Whirl and Swirl

comments: 127

























One by one I've been reading all of the Beatrix Potter stories to Amelia at bedtime. They're quite edgy little stories. Some are too long for her right now. Some I knew and some I've never read before — actually, most classic children's literature was not actually a part of my childhood reading. But I'm enjoying them so much (likely more than Amelia, but isn't that always the way). When we got to The Tale of Two Bad Mice the other night I could not stop laughing: Tom Thumb and his wife, Hunca Munca, notice that the dolls have gone out for the day, so they venture into the dolls' house to have what they think is going to be a marvelous feast. When they find that the beautiful food is all made of plaster, they basically have a fit and trash the doll house. They smash the plates and then try to burn them in the kitchen fireplace, but that's fake, too. Tom Thumb throws all the doll's clothes out of the window. After pulling half of the feathers out of the doll bolster, Hunca Munca (who "had a frugal mind") remembers that "she herself was in want of a feather bed" and they set about stealing the bolster by dragging it to their mouse hole (along with a bunch of other furniture, including the doll-baby cradle). In the end, the dolls return (and silently survey the scene) and the little girl who owns the dollhouse puts a policeman doll in front of the house to guard it. Tom Thumb redeems himself by putting a crooked sixpence that he found under the rug in the doll's Christmas stocking to pay for the damages, and Hunca Munca sneaks in every morning with her broom and dustpan to sweep the dollhouse. I love this story so much. The first time we read it I went downstairs the next morning and stood gaping at Amelia's own utterly trashed dollhouse. "Did the two bad mice do this?" I asked. "Yeah," said Meems, chagrined. I convinced her to put it to rights, but I suspect that Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca might be up to their old tricks in our dollhouse again. . . . The funny thing is that when you start buying miniatures made by miniaturists, tons of it says, literally, "This is not a toy suitable for children under fourteen." Fourteen! Ha. I get that. Like, I think I had my first job at fourteen. When you go to high school you can play with your dollhouse, kid.

I've done almost nothing but cut calico fabric for weeks. Weeks. I stand in the studio, cutting strip after strip for the quilt kits I'm building, and think about things. Often I think about my own inspirations for these quilts in particular, which feel like a story I've been telling myself for a long time. I thought you might like to see some of the images that swirl and twirl around in my head when I'm coming up with a project, so I made this little collection of things, woven together with pictures of some of the actual fabrics that will be going into the kits. These are turning out to be kind of epic, if I do say so. I will give you more info as I get closer to releasing them in the next few weeks, so thank you for your patience. I will be offering a pattern for the quilt-comforter (in sizes from toddler through king, including throw) that you will have to download, and then about a hundred (total) toddler-sized kits to make the quilt top in seven or eight different general colorways. There will be options to purchase kits for larger sizes, as well, but I'm still working that out. I will say that, as with a lot of things that I do, these are a totally limited edition, even more so than usual. All of these fabrics have come from eBay and Etsy or estate sales or my own stash. They are rare. I've spent the past month combing every listing, looking for all of the best stuff, and it has been a massive project. I've cut close to 225 yards of fabric into 4.25" strips by myself. And I have more to go. But I honestly think you're going to be really thrilled when you see these. They're pretty special. Again, stay tuned for more info on these over the next few weeks as I get closer to finishing them. It's taking a long time, I know, but honestly, I pretty much spend every single free minute I have working on them and it's just been a huge project. I think, short of my books, it might be one of the biggest projects I've ever done.

There's no school again this week, for teacher in-service this time. Poor kids. It really never stops raining. We're way ahead of average rainfall for February. Oh that we could have some of this rain during the summer months!!! Yesterday, despite the weather, was a great day. Andy was home and we all went out to lunch and then came back and laid around the house, me knitting, Mimi and Andy playing for hours with the Matchbox car track. Andy made a roast chicken while Amelia and I watched the season one finale of The Great British Baking Show. You get so attached to everybody. It's a very sweet show. Thank for the recommendations of some of the other shows, too. I will check them out.

I finished reading The Orchardist last week, as well, and I don't know that I've ever been so disappointed with a book. (Not since my hissy fit about The Goldfinch, anyway.) When I finished The Orchardist I literally just sat there (alone in my favorite Thai restaurant) shaking — it was, in some ways, so good. But ultimately it felt so empty to me, and it wasn't until the very end, when I finished it and then just put the book down in slow motion, stunned with a very particular kind of Reader's annoyed-disbelief, that I realized how much more I wanted. Demanded. And it was a demand that felt entirely created by the beauty (the almost-beauty) of the book itself. There were so many places where it could have and should have pushed, where something should have been made clear and bright, where hard things to write should have been written and not just circled around and ultimately, almost stylistically and willfully avoided. Toward the end, when Evangelene throws her arms around Talmadge's neck in the wagon after he gets out of jail? There? Right there! That was a massive moment that should have been cracked wide open — even one brilliant sentence could have saved the book there, and it didn't get written. Well, I was mad about this. It felt like plaster food. I marched right upstairs and, though I didn't quite hurl the book, Tom Thumb–style, out the window, I did grab my copy of Howards End (which for me, does the hard things) and huffily opened it, needing my faith restored. Now I will expect too much from you, E.M. Forster. And so it goes.


Photos and illustrations, from top to bottom: 1. Cecile Veilhan, My Treasure 2. Eloise Wilkin 3. Unknown, from Pinterest 4. Carmen Hawk 5. Unknown, from Pinterest 6. Erich Heinemann, Siebenpünktchen 7. Ross Laurence 8. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 9. Girls in Laura Ashely Dresses with King Charles Spaniels, 1970s, from Paris Vogue 10. WIlliam McGeorge, Picking Blackberries 11. Anne Andersen 12. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Autumn Story 13. Still from Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 2008 14. Stevie Nicks 15. Tanja Kuvaa, from the Pretty Gingham blog 16. Edouard Vuillard 17. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 18. Sarah Freeman and Emma Ashley Photographed in Laura Ashley Dresses, 1960s, from Paris Vogue 19. Eloise Wilkin, from My Goodnight Book 20. Sleeping Mimi (by me) 21. Tasha Tudor 22. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Spring Story 23. Sydney R. Jones, The Village Homes of England


I absolutely adore each picture you have chosen. Thank you so much for make me discover all these lovely images.

I'm so glad to hear you say that about the orchardist! That was my response exactly, but everyone seems to be enchanted by it. So much of today's writing seems to have forgotten that the power in stories comes from the cracking open of the light. Yes, current moods are indeed melancholy, dim, somewhat lost and desperate. But surely it makes finding those glimmers of hope that much more important.

I'm also incredibly impressed by your patience and perseverance-- how many miles of bright little strips do you reckon have passed through your hands?!

Your images reminded me of Carl Larsson. Do you know him? A Swedish painter, died in 1919. I love his images of family life.

What a wonderful post..cannot wait for quilt kits!

That's the thing about Beatrix Potter......she NEVER disappoints!! :)

After suffering through The Goldfinch I launched it across the room. I'll pass on The Orchardist, thank you. The quilts will be works of art, as always :)

Ahh, so many beds to snuggle in to ...
Thanks for taking me down memory lane, or memory mousehole! So sweet.
Looking forward to seeing your quilt kits.

It feels really important that I introduce you to Rie Cramer. So enjoy. https://nl.pinterest.com/christinelacock/rie-cramer/

Managed to delete my lengthy comment, but: Howards End and those exact three mouse stories that you posted pictures from, all of those get to me. Especially the mouse houses and the quilts and the storage spaces. Oh, so much love.

Reading your post, I immediately thought of "The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes." My husband and I still quote, "You could squeeze in, through that little round hole,” said Goody Tiptoes. “Yes, I could,” said the Chipmunk, “but my husband, Chippy Hackee, bites!”

Cat McKenzie says: February 20, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Enchanting images and cloth together, you made my Monday! What a labor of love to put this post together as well as cut all those yards of strips, I can't even image how you are doing it.
It will make the precious quilt kits all that more special.

I have always loved Eloise Wilkin's illustrations. It was so sweet to see her familiar apple-cheeked children again.

What an absolute visual treat, thank you!
Have you read Lincoln in the Bardo. It's quite extraordinary.

Oh goodness!!! This just.... I don't know....I needed a mental health break and wanted to be inspired and calmed by beauty, so I stopped by here as a reliable source and oh my. Just so far beyond expectations. I have a feeling I'll be looking at this post again and again.

Hi! I have been enjoying your blog for several years, and felt compelled to leave a comment today! You mentioned the Great British Baking Show, my son and I have been enjoying The Great British Sewing Bee. It is so lovely and comforting, I can't sew a stitch and I find it absolutely riveting! I also just finished Zadie Smith's new novel Swing Time, it was amazing and was deeply rooted in the experience of the council house experience, which is always interesting to me. Thanks for your inspiring blog, your posts always brighten my day.

I have the boxed set of Beatrix Potter and felt so uplifted to read them to my granddaughter.. and was amazed when she lost interest so quickly. I guess I just need to read them to myself. I enjoyed the mouse paintings.. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

Gorgeous images, particularly Beatrix Potter, I always love to see her drawings and imagine her in her beautiful farmhouse working away at them. I've just read The Borrowers to my younger two children, I think you would like it - a doll's house and its contents feature throughout it. And the clever uses they put life-sized things to. Your picture of Mimi curled up on her front has reminded me of when my littlest boy used to fall asleep like that. Adorable. Good luck with the epic fabric cutting. It will be amazing to see them all made into quilts I think. CJ xx

Mary Ventresco says: February 20, 2017 at 12:39 PM

Love the images - and I thought I was the only on in the UNIVERSE who did NOT like the Goldfinch!! Thank you! I too wanted to LOVE the Orchardist and couldn't get though it. Thank you again. Love your blog, btw.

Carol Kohrs says: February 20, 2017 at 12:42 PM

I loved the Two Bad Mice as a girl. My favorite of all the Beatrix Potters. I loved those books, tiny with the shiny paper pages. I think I loved how naughty the mice were (as a person with a temper who often regretted poor behavior after a fit) but then how they tried to make up for it and of course, the dollhouse. I love dollhouses.

Your pictures remind me of the Victoria magazines of the 90's. Such beautiful images.

Have you read The Mouse Mansion by Karina Schaapman? If not, then you must!

We can stare at the photographs for hours.

As someone who used to make dollhouse accessories for a living, we used to laugh around the work space about the "not intended for children" aspect of what we were doing. Granted, a ton of work goes into each piece (I made mini teapots, enamelware, etc), but really, let the kids have fun with it! Life is short!

I truly love the thoughts and pictures that go through your head as you work so meticulously on quilt kits! No wonder you are so inspired; You are creating with Love.
I, along with so many others, can hardly contain my excitement for your kits to be released~!❤️

Claire Ashworth Jenkins says: February 20, 2017 at 01:48 PM

hahahahahaaa... i love the tale of two bad mice SO SO MUCH! They are hysterical and as a kid i always loved the idea of the mice having human items that were their size! I just loved that so much.
My brothers and I all have some of the beatrix potter books--my childhood room even had a wallpaper border of all the characters! It's sweet to look back on, but at the time i was just *so pissed* that as a 5 yr old, my mother painted my room BLUE. Can you imagine?! when it could be purple? ;)

Such a lovely post

These images are so beautiful, and it was like looking at a download from my head, how lovely to find that other people exist in a Laura Ashley/mouse in bonnet world too! My daughter and I frequently chuckle over those 2 naughty mice....Brambly Hedge is a frequent inspiration too, she never tires of drawing out her own pictures of their houses. Thanks Alicia!

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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