Posts filed in: January 2010

English Dept. Bridal Fashion Show Sunday

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My endlessly talented and very dear friend Elizabeth Dye designed and made these enchanting dresses and styled these gorgeous photos (all taken by Lisa Warninger; I'm not sure who the model is but gosh is she pretty, too).


Elizabeth owns The English Dept., one of Portland's loveliest dress shops. They are having their annual bridal fashion show Sunday. All these beautiful dresses in one place. I've known Elizabeth for ten years now and she has always been a huge inspiration to me.


I took a photo of her wearing this same dress (and holding something embroidered) in her shop for my new book. I still love it so much. Elizabeth, you are amazing.

Smocking Starting

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Today was a great day. I now have my own pleater. It's at least twenty-five years old and was owned for many years by my new friend Sally, who I met at the SAGA meeting the other night. I love the pleater. I sewed together this little Bishop dress this afternoon and pleated it on the pleater all by myself (with Andy's help). The pleating worked out just fine. I am extremely excited.

Thank you so much for all the bread recommendations! I will definitely be working my way through that list! At this moment, I have just put down my smocking to get Amanda's WHO bread on the rise. Andy's in the kitchen making my dad's chili and listening to Wilco (for you, Amanda :-). I learned that my blocking board just got shipped yesterday (sadly — I thought it would be here yesterday, but no), and I will do a tutorial on blocking the grannies, for those of you who asked (and the pattern for the grannies will be ready next week, too. Sorry for the delay, but I really want to block it before I photograph it for the pattern, and I realized a little late that having a grid will be very helpful here). I'll show you how the pleater works next week, too — I was so nervous while I was doing it there was no way I could've stopped to take a photo, and I barely knew what I was doing anyway. Andy said I was breathing heavily while cranking it, and it wasn't from the exertion (though the gears on that thing deffo don't turn themselves) it was from extreme . . . anticipation and anxiety. I am such a doofus. I cannot help it people. It just is.

Bread with Cherry Preserves

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So, hi! IMB. Though we barely had any yeast and no whole-wheat flour, which I like. I would go to the grocery store except that it is 1) not covered in pillows/duvets/corgis and 2) you cannot smock at the grocery store, so therefore it is unappealing as a destination as far as I'm concerned. That said, I do have oats and honey in the pantry, so if you have a tried-and-true honey-oatmeal bread recipe for a bread-baking-linen-smocking-but-otherwise-useless lump like me, would you be interested in pointing me toward it? I've been really wanting to make some of that for a while, but I'd love a recommendation. Thanks!!!

Smock Rocks!

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Yesterday I did two things I rarely do: 1) I actually ventured off of the property after dark and not wearing sweatpants and 2) I went to a group meeting to learn something new from actual people instead of from a book. And it was awesome!

The group was the Portland chapter of SAGA, or the Smocking Arts Guild of America. I have been wanting to learn to smock forever, and somehow I got a bee in my bonnet last week and started looking around to take a smocking class, and found this group which was meeting in just a few days. They warmly welcomed me and the teacher, Nancy Malitz, helped me pleat up a piece of fabric and start this little sampler. Predictably, I am immediately and thoroughly obsessed. I got home at 9:30 p.m., went to bed around midnight, and had weird dreams all night where, once again, I couldn't stop the smock. It was like I was having a Pee-Wee Herman knitting moment. But with smocking.

Much, much more on this to come from me, including details on correspondence courses in smocking, etc., and a photo of a correspondence-course beginner's dress that Nancy is going to send me. Very exciting. In other news, I finished my weensy gray grannie square blanket over the weekend and will have that pattern up and running this week, I think and hope. I ordered a great big blocking board that should get here any day so I don't want to take another photo of the blanket until it's officially blocked because I am quite excited about having a real board with a grid and everything. Maybe I'll do a before blocking and after blocking photo just to really see the diff.

Oregon January

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"These things here? These are mine."

She's so cute. She's sooooooo happy when Andy finally gets home and puts his feet up after a long day. We all are.

Five adjectives to describe our house lately: Quiet, messy, dark, damp, dreary. And disorganized. Yesterday it poured absolutely all day long. Cold rain. Dark rain. Usually the dog follows me everywhere I go in the house during the day. Lately, no. Lately, she goes outside quickly in the early morning (cold, dark, raining) and then she comes in and races back upstairs and launches herself into the bed. I get myself dressed and ready to go down for coffee, daytime, life, etc. Lately I head for the stairs and she doesn't follow. She lounges in the bed looking at me like, "Why do you keep going down there? I so totally do not get that." So I go down, have my coffee, and a little while later I come back up to see what in the world she's doing. And she's still there on the unmade bed all blissed out in the duvet, and when she sees me she gets all twitchy and excited like, "Oh! Oh oh! Awesome! You're finally coming to your senses and getting back in! Yeah. Get back in here!" And it's all I can do not to join her. Because have you seen that face?

And that rain?

Listening to Whiskeytown, Nena Dinova, Billy Bragg, and M. Ward. Thinking about summer. Wishing we had a hot tub or a sauna.

Monogrammed Hankies for Mark

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Mark Hankies

Last but not least in the parade of presents are a set of monogrammed handkerchiefs I embroidered for Andy's grandpa, Mark. The hankies themselves came from the men's department at Nordstrom (there were three, but the third hankie didn't make it into this photo, I guess, I can't remember) and I embroidered the monogram using 14-count waste canvas and cross stitches.

Do you know about waste canvas? It is super, super cool. Waste canvas is available at any fabric store or craft store that sells embroidery supplies, and it allows you to cross stitch on fabrics that aren't "evenweave" fabrics. It is a heavyweight grid of canvas threads held together with water-soluble glue. It looks a lot like needlepoint canvas, and comes in different "counts." The "count" of a piece of cross-stitch fabric determines how many stitches per inch you will be making when following the grid of that fabric. Waste canvas typically comes in counts of 8.5, 10, 14, or 18 stitches per inch. The more stitches you have per inch, the smaller your design motif will be.

For this project, I used 14-count waste canvas, and 2 strands of cotton embroidery floss. To work it, I basted a piece of waste canvas to the hankie, and then stitched the design through the grid using a crewel (sharp) needle. Then I trimmed away most of the excess waste canvas and soaked the whole thing briefly in water, which dissolves the glue of the waste canvas and makes its threads very pilable. Then, using tweezers, I slowly plucked and slid each waste canvas thread out from under my cross stitches, being careful to keep the canvas threads parallel to the hankie while I was pulling. This sounds a bit fussy and tedious, but I assure you that at this point (after you've spent the time stitching the design) you are pretty psyched to see how it looks on its own, and this step is the most fun.

There is a nice photo tutorial of how to use waste canvas here, and some tips and pointers about choosing designs to use here. But there are also very good directions on any packaged canvas you buy, and once you've done it you will see how easy it is to use and then you'll want to put a little cross-stitched motif on absolutely everything. At least that's what happened to me. Ohhhh, the possibilities here. . . . It's too good.

Raspberry Meringue

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Thank you for all the nice words about Mom's Daisy Chain scarf! I really appreciate them. This scarf, above, is the scarf I made for Andy's mom for Christmas. You may remember that my original idea started here, as a creamy meringue cloud (for myself, ahem), but it was such slow going at that light weight that I knew if I was going to get my Christmas presents finished in time, I should put it aside for now. But I loved the pattern so much that I decided to just switch yarns to Baby Twist alpaca in color #3005 (Run for the Roses) from Happy Knits and make it for Andy's mom. Baby Twist is DK-weight yarn and, like the Eco Alpaca, is absolutely scrumptious.


The pattern is the Claudia Scarf from Rebecca at A Little Slice of Life, and it was a great project to work on in November and early December, as evenings came quickly and I wanted nothing more than to curl up with an easily memorized pattern and Hallmark-channel Christmas movies. The challenge with a scarf like this is just in trying to avoid the tedium factor: When you're just doing the same thing over and over and over and over, it can get a bit boring. But I really love the look of simple, straight-forward rows like this, where the texture of the yarn takes center stage. And again, if you're watching movies and just trying hard not to have to try too hard at the end of a long day, it's a wonderful project for that.

The patchwork-wallpapered closet door was a pretty fun project, too. :-)

Silvery Daisy Chain

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Back in November, I showed you just a weensy glimpse of a Christmas present I was making for my mom: this pretty pale-gray crocheted scarf:


I was so happy with how it came out. The pattern is "#27" from a Japanese craft book called Handmade Crochet Book, ISBN 978-4-415-10530-7. (I buy all of my Japanese craft books locally from Kinokuniya in Beaverton; I'm not sure if they will take phone orders and ship books out for you — does anyone know? Yes, it sounds like they will!) I used a 4.00mm hook and my beloved Eco Alpaca yarn in color #1524 (Oatmeal) from Happy Knits (probably three skeins).

This scarf took a looooong time. I didn't find the pattern to be particularly relaxing, admittedly. Even after I had it memorized, I had to think about it a lot, and count a lot, and rip out a lot, and redo a lot — but at least it was all one color, which sort of balanced the degree of difficulty! Each little triangle motif is crocheted separately, then joined, triangle by triangle; then a border is worked around the entire thing (and I wound up doing another round of single crochet beyond what the directions called for around the border again, I think). There were 24 triangle motifs in all. But it was so soft and so gooshy and warm when it was done. I just loved it. And my mom did, too.


I made Andy's mom a different crocheted scarf. I'll show you that tomorrow!

Circles in Squares

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I did almost nothing but work on proofing my embroidery book from mid-December right through the holidays and the new year, and I admit that I am exhausted. Proofing a book sort of shreds your brain into slivers of Mozzarella cheese and then remelts it into the pizza ball. At least it does mine.

It has been nice to have this quiet week to collect myself (the proofs are now in my editor's hands, so I have a few days here before the next round hits) and I have not wanted to have to do anything that requires numbers/accuracy/writing/oh, and thinking for a bit. But I have been fiddling with this little puff-stitch granny square over and over until I get it just exactly how I want it, and I will have a pattern for it available as soon as I can, I promise. But right now it's still just all in my head, and, trust me, it's a jangle of DMC color numbers/yarn/puff stitches/cross-stitch patterns/and blur in here. There. Around here somewhere. I think my brain's around here somewhere.

Hot Tea

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For several years, Andy and I have been sponsoring a (now) eleven-year-old girl from Haiti through World Vision. I just received a letter from her yesterday, sent on December 17, wishing us peace and love.

According to the World Vision updates on their web site, all of the children in WV sponsorship programs are safe (as are the 370 WV staff members in Port-au-Prince), but obviously so many thousands of others are not. I pray for the Haitian people and for those who are there on the ground trying to help. I hope that the money we've all sent will truly be able to help. Here is a list of charities that are involved in aiding Haiti, and Susan has an excellent list of donation opportunities in the craft community here.

I brewed chai tea in my birthday tea pot this afternoon and sat with the doggie while I drank it out of my matching birthday cup. She smooshed up against me. She snored, sighed. I turned off the news and scratched her soft ears.

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.