A Midwestern Girl . . .

comments: 48

Bookbag4_1 . . . I'll always be. Portlanders, did you feel that humidity yesterday? How the rain was wet (er, usually is) yet warm, as it rarely is in the Northwest? That's what Midwestern summer feels like, and I miss it. In the Midwest it's pouring rain and you're still hot. You gotta love that. This is my new Midwestern-summer/sleeping-porch bookbag, and one of my favorite Midwestern girl-books, Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright.

I made the bag yesterday, while the warm rain incessantly dropped down outside the studio. I had all the doors and windows open, and Maloy (our resident bluejay) hung out all afternoon on the birdbath, the bird feeder, the table, the pergola, the tree, the herb garden, the sidewalk -- he is always around, every day, all day. I've never had a wild pet before, ever. But I really think he is here to stay. I'm totally into this. I feel like he and Bridget, our little scrappy calico kitters, are very evenly matched, so I don't even have the usual bird anxiety I do with all the stalking felines in our yard. This bird actually hangs out on the sidewalk with a cat or dog only several feet away. It's so bizarre. It really is like they're all playing with each other.

It was lovely in the studio, my first real day of crafting in there since the big barfola and subsequent mop-up. The bags are made of the these sheets. I got the idea for the little layers of pleats from a Japanese craft book (ISBN 4-07-246480-5). I wanted a big bag, big enough to carry all my books home from the library, and a soft, floppy, summery sort of bag that would sort of suggest the coolness of clean sheets after too much sun.

When I go to the library these days, I don't browse, I don't think -- I do like a great arm-sweep across a shelf and tumble as many tomes as fit into a vessel. Not really, but sort of. I get as much as I can carry, and give them a good lookover when I get home. Hence, the need for an extra-roomy bag to carry the unedited selection of takeaways. I usually only read a fraction of what I get, but I love having the chance to leisurely try it all out, before I commit. I have no problem whatsoever saying "no" to books after a few pages. When I was a child, I went to this library several times a week in the summer. Sometimes I sat in it all day, because it was air-conditioned and had big traditional armchairs and living-room-like reading room and it was always uncrowded and quiet. Sometimes I got my haul and took it straight to the tennis club (across the street from the library), and laid out at the pool, reading, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., when swim team started. I was one very tan Italian-American child. When I got home I read flat out on my bed, often the only place in the house that one had to oneself, until it got cool enough to fall asleep, and often that was very, very late, if at all. But I miss that sometimes, too. Reading and sweating feels like home to me. I think I'm homesick, because I can't stop thinking about it, and no normal person misses that kind of heat.

Bookbag6 This bag is made entirely of vintage sheets in groovy, mellow florals. Most of them look 60s-70s to me, which is what I was going for. Sheets that have been washed and washed and washed have that smooth, silky floppiness that is so nice. As I was ironing I would swear they even smelled like childhood -- like laundry and heat and calamine lotion -- maybe it's the little bit of polyester that must be in everything from the 70s. I put a pocket inside for pencils, paperback, and library card. I used lots of different fabrics, and left the pieces un-stabilized, so that the whole thing would be floppy and light. The only thing I worry about is the fabric holding up at the handle points when there are a lot of books in the bag. I reinforced them with weight-bearing zig-zag stitches, but I'm gonna load up this baby tomorrow and haul it around with me and see how it survives before I make the rest. I'm also not completely happy with the rickrack trim, which hides the unfinished edge of the first pleat. Next ones will have a separate piece of fabric stitched in a strip straight across. I think that will be better. The rickrack is just a little too much.

Bookbag13Do you know about Thimble Summer? Remember this, dear Martha P.? You were the only person I knew who had loved it, too. I bought this copy from Alibris several years ago, and I notice that it was reissued fairly recently in paperback with new illustrations, etc. But for me, the first edition is definitely what you want. It's the story of Wisconsin farmgirl Garnet, who finds a thimble she is sure is magic when a much-longed-for thunderstorm happens the night of the discovery. She spends the summer having adventures (including getting locked in the library with her friend Citronella and hitchhiking to a nearby town by herself -- I guess nine-year-old farmgirls did things like that in the 30s) ending with the county fair in September.  It's such a sweet book. I reread it this week and I think I love it more now than I did then. It won the Newberry Medal in 1939. The illustrations are so nice. They have a loose, unfussy, naive quality that just feels perfect.

I've got a lot more to do! This week was about catch up, and I still didn't get to everything. It's so irritating that I can't get ahead. It felt like a serious luxury to work on this bag yesterday. These will eventually, along with Friendly Birds, and Cagelets, and new Button Bobbies and Sock Critters, be available on the site in the coming weeks. I decided that I won't update the Posie site until I'm fairly far through all the things I'm working on; what happens is that I update it a little bit, and stuff sells, and then I spend several days packing it all up, etc., and it kind of messes up my groove. I just want to sew, man. Sew and read. No time to read. Just sew. Oh, and the Margaret Drabble is coming to you, lady Jane. Another one of my faves.


The Saturdays
The Four Story Mistake
Then There Were Five

I've often remarked that reading E. Enright tends to get me drunk on words. Her vocabulary and style are so rich!

Lovely bag! I love the mellow colors. I have the same Japanese craft book and was leafing through it the other day for some inspiration for a summer tote. Just love the layers of pleats.

After growing up in the south, sometimes the summers here in the mountains of Pa just don't seem real. Not hot or humid enough to register as summer. Not enough cicadas, crickets and tree frogs making a roar every night. My refuge from the heat ( and everything else for that matter) was reading and I spent many hours in the library as well. Next to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elizabeth Enright was my favorite author - I particularly loved the Melendy quartet. I think The Four-Story Mistake started me on a lifelong quest for the ultimate old wreck house to restore. I'm still looking for one with a cupola and stream running past the door.

It's so wonderful that your little bluejay decided to stay.

I say go for it, spend the weekend sewing and reading. Sounds like a plan to me!

Happy weekend.

the story about the sheets at goodwill is the funniest thing i've ever heard! we've all been there, but you have painted such a clear picture. brilliant!

i love your blog and your shop and your studio and and and...


I love going to the library, the one here has quite a good selection of English books, but not too many new ones & I don't always feel like reading in Swedish. We always went to the library in England as family, I miss those days.

Another Enright fan; be sure to read The Saturdays, if you haven't already!

I love your blog - and just like you - I will forever be a midwest girl. There is nothing like the seasons here.

onecrabapple says: June 02, 2006 at 10:27 AM

that is interesting

I just picked up two bowls the same as your cup here with the blue flower at the Goodwill store

and the trip was inspired by !! your Sunday at the Goodwill story....

laughing ! love it !

Love the book bag. I also found a great haul of vintage sheets at St. Vincent's and have all kinds of summer plans for them. My childhood favorite books were the Betsy, Tacy and Tibb books by Maud Heart Lovelace - I think I re-read each one at least 5 times. Indeed at the time, I was quite peeved at my parents for not naming me Betsy. I think I'll have to look for them at the library when I take the kids this afternoon!

oh yes. the midwest and its lovely warm rains. i sat on the porch last night for a bit through one. my husband thinks im crazy, but i like to say that the humidity is little hug from the atmosphere. your bag is wonderful, i can smell the sheets from here. i must check that book out, i somehow missed that one. did you ever read the one about the girl who runs away to a museum in new york with her brother? they bath in the fountains at night and collect change to eat in the food court? man. did i ever want to run away to new york...

have you posted a picture of your bluejay friend, yet? i'd love to see...
your bag is perfect. both my girls have 'floppy' library bags. they are great because I can throw them into my bag when they're empty, and get them out to fill up once we get to the library.
and i love all the pockets. I'm obsessed with pockets inside my bags now. i would like a pocket for everything, because it's just so fun to tuck everything into its proper place.
thanks for reminding me of Thimble SUmmer. I love reading chidren's books. love it. Last year I got on this kick reading through all of patricia maclachlan's books. She has some amazing little stories. have you read her book called, 'baby'? that, I think is my favorite of hers.

These are fantastic bags! How lovely!

Oh yes- the midwest! I live outside Chicago and and a "balmy" summer evening is what I yearn for in January. I LOVE it.

Gone-away Lake and Return to Gone-
away Lake were two of my favorites
still enjoy them
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
are also favorites that can be
read over and over

paul stands around outside and sniffs the air when the weather is like this. i think he misses it, too.

i've been thinking a lot about these kind of loose box pleats. nice.

Pleats, layers, ruffles..I have been thinking about all of that for totes!! It is always so amazing to me how the same ideas floating around in your head can be the same in someone elses head!! Really adorable. Love the combo of sheets.

Here in Oklahoma those are the rains we have. It has rained like that the past two afternoons. There are days I love the humidity (and there are times I would love to escape the humidity )-- but I can imagine there would times I would miss it if I moved away. It is funny because Emma and I can go out in the morning and "smell the rain" in the air and she will say in her 4 year old voice "Momma, I think its gonna rain today"...
I love your little bag... that is too cute: ) Emma and I will need one this summer because when it gets really hot and humid we will want to escape the outside and what better way to do that than go to the library.

anniniowa says: June 02, 2006 at 01:14 PM

Yes, we in the midwest are enjoying the humidity right now. The clouds are strolling by just enough to keep the early season sunburn away. Days like today are so near perfect. But coming soon are the lazy evenings watching the kids chase fireflies. That is one of my favorites. Glad to hear your memories are strong.

Chris Howard says: June 02, 2006 at 01:58 PM

Oh, I love the book bag and for the record, I think the ric rac is just right. You know I used to spend my summers in the library as well! Summers are so hot and humid here, and the library always seemed so cool and welcoming... You know, I walk into a library now and I smell that slightly musty book smell and it just makes me feel comforted and happy somehow...
I cannot wait for the big shop update. I MUST have a book bag of course, and you know Tangelo is quite lonely on his very high perch now. He's even starting to miss our kitten's attentions. I simply must get him a little friend.

Okay, Alicia, I've decided I have to stop reading your blog. It is too difficult for me to sit in my office and read your lovely posts and not start to feel gloomy, especially on a day like today.

I direct you to my blog for an illustration.

Well, that settles it! You're going to have to come spend some time with me in Ohio! This week we had several 90* days, with 94% humidity, some thunderstorms that left it even more hot than before it rained. The northeast is like that too where I grew up south of Boston, close to the Cape.

That bag is swell.

Oh how I know what your feeling about missing the midwest ;) I grew up in Missouri and I really miss certain charms about the weather. Sometimes I would give anything to sit and listen to a thunderstorm with booming lighting, the whole sha-bang ya know?! or to be able to catch fireflies and listen to cicadas. Oh, I am making it worse for myself. I feel your pain, but we must make the best with what we have even though that has been nothing but rain!! The bag turned out adorable by the way!

Holy bag making karma! Do you realize I was just looking at that same bag, in that same book, and coveting it (thinking at the same time how completely posie-ish it looked)? I couldn't believe it when I saw your post. I am you...you are me...we are one. (wink wink) And Ian and I just went to the library on our usual Friday afternoon mission to load up my big Gap totebag with all we could possibly carry. I itch, you scratch. Too funny.

Hi Alicia...long time lurker...first time poster.

I am from Southern California and yesterday was definitely a blast from the past. We've been in Portland for about 12 years and I too, miss that odd, comfortable feeling of being rained on and warm. I also miss thunderstorms! When we get the rare one here, I stop whatever I'm doing to enjoy it!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE your beautiful blog and visuals you share with us by the way. I MUST get into your shop! Cheers!

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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 aliciapaulson.com