The Calming Technique

comments: 87














After all the friends, family, picnics, and pool days of the past month, my girl and I spent a lovely, quiet past couple of days inside, in the air conditioning, doing not much. Not much at all. My very limbs were limp. I pushed the ottoman over to the chaise lounge and made a day bed. Why didn't I think of this before? We rolled around there for hours. She took her nap there. I watched this documentary (I think it was on Xfinity on-demand, maybe?) while she slept beside me and was moved to tears by it, remembering things. I knit this very pretty little sweater in the prettiest color (I think). I fretted about all the work stuff I have to do (fast-paced shallow breathing here). I decided instead to order many vintage toddler dress sewing patterns from the '70s on Etsy, because I have these ideas. My pickiness about the exact lines I want to see in a toddler peasant dress has reached epic proportions. It's weirdo. I've thought about it a lot. Which is weird. I was starting to panic a little bit. Over toddler dresses. Stress-shifting. Pant pant. I thought about designing something myself and laughed out loud. I thought about splurging on some French patterns (the cuts, oh the cuts!) but the French were on vacation and wouldn't ship soon enough. I looked through the contemporary-designer PDFs I've bought, and the big commercial pattern books, but no. My brain tightened around these certain shapes and wouldn't let go. Then I started browsing the vintage patterns (hundreds! hundreds!) and — you guys — things got all  f l o w y  and  r e l a x e d. Chillllllllllled. I swear I felt all those millions of blobby wrinkles on my very brain start to melt out. Yes, those were the dresses, and the shapes. There they were. Relieved sigh. Down, girl.

When I was a child I spent hours — a lot of hours — browsing pattern books at the fabric store with my mom. I always loved it. When I got older, in high school and college, I did it by myself. I always had a lot of ideas. I always needed time to think about them. I always wanted something that wasn't exactly in the book, or a fabric that wasn't exactly on the shelf. Much like now. What is that? Such a curious phenomenon. When I had a lot of other stuff I needed to do, I would still be making things up in my mind, working on a plan for something. I find it impossible to surrender the impulse, no matter how busy I am. If I don't have that little space — just a little space to dream of shapes, before I fall asleep at night I see them in my mind — I am unhappy. If I have it, I am happy. There isn't much else I really crave doing, when time is tight. I find the dreaming even more satisfying than the sewing (which I don't actually have much time to do). I thought of making a notebook with the line drawings of the dresses, and swatches of fabrics and trims, and color combos. Then, when I do have a few minutes, I'll be ready.

My pet peeve about contemporary indie patterns: Many don't include line drawings of the dress, and they are made is such bright, colorful fabrics that I seriously cannot seeeeeeee what is going on. I SO very much prefer the old patterns, with drawings instead of just photos. I really seem to need the cover drawings and the line drawings, myself.

(Her little pillowcase dress was a gift from my mom from Camp Hollyhock.)


Love the sweater. Will you please share the source of the pattern? And heat makes everyone go a little crazy. 103 to 106 today in Dallas. I think I will knit and dream of fall instead.

Jan Olson says: August 06, 2013 at 08:38 AM

It is comforting to know that someone else shares my thought process. I become consumed by something and I am not able to rest until it works out in my mind. Now ~ this is not the case in everything in my life ~ just certain things. I have no idea why and don't concern myself about it as that is just the way I am. Do not resist and do not grasp and it all works out :) Took years to figure this out though. Your little one is adorable and is growing so fast. It is good to roll around on the floor for the afternoon ~ keep it up Mama. LOL.

I hear you about the line drawings. Time after time I've wanted "something different", but the pictures just weren't doing it for me! My problem now is that my daughter (one of 4 children) likes to dress our granddaughter in the more up to date stuff... heavy sighhhh! I have sewn some for our youngest granddie... but since she lives in Portland and we live in Utah... sizes are harder to figure. I'm with you though... draw out your pictures/pattern idea's... then when you get the time... jump!!!!

Good point about the modern patterns. I often hate the fabric/styling and so, think I hate the pattern.

If my children would zonk out on the couch like that I'd be in heaven.

Your little girl is adorable. I am not a knitter, and I don't really know anything about patterns but I wish I did, and most of all I wish I could do such lovely things for my daughters. That is really precious! I am afraid painting takes up all my time... but I love coming here to enjoy the lovely things you make, and to look at your delightful photos. Thank you.

Yes vintage is so the way to go. I still remember sitting at our paint store, it was the paint/fabric store. Climbing up on the chrome padded stools and looking at the BIG books filled with images. I can still smell the aroma of that shop. My mother and grandmother made all of my dress with bloomers and hats to match. Till I had a boy, I dreamed of making those same little outfits that I had for a little girl. Oh, how I wish we would have kept all my grandmothers patterns, she was a dressmaker/seamstress of our town.
Have fun with yours and can't wait to see her all dressed in her homemade clothes.

Love the photos, your baby reminds me of my sweet cousin sleeping near me.
Although it’s not the same field area, my thought process has been the same in my Master degree thesis. I work in my paper, and research investigation and I’m always thinking in several ideas and teams that I can write about. Related, or not, with the paper.
Love the documentary, thank you for sharing!

Oh, sweet photos! My girls were tots in the 70's, and I sewed so many of their dresses back then, using all those lovely patterns. I still like them! My favorite thing as a teen was perusing the pattern books. Back then, sewing was a lot cheaper than buying. Not so much today! As children, my sister and I would walk to a small, local fabric store and ask for out-of-date pattern books. They always gave us one. What hours of fun we had, cutting out dozens of paper dolls who lived in "orphanages" or "all girl schools." Happy memories. Simpler childhood?

Oh, my - only a child's spine can do that. :D

The notebook idea sounds wonderful, Alicia....some cutting and pasting, or stapling and drawing, always helps brings those dreams and swirling ideas down to earth for me. And brings some clarity, even if I don't go back to actually use them! Tho' that would be ideal.

I hope you have some quiet moments to putter in that way, perhaps while your daughter sleeps cosily near.

These photos are so precious- but I think I cry a tear for every mile between my arms and all of you! Seriously, the photos capture such love and joy, I feel like I should just be able to reach out and touch her! Thank you- each one is a little gift in my heart.

Thank you for expressing clearly the creative itch, particularly the moments when craft and daily life intersect and collide. Another jewel in your crown!
A grateful reader,

I need the line drawings, too! I do like seeing finished garments, so I know someone has attempted it, but it helps to know if there's an attached sleeve or how the waistline is shaped.

Beautiful pictures as always! A welcomed respite in my day, visiting your blog. I am dying to see that documentary, as I think I am headed down the same road myself. Did you watch it online? Netflix?

Patterns changed in the eighties. They were not as well drafted. I found that I was constantly altering patterns and that the finished garment wasn't comfortable if I didn't. It just got easier to buy ready made clothing. Still, there is something about hand crafted and custom made. It is sooooooooo personal. Being an individual is such a lovely thing.
I hear you on the essentialness of line drawn illustrations of the garment. I hate patterns that just show a photo.... a photo for goodness sakes. That just doesn't leave any scope for the imagination. Still, be warned, drawings may not tell you the truth. The drawing may look charming, but if the pattern isn't drafted well, the finished item may hang like a sack. If you have an eye for design, and can also draft, you are away to the races. My grandmother could just look at a picture of a dress, and draft the pattern. It is a family gift I believe and you have given me the impression that it is an ability that you have as well.
I recognize, as do many many others that creative buzz, that urge that compels.

Love the sleeping Amelia with her little curled legs, feet toes and bum in the air. Sweet, sweet!

Like that the "blobby wrinkles" on your brain melted out . . . . leaving you with chills and dreams.

First of all I love,love your blog and all of your creativity.

I wasn't going to comment on this post but I had to when you said.. "I would still be making things up in my mind, working on a plan for something."

I read this quote and thought I would share it with you
it is by John Acuff

90% perfect and shared with the world changes more lives than 100% and stuck in your head.

Share it all with are amazing:) :)

I also poured over pattern books while at the fabric store with my Mom - I know exactly what you mean.
The photos of her passed out on the quilt are just darling.

I have the same problem.... Except it's not just sewing, it's creating in general. I spend more time fantasizing about painting, embroidering, knitting, gardening, and baking than actually doing it. Planning our wedding kept me awake with endless possibilities.

Working on it.

Oh to be as flexible as these babes that can get into the most incredible positions and then sleep! :-)
I loved pouring over the old type of patterns books, for a period of years my mother owned a fabric store, so I spent a fair amount of time dreaming of how I would make this or that...I still love looking at the old books when I happen upon one...and I look for the older patterns also...the line drawings are so helpful and the pattern is on much stronger paper...your blog calms my mind...That is no small achievement! Thank You...C

mlle patty says: August 06, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Completely agree with you about the patterns - even if they had one drawing and then one photo in a simple fabric that would help a lot. Thankfully, lots of good old patterns online and in thrift stores.
Now I am ready to nap on a quilt also....

As I am betwixt children and grandchildren (my daughter is getting married soon and I am hopeful for grandchildren, I just wanted you to know how much delight I take in seeing your darling daughter. I notice her intent interest in things--she is a busy bee. I wonder if she is going to have that same aptitude as you, as I recall you were once told you the aptitude to be an engineer--that attention to detail that you show also in your thinking in this post about toddler clothes and fabric. It is a wonderful aptitude. And I see this in your daughter's studying of objects--she wants to know how it all works. Fascinating to watch her grow via the wonderful photos you take. Many thanks.

LOVE the sleeping Amelia photos.. so restful and quiet and lovely. We're off to Waldo for 10 days.. see you on the flipside! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

those pink feet. THEY. SLAY. ME.!!!!!
Growing up with your nose in the pattern books makes one hunger for the line drawings - I always need them too. I want to SEE. If we can see, then we know where our little adjustments will be!
I like thinking about that small space where creativity is honored and given room, always.

I so totally 'get' this post. It's not always dress patterns for my now 8-year-old baby girl. Sometimes it's knitting patterns (the perfect sweater), or quilting fabric (or quilt designs). Right now it is home decor and function as we are getting ready to move into our very own house in the mountains after renting! Paint chips, wall art, throw pillows, bookcases,...I dream of these as I fall asleep at night. LOVE Amelia's new sweater. Wish it came in bigger sizes! And now I will spend creative thinking time on this. :)

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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




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.