Posts filed in: July 2009

Common Sewing Challenges

comments: 137

When you are forced to leave your vent because you've finished sewing the quilt top and now it's time to make the quilt sandwich, and you've moved some furniture and thrown the 102"-wide muslin fabric you got for the backing on the floor, and then you leave the room for five seconds to go get the masking tape so that you can tape the muslin down, and you come back to someone giving you a long-suffering look, which seems to say


"Why are you making me lie here on this fabric like this?"


then you must have a corgi.

If you leave your vent and spend two hours crawling around on your knees pinning the quilt sandwich together, and then spend eight hours stitching the quilt together, and then you want to sit down in the comfy chair and take all the safety pins out but as soon as you sit down you realize you need to get up and go get the bowl in which to put the pins, and you come back five seconds later to someone lying on your quilt in what seems like an uncomfortable position, as if to say


"Why the heck are there a whole bunch of pins in this nice blanket?"






then you must have a corgi. Corgis are common sewing challenges I can't help you with. I'm sorry.

(Finished-quilt photos and info TK next week. :-)

Olallieberry Ice Cream Quilt

comments: 108


I put the sewing machine on the dining-room table. The chair was right in front of the vent where the coldest air blew the hardest and froze my legs, which made me happy. In that spot, I sewed 676 three-and-a-half-inch-square patches together, one by one by one by one. The majority of the patches were a pale, icy gray-pink, exactly the color of vanilla ice cream with a few of these special berries thrown in.


I have no idea what possessed me to stop doing virtually everything else and start making an enormous patchwork quilt in four days. I'm almost finished sewing the binding on. Must have been all that sewing talk. I've now done nothing — and I mean nothing — but sew for four straight days, since I refuse to leave my vent. Even though it only got up to 106 yesterday, and not 107, after all. Record-setting. My friend Shelly called in the afternoon and said, "You must have air conditioning. You're the only person I know who hasn't called me." She has a beautiful in-ground pool. She said she'd had twenty-three people over at her house in the past four days. A constant pool party. She said the place looked like a frat house, with more beer in the fridge than food. I told her I would love to come over except that there was just no possible way I could, because I cannot leave my vent. I can only get up to go into the second-coldest room in the house (the bathroom). I ran to my next-door neighbor's at some point to bring the iced tea, dropped it off, and immediately hot-footed it (paws on fire! Paws on fire!) back across the frizzed-out, burnt-up front lawn, back to my vent. We're going to Pickathon tomorrow, and I'm already having severe separation-anxiety about leaving my vent.


I love you, vent.

***The quilt pattern is available here.

Heat Wave

comments: 78


Ah, the heat. They say 107 today. Hottest in fifty years. Portland's not built for it. Firstly, and worstly, the craziest public pool system I've ever seen in my life. At Sellwood Pool, for instance, you can swim from 1:00 to 2:30, then they kick you out and you have to completely exit the pool area with all of your stuff in tow, get back in line (and there are already fifty people standing in line by the time you get out there), pay again, and come back in at 2:40 to swim until 4:10. Wilson Pool lets you stay all day, but I think it's the only outdoor one that lets you do that (don't quote me). But I feel sorry for the kids around here in the summer. They don't know what it's like to ride your bike to the pool, with a towel and a book in your bike basket, and stay from morning until dinnertime with nothing but a frozen Snickers to tide you over.


My neighbor brought over a pitcher of iced tea the other day. I think I'll bring her one back today. My sister-in-law left a box of peppermint tea here a few weeks ago when she was visiting. That sounds perfect for 107 degrees.

My Favorite Colors

comments: 66


The Rainier cherries are in at the farmer's market, and they are so beautiful. Those rose-tinged, blushing golden globes were just calling to be made into another clafoutis.


It has been hot, hot, hot here in Portland for the past several days, and looking to get even hotter, with no relief in sight until the weekend, and, even then, it's only going down into the high eighties. Aggggh. I can't stand it. I feel so guilty for having air conditioning, which I crank. We only use it for about a week each year, but it is one of those things I must thank the previous owner of this house for installing.


I think these colors are so pretty — pool blue, Ranier cherry, and vanilla custard. Some of my favorites.


All baked up. Cherry-Colored Funk. Reminds me of when I used to name all of my short-stories after the titles of Cocteau Twins' songs. (And that fabric on the table is from the Ginger Blossom collection by the amazing Sandi Henderson.)


I'm making a quilt today, and calling it Olallieberry Ice Cream. I moved the sewing machine so it is directly in front of the air-conditioning vent.

Tiny Yellow Dress, and a Few More Thoughts

comments: 107


Thank you very, very much for all of the kind and thoughtful and generous comments yesterday. I really appreciate them, and I thank you for listening, and for always encouraging me. I don't think of myself as someone who remembers things very well, but whenever I dip my toe into those deep pools of memory, the images bubble up, then pop into rings that collide. Sewing was always a hobby, nothing I ever thought I'd do for a living. When I had my accident, I found that needle and thread soothed my soul — and I wanted that salve. I think they had been soothing it all along, I just hadn't ever been so desperate, and so hadn't seen it that way before. And so it goes.

If you've read Stitched in Time (and of course you have!), you know that I wrote a lot about myself, my family, my history, and Andy in that book. Though it is a collection of projects and patterns, the patterns exist (for me, anyway) totally within the context of the essays that connect them to the larger concept. In the introduction I tried to put my finger on it:

Have you ever come across something in your dresser that your mother — or grandmother, or aunt, or godmother — made for you? That tiny doll's dress can prompt as many memories and emotions as photos on a page or written words. If you show it to your mom, I bet she'll remember making it for you and get a little misty herself. Not only do the projects in this book offer a way to remember and honor special times, people, places, and events, but the act of working on them also becomes its own meaningful experience. Sewing things for others and for ourselves is a way of celebrating and honoring our families, our homes, and our days, both the special and the ordinary. There is good reason to take the time and make the effort to preserve and create memories with needle and thread. Sewing, like so many domestic arts, is so much more than a means to an end. It is an act of caring, and of taking care.

I believe that with all of my heart.

That said

(here comes the however part, where your antennae start to quiver with worry)

that all said: Sewing can also be intimidating, frustrating, and, some days, seriously annoying! As I worked on the tiny yellow dress (which is, by the way, view A of Simplicity pattern 4709), I thought about what I would say if I were to offer any tips for new sewers. So here is my advice, from someone who has sewn cute things and ugly things; things that fit and things that really, really didn't fit; things that I loved and things that sucked; things that turned out to be a colossal waste of money, time, and energy; things that I am more proud of than anything else I've created; and things that, at the end of the day, all got me here, for better or worse. My advice is this:

1. Find a little bit of space for yourself. Whether you have a whole studio or just a futon on which to sew, prepare a space where you can collect your fabrics, supplies, and tools — and also be sure to plan an exit strategy. Quit — and clean up if you have to — a little bit before you have hit the wall. When you've just stitched the sleeve on backwards for the third time and you want to punch someone in the face, it is best to walk away from the sewing machine. Trust me here. If you've just sewn the sleeve on backwards for the third time and you now have to clean everything up because there will be nowhere to eat dinner if you don't and, also, you just realized you have to make dinner, too, trust me. You will wish you'd quit just a little bit earlier.

2. Know your machine. My sincere advice about buying a sewing machine is this: Figure out how much you can spend, and then ask yourself what you like to make, and then what you might want to learn how to make, and then look in the yellow pages and find your local sewing machine shop. Wait until you have a morning to yourself, and go down to the shop, first thing (so that it's not yet crowded, and they will be able to spend time with you). Bring your budget and your list of potential needs. (Like to sew clothes? You need an automatic buttonholer. Want to do machine embroidery someday? Ask to see what patterns come with each model. Hate running out of bobbin thread? Some machines can tell you when they're getting low!) Hand your list to a salesperson, and introduce yourself. Have them demonstrate the basics on the machines in your price range, then sit down and sew a whole bunch of stuff yourself — make buttonholes, zig-zag stitches, basting stitches — whatever you might use. Learn to thread the machines and the bobbins. Feel how the foot-pedals act. Don't be pressured into buying more machine than you can afford, or more than you really need. Once you've found a few to choose from, read reviews if you want, research on-line if you want — but in my experience, you must choose the machine that is right for you, and it must feel good to you. If your salesperson is pushy, or disinterested, or doesn't have time to talk to you, go somewhere else, or come back on a different day, when someone else is there. Don't be intimidated by the store or by the machine — you'll be having a very intimate relationship with it very soon, and all your shyness will seem quaint and useless when you're swearing at it for gobbling your bobbin thread again, or refusing to stitch evenly in reverse. When you think you know the one you want, sleep on it. It's not a decision to be rushed, but, that said, sewing machines are like cars — they'll all get you, more or less, where you want to go. The more you sew, the more you'll know what kind to get next time. Don't break the bank, and plan to upgrade someday, if necessary. And if the machine gets messed up for whatever reason, don't worry about it — take it back to the shop and have them repair it. Sewing machines are unique and complicated. Unless you live with a sewing-machine mechanic, I say bring it to a pro, pronto, and pay them to sort it out for you. Worth it.

3. Take a class. If you've never sewn before, seriously, take a class. No one is born knowing how to sew, and although people like to tell you how easy sewing is, learning to sew is a lot like learning to drive a stick shift — sure, it's easy once you know how, but until then, there's a lot going on. It takes more than a bit of eye-hand-foot coordination before you feel comfortable. A class will get you started, and encourage you to develop good habits that will, hopefully, become second nature to you as your body develops a certain kind of muscle memory, and starts to work automatically. Expect this to take a while! Don't feel stupid because you can't do it right away! Think of how many parking lots your raged around, starting and stopping (your girlfriends in the back seat, screaming) and stalling out before you "got it," and found that magic balance between pedal and gear shift, gas and clutch.  Remember that you need to give your body time to understand what you're asking it to do. DO NOT put your fingers under the needle (can't believe how many people mentioned doing this in the comments — sends a shiver through my stomach just thinking about it). A good beginner's teacher will remember what it's like to feel uncoordinated, and will choose projects that cover all the basics but still give you lots of opportunities for repeated practice and success. Call around to the different fabric stores in your area, and tell them where you're at with things, and what you want to learn. Ask about the details of each class and the style of each teacher, and try to find one that will be appropriate for you. And remember that if you take a class and it doesn't go well, so what. Whatever. Take a different one, with someone else.

4. Get a good, general-sewing reference book. The one I have and love is the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, 8th edition, 1981. I've had this book forever and it's never let me down. There are lots of used copies out there. If you read it, you will learn soooooo much stuff. If you keep it around just for reference and never crack it unless you are stumped, you won't be sorry, either, because it's very comprehensive. If you buy individual patterns or most project-sewing books, please know that, although they do their best to walk you through from beginning to end, they also must presume an ability on your part to be able to research things you aren't familiar with, and no book and can possibly know what those things might be for you. So: general-sewing reference book — it's a good thing.

5. Read. The. Pattern. Sounds obvious, I know. It's so obvious that no one actually does it. Slooooooow down, and actually read the general directions on the pattern. If there are words that aren't defined for you and you're confused, look terms up in your good, general-sewing reference book. They will be there, I promise. Read all of the step-by-step instructions before you start. If you don't understand something, ask, check the publisher's web site for errata (always a good idea with books, anyway), or call the help line listed on a commercial pattern. Otherwise, put the instructions down and just give it a shot — think, fiddle, stitch, rip, fiddle some more, stitch — eureka! Understand the symbols and cutting instructions before you pin and cut. And, when you pin and cut, pin a lot (and on the inside of the cutting line :-) and cut carefully. I can't emphasize that enough. I'm not saying it because I want you to be perfect. I'm saying it because the more carefully you cut, the better the pieces of your very-carefully-engineered puzzle will come together, and this will seeeeriously help in keeping your head from exploding. Read the pattern, pin a lot, and cut carefully. You're only helping yourself here, I swear.

6. Determine seam allowances for your individual machine. Okay, this is a biggie. You must know exactly where the needle falls in relation to your general presser foot and needle plate in order to determine exactly how wide a 5/8" seam allowance, or a 1/4" seam allowance, or a 3/8" seam allowance really, truly is. Take out a ruler and measure it. My computerized (metric-based) machine allows me move the needle six little hops to the left and six little hops to the right of center, and I have memorized exactly where to set my needle in order to achieve a perfect seam allowance. You might think you "know" what a 1/4" looks like, but I think if you take out a ruler and actually measure it, you'll find that eyeballing it doesn't give you the kind of accuracy that, again, will only make things easier for you in the long run. For a long time I assumed that the distance between the edge of my general presser foot and the centered needle was 1/4". Wrong. It's three-hops-to-the-left more than 1/4". Being off even 1/8" can really start to add up when you multiply that 1/8" by several seams. If your needle doesn't move, place pieces of tape on the needle plate to indicate how to line up your fabric to achieve certain seam allowances (if these marks don't already exist). You can also buy presser feet made for specific seam allowances.

7. Press often, press neatly. Get a dressmaker's ham, just 'cause it's cool.

8. If you're not a B-cup, have someone teach you how to do a small- or large-bust adjustment for a (Misses-sized) commercial pattern. If you're going to sew clothes and you're going to want them to fit (can't imagine why you wouldn't), this is crucial to know. You can find tutorials on -line, too.

9. Give yourself a budget for sewing notions, and make sure you have the basics, then plan to buy more as necessary. If you are just starting, go to the fabric store and find a salesperson who looks like she's been sewing longer than you've been alive, and enlist her help in filling up your basket with what you'll need. She'll know. Ask her about fabric and notions for the project you want to make, while you're at it. And if you need advice on your love-life, or your career, or your kids, ask her that, too. She's knows everything.

10. Don't require perfection. Enjoy learning. Trust that you will learn. It will all come. But it's an evolution, not a magic show. As with anything else worth doing, you must log hours, and miles of seams. You will make mistakes, you will wreck perfectly good fabric, you will get mad at patterns, at fabric, at authors, at yourself — but please remember that it's all part of the process, and that we're all in this together. Don't lose your sense of humor. If you fear you're about to, remember the Davy Crockett Slumber Party and feel free to point and laugh. People still ask me what I did with it. I'll never tell. 

In closing, I'd like to offer you the words of the great knitting icon, Elizabeth Zimmerman, who, although she is talking here about knitting, could just as well be talking about sewing:

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit, either.

When I say properly practiced, I mean executed in a relaxed manner, without anxiety, strain, or tension, but with confidence, inventiveness, pleasure, and ultimate pride.

If you hate to knit, why, bless you, don't; follow your secret heart and take up something else. But if you start out knitting with enjoyment, you will probably continue in this pleasant path.

  — Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitting Without Tears

I wish you a truly pleasant sewing path, and as much enjoyment as I have found.


I Sew

comments: 192

In our house, someone was always sewing. My mom sewed everything. Her machine was seriously old, and had no working feed dogs (the little treads that pull the fabric through the machine as the stitches are made). It wasn't until I went to college and got my own machine that I learned that feed dogs are not just a luxury — you aren't supposed to have to pull your own fabric "evenly" through your machine. But I didn't know that back then. That's what we had. And my mom is a trooper. She still wears hard contact lenses, and thinks they're fine. The machine was in my parents' room. My mom had a sewing machine and an ironing board, my dad had a tank of piranhas. I think this says a whole lot about them. But there was no room for any of it to go anywhere else.

I was a very crafty kid, and we had a very tiny, very crafty, very drafty old house in a very old, very beautiful suburb of Chicago called River Forest. Our neighborhood was preppy and traditional, but my parents were not. My father was a working musician, and his band regularly practiced in the basement. He loved Grace Slick and the Eagles, and worked as a commercial artist during the day. My mom stayed home with us, and she was always doing something crafty — sewing, but also embroidery, crewelwork, needlepoint, cake decorating, macrame, bread-dough-crafts, beading, whatever she wanted. For most of my childhood, we were allowed to have refined sugar only on Sundays — the rest of the week they ground wheat at the dining room table to bake bread, grew vegetables, and made us drink a tablespoon of cod-liver oil mixed into a glass of apple cider every morning (seriously nasty). I can hardly remember a vacation we took in twenty years where we didn't camp. I learned to hike and shoot a gun. We watched a lot of TV in our family. It was never, ever quiet in our house. Ever. Sewing was just one of these things that our family did. It was no big deal. It was more about having things than it was about sewing. I wanted the clothes. My mom, my sisters, me — we all loved clothes. We loved picking out clothes and thinking about clothes. Mom made us new outfits for almost every holiday. Here's Christmas, probably . . . 1977?


Cute. I was all about the long dress. That one was made of a gauzy fabric, with a hand-embroidered heart. I remember many, many times wanting something at the department store — most memorably a dark-green velvet vest and long skirt trimmed with calico from Weiboldt's — and my mom would study it, and then we would go to the fabric store and get the stuff to make it, and she would sew a version that was just as good, but also a fraction of the price. We did that dozens and dozens of times. We had a lot of clothes. I thought they were all awesome. I know there are more pictures somewhere, but my mom probably has them. Here's the riding jacket I needed for my first horse show. It had a velveteen collar and I was really proud of it:


Awesome. My first ribbon, fifth place: The best day of my life! (I totally remember thinking that when this picture was taken. "This is the best day of my whole entire life!") I hadn't known I'd had the capacity for such joy.

I went off to college and I had a very simple sewing machine of my own there — my parents must have given it to me for high-school graduation. My roommates were much more like me than my high-school friends had been, and we all lived in a little cottage where we made stuff all the time — ceramics, dinner parties, quilts, dresses. My life there was more peaceful than it had ever been. I loved school. In the summertime, when I was home from school, it was back to crazytown. My sisters and I shared a weird U-shaped room on the second floor. I don't think our parents came in our room for ten years. It was a MESS. But it was all ours. We had no closets. We had a huge second-floor deck that looked over the back yard. We'd sit up there with our friends and "lay out" (meaning "tan," and I have to put that in quotes because I doubt anyone does it on purpose anymore. But we Ieronemos were championship tanners.) I had a queen-sized futon, and I'd do everthing on it, including eat dinner, entertain friends, and sew. I'd set my sewing machine on the floor in front of it and sew while sitting on the futon and eating Domino's cheese pizza and watching Beverly Hills, 90210. The sewing machine would actually be below me by a few inches and the foot pedal would be about three feet away, also on the floor, and I'd stretch my leg out to reach it. Makes my back hurt just thinking about it. And it was DAMN HOT in there. Chicago summer — no air conditioning. It was a point of pride with my father — he wouldn't get air conditioning. Twenty-eight years in the same house, and fans. Have you ever lived in Chicago in August? The humidity makes your head want to explode. You go to bed sweating and you wake up sweating. Instead of central air, he eventually installed a gigantic attic fan; you'd flick a switch and these big shutters in the ceiling would open and this enormous airplane-hanger fan would turn on and (supposedly — we never believed it) suck all the hot air out of the house. But really it would just be deafeningly loud, just as hot, and now our stupid sewing-pattern papers were blowing all over the place. God did I ever hate that fan. I sort of miss those days, though. It was like that for years and years and years. It seemed like it would always be like that, there. It's how I always think of home, that girl-warren of halter tops, horse books, cordless phones, sandals, Grateful Dead bootlegs, video games (my sister Susie was a genius gamer), make-up, friendly-jungle sheets and rose-covered duvets all over the place, piles of fabric and pattern pieces (my sisters sewed, too), pins in the carpet, people walking across your bed to get to theirs. It was chaos. I've written about the room before (and there's a bad partial picture of it) here.

But I always loved sewing, and I made myself probably twenty dresses, and my mom made me probably twenty more. I wore a lot of dresses. Mini-dresses, Laura Ashley–type dresses (with Doc Martens, natch), slip dresses, gingham dresses, waif dresses, dresses that made me look like an Italian nun (the gray with the Peter Pan collar), wool dresses that I wore with thigh-high tights, Liberty of London dresses made from fabric bought at the Amish fabric store in Kalona, Iowa (which sadly no longer exists). I had the cutest dresses in the world. I sold almost all of them for $5 each at my garage sale in Missoula in 1997. I know. I can't even talk about it. I seriously don't know what I was thinking, except that I had been carrying around a lot of dresses for a lot of years and I had a closet the size of a school locker. Here's a dress, circa 1988, from when I had, as Blair says, Melancholy Tree Syndrome:


Oh DEAR. It strikes nineteen-year-olds particularly hard. Somehow I recovered. You can see, anyway, that I still have the same taste in fabric twenty years later.

So, okay. After college, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Champaign, Illinois, with my college roommate, Ann, who left for graduate school in Chicago before the lease was up, so I suddenly had two rooms to myself. It was the first time I'd ever lived alone. I moved my bed into her old room (the apartment was on the second floor of an old, white farmhouse and it was adorable — Ann's room was painted a glowy warm pale pink with white trim, and she had pretty wood floors) and kept my sewing stuff in my old bedroom. And suddenly, without even trying, my sewing improved like that. Overnight. For the first time, I was able to leave everything out, even if I wasn't finished. I didn't have to spend a half an hour cleaning up everything just so I could sleep on my workspace. Suddenly, I was making things I'd never been able to make before. It was amazing. I only lived there for a few more months, but I never forgot that phenomenon. Conditions matter.

I moved back to Chicago, kissed Andy Paulson for the first time on August 24, 1992 [cue flashing strobe-lights and fog horn], and then we moved together to Missoula, Montana, where we lived in a studio apartment together and had a Murphy bed that pulled out of the wall. We moved a table in order to pull the bed out. I still sewed on my little Singer, lugging it out, along with the ironing board, and putting it away several times a week. In grad school, I took a flat-pattern drafting class at the university as an elective, and that was awesome. I made my wedding dress, which was almost as big as the apartment. Then we moved to Portland, I got hit by a truck, my parents sold the River Forest house and moved here, and then, a couple years later, Andy and I bought this little house, which had a painter's studio that was built as an addition by the previous owner. That sealed the deal for me:


As I've said, don't hate me because it's beautiful. I really did pay my dues, I swear. (My sewing machine is just outside the picture on the lower right, in front of that white chair.)

I realize, after re-reading this, that sewing, for me, is as much about space as anything else. Weird. I didn't know I was going to write about that.

I finished the tiny yellow dress yesterday, and I'll show you that and tell you some of my thoughts about the specifics of sewing tomorrow. I just thought you should know where I was coming from.

So, then: Sewing.

comments: 45


Yesterday, I finally had a chance to start working on a tiny dress for my tiny baby-friend Tori, who, with her beautiful mama, modeled one of the projects in my new book. The tiny dress is almost finished — I'll show you tomorrow.

I thought about all of the sewing comments from last month while I sewed. I had asked you if you sewed, when you started, who taught you, and, if you didn't sew, why not, or what you would need to start. A LOT — over 1,200 — of you answered, and it was so interesting to read what people had to say. Thank you for participating!

As many comments as there were, however, they were incredibly consistent, which I thought was also interesting. In general, almost 85% of you said you do know how to sew on a sewing machine, and that number was a lot higher than I expected. Yay sewing! The vast majority of those who sew learned from happily sewing mothers or grandmothers at home, and it struck me that learning to sew in childhood is a lot like learning a language — if the people around you are doing it, it is easy to pick up without even thinking about it. You don't really have to make a conscious effort to start, or learn — someone just hands you a needle and thread and a scrap of fabric, and tries to keep you busy while they are busy, and this seems to be the most natural, and easiest way to learn.

But there were other stories, too. Some were of mothers and grandmothers who associated sewing with poverty and difficult times and who sewed only out of necessity, considering the work to be sheer drudgery, and nothing that would be ever be done for pleasure. Some remember frustrating, unsuccessful attempts at making their first projects in home ec. Some are men, who began sewing doll clothes in childhood; some talked about fathers, grandfathers, and uncles sewing all sorts of cool equipment for themselves, debunking popular assumptions that only women sew. Some come from long traditions of sewing and needlework on both sides of the family (their own and their in-laws), and they carry on these same activities with enthusiasm today, teaching their own children. Others remember their mothers separating themselves from the daily life of the family by going off quietly, at times, to sew alone, and it is this image that I find perhaps to be the most poignant: the stitching mother, alone with her thoughts and her hands, in a few private, peaceful moments she keeps for herself. As one person said, "Sewing was hers."

Some people begin sewing when they have kids, and find themselves motivated by those tiny dresses that are just so dang cute. Some people have been so inspired by craft blogs and all of the new offerings in patterns and publishing that they are teaching themselves in adulthood. Most people make bags, home-decor items, kids' stuff, and curtains more than they make clothes (which most people agree almost never fit as well as they hope, after all). And many, many people mentioned lack of space and lack of time as the biggest deterrents to sewing, and certainly, even with desire and motivation, sewing is one of those things that really can't be done without time and without a little space. Some people (though very few) think that sewing is a waste of time and money, since clothes and other stuff can be bought so cheaply. Some people haven't started sewing yet, but are determined to learn, no matter what.

I love it. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me. I have more to say, including my own thoughts about sewing, but right now I'm going to put the sleeves on and hem the tiny yellow dress.

Summer Sunday

comments: 76


Sunday was a day of absolutely perfect weather. It was also our twelfth wedding anniversary. We celebrated by driving along the old Columbia River Highway through the gorge, one of our favorite things to do.


These are the views from Crown Point, looking up and down the river. It is so blue, and so green, and so blue and green you can hardly believe it. It almost feels like you're looking down on a little diorama, a model of the place.


These are different streetlights (not the same one, over and over) that dot the circumference of the viewpoint. They have always added something special to the scene, for me. They also look almost exactly like the streetlights I had on my street when I was growing up.


It's so pretty.


The road winds through the woods. Everything is green and dappled.


We drove to the end of the 22-mile old highway and looked at the campsites at Ainsworth State Park, then wound our way back and forth, stopping at waterfalls. This is Latourell Falls, a short walk from the highway.


We'd brought some sandwiches from town, so we stopped and sat on the wall, and ate them while looking at (and listening to) the waterfall. We talked about the waterfall, how it was falling twelve years ago while we were at St. Edmund's getting married; how it was falling almost a hundred years ago, when the highway was being built; how it was falling millions of years ago, when the gorge was being formed.


I can tell you that it's tall. I can tell you that it's deafeningly loud. I can tell you that it's primeval-seeming. But really, pictures can't capture it.


Though, I must say, this one comes close. These girls are walking just to the right of the falls. It's amazing that you can just walk right in there. Aren't they afraid that a brontosaurus is just about to come thundering out of the trees? Brave girls!!!


Oh, but the greens! The greens. They are why I moved to Oregon. I treasure and adore the little greens.


Down the way just a few hundred yards is Shepherd's Dell. Here you are close to the top of another waterfall. It crashes and churns down its rocky way into a series of whirling switchbacks.


These photos look better if you click on them and view the enlargements. There is so much detail that is lost, even then. By the way, if you are taking a photo of a waterfall and you want the water to look ghostly and silky, set your camera to Aperture priority, and just turn your f/stop up to f/8, or as high as it will go. This will give you a smaller aperture, and keep the shutter open for longer, allowing the water to appear sort of blurry and soft as it moves past your lens:


You probably knew that.


I love how these delicate little flowers live and thrive so near the gushing torrent. It's a metaphor for marriage, I think: You create, day by day, this humbly fragile but amazingly resilient thing, right alongside the gushing torrent of the world, with all its drama, noise, and spray.


I live for the quiet moments together, though. The ones just off to the side, in the dappled light, where soft currents swirl and ebb.

Waffle Window

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On Sunday morning, we rode our bikes down to the waffle window for breakfast.


There's a reason they call this one Berry Bliss. Almost enough to make me stop wishing I was on vacation in Europe all the time.

Farm Tunes

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After another long week, last night we went out to the farm. It was, as always, so beautiful.


The Audubon Society brought three baby barn owls, found several months ago when they were tiny puffballs of white fluff, on a hay truck that had just delivered a load, I think. This photo was taken with my zoom lens from quite far away, but honestly — look at that little guy.


They released all three — none of whom had ever flown before — by tossing them toward a stand of giant trees. (In this photo, the little boy on the left is about to release his, the lady in the middle has just let go, and the man is a few seconds ahead.) The barn owls flapped off, wobbling at first, then barreling steadily out toward the trees. One of them flew straight to a high branch and landed, but two of them circled, circled . . . a sob caught in my throat. Can you imagine that, first flight? What must they have been thinking about, looking down on the island from up there, free for the very first time? They circled, exchanged places, circled, circled, and then, after about thirty seconds, you could see one and then the other sort of crash-land into the tree, the branches that received them bowing so very high above the ground. Everyone cheered, stood watching for a few more moments, then turned away and went back to business. But I thought about the owls all night, and wondered if they missed their people, or if they were just relieved to be, finally, real owls. 


After a long and apparently painful permitting process, the farm concerts are still "on," though several other farm activities have been prohibited. I'm not a resident of Sauvie Island, and I don't know anything about the zoning laws that apply to the farms there. I understand that there are complicated issues as everyone searches for ways to both build profitable businesses and maintain what is special about a place. I get that. I do it myself every day, attempting to balance making a living with preserving what is sacred about my own space. But I do know that Kruger's Farm has always welcomed us, in every season and for several years, and we are grateful for that, as we long to be welcomed, and feel like part of things. They've included us, in some small way, in the life of the farm.


We, as city-folk, feel privileged to play some small part in the survival of our region's special rural places. We take the privilege seriously by supporting them as much and as often as we can manage, and trying to tread lightly on the territory when we're there.


I really hope it all works out.


It seemed to be working last night. Everyone, and I mean every single person I looked at, was so happy.


Especially Sarah, who bought a flat of boysenberries and then passed them out by the pint to all of her friends.


And that is why we love her.


Charlotte, however, is all about the Drumstik.


I watched her work on it — a race against time, which she won.


Ah. Yes.

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




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.