilities to do things they've never done before, go places they've never gone, walk into rooms filled with people they don't know, and basically figure it all out within days. If that. It's so inspiring.

Andy is back at work today after a few days and an entire weekend off, which was so nice. He was home for three weeks on vacation in August and I got used to that. I was antsy to clean the house while he was home. But once he had gone back to work and I had done that, I really missed him and Meems and the long, lazy days of summer, and all the summer things that I've never missed until this, the Summer of Perfect Weather. Suddenly I'm having the summer's-over emotions that most normal people have. I'm looking longingly at the sodden cushions on my front-yard chair, where I sat and read for countless hours, Mimi swinging from the branches of the tree beside me, and I will miss those afternoons. I'm usually just so ready for fall to start that I don't care what's gone. But this time it's a little different, and I am feeling all of the changes.

Thank you so much for all of the Leaves by Hundreds Came orders! They are sold out now. I am busy trying to get my dolls finished and photographed and ready to launch, probably next week. Andy has been in the office during his days off, cutting fabrics for me and generally helping out. We are hoping to have them available for pre-order next week. I first started working on these dolls a couple of years ago. They are based on the animal-doll patterns, and they all share the same body and construction. They can all wear the same clothes. There will be ten different combinations of three skin colors (dark, medium, light) and five hair colors (blond, dark brown, red, auburn, black) you can choose from. Each doll kit comes with a pattern for the doll and her muslin camisole and bloomers and many of the supplies needed to make those things (I'll share full lists of contents at the launch).

There will also be a separate kit (with pattern) available for a calico peasant dress, embroidered pinafore in solid-colored cotton, and knitted wool lace stockings. I'll show you the dress next week. All of the calico fabrics we are including in these kits are vintage calicos from the '70s and '80s, mostly Peter Pan and Joan Kessler that I've spent the last several years collecting either from eBay or estates. It's been such a labor of love and I really have no words to tell you how excited I am to be able to share all of these things with you soon. This is going to be such a cool collection. We will take pre-orders next week and are planning to ship doll kits and dress kits at the same time, by mid-November. We aren't sure how many orders we will get for what skin/hair combos, so we will order supplies on our end after we get the pre-order numbers and begin putting kits together and shipping as fast as we can.

I'm naming the collection the Dovegray Dolls. I wasn't sure what I was going to call them until earlier this summer, when I was starting to work on them a lot. And one night, Mimi and I were sitting in the front yard and we heard a mourning dove.

The sound of the mourning dove is one of the sounds (along with freight trains and thunder) that I miss so much from my childhood. We had them in River Forest (a western suburb of Chicago where I grew up) but we do not have them here in my neighborhood in Portland. (My sister regularly hears mourning doves right across the river in Lake Oswego, but we don't have them here.) If you don't know what they sound like, here is a sample. It's a pretty unmistakable sound.

When I heard it, I couldn't believe it. Mimi cocked her head and listened, too. After just a few calls, she could imitate the dove perfectly, much better than I could. We went and got Gretchen, our next-door neighbor, who also grew up in River Forest (I know, crazy right? Total awesome coincidence. We both graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School in the same year, too, though we didn't know each other. [The high school had almost four thousand people in it, and she and I had gone to different grade schools.]) We all listened. I texted Andy (at work) to tell him what we were hearing. I was excited. It had been decades since I'd heard a mourning dove. We sat out there for a long time, but eventually he stopped cooing and it got dark.

The very next day, the weirdest thing happened: We got a postcard (pictured above) from our local bird shop with a mourning dove on it! (It was a coupon for bird seed.) Andy came home from work that night and saw the post card on the table and said, "OH my gosh, you got a really good picture of the mourning dove!" I started laughing and told him I hadn't taken it, that it was a postcard that had just happened to arrive, etc. We continued to hear the mourning dove for a few days. Mimi and I took the coupon and went to the Backyard Bird Shop and got some special bird seed that mourning doves supposedly like. (She also broke a glass thing while we were there and the ladies at the shop were so incredibly kind and generally cool about it that we will be customers for life.) We put the new seed (I think it was millet?) in the flat feeder right away. Naturally, the minute we did that, we never heard the mourning dove again! Granted, he was never actually in our yard, just somewhere near. The bird shop said that sometimes they sort of find their ways over to this side of the river, but they don't often stay very long. Sad face. I'm still hopeful! I love them.

Anyway, in honor of the summer days we spent listening to the sweet cooing of our mourning dove, I named my little dolls the Dovegray Dolls. The one pictured above is Bridie.

***By the way, that picture above with all the little white dots on it? Does anyone want to take a guess what’s going on there? :)

The Leaves by Hundreds Came Kits Still Available

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I just wanted to pop in quickly because I was just looking at the inventory for this kit and realizing that I wanted to let you know that there are still 24 kits for this design left in my inventory. Once they are gone, they are gone! This is such a fun kit to do on autumn evenings. It fits into a ready-made 8"x10" frame. You can purchase the kit here. And if you'd like to read the original blog post about it, that post is here! Thank you! More blogging (and info about my new dolls) from me soon. I'm just starting to get caught up, yippee. Xox, a

End of Summer

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The end of summer is so bittersweet, even for a winter-lover like me. Dahlias, these exquisite state-fair square-dancing skirts, are the perfect finale. We went to their festival on a red-hot blue-sky day a few weeks ago. I'd never been before and had always wanted to go. It was too hot to be in an open field, but oh, my, it was so worth it. What a voluptuous display of summer's finest bounty, these petal-heavy beauties. We grew a few of them in our little parkway raised beds this year and I am well and truly hooked. Andy and Amelia and I started making a list of our favorites and then we just gave up; there were too many to love.

School started last week and it has been life-changing for all of us. The first day was much anticipated and was a great success. The teacher was amazing and the playground is fantastic. The school garden is teeming with fruits and vegetables and plenty of places to hide and shade and play. The parents are awesome. The kids are great. It's just all been — astonishingly and unexpectedly, in some ways — great. We are really appreciating everything about it, even the things that I thought would be really hard about it. The playground has a picnic shelter, right in the midst of everything, so you can actually hang out there and linger, and linger we do. Every day after school, even though it's been some of the hottest weather we've had all summer, Amelia runs and jumps and hangs and swings and slides and chases, everywhere and on everything, racing around, making friends, wiping out, getting upset, working it out. And this is just brilliant compared to last year, where, at our old school, there was zero playground culture; literally zero. People didn't do it, because it was a commuter school with a locked campus. I didn't know how important it would be, and it turns out it is super important to her and to us. Some kids go right home. Our kid has always, always wanted to stay, no matter where she is or who is there or what's going on or whether it's pouring rain or blazing sun. Even in preschool, we had some epic leave-takings. They still make me shudder. I can't find that one post where I wrote about her tearing through the rose bushes in the play-yard as if on fire when it was time to leave school, a small ball of pure fury. I still remember what it was like to stand there, catatonic, totally out of tricks, utterly unable to convince her to leave by any rational method, watching her throw handfuls of pine needles at me from the top of her hill, breathing flames like a tiny dragon. Oh my lord. It cracks me up, now. At the time I remember thinking, "I literally have no idea how to get this child off of that hill. At least this place is mostly fenced." It can still be very hard for her to leave. I still feel a mild pang of panic every time it's time to go. However: this, yesterday, to her younger friend (kindergartner), who was having her own hard time leaving: "I know it's really hard, and sometimes you get really cranky when it's time to go. I do that, too." And then she tried to aggressively wipe her friend's face with some kind of paper towel (she pulled from out of nowhere) while her friend ran circles around her mother to get away. (Ack.) But THEN she (Mimi) pulled herself together and proudly marched right out of the playground, as if remembering she was going to try to model some good behavior for the littles. And good lord, it was JUST SO HOT. I stood there melting in the late-afternoon sun, carrying backpack, lunch bag, water bottle, my bag, hoping they would both just depart without drama. And then . . . wow . . . hugs . . . goodbyes . . . they did!

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Got lucky there. But the first week of school has just been really great. I couldn't be more proud of her, or happier to be exactly where we are. (Her first-day-of-school dress was made from Butterick pattern #4833, from probably somewhere around 1977.)

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The stories and images from The Bahamas right now are just so incredibly tragic. My heart is breaking for everyone there who is suffering these most unimaginable losses. I’ve donated to MercyChefs.com. If you have good suggestions on how else to help, please let me know. 

River Resting

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River days and river ways. They're slow and steady and golden, like the river. The river rolls past the house like a shimmering ribbon, day and night, night and day. At night, the crickets come out and it's loud. The screened windows look out toward the river, and they are black with night. It's quiet, just crickets, occasionally geese, far off, honking in a group. One night at dusk a flock of them swooped over the house and Andy ran out to see. There are a lot of trees, so you can't always see. One night at dusk, in the rain, I watched a giant charcoal-gray bird (eagle?) glide down the river like a highway. He flew low and near the shore, right above our chairs. He was in no hurry, but clearly going somewhere on his highway. Trees block the view far to the left and far to the right, so you literally watch things come into view on the river and then go out of view, like a filmstrip. On sunny days, lots of people float by, some in colorful rafts tied together in flotillas, beer coolers floating, tinny radios playing. Some come in pairs, and they're serious, in serious kayaks, with khaki hats with chin straps and long sleeves to protect from sun. Some come in silent groups, senior citizens on a tour, perhaps, in rafts being manned by young men, and everyone's quiet, looking forward. You can hear conversations on the river, even from the house. It takes each group a long time to float past the house. That's how slow the river is there. That's how I like my river: lazy.

When we get there at sunset on the first night, Amelia changes her clothes goes right down to the river in a nightgown. She did this years ago and she does it now. Many things she does at the river she does because she's done them before. She remembers the fairy house she built last year and she builds one again. She remembers the crayfish she caught last year and she looks for one again. She sets the table with flowers and napkins. She falls in the river and changes her clothes three times a day. I read and read, not happy with any of my books but so happy just to be there, doing that. Hour after hour, passed in the chair, basket of tricks (yarn, books, camera) and iced tea by my side, watching the river and knitting or reading. The river shore and river bed are made of giant, round, slippery rocks that my bad foot likes not at all. I watch from the sidelines as usual but here I don't mind. High above, turkey vultures, eagles, and hawks circle, and ducks diving and bobbing keep me company. Swallows. Bees. The sun moves across the sky and I move my chair along with it. Andy takes Mimi on adventures to Paulson Island and Mimi Beach, pulling her in the raft. Oh I love them so. They find a beaver den, crawfish claws, rocks and walking sticks. I can hear them upriver even when I can't see them. It rains on the second day and she and I take a two-hour bath, playing in the water with our only toy, the travel toothbrush holder, and lazing so long my fingers wrinkle. There is little to do, and our needs are few. We plan menus and bring groceries and forget half of them, so meals are a funny abbreviated version of the meals we know from home, too. Pasta, prosciutto, and peas without the peas, still at home in the freezer. At night, we make popcorn and watch rom-coms on Amazon and go to bed at 10. I would not change one single thing.

***I finished her pink sweater literally minutes before we left and it was worn constantly and is now filthy. Success!!! It's Karoline's Cardigan by Trine Bertelsen made from Schachenmayr Bravo (acrylic). And I highly recommend both.

A Revelation, of Sorts

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The summer days roll on by, an ice-cream swirl of open swim and lazy mornings, library books and watering the flowers, Ikea trips and riverside afternoons. It's already August, and time is about to enter super-speed. At night, I knit, and knit, and knit, listening to the sound of evening traffic and neighborhood noises through the open windows. Never has there been a more perfect summer to knit, as the weather here still continues to be entirely civilized in every respect, while the rest of the country and the world is more or less on fire. Not here. Here it is cool in the morning, hot in the afternoon, sometimes cloudy. Occasionally it even rains. It’s vacation weather, come to life.

One fine day, Amelia and I went to JoAnn's to get yarn for a new ballet sweater. I've made two in the past, and both went unworn due to "scratchiness." I didn't think they were scratchy, but she did. One got given away and one sits unused in the sweater basket. Thought I, "That's it." Off to get some very soft acrylic yarn we went. She needed black (there's a dress code) so it was not hard to find. We settled on Premier Yarns Everyday Baby. I had two 50%-off coupons, and got two skeins of yarn, totalling $4.99. I knit the sweater and — great experience. The yarn was nice. It did not annoy me at all. It says it's anti-pill. She deemed it soft enough. I was PSYCHED that it cost five dollars.

Amelia is almost seven and has no sweaters that fit her. I went zooming off to my computer to find more yarn. Everyday Baby comes in colors I don't like. I wound up ordering Stylecraft Special DK and Paintbox Simply DK and Schachenmayr Bravo. The color palettes of each were huge, and I could make a sweater for, again, about $6. This was astonishing.

I spend, in general, a lot of lazy time late at night or with coffee at 5 a.m. browsing Ravelry for patterns. For me, the browsing is a huge part of the creative process, and I love it. The new yarn came, and I started re-looking at every sweater pattern ever written for kids in DK-weight and worsted-weight yarn. I'm not kidding. I looked at hundreds and hundreds of sweaters. It was weirdly relaxing. I knew what I wanted. Naturally, I could not find a pattern for it. How is this possible. Hundreds and hundreds, literally hundreds, of sweaters. Oh, Alicia. . . .

I thought back to 1995, when I was trying (again) to learn to knit. I wrote a long blog post about that here. I still find it very moving to read, if I do say so. I think part of why it moves me is that I hadn't often done things in my life that I wasn't good at, or that didn't come naturally to me. Knitting did not come naturally to me. I tried to learn to knit several different times, many years apart. The fact that I stuck with it mystifies me; it was not my style not to quit. I must have really wanted to learn, and I don't know why I did. I didn't really know anyone who knit, it was years before there was any sort of internet community around crafting, Pinterest didn't exist so there were no pretty pictures to be inspired by, and . . . I don't really know why it was so important to me that I kept trying to do it.

If you read the post I wrote in 2010, you'll see that I took a beginner class at a knitting shop in Missoula, sometime around 1996, and it didn’t go well. In retrospect, it affected me profoundly. The teacher was super intense, and went so fast. I remember thinking at the time, "This is seriously the last person I would think would be a knitting teacher." She was like a hummingbird. She had a frantic, edgy energy. I was a frantic, edgy person. I fumbled, exasperated. Her voice was high and fast. She wasn’t trying hard. She made hats for Andie MacDowell's kids! She knew so much and I was lost. Her knowledge came flying out, making the room spin. And her first rule of knitting was only ever knit with wool. Only wool. I was so intimidated by the whole experience that I think I internalized that directive on command. Only ever wool. (Years later, when I finally learned to knit here in Portland, the first thing I made was a baby sweater for my niece out of a super fluffy mint-green acrylic novelty yarn, and I remember that there was freedom — my new teacher had told me to pick anything! — but also guilt in that choice.) I have hardly used 100% acrylic since. Not that I have always used wool, far from it. I've gone through phases. Alpaca is okay but stretches out of shape. I don't like cotton at all. Bamboo and silk are much too shiny — I hate any kind of sheen in my yarn, generally. Ease of care has never motivated me — I'm always knitting and blocking something around the house, so hand-washing stuff is not a big deal (if I wash it at all, quite frankly). I think I was used to thinking that acrylic would be 1) too shiny and 2) not have any give to it, and so not feel that nice to knit with. Also: There are microplastics produced by synthetic fiber, and that is a major downside; I never feel good about consciously choosing to consume plastic and try pretty hard otherwise to do it as little as I possibly can. Hmmmm. Not really good. 

I was never a big Elizabeth Zimmerman fan, for no other reason than it feels so hard to just access the patterns and the writings somehow. Is it just me, about that? Maybe. The format, layout-wise, is totally daunting. I keep thinking that someday I’ll relax and dive in. People love her, and with good reason, I know. I have The Opinionated Knitter and I did try to read it once, but I just got so confused by both the crowdedness of the page layout and all the references to various newsletters that were out of print (when you wanted to follow the thread on something, for instance) or other books I didn’t have. I'd missed the EZ trend and kept stumbling, trying to catch up (go back?) afterwards. It's both charmingly and frustratingly analogue, in a way. Also, I'm still not a very intuitive knitter at all. She is the thinking-person's knitting teacher, and I don't like to be a thinking person when I knit, apparently. I like to be a direction-following robot so I can continue to stay with the plot of whatever episode of Vera I am on. Ravelry says I have knit over a hundred things. I would guess that almost none of them have deviated from any pattern more than the slightest bit to accommodate whatever yarn I had or, I don't know, something else small. I can follow a knitting pattern. Now I even write (doll) knitting patterns, even though I said I'd never write knitting patterns. Going off-trail does not come easily to me.

But I ran into this sweet little sweater by Adele Louise and I just had to make it. I literally became obsessed with this sweater for Mimi. That happens sometimes. It's a heady feeling. There's desperation involved, some mild bewilderment. Whyyyyyy do I care about this? I once spent hours in the middle of the night trying to track down a pattern for a pair of gloves I'd seen on a Norwegian Instagram account, with no reference to the pattern at all. I. found. it. Silly "problems." I specialize. Adele Louise mentioned that she used the percentage system to calculate her cast-on and then all of the other counts for making a round-yoked bottom-up sweater. My eye twitched. I Googled "percentage system" and saw that it was an EZ–invented thing. And suddenly I remembered that first knitting class in Missoula, and how, for our first sweater, our teacher was having us make a sweater based on the percentage system. I didn't realize that that's what it was — the Percentage System, a thing — at the time. I was so confused and overwhelmed by it all. This is how you have to make something? She took my gauge and my measurements and did the percentages and the calculations and literally nothing was coming out right. My sweater, in my fraught, anxious, self-defeating hands came out miniature, practically felted from go. It all seemed much bigger than knitting. It was much bigger than knitting. I never finished the sweater. I have no idea why it wasn't working, or what I was doing wrong. I threw it in a bag and never looked at it again. (Also, the sweater was made from Lamb's Pride Worsted, which is wool and mohair and is what I use for my doll hair. I would literally never be able to wear a sweater made out of this yarn. It is way too scratchy for me [personally]. But it was wool I could afford.)

2019. Adele Lousia's knockoff, then: I got my gauge with the copper-colored Stylecraft (4.5 sts/in) and took Amelia's measurements. I did the calculations and wrote them in my notebook. I worked out the lace pattern from my dear Nadia's original pattern on my cast-on number. I had a plan. I kept going. I figured out how to join the sleeves to the body at the yoke and still stay in lace pattern. I kept measuring. The yoke should decrease at a specific rate, three times, and wind up a certain length (5 3/4"). I kept going. I kept going. I finished it.

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It's a weird, sort-of full-circle knitting experience (that apparently took twenty-five years), with major thanks to not only Elizabeth Z. but Adele Louise and Nadia Crétin-Léchenne, who has inspired my knitting for years and years. And even my first teacher in Missoula, whose name I have no idea of anymore. The yarn blocked out soft and drapey, with nary a shiny highlight in sight, and fits my darling child like a dream. I am so proud of this.

Fireworks and Flowers

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Slow day, today. Meems and I have decided to just stay home, which we don't often do. I think it can be stressful to stay home all day. I'm not sure why, exactly. It always surprises me. Parenting an only child can be seriously bonkers sometimes. You don't get much of a break. My days are long — Andy is gone from 6:00 a.m. until almost 9 p.m. three or four days a week, so I'm on my own a lot. It's a lot. When he's home he's super hands-on, but we also then, all three of us, do a lot of stuff together. So I don't get much time to myself. Most of the time it's fine, but sometimes, when the days have really stacked up, by Day Four I'm fried, no lie. The cooking and cleaning gets old, too. Mimi is easy to feed — veggies, rice, fruit, chicken, yogurt, tofu. Granola. More fruit. But during the day, we eat out a lot. Self-care, Alicia-style, I guess. We eat a lot of simple Thai food out. She's been ordering for herself since she could talk and, aside from spilling entire glasses of water almost every time they don't have lids, she is pretty great in restaurants. And I like to just sit and catch my breath. I frequently read my book while we eat lunch together. People think that's weird, but what can I say. Introvert mothers gotta do what we gotta. She draws, I read, someone else cooks, we eat, someone else cleans up.

Today, apparently, we're going to bake a cake. Vanilla with vanilla frosting and flowers, I'm told. She's downstairs watching Secret Life of Pets. I'm procrastinating watering the garden but I will do it, because I really am sticking to my resolution. It's been nice. My silly little garden, bringing me so much joy. We got the giant, 100-foot-long hose, which makes it easier to take care of things. The weather has STILL been cool and cloudy and occasionally rainy and, yes oh yes oh yes, just plain glorious. When it's so nice like this you can actually go to a park and play right in the middle of the afternoon. It's amazing! It's not 95 degrees! It's 75! Life-changing. No exaggeration. I’m so sorry for those of you sweltering in heatwaves right now. It’s so hard.

I made the sweet little romper for the @knit.beyond.borders auction that's running right now to benefit @raices.texas . It's from the Billie romper pattern from Strikdet. It is 100% merino and has sweet little buttons on the back. I used snap tape, hand-sewed in, on the crotch. I love these little rompers and I wish I had made more for Amelia when she was little. I have a lot of knitting projects going on right now, and a future lot going on in my head. I just sent off the last batch of new-doll knitting patterns to Laura, my tech editor, so there will be probably ten or so new knitting patterns for dolly sweaters, skirts, stockings, cowls, and other things coming out this fall when the dolls are launched. All of the knitting and new sewing patterns (also coming) will fit all of my animal softies, as well; they all, dolls and animals, have the same bodies. After I sent off the tiny samples, I started thinking about what Amelia needs for fall. First up was a new ballet sweater. I've made this one and this one so far, and she wore neither of them, claiming both were too itchy. New sweater is being knit off of the same pattern, which is perfect. But this time I'm using very soft acrylic yarn because 1) cheap and 2) soft. Cheap and soft are now my guiding priorities when knitting for Amelia. It's a relief, on some level, to finally realize how much going Cheap-and-Soft is increasing my joy in knitting for this kid, at least for stuff like this which is worn close to the skin! I had two coupons for 50% off two separate items at JoAnn's, so we wound up spending $4.99 on the yarn, total. The sweater is black (she's moved up to the next class, so black-leotard dress-code) so choosing pretty colors, which a lot of acrylic yarns, I've found, do not come in, at least in my opinion, was not a problem here. The yarn is also washable and anti-pill. The best is, though, that knitting with it is not as annoying as I was worried it would be. Acrylic notoriously doesn't stretch or give or feel that nice to knit with. But this really is not so bad! I'm quite pleased. I need to find the yarn label to see what the yarn is called because I can't remember. But I will post a picture here and details on Ravelry when I'm done (and I'm almost done). I have a lot of things to put on my projects list, I think. I'm behind with that.

At night I knit and knit and watch episode after episode of Gardener's World and Monty Don (on Acorn TV, I think?). It is literally the most relaxing television show in the history of the world. I love it so much.

All the Things

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I had a backlog of photos on my camera that I needed to upload this morning, and the timing was perfect because it appears I have a whole entire day to myself, which doesn't happen very often. I'm up in the big bed still in my nightie with the computer on my lap. It's cool outside and the light is flat and wonderful; I can see the trees through the guest room windows down the hall. Andy and Amelia are running around outside; I heard them take Clover out earlier, and I heard music coming from the wagon. I think they must have also been trimming the jungle that is the side yard under the bedroom window. It's no matter to me — I'm off duty after a whole lotta on-duty and it feels lovely.

We've had such nice adventures so far this summer. Andy's mother, Sue, and our niece Brooke were here for a short week a while back and it was such a nice visit. It had been several years since Brooke was here — Amelia was about nine or then months old the last time, we figured. What an utter delight to see these two wonderful young ladies and their grandma getting to spend time together in real life, I can't even tell you. I'm so grateful that they made the long trip out here. How blessed we are to be able to share such nice days, as the weather has been the absolute ultimate. We spent their last day here at the Japanese Garden and it was exquisite.

Since then, Andy and Amelia and I and sometimes just Amelia and I have been going to parks and the river and the woods and the berry farm and the ice cream place and just hanging out and literally basking in the perfect weather. You can do anything in this weather! Anything! It's so excellent that naturally a small, niggling part of me is also living in a constant state of near-panic that it will change any minute, and the temperatures will rise, and the fires will start and the air will turn smoky, as is my style of enjoyment. I know it is coming. But for now, we saunter and linger waterside,  under this holy green canopy, stuffing our mouths with tayberries and soft-serve.

Amelia just made and brought me a ham sandwich with a side of stale taco-flavored Doritos and a little handful of M&Ms. Breakfast of champions.

Thank you for your kind comments on my studio re-do!!! I've been in there only a little bit this week but gosh, it's really making me so happy. I think it will change a bit as I use it, and some of you who didn't like it as much have some interesting points. But I was so ready for the change and I love it. I'm still not happy with the overhead light in there, but I am going to work on that. I'm thinking of getting some colored window film for the skylights. Not sure if I should get yellow, or orange, or the salmon pink. . . . Probably yellow. Or maybe a pretty decorative one. . . .

I want to make Amelia something special for her birthday this year, and I know I need to start thinking about it now. I'm thinking about maybe a new Calicozy comforter. Or some other kind of quilt, maybe log cabin? She will need some new sweaters and hat and mittens for fall, too. She's getting so big. I miss making lots of clothes for her. She likes the stuff I pick and would definitely still wear anything I made for her, but I haven't spent the time doing it. I want to get back to it, before she really really won't wear the stuff I make.

I need to make a giant to-do list and get myself back on track. I feel like sparks are shooting out of my head and then fizzing to void before I can fully notice them. My mental bandwidth has felt narrow for quite some time, but I really want some of it back. Working on it. Not sure where to start. 

Studio Re-Do 2019

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Look how cleeeeeean! I feel proud!

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We repainted, got new curtains, new office chairs, more baskets, and labels. What do you think?

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Pretty much all of the major pieces in here are exactly the same as they were in 2010 when we did a major overhaul of this room, and got new flooring (it had been concrete with carpet on it before) and new furniture. (All of the details about the furniture and that 2010 redo are in this post, FYI.) Almost everything about that original set-up still works pretty great, I have to say; either that or we're just so used it we don't know the difference. But we kept everything exactly where it was and just added a few more things, including the shelfy thing on my table (which, as I mentioned last time I found at Goodwill), and a lot more door inserts and more baskets for the Expedit shelf (the new version of which is called the Kallax — the baskets and inserts all still fit the Expedit). What didn't work great about the old set-up was trying to keep the open shelving that we used to have tidy when it's primary purpose was entirely functional. It got really messy, and I found I just started sticking things in there right and left, no matter what it looked like — if there was an empty space, I filled it with something. The shelves were not organized intuitively — you basically had to be me in order to find anything. And even I couldn't always find everything. So this time my only major functional change was that I wanted no open shelving in the Expedit wall.

For the paint color I finally settle on Benjamin Moore Touch of Gray and, although it's a bit lighter than colors I usually pick, I really like it. I really wanted something clean and pretty that would make all of the warm wood and golden basket colors pop. And I think this does that.

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So I bought more baskets, more doors (I covered the old red doors with wallpaper and double-sided tape), and some boxy things (though my favorite ones, the white linen boxes with the built-in oval label holders are naturally discontinued). I also bought these label holders and attached them to the baskets with long brads. The color of the brads didn't exactly match the label holders, but I didn't care. It's working nicely. You wouldn't believe how much stuff is on that shelf in general. We store everything from all of our kits and embroidery stuff that we sell on the web site, to my labeling materials for lotion bars and apothecary stuff, to office supplies, to yarn and fabric and floss and all of the work and designs in progress. Receipts, binders of information, sample binders from suppliers, our scale, paper and shipping labels, I don't even know what else. It's a lot of stuff. Every inch of this wall of shelving is used. This is not only a creative studio but our "warehouse" and shipping station, as well. In the kitchen island we store paper, office supplies, ink cartridges, odds and ends. On the other side are jars of sewing notions and baskets for lotion bars. I got my logo printed on a board from here.

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This computer is our shipping computer and it is where we print all of the labels for all of the shipping we do. It's attached to a laser printer and a little Bose stereo so it sounds really good. We listen to Pandora through it, and Amelia also sits here with all of her drawing and painting and paper-cutting supplies and watches her shows. I got this little gingham chair at Goodwill for $25 but it was originally from Ikea and seems like it has never been used. Amelia drew all over my last chair (and all over the desk [tip: got the marker off the desk with nail polish remover] and the wall) and she has promised that that was just baby stuff and she "doesn't really know how that happened" and won't do it again (even though apparently she didn't actually do it in the first place, etc.?) so fingers crossed about that. A few mom friends and I were talking the other day about some of the kid-things you think are behind you when suddenly they decide they're going to start doing them again, like the other day at the park when my friend's kid suddenly took off like a shot and started running straight down the hill (out of sight) because (we later found out) he "saw a dog down there." The park is on a hill pretty deep in the woods so there are very few cars and he stayed off of the road the whole time, but still it was like . . . seriously??? Mama went sprinting down the hill after him. You think with five-, six-, and seven-year-olds some of that stuff is in the past but then they surprise you. We have a LOT of permanent markers in our house, so . . . I remain on alert.

Anyway, above the computer is my "pretty" shelving — oh, and that's new, too (from Pottery Barn on sale; not sure what it was called or if they still have it). I wanted these shelves to be purely for display and they make me feel very happy and fancy. I also re-covered my bulletin board but haven't really put any stuff back up on it yet. The Posie sign on it is from fifteen years ago when I used to own my little shop on Burnside.

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Across from that is my table, with my laptop and my sewing machine and my new little television. I got that little lamp at Monticello Antique Mall and it is so sweet — it also seemed like it had never been used! I got the curtains on eBay from here. All of these curtains are a bit fussy, I know, but for now I do like them. They warm up the light in here, and I struggle with the light in here.

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By the way, beyond the French doors is Andy's office, which still basically looks like it did when we fancied it up a few years ago except that his desk is totally messy now. I store yarn and apothecary stuff in the brown cabinets, and fabric and art supplies and overstock products and shipping supplies in the white cabinets. And I moved all of my folded fabric scraps on top of those cabinets (not pictured).

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It's kind of hard to take pictures in here because it's a small space and I don't have the right camera lens for shooting interiors. All of the lines look so distorted, even though I do try to fuss with them in Photoshop (do you know how to do that? Go to Filter/Lens Correction/Custom). I think you can get the general idea, though.

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So . . . yeah! I think that's everything.

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By the way, now that my office is all cleaned up I am working on my dolls and I will tell you about them soon. I was going to do that nursery-rhyme cross-stitch that I designed several weeks ago but I was literally making so many mistakes on it every time I worked on it I had to put it aside. I feel like I am starting to get my feet back under me, and it's kind of amazing how having a tidy space helps so much with that. I feel like this version of the studio fits me so well right now, both aesthetically and functionally. My life can be pretty chaotic, and I needed this space to be anything but that. I'm so grateful I have a place like this. I was just sitting there looking at it the other day and wondering what sixteen-year-old me would've thought of this room and I think she would've been completely amazed that this was in her future. Thank you for indulging me by checking it out and if you have any questions let me know and I will try to answer them!

School's Out!

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Well, hello! How are you? We are well! School's out! Cue angels singing.

You know I don't like summer but this year, oh this year . . . this year . . . summer I've longed for you.

I'm sitting in my office this morning, my newly painted office, of which I have no pictures. But I will take them. The walls are a sweet, frosty pale lilac. Everything is tidy. I've been organizing like crazy. I labeled all of my storage baskets and boxes. This took fifty times longer than I expected and almost killed me, but damn they look nice. I got a pretty-much-brand-new Ikea office chair for $25 at Goodwill. I also got a desk credenza thing for my table (also from Goodwill — I majorly scored that morning) that fits my tiny new TV and my computer and a few chotchkes. I splurged on new curtains and a new ironing board cover and another new chair (we need two in here). In spite of the fact that my email is broken and I'm flat broke because I really haven't had time to work at all lately and I'm half blind because I need new glasses and haven't gone to get them, I feel very grown up now in my new pretty new space. I will take photos today and show you how it all looks.

We've been out of school for a week. I won't lie. It was a tough year. A really great year and also a really tough year in a couple of big ways and also a bunch of subtle ways, mostly centering on our commute back and forth to the school we chose to send Amelia to. I don't think I realized how tough it was until spring break, when the effects of the two-and-a-half hours I was spending in the car every day kinda caught up to me and left me gasping for air. Once I wasn't doing it for even just a few days I could see how it was affecting me. I think it was literally sucking the life out of me. I feel stupid for not seeing it before, and even for not seeing it before we even chose it. It seems so obvious now. Nonetheless, it's hard to totally regret it, because the school and our experience there was so wonderful in so many ways, which was nice. But the commute sucked. And I never got used to it, and I never got over it. And I think it and things that came as a result of it took a greater toll on lots of areas of our life than we ever expected. So I'm happy to be done, and happy to be free, and happy to know that next year at her new five-minutes-away school Amelia will be playing on the playground for those hours every day instead of sitting in the car. Amelia, at the (new) public school carnival a few weeks ago, running up to me with her neighborhood friend: "Mom! This is GUM. It's CHEWING GUM. Can I have it? And can I break it up into little pieces and chew them one at a time carefully so I don't choke?" I try to keep a straight face. Omg. "Yes, you can have it." They run off. I turn to Andy: "Holy shit, public school is gonna blow. her. mind."

My neighbor, mom of three grown children, currently principal of a private school, who has sent her children to every kind of school, both public school here in Portland and private school when they lived abroad for many years, says kindly/knowingly to a weary-looking me getting out of car a few weeks ago: "You know what they say, the best school is the closest school." I just wish, among other things, they could actually drink the water out of the water fountains at the "closest" school (which they can't, because it is lead poisoned). Sigh. How can we not fix this? I gnash my teeth.

I Marie–Kondo-ed my closet and my dressers and got rid of fifteen-year-old handbags and belts (belts! As if!) and old sweaters and gnarly tee shirts and blouses that never quite closed at the bust. It was seriously satisfying. I'm a natural purger (unlike my mate, the natural hoarder, who also leaves a trail of items behind him like breadcrumb; I can trace the path of his every activity around the property from them) but I don't spend enough time doing it. I hate that in life we accumulate so many things. I try try try not to — the house is small, I like to have a place for everything and have everything in its place, to have no more than just enough — but overage still seems to happen, especially when you live in the same house for decades. We've been here nineteen years this spring. We've made a lot of changes to this property. I want to keep it nice. I want to honor the privilege of being here on it. I don’t want more than just enough.

I bought two peace lilies at the plant nursery and two pretty pots for Amelia's teacher-gifts for the last day of school. The guy at the nursery was potting them up for me, and I was wandering around inside, waiting for the plants. I saw the display of stuff you can use to test your soil for pH balance, etc., and it made me think of when, a million years ago, my friend Pat was working somewhere that did this and my dad asked him to test our soil. My parents always did have a vegetable garden, and my dad would have ideas about it — one year it was a square-foot garden, one year a "Victory" garden, one year they put these giant tubes with holes in them underground and you were supposed to stick the hose way down there and it was supposed to let the water really get to the roots. I thought about the hopefulness of all those things and maybe even the silly sweetness of them, and the earnestness with which they were always undertaken, and I got, in an instant, unbearably sad. All the things we want and care about, all the ways we try so hard. Time passes so quickly. My dad and the old house have been gone for so long now. Our little girl just finished kindergarten and will be seven years old this year.

The goal of my summer is simply to water the garden. I think I have some other goals but I'm not sure exactly what they are. The front garden consists of four small perennial borders that line each side of the front yard, two rock walls (hot and dry), and three raised beds on the parkway. There are also two small patches of grass in the upper yard. There are two trees — a magnolia and a dogwood — that are large enough now to arch prettily over this little spot where I put my chairs. I read here in the mornings and whenever else I can spare a moment. I have an intense urge, after all that driving and all those tuition payments, to stay home and not spend any money. Except on water. I set up the sprinkler in each one of the garden spots, moving it after each spot gets its soak. The sound of the water is soothing. Birds come and flit and flicker through the spray. The three baby squirrels that were raised in the duct-work in my studio ceiling — I swear they know our voices. They now sit in the flat feeder and gorge themselves all day on the black-oil sunflower seeds, and our near presence does absolutely nothing to cause them a moment's anxiety. It’s mildly unnerving; I’m not used to wild animals having no hesitation in running straight down a tree trunk ten inches from where I’m sitting. They practically run over my legs. Chickadees and sparrows and woodpeckers and bushtits come and go from the other feeders, and occasionally the squirrels will let someone else eat at the flat feeder. I read and read. I've been reading all of the Tana French books with my best friend, Martha, who lives three-thousand miles away. We text about this throughout the day. "Where are you now?" "Leon just told him that he didn't help him when they were younger." "Oh yeah. Oh dear. . . ." I rub my hands together nervously, knowing what comes next because I’ve finished that one. Martha: "I'm grateful every minute my client is late so I can sit here and reeeeeeeead." Me: "I know!!!" I seriously cannot put them down, and this never happens to me. They are quite dark but very compelling. These are not cozy mysteries. But the dialogue — wow. I think in a cop-Irish accent now. "Ah, what is that eejit on about, then?" (watching someone run a red light ahead of me on the commute). I'm reading the Tana French books from the library so I take what I can get when they're available, and so am reading them out of order, but it doesn't seem to matter. It turns out that my favorite character type is, apparently, Damaged Antisocial Detective. 

While I water and read, Amelia is so far content to wander around the yard, making fairy houses and chalk drawings, swinging on her tree, spraying the sidewalk with the hose, clipping bouquets for me, watching Bubble Guppies. Being home feels novel and still fun. Grandma Paulson and cousin Brooke come for a visit next week, and then we have one week of half-day ballet camp, and then nothing. No swimming lessons (we did them indoors during school year, and I think she's burnt out on them), no Trackers camp or space camp or art camp, no vacation house booked yet. We've had play dates at parks with school friends, some shopping for new shorts, and trips to the grocery store and library. We're going lo-fi this summer. Open swim and tacos as many nights a week as I can get away with and orange-juice popsicles and Camp Netflix. I'm in recovery from being previously over-committed in ways visible and invisible to myself.

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First day of kindergarten | Last day of kindergarten (with Juniper Nia Aliayah Paulson the American Girl doll)

Summertime Starts!

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It's Andy Paulson's birthday today! Unfortunately he has to work! We went to Oaks Park on Saturday instead and had such a nice time. The weather was absolutely perfect — I think every other memory I have of Oaks Park is scorching hot, so this was so nice. It's an old-fashioned amusement park and it is a lot of fun, especially with little kids. It's one of Andy's favorite places. I love it, too. Happy birthday, my dearest love. I hope this year is filled with so much joy.

We've been busy doing I don't even know what, just cruising into the end of the year and doing all of the end-of-the-year things, carnivals and dance performances and final swimming lessons, etc. Andy and I were trying to make our favorite honey-chipotle chicken tacos in the slow cooker; it had been plugged in for about an hour when we realized it wasn't getting hot at all. It was a very old slow cooker and we didn't even try to diagnose it. Those things make me nervous to begin with. So on the way to pick up Meems from school we stopped at Target intending to get a new slow cooker. We came home with an Instant Pot instead. I honestly hadn't even considered getting one, but we saw that it had a slow cooker setting in addition to the pressure cooker feature and so we grabbed it. Late to the trend, as usual, but we're making up for it with a) a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm and b) five Instant Pot meals in about six days. We made the tacos, as well as this jambalaya, Indian butter shrimp, coconut curry chicken, and the lemon–poppy seed breakfast cake (which I turned into Andy's birthday cake) from this book. I was not a big fan of the cake as a birthday cake. It was kind of like a steamed bun. It would have been great for breakfast! Ha. It sure was cute when it came out though.

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We ate it just the same and had such a wonderful birthday weekend! XOXOXO

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.