Posts filed in: March 2010

Storm Season

comments: 55


Finally, we are getting our rain here in Portland. I'm actually very happy about that — the winter was quite mild, and last week it was so warm and beautiful it actually started to feel like it was just too darn nice already. I almost thought about actually watering my plants. But then it started raining over the weekend, and all week we will be getting lots of rain here, so I have to say I'm a little relieved. And I like this stormy light. It's like light and dark at the same time. If it was 10 20 degrees warmer it would be glorious.

We are so lucky, because our college friends Pam and Jim and their son Felix arrive this week from Chicago for a visit. I need to finish all of my chores so I can do nothing but hang out with these guys when they get here, so I'm going to sign off the computer for the rest of the week, and wish you all a very joyful holiday! xo

Foresty Floor

comments: 88


This is the little woodland-y garden I've been fussing with for the last ten years on one side of our parkway.


The spring is very nice and moist, but the summer soil is hardpan clay, for the most part. The tree is a huge old plum, which leafs out super early and makes a golf umbrella over this little patch of dirt. You can stand under it in a rainstorm and not get a drop on you for quite a while. Nice if you're a golfer or a caddy, not so nice if you are a plant.


Vinca and violets are the happiest here, where there is no sprinkler system, and the mistress rarely ever waters. The goal is a natural "woodland" xeriscape, one able to take care of itself for the most part. That's after a lot of stupid planting (before I knew that real gardeners call parkways "hellstrips" for a reason).


I put a few clumps of cheap daffs in. I couldn't really dig them in any deeper since these tree roots are massive, and close to the surface. I guess I should put some more soil on them or something. My dream would be to have this spot covered in lilies of the valley and foxgloves, but the little lilies don't seem to want to spread (we've had the same nine stems come up wearily, year after year, and no more) and the foxgloves, oh the foxgloves. They never seem to self-seed. The concept of a biennial in practice is lost on me, I'm afraid. But the vinca, and the violets. They are happy to be here, and are so encouraged, and so beloved.


My friend Martha, a landscape architect, thinks some scilla would be nice down here. I told her that would be perfect, since I just finished reading Howard's End and have visions of bluebell woods still in my head. More about Howard's End later. That book just utterly and completely blew my mind.

Joanna Newsom

comments: 44

Joanna Newsom

Jeanne-marie and I both heard the same story on NPR yesterday (cool, since I'm in Portland and she's in Chicago) about Joanna Newsom's new album, so we've been listening to her music all morning (and firing off emails that basically say, "Wow, listen to this!" and "Wow, listen to this!" and "Wow, listen to that!"). I'm not sure if anyone mentioned her in the comments the other day because I haven't gotten through all of the suggestions, but all I can say is: Wow.

Swedish Sunshine

comments: 130


PATTERN: Simplicity 3510
VIEW: Bodice with three-quarter raglan sleeve (modified to eliminate tucks)
FABRIC: 100% shirting fabric from Fabric Depot, lace is vintage from an estate sale

Thank you for the music recommendations! I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all the bands you suggested, so I am looking forward to doing that while I sew this week. At some point over the weekend I remembered that I have to, like, do some actual work again. My scrap basket was absolutely overflowing, so I began cutting my scraps into more 2 1/2-inch squares, and now I have a new handbag design I am really excited to show somebody. I am still working on the prototype, but after four tries I think I have got it. Get ready for some bitty squares, some linen, and some (yes) smocking! Oh, and do you like the color of apple blossoms?

The past few weeks of sewing these little dresses has been so much fun, and so relaxing, somehow. On a physical and, dare I say, an existential level. As I sew I think about the past and, for the first time in such a long time, the future. I think about what it will be like to have a new voice here in the house, and new sounds and smells. I think about what our animals will think about this new little critter in their pack. I think about the baby books we're reading, and the adoption books we've read. I think about the children's books I want to collect, and the songs Andy will write and sing. I think about pockets holding acorn caps and crayons and crumbs, and I think about hems and sleeves being shortened or lengthened once little arms are in them. I think about summer camps and skateboards. I think about birthparents and birthfamilies. I think about walks in the woods and campfires on the beach, and stars. I think about teeny, tiny toes. I think about the view of three dogwood trees from her bedroom window, and wonder if someday she'll move her bed so that she can wake up and look out of it, the way I did. I think cloth, or disposable? I think about all the ways in which the preparations we are making now will no doubt someday make us (and everyone we know) fall over laughing at our naivete, but I love thinking about that, too. You do your best to prepare, knowing that the reality will be whatever it is (because really, what has ever turned out how you expected?). I want to fill this time with the work of our happy hands and the highest hopes for all of us, the way any parent would. The preparations: I hope they turn out to be mostly functional. But symbols have a function, too.

Shelling Peas, Carl Larsson, 1908 

This little gingham dress is inspired by two of my great inspirations, artists and parents (of eight!) Carl and Karin Larsson, whose rooms were filled with children, food, flowers, fabrics, fresh air, animals, handmade things, art, peace, sunshine, togetherness, and love. Just like I want ours to be.

Playlist for Jeanne-marie

comments: 114

My friend Jeanne-marie is my only friend who writes letters. On stationery. And sends them. It's awesome. A few weeks ago she wrote and asked me what I was listening to. So I picked this little playlist of the music that is playing in my studio these days with her in mind. I tried to send it to her but I couldn't get it to go over the internet (the irony) so I thought I'd post it. Should you find yourself listening to it and thinking that I am missing some band I've never heard of that I need to hear, let me (and JM) know, 'kay? We'd love that.

Flower Show

comments: 103


On Tuesday I dragged myself away from the sewing machine, and we all went out to take our spring walk around the neighborhood.


It's the absolute best time of the year, in my opinion.


My favorite days are the warm, cloudy ones, where the light is flat and gray.


Against those dark neutrals, pinks just look so beautiful.


How in the world do flowers like that happen?


It's incredible, really. When you stop and think about it.


We peek through the pickets into backyards, and think about it.


Think about bees, and how to welcome them.


These might be the same kind of daffodils that we have.


Camellias have a certain glow.


So do (more) magnolias. Wow.


Tree as fairy tale.


Apple blossoms.


"Is this what our apple tree is going to look like?"


"I hope so."


On the windowsill.

comments: 43

A beer-bottle bouquet from the front yard, for St. Patrick's Day.

Strawberry Ruffle

comments: 174


PATTERN: Simplicity 2461
VIEW: A (dress) and C (pinafore)
FABRIC: Peach strawberries from the Meadowsweet collection by Sandi Henderson for dress; pinafore fabric and trim from stash

Every girl needs a pinafore with eyelet trim, don't you think? I love pinafores. They're the cutest little aprons ever. My mom made my sisters and me several dress-and-pinafore ensembles when we were wee, and I remember loving the feel of all that fabric on me. Can you remember what the weight of wearing a dress with a pinafore feels like? It's sort of the perfect weight, and somehow it's the memory of the unique feel of weight that is connected to the memory of special days: pinafore dresses are what you wear to the Christmas Eve party with the cousins, to church on Easter Sunday, to the summer birthday party in the park.


When I first started making these little dresses, I went to my stash and realized that it is mostly made up of smallish pieces of fabric, 1/2 yard or less. A lot of fabrics, but small pieces. So whenever I was out I would start picking up a yard or two of new fabrics that I liked, with no particular dress in mind. I wash the fabrics, stack them up, and wait for inspiration to strike. When it does, I go, "Oh, pinafore -- strawberries — dots — we have exactly one yard of the dots! — do we have any eyelet trim that matches this white?" Sometimes we do. I try to use as much as I possibly can from what I already have. I have a huge basket of ribbons and trims — I don't even understand where they've all come from. I also have a rather large collection of packaged vintage cotton bias tape. So much nicer than the packaged bias tape of today. If a neckline or an arm's eye calls for a bias strip, I will generally try to use something from my stash of bias tape, rather than cut it from my fabric. Cutting bias strips uses up so much fabric it bugs me sometimes, and since I don't really use the fabric amount-recommendations from the pattern, sometimes I don't even have enough to do it.

Is this boring you? No, don't answer. It didn't do Andy any good, either.


I thought the eyelet here was a bit wide, but it was the only one I already had that matched this creamy white, and then it kind of grew on me. I think maybe I'll fold that top edge of it down a little bit or something, so it's on more of an angle. I'm totally into making button loops by hand now. I have an automatic buttonhole function on my machine but I can't even get it to 1) make the buttonholes the same size, consistently or 2) get it to make the two legs of the buttonhole the same length. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, or if it's me or the machine. Sometimes it works great, sometimes it's ridiculous. And once you've made a buttonhole on the placket it's pretty hard to go back and take it "out." I guess I need to take my machine in. But naturally, I'm sure it will be functioning perfectly once it gets it to the repair shop. My machines like to do that to me. They get to the repair shop and they're all, "What? Hmm? Who me [bats eyelashes]? I'm perfect! You're crazy [eyelash bat, polite (phony) smile]!" Me: "Grrrrr! You know you suck, machine!" But maybe the machine people can show me what I'm doing wrong, because an automatic buttonhole function that actually worked would be pretty sweet to have. Ever since I figured out that blind hem thing life hasn't been the same. We would not have a dress per day here at Posie Gets Cozy without the automatic blind hem stitch. Hip hip hooray for the BHS!

Morning Glory

comments: 93


PATTERN: From Girl's Everyday Dress (Japanese), ISBN #978-4-579-11235-7
VIEW: Q, modified to add hem border
SIZE: 100cm (about a US size 3-4)
FABRIC: I'm guessing rayon challis; from the Goodwill bins

Oh, snap! This one I'd like for myself. Especially since it literally cost about one dollar: another length of fabric from the bins. It's super soft and floppy — I'm thinking it's rayon challis.  I had about three yards of it. Maybe there's enough left for a wrap skirt for me. With a wooden-heeled clog? I'd never take it off.

The construction of this dress is basically three rectangles: one for the bodice and sleeves, folded at the shoulder with an oval cut out for the head; then two (including the borders) for the skirt, seamed at the sides and gathered into the bodice. I put it on a different hanger below so you can see how the sleeves work. You cut the fabric so that the stripes run perpendicular to each other in the bodice and skirt. I don't have a lot of stripey fabric, but I thought this pattern was a perfect opportunity to use this one. Now I'm on the hunt for more hippie stripes, 'cause this dress couldn't be easier. I think it was about two hours from start to finish.


I had the button in my button jar. Dontcha love it when a plan comes together?


comments: 155


PATTERN: Simplicity 5695
FABRIC: Bodice fabric from Purl Patchwork; top layer of skirt from Denyse Schmidt "County Fair" collection; second and third layer of skirt from stash

Oooo, that sewing rant felt good to have — thanks for listening! I think what interests me about the conversation, as always, is just the funky psychology of making things in general, you know what I mean? Why I like to do this, and not that? Why you like to do that, and not this? Obviously, love is like thread: love makes every stitch, and every seam. But there's so much more — more prosaic stuff, more grainlines and notches and sleeve caps and plackets — there, too. I find the individual choices and motivations endlessly fascinating (as you probably know I do). Sometimes I feel like I could write about it all the livelong day.

But definitely, after a long year of hard paper-work (both the adoption-paperwork kind and the book-writing patternwork kind, where Alicia-laziness was absolutely and obviously not even an option), it feels so good to just spend time deep in piles of fabric (instead of piles of paper), thinking about the little person who will wear these. Will she like dresses? Eh [shrugs], who knows. If she doesn't like 'em now, she'll probably love them in forty years when she becomes a sewing-pattern creator (believe me, I didn't think I'd be doing this when I grew up, either). Or she'll eschew our crazy, crafty ways and become a marine biologist. That'd be cool.

Either way, it's like, when you're sewing for someone you haven't met yet, what can you do but give them these little pieces of yourself, your own small versions of your hopes and dreams for them, spoken in your own particular sort of language. The sewing ideas are coming so fast, and the sewing is so much fun, even the parts I mess up feel funny and sweet and remind me of the me I used to be, long before sewing became a vocation, back when I was just motivated by wanting to see my dress. The one my mom and I talked about when I was seven, or nine, or eleven, as we thumbed through pattern books and then looked for fabric, and picked out ribbon, and found the right buttons. Some of my earliest memories aren't of my mom sewing as much as they are of being in the fabric store with her and my little sisters, thumbing through the big books, learning how to picture that dress in this fabric, with that sleeve (from a different pattern) and that ribbon (instead of lace). It never got boring. Ever. It still never does. For several years after my dad died in 2000, I would find myself on my birthday (which is also the anniversary of the day he died) at the fabric store, just wandering, wandering, alone among the books and bolts; I always felt so small and lost on that day. I would go with no plan. I would feel whatever I felt. But that place: No matter where in the country (or world) you are, no matter what year it is, the fabric store seems like home. It's always the same. And that process of just being able to conjure something beautiful out of it — not something perfect, just something yours: the dress for the girl you want to be — always has brought me peace. And brought me back.

To this day, that aisle-wander is still my go-to happy place, when nothing else feels right. Or even when it does. It's where I go when I'm happy or sad. My friend Sarah loves the grocery store. My sister loves the garden center. At one point in my life I would've probably also said Union Station was my happy place. Or sitting on the Empire Builder, a thousand miles away, somewhere near Cut Bank, Montana, sometime in (the golden light of) late August. Like the others, I see now that this little dress is just a little wish. This one: that our girl will know the beauty of the Big Sky.

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