Posts filed in: March 2006

Fairy Godmothers

comments: 18

31wallpaperWhen I was a child, my father was a working musician. He had been playing music since childhood, as had his father (who was a longtime member of the Italian American Musicians Association in Chicago, and let me just tell you, if you were looking for an incredible summer barbecue to go to in the 70s, this annual party was the best  -- Italian food and accordion players and old Italian ladies in black shoes and men in suspenders, dancing -- what I wouldn't give to have one of those Saturdays back!). My dad's band, UFO (not to be confused with the more famous UFO, who later, according to Dad, bought the name from my dad's band) was the house band at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago during the 60s and 70s, and my dad was away most weekend nights, playing there and later at various venues all over Chicago. He did this for years, from before I was born until I nine or so. I was babysitting at my sister's this past weekend and they were playing the only original album my dad's band had recorded in 1964, a demo, made when my dad was only 19.  It was the first time I'd heard it, and I could not believe how cool it was. I need to ask my mom more about this, and see if I can find a picture of those guys, wearing their space-suit sort of outfits, surrounded by their go-go girls.

31bunny_1 But at the Palmer House in the 60s was a woman named Dr. Nakutis who was very good friends with  my parents. When I was born, they asked her to be my godmother. I really never knew her; she was much older than my parents and she died when I was pretty little. But I do remember one really magical thing that happened. One snowy night I was at my next door neighbors'. My parents called and told me to come home. When I walked in, the front room was filled, and I mean filled with presents, covering the floor, almost to the front door. Dr. Nakutis had brought me some things for my birthday! It blew my mind then, and I still remember it. Everyone was so excited. I believe Dr. Nakutis was Lithuanian, and her presents were of the expensive, European variety: Steiff teddy bears and Hummel music boxes and smocked, Polly Flinders dresses. I still have a lot of them, and they are even better now.

31necklace When these lovely things come to me in the mail, I am reminded of  Dr. Nakutis and the presents every time. In the past couple of weeks, these pretty things have arrived, and I've wanted to wait until I had a sunny day to photograph them. At the top, a package of dreamy, dreamy, dreamy vintage wallpaper pieces from my original, most-sweet ever-humble fairy-blog-godmother, Pam. She might not like being outed like this, but if you remember this box of wonders, you'll see what I know: This girl has got my number sooooo bad. I had to put these with my vintage tissue bells, they matched so well. See the door behind the mannequin in the post below? About to be patchworked in vintage wallpaper. I'm actually terrified of wallpaper in general, and have never actually put it on a wall, but there is no way this stuff is not going up. My tendency would normally be to hoard such a collection, but I'd rather look at it every single day. Man, I hope I don't mess it up.

31callybox_1Then there is the sweetest little flannel calico bunny from Beki. She is so so so happy in our guest room, and I know one little guest who is going to adore having her company when she sleeps over. Beki told me that her daughter had named her kitty "Alicia" but then changed it to "Keisha" -- she is quite specific in her names, apparently. (Maybe she could help all of us business namers, eh?. . .) I forgot to ask Beki is she had asked her daughter the name of the bunny again. I know that my niece will want to know. Beki is about to have a baby in about five minutes so how she has time to make stuffies is amazing to me.

The wonderful necklace is from Maize. She makes this amazing jewelry from silver recycled from film. She says that it is extracted, ground down, mixed with a binder, then fired in a kiln, and is the purest silver you can get. The back of this charm says "Cherish." It's just lovely. And I don't think we've ever had anything with our names on it before.

31cdThe covered box of treasures is from the illustrious Cally, who just said today that in her first month of blogging she has written 73 posts. Cally makes me laugh just about every day. I'm completely charmed by her, and this photo of my Cally-caramel box really does not do justice to how sweet and special every single thing in it. The girl likes little, little things. The bird pin is felted, the cards are stitched, the birdcages and teacups -- I don't know how she does these. They're beautiful. And there is an annotated list of everything in this little box, which is probably five inches in diameter. Beautiful.

Lastly but not leastly, a mix CD from Leslie, who asks, "Is there a moment quite as keen/Or memory as bright/As light and fire and music sweet/To warm the winter's night?" And, I can tell you, it sounds just as wonderful in spring. Take it from a musician's kid.

Thank you, everyone. Wow. Thank you!

Alice Aprons

comments: 40

Apronstilllife8Pheeeew. Four done! So, I'll tell you about them.

These are simple aprons that tie in back, and have two silkscreened patch pockets. The pocket on your left has a quote from one of my favorite books, Little, Big. It says:

I will live in a house
By the side of the road
And be a friend to all.

In Little, Big, the quote appears stitched on a sampler in one of the character's living rooms. In the book, below the verse, are the words "Margaret Juniper 1927." I was excited when we bought our house and found it was built in 1927, because I knew of the verse long before and had always remembered it. It's modified from a charming poem by Sam Walter Foss, written in late 1800s.

Apronrpocketdetail The pocket on the right has a drawing of a little house that was inspired by the book The Little House and a vintage greeting card I've had around forever (and it's similar to the cottage-y symmetry of my own house, with the pointy thing in front). The details are hand painted, and the little flowers in front are actually done in puff paint! I love puff paint. It has sort of a bad reputation, and you can really make some ugly stuff with it, but I love it and use it all the time to make little signs and stuff for the shop. It adds a shiny, dimensional effect to things.

ApronminnieHere's a tip if you are inclined to sew rounded-corner pockets onto something flat like this. Run a bit of straight stitching (just use the machine) around each corner -- I kept my tension the same as when regular sewing because these are very short rows of stitching, and if they're too loose they don't hold up properly. Then gather the corner just a bit, so it puckers. This will pull in the extra fabric and allow you to turn the hem under easily. Then press it flat, pin it like crazy, and stitch, very carefully, as close to the edge of the pocket as possible. I also backstitched onto the apron itself at the top edges of the pockets where they meet the apron, since this is a place of tension, caused by hands going in and out, and I felt it needed a bit of extra support.

The bottom "banner" is patchworked strips, much like the Pinafore handbags. Some of the aprons have eyelet ruffles on the hems, when it seemed like the thing to do.

Apronmollie I'm interested in how so many vintage aprons seem fascinatingly fussy. For such a seemingly "practical" garment, it's amazing how many old ones you find that are made of things like organza, and lace, and have ruffles, and really fancy embroidery. It's clear that aprons were expressive of the skills and tastes and creativity of their owners -- what does it say that so many contemporary aprons are so boring, just that plain canvas and a D-ring neck-strap! I was just going for sweet, pretty, and happy, with a few nostalgic references to those fancier ones of yore. It's so cool that aprons are coming back into fashion. I've been trying to get away with taking them outside the house since I saw Jennifer Connelly wearing one so adorably in one of my favorite 1988 VHS-only movies, the quirky Some Girls (and if you like Patrick Dempsey, he's in this, too). I copied many of her clothes from this movie when I was in college -- I thought she had the perfect wardrobe here. Anyway, I'm excited to wear one of these to work tomorrow. They're vaguely practical, but I imagine they're really mostly for the dilettante cupcake baker.

Anyway, I'm happy about these, and relieved that my idea worked the way I was hoping. These will go directly onto the web site when I've got a dozen or so finished. I've got a lot more to make, so I'd better go!

Oh wait -- forgot to say thank you to everyone who went over to Whip Up yesterday and gave me a shout-out over there -- how nice of you! It made me feel so good to read all those comments, especially the funny stories about your own naming dilemmas. As far as my advice on specific names goes, mmmm, believe me, you don't want my advice. Pudding and a homonym, remember.

This is one of those hard choices in life that every woman must make for herself.

Whipping Things Up Elsewhere, Too

comments: 34

Nametag3Finally got  organized enough to finish my post for Whip Up, where I'll be writing about crafty/business-y stuff. I'm very flattered to be asked to participate, but a little bit nervous! I'm not quite sure why I'm nervous -- I think part of it is that I'm not exactly sure who the audience is; that is, are they hobbyists? business-y types? academics? you all? It's one thing to blabber about on your own blog, but it would be nice if I could control myself on someone else's, and not spaz out all over the place. I will try, Kathreen. I thought I'd sort of start at the beginning; this first post is "Naming Your Crafts Business" and hints at my thinly veiled ambivilence about my own business name, which I feel (most days) was pretty much of a total crap choice. I was lying in bed one morning going, "Gee, I think I'll start my own business. I'll call it 'Tapioca.' No, wait, I'll call it 'Posie.' "

Yeah. That's pretty much how it happened.

I've talked before about why I think this was a bad name. I'm just saying, if you have any ambitions for even one person outside of your own family to buy your work, please think even just a bit longer and harder than I did about what to name your business, no matter how small.

You'll thank me six years from now.

Actually, I sort of wish I'd called it "Tapioca." No doubt that would've created its own set of probs.

And, to answer the emails that people have been sending me lately asking me how I get stuff done (in case my response about my "third arm" and "second head" is getting old -- I mean, it never gets old to me, but you know), I'll leave you with this picture, which I just call "What the Front Yard Looks Like at Dawn after One Has Already Showered, Dressed, Checked Email, and Had Coffee." Wow it's early.


Do You Know My Flower Girl?

comments: 24

Flowergirl2Isn't she sweet? Do you know who she is? I found her at an antique store for a few dollars last week and I'm crazy about her. She's painted wood? I think. Or maybe some kind of very lightweight ceramic. She has four little holes across the top of her basket, and I stuck these little millinery flowers in. She doesn't hold water, because there is a one-inch hole in the bottom, covered only by a piece of cardboard. The cardboard has a little round navy blue sticker with the words "Wales" and "Reg. U.S. Pat. Off." and "Made in Japan" written in gold, and a little picture of a crown.

I love her. She goes with my little cottage paintings. I was just wondering if anyone had ever seen another one, or knows anything about her provenance? I'd love to find her a sister.

It's All About the Blog

comments: 44

ThreecollagesI'm so sorry, I have to show you these again, and I'm especially sorry to yammer on again the way you know I'm about to, but I'll just do it really quick and then I promise I am going to get on with my life. It's just, I really love them and it is hard to let them go, although all 22 are sitting, packed in their boxes, waiting for their address labels, which will happen today if it's the last thing I do, so really, they're gone. But there were just a couple things I wanted to say about them collectively before they go.

OnecollageI sent my college (college, not collage) roommate a link to the engagement post from a couple of weeks ago, asking her if she remembered the surprise party they threw for me where I went to the bathroom with the door open while talking about everyone who was hiding only feet away, etc. Yes, she remembered. She also had never seen a blog before (I don't think) because she said, and I quote (sorry Martha, it was too funny), "WHO ARE ALL THOSE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT YOUR STORY?!?!?!?!" I was like, "Um, well, they're my blog buddies. I'm not really sure how they got here. But aren't they sooooo nice?" Yes, they are! I told her, of course, that now it was only a matter of mere moments until she had a blog herself because, you know, that's what happens.

And at first I was thinking that what happens on the computer is different than what happens in real life. But now I'm not sure. Behind every computer is a heart, and blogs are like their secret decoder rings. It doesn't matter how you write, or what you say, or what you make; it's all good if it's coming from the heart. Amy was so right. I really hadn't thought about hearts very much before. I mean, I don't know what I was thinking of, but I don't think it was hearts. I know for certain that I was never encouraged to think about hearts, and I was certainly yelled at for wearing mine on my sleeve, those times when I just couldn't help it. Now I feel like I think about them all the time. When I feel crappy about the world, or my neighborhood, or myself, I try and remember all the hearts.

CollagecloseupSo, I'm not sure if I was explicit enough about what these really are, but they're thank you gifts to reciprocate all the sweet presents that have come to me since I started blogging -- both the kind that come wrapped in boxes, with postage, as well as the kind that are harder to contain: the generosity of quiet listeners, the e-mail humor inspired by crazy days and common problems, the countless times I've been startled by reminders of the sisterhood we all share across thousands of miles, many countries, and a million differences. For me, the grid represents a sort of calendar, each little installation represents a "post" containing a few little curated things. Collectively, the squares add up, and say thank you, for sharing. So, these are not for sale, though eventually some version of them might be because, let's face it, they are fun to make, but I do apologize to those of you who have come looking for them at the shop, etc. If I could make one for every single one of you, I truly would.

Do I talk about this stuff too much? I know I do. I'm so sorry!!! I TELL YOU I CANNOT HELP IT PEOPLE. It's all changed me so much. I think I'm getting it now, though. A little slow. We'll get back to business in a sec. I think everyone should have a blog. The only bad thing about it is that it's really cut into my busy TV-watching schedule, which, you know, some loons would say was a good thing. . . . Oh, and it's increased the delusion that anyone gives a rat's ass what I think, but you know, I already had that going on before, even without an audience.

A Message from the Mgmt.

comments: 18

StubbyaudreyAudrey would like to thank everyone on Andy's behalf for their very kind comments yesterday regarding his guest appearance on this blog, especially those that indicated they were impressed by his wardrobe. She's also rather . . . bewildered . . . by the impressive cost accounting he detailed throughout, considering the man just learned where the checkbook was kept about a month and a half ago, and barely remembers where we are supposed to put the receipts. Or, come to think of it, the mail. Or almost anything else he brings into the house. But he is so flippin' cute we excuse EVERYTHING, everything, everything, because a knitting, silkscreening nurse who makes his own pajamas is just . . . well, jeez . . . the very best pal a furball could ever have. 


Outsource Whenever Possible

comments: 39

Silkscreen4Hi, girls! I'm Andy and I've been subcontracted to do some work for your friend, Posie. First, she had me print the pockets for her soon-to-be-made Alice Aprons. Now she wants me to write this post about the experience!

Prepare yourself. Changing out of pajamas: Optional. Coffee: Essential. The single most important thing about silkscreening, in my opinion, is choosing the right music to listen to. It should be something new, and preferably something local. Perhaps a compilation of new local music ? (Failing Records puts out freaking awesome compilations. And, my band, Emesis Basin Paulson, is on Volume 2 with the deep, deep-underground hit "Keiko Finally Encounters a Pod Only to Find He Has Nothing in Common with Wild Orcas.") The right music is important because your hands will be busy while your mind will be free to drift around. You are in the perfect state to check out music. You crafters already know all about this level of enlightenment, of course.

Silkscreen3 Prepare your screen. I guess the second most-important thing is the art that you will be transferring. For this project, Alicia drew an image of a house inspired by this book and formatted a quote she liked from this book on her computer. Then she printed them out. For transferring purposes, the artwork has to be high contrast, which means there shouldn't be shading. Line drawings work best. Then you take these papers to a local, independently owned print shop where you can have them transferred to a transparency. In order to get these images onto whatever you will be printing (in this case, pockets for the aprons), you need to "expose" a screen. You do this by "burning" your image onto a properly prepared screen. Screens come in a variety of sizes and are available for about 20 bucks at a local art-supply store. You can prepare your screen by spreading a photo emulsion (about 25 bucks; will last 4 months and dozens of screens) onto your screen and set it up to dry in a dark place. We have a dark corner in the basement, where the old paint cans and stuff are. Before I spread the emulsion onto the screen, I take packing tape and tape both the top and bottom of the screens over the edges, to avoid getting emulsion (and then, later, ink) into the corners and edges. Lost a few screens that way.

Silkscreen5Expose your screen. So you have your transparency and your emulsion-prepared screen. Put the transparency on top of the emulsion and hang a 200-watt bulb in one of those cheap pie-tin shop-light things (10 bucks at a hardware store) about 20 inches above it and expose for about 40 minutes. The design on the transparency prevents the light from getting to the screen beneath it. Take this exposed screen to the sink and rinse with a sprayer. (I have a hose and garden sprayer hooked up to the basement faucet.) Magically, the design rinses out!!! Oh, that feels good. I put in some ear plugs for the rinsing part because it is really loud!

Prepare your screen more. Look at the screen with a light behind it to see your design. If there are parts that washed out that you didn't want to, you can fix it with a screen filler (7 bucks) or some more packing tape on the bottom. You will need some hinges (25 bucks at art supply store or 10 bucks and some ingenuity at the hardware store) on your work surface so that you can lift and place the screen onto the same spot again and again. Dry the screen and place it on the hinges.

Silkscreen6 Print! Put a piece of paper under the screen and spoon some ink (about 8 bucks) onto the hinged edge of the screen. I usually thin the ink with some "screen retarder base" (about 8 bucks) so that it flows easily through the inevitably skinny parts of the design that Alicia comes up with. With a squeegee (4 to 10 bucks), pull the ink across, filling the design with it, and then back, pushing the ink through. Paper and non-t-shirt cottons require once across like this. T-shirts require two backs and two forths. For this project, I printed on lengths of fabric. This printing is the bulk of what you will be doing for the next couple of hours.

Silkscreen2 For me, this is the best part. It sounds strange, but while I am printing I feel so USEFUL! I feel very connected to what I am doing and what I am creating. These printed things didn't even exist mere moments ago. I made them! I put up parallel clothes lines across the basement and hung those black-and-silver office-clip things on each line to hang the printed fabric (or posters, or t-shirts) to dry without them touching. Satisfaction.

Set the ink, if necessary. I will iron these babies tonight, probably, after Alicia embellishes them with fabric paint in the shop today. This will "set" the ink, so it won't wash out. Then I will throw them in the dryer, to further set them. I'm into overkill. Okay, bye girls!

101, But It Feels Like 463

comments: 23

BunnyWhen I popped into Typepad to write this morning, I noticed that yesterday's post was my 100th, which seemed like a lot, but then maybe not, so I thought I'd just let Steve Martin (who has not given me permission to reprint this) explain how 101 feels like . . . so much more.

From The Jerk by Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, and Michael Elias

Navin: "Marie, are you awake?
. . . Good. You look so beautiful and peaceful -- you almost look dead. And I'm glad, because there's something I want to say that's always been very difficult for me to say: I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit and on the slitted sheet, I sit. I've never been relaxed enough around anyone to be able to say that. You give me confidence in myself.

"I know we've only known each other for four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week. And the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again. And the fourth day seemed like eight days. But the fifth day, you went to see your mother and that seemed just . . . like a day. But then you came back and later on the sixth day in the evening when we saw each other -- that started seeming like two days. So in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days. So at the end of the sixth on into the seventh day that seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down but I can show it to you tomorrow if you wanna see it.

"Anyway, I've decided that tomorrow, when the time is right, I'm gonna ask you to marry me. If that's okay with you, just don't say anything.

"You've made me very happy."

You Give Us Those Nice Bright Colors

comments: 29

Markers2Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh, yeah!

Remember this song, "Kodachrome," by Paul Simon? It's something our whole class learned to sing in eighth grade chorus. It, along with "Fifty Nifty United States," is burned into my memory as almost the only song I've ever been able to remember all the words to (though, honestly, if Stevie Nicks's The Wild Heart came on I'm sure I could yodel it out from start to finish, come to think of it -- love you 4-ever, Stevie!!!).

Anyway, these markers came from Andy for my birthday and they sit in the living room because they're so colorful and cheery. My dad was a commercial artist and he always had beautiful markers like these in his office that we were to never, ever touch, and apparently it's that residual fear that's preventing me from touching these, my very own. I think I'm afraid of them. They're so . . . saturated. I'm going to use them today, though, no matter what.

Anyway, yesterday something happened at the post office that I have never, never, in all my hundreds of mornings and afternoons there, seen happen. There were, as usual, twenty of us in line. Two clerks were at their windows. One customer was at the counter with no less than 33 (I counted, as I waited) huge envelopes of what seemed to be books that he stacked and stacked on the counter, chatting merrily throughout. (I know, chatting merrily at the P.O. -- weird!) I was actually third in line, but it was clear we were in for a long wait; I could sense the humanity twitching and sighing heavily behind me. And then, and then -- another clerk came out and opened another window!

Another clerk came out and opened another window. Yes, you heard that correctly. At the S.E. Station, another clerk came out and opened another window. And we all moved merrily along! When Andy came home I told him all about it. He said, "Wow! So you had a great day!" I said, "I know! It was awesome!" See, it really takes so little to make me happy! Really!

Anyway, what I supposed to tell you about today is Crafters Coast to Coast. Remember how last week I mentioned that I made the Pirouette handbags on that show a few years ago? And then the next day, coincidentally, the episode was on? And then yesterday I got an email from the producer saying that they were currently scouting peeps to be on the show in its fifth season. The show is now called That's Clever! and if you live within an hour of Portland, Oregon; Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; or Oahu/Big Island, Hawaii, write to Julie Choi, the segment producer, and introduce yourself and she'll send you an application to be on the show.

She's at JChoiATWellerGrossmanDOTcom.

More information about the show is available at the HGTV web site, if you're not familiar with the concept. They basically go around the country profiling different people making cool things in their own studios or homes. It's a lot of fun to do, and you should think about applying, unless you are a glass blower in Portland, because apparently they are fully stocked with glass blowers from Portland. And while we craft-blogging-types have numerous craft-related meltdowns of our own, I think it would be safe to say that they only involve glass if it's holding, say, wine; so write to Julie very soon and see if there is room for you and your art on the show.

Where She Severs Her Intimate Relationship with the 8"x8" Canvas

comments: 45

Collage1Oh, but I'll miss you, my dears. For four days it's been paint, patch, and paste as I cobbled together these little tiles of appreciation I mentioned I was starting on Saturday. Never one to take on a project unless said project grew to such proportions as to inspire dread and disorder for days and dozens of square feet in every direction, I made 22. Oh, just say it. It's been said before. It'll be said again. Psycho.

These made too much of a mess and took up too much space (cats, gingerly and not-so-gingerly, suddenly find sitting on the mantle on a collage impossible not to do; tricky scattering a cat without scattering a still-wet collage, let me tell you) to complete in anything less than record time, though oh! did I ever have fun with them! But every flat surface in the house has held a collage the past few days and some residents are complaining. Though they complain anyway. I opened the front door to get some light on the floor where these were set up to be photographed and Bridget (who was outside) and Violet (who was inside) started punching each other through the screen, along with a most violent display of hissing. These cats are so mean to each other it's just freakish; they've lived together for six years. Violet, the twelve-year-old, is just getting irritated with everything in general. She's decided she will only eat "wet" food out of those little foil pouches, or sometimes, in a pinch, cans. So around our house you will routinely see either one of the adults careening through the hallways or kitchen screaming, "Move! Move! Move! I got it on me! " and by "it" they mean "cat food," and these adults are not squeamish, and one is even a medical professional, who presumably has much more disgusting things on his hands on a daily basis, but no, it seems cat food is the pinnacle of total grossness which requires pushing anything in one's way out of the way on the way to the faucet. I told him to bring home a box of latex gloves so we didn't have to fight over who had to feed the pets.

But anyway, as usual, I digress. Here are my collages. You knew I wouldn't be able to wait, didn't you.

About Alicia Paulson


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