Deep in the Details

comments: 26


Thank you from the bottom of my heart to every person who purchased A Tender Year: March embroidery pattern so far. I was able to send a check for $250 to the Ukrainian Bible Church aid fund on Tuesday and I will send another one for the balance of the total sales for this pattern at the end of the month. I am so grateful to all of you who helped with this donation. I expect that all of us are in state of utter sorrow and disbelief and helplessness over what the Ukrainian people are enduring right now. I pray for peace. I don’t know what to say or do.


I told my sister that I had been making a lot of quilts lately. (She said, I get it. Going back to the start.) I think I have made five or six in the past couple of months so far. I've actually lost count. I haven't photographed any of them finished yet. The making is the thing for me right now. Cutting and stitching and trimming and pressing, patch after patch after patch. Patching. Stitching and pressing. I'm almost finished unearthing and then ironing every scrap of fabric that I have. I have a lot. I don't even understand how someone can have so many "scraps." As I said, a lot of them are from quilt kits we've made for Posie in the past. But I also must have sewn a lot over the past twenty years. It makes me so nostalgic. I remember literally every fabric. It's weird. I sewed so many dresses and things for Amelia, and all of that sewing and knitting saved my life then. I loved every minute of it.


I still love it but I don't do it as much because at some point sewing started to really hurt my back. Years ago I even had an ergonomic specialist lady come out to my house and look at my sewing set-up and figure out what I was doing wrong that was causing me so much back pain when I sewed. It turned out that almost everything was too low for me, and I have a really long . . . top part of my leg. Thigh. Like, my waist is really high. I'm short-waisted but the length from my waist to my knee is really long, according to her. So we made a few adjustments, including raising my cutting table and raising the height of my chair. But to be honest, none of it really helped. Sewing still really hurt my back. I think it's because my back is weak and I don't sit up straight very often, so when I sit up straight to sew, those back-sewing muscles are pathetic. But, I just decided I didn't give a shit. I started sewing again. I've been sewing up everything in sight. And at night I put a heating pad behind my back on the sofa and . . . it actually helps. On top of that, I think the back muscles might actually be getting stronger these past few weeks. Either that or, I don't know, pain is relative anymore. It feels worth it because for the first time in a long time I have found some joy and peace in my studio. I have tried a lot of different crafts these past two years of Covid. There was clay and polymer clay and resin and jewelry making and beading and drawing and painting and tole painting and of course the usual, cross-stitch and embroidery and knitting and yarn dyeing. But lately, the sewing has been bringing me back to myself. And I want that. I want that back. I want to be in flow. I want to care about the silly little details, getting some stupid little thing just the way I want it to be, making something come together out of just some random idea, some thing that I saw that I wanted to create. I want to be deep in those things again.


In with the stacks of the fabric there were a few blouses that I must have cut out for myself several years ago and hadn't finished for whatever reason. (I finished them today. Inspired. No pattern I can find around here for this blue top, though I know I used one. I just don’t know what it was.) I thought about my pleating machine, on a shelf in the basement, unused for many years. I suddenly wanted to get a dress form and actually use it to make some clothes for myself. Use it to drape and fit. To come up with a few basic shapes and patterns that actually fit me the way I want them to and then use them to explore some ideas that I have to make some stuff to wear this summer.


Nothing earth-shattering but just clothes that I like and that feel like me and what I want to wear — loose clothes, peasant tops, floaty and full things, kaftans, skirts with pockets for my keys, phone, and wallet, stuff that you pull over your head, no buttons, no plackets, no facings, no zippers. Lots of things gathered on elastic. And Amelia needs clothes, too. I don't have much in the way of "apparel" fabric. I think of apparel fabric as cotton lawn or linens or cotton voiles, and I don't have much of that. But ohhh do I ever have a lot of vintage quilting fabric yardage. Ha! So I'll be the size 18 lady at the playground wearing an entire wardrobe made out of Joan Kessler and Peter Pan quilting calicos from 1983. Watch out.

Ukraine. I pray for peace for your families and your children. May you find shelter and safety in these dark days.



Sewing really is such good therapy in difficult times isn't it. I have found a little strength training helped me enormously with pain from doing ordinary things. Nothing too dramatic! Just the usual exercises, but it did help. I ordered a load of quilt fabric and it didn't arrive, so I cancelled it. I probably also have more than enough scraps here already, so I shall take a leaf out of your book and use what I have. I loved that you helped Ukraine with your embroidery pattern. CJ xx

Dear Alicia,
I have been reading your blog for years & years but I’m not sure I’ve ever commented, how rude of me. I’m not sure why it maybe I have & have just forgotten.
This post really resonated with me. I’m not a sewer, although I wish I were so I could make quilts & clothes too, but your need for flow is the same as mine. For months now I’ve been cutting out distractions, making my world smaller so that I can find the focus I once had. And recently I’ve found it while sitting on my couch, crocheting blankets while listening to audiobooks & podcasts. It’s been bliss & I feel like my old self again. Well, almost. But almost is good enough for now.

I'm giggling at your playground comment. I love the top. I was thinking of making myself a skirt or two out of all the quilting fabric I have. It might end up looking looking like one of those patchwork skirts I remember from the 70s though, but that might actually be kind of fun.

I would love to see you at the playground in calico and all content. I loved the comment Reannon made above; "I’ve been cutting out distractions, making my world smaller so that I can find the focus I once had. . ."
Contentment is what we are all looking for right now. If it comes from loose fitting garments (what a wonderful idea) then that great, if it comes from using up scraps that we have on hand or doing things we haven't done for years (and have missed them) then that great. We need to not be so hard on ourselves. I look forward to seeing your new wardrobe.

I've spent the last week redoing my sewing room, putting huge shelves in the closet instead of the hanging bar and upper shelf that were there. Then I played with my very large collection of fabric and stacked it on the shelf, my imaginary wardrobe, really, because if it hasn't been created I can't wear it! My plan is to find 5 or 6 patterns ala Gudrun Sjogren and make them over and over with comfort and COLOR the most important factor. I understand the desire for absorption in the task, I crave it, and I'll be standing right next to you in the playground. Liberty Lawn and linen are EXPENSIVE. PS I bought a dress form at a yard sale and it has turned out to be a valuable tool, especially in shoulder and bust fitting.

Quilting! Interestingly I have been thinking about your quilting style recently. The casual, country style, tied, vintage fabrics, etc. I am a quilter but haven't made a tied quilt in decades. I think that is going to be added to the queue soon. I have some fabrics in the stash that might work. Best wishes in your creative life.

Oh Alicia, I would be the other size 18 lady right next to you on the playground!
Since we just moved back to our home State of Ohio to be near family, but in a different city, I also wanted to meet some new friends, so thankfully at our Library they have a quilting class. They make small quilts for Project Linus that distributes the quilts to children in the hospital. Besides meeting new ladies, sewing together (we bring our own machines), they actually have fabric that other ladies have donated. A lot of it is the calicos from the 70's and 80's. So we are trying hard to use it with other solid colors for the boys quilts, but there is still plenty left that they let us take home what we like. I have a lot of that kind of fabric and am also looking to make "loose fitting, floaty" types of tops also. We need to be a club of some kind!!

I have this pattern I downloaded YEARS ago for something called a Bossa Nova skirt - it's an eight panel skirt with an elastic waist. You are supposed to make it with a flowy fabric, but I make it with quilting cottons all the time. I've had some health issues and gained some weight, I need to dust it off and make some summer skirts. Thanks for the inspiration.

Bonnie Schulte says: March 12, 2022 at 05:23 PM

Awesome, that's all I have. You are awesome.........

Courtney Marlowe says: March 13, 2022 at 07:06 AM

I, too, am diving into garment making right now. I want to be a skilled sewist. In April, I’m spending a week in the Catskills with a group of sewists, all of us focused on our individual wardrobe goals. I really hope to come home with renewed sew-jo and flow.

Do you think you will share your patterns as you come up with them? I made your skirt pattern a few years ago and would like to try more. =)

I do love the peasant top here. it's beautiful and so 70s. And it reminded me of smocking, something I am excited about again although I haven't done any for forty years. The inspiration is thanks to recently discovering The Great British Sewing Bee, my new comfort and gentle escape from despair about the world. While it's a competition, it feels more collegial, kind, and less strident than most competitive reality tv. I'm watching the drip feed of S7 and last week I binged on S6, which included the challenge of making a child's smocked dress.
The war on Ukraine is heart rending. I feel so helpless and sad. I appreciated coming here and reading your words.

Hello Alicia, I have also been reading your blog for years but have never commented - just never felt worthy :) Visiting you is like a warm hug and you always seem to tap into how we are feeling at any given moment. I think that we are all trying to find some solace and comfort by making our homes and life as cozy as possible these days. Sewing the quilts sounds so satisfying and I think projects like that give us time to try and sort through thoughts when the world seems so chaotic. I love your sweet blouse. It will look so cute with jeans. Thank you for inspiring me and I will be sure to comment on the reg. x K

I don't know where exactly your back is hurting, but I found that my neck and shoulder areas as well as my upper back were really bothering me when I went to quilting retreats. I bought this back weight:
Between that and a rolling saddle stool (similar to, I can sew all day without back pain. If I had it to do over again I might consider a stool that has a split seat as the one I have does press on your lady parts (clutches pearls) and that can be uncomfortable if you have on jeans with a thick seam. I think both items have improved my posture overall. Do know that a saddle stool takes some getting used to. You are slightly gripping your thighs when sitting on it and you feel those muscles until you get used to it. I like being able to swing my leg over like getting on a bicycle while touching the "saddle horn" part. There is no chance of it rolling away and you falling. I have tried to sit on a rolling office chair on my very glossy hardwood floors and missed, landing on my behind with a big thud.

And commenter Sally, I so wish I could watch the Great British Sewing Bee here in the States. I found the I'm-sure-illegally-uploaded first season and enjoyed it very much. Collegial is the right description.

I can't wait to see what you make that is smocked. My pleater has been sitting, unused, for years. Folklore( I'm not that's the name) patterns used to have adult garments that had a bit of smocking here and there. They are almost more like costumes and not the sort of thing worn on a daily basis. The blue top is lovely. Another pattern company that has loose fitting, comfy, tops is Wiksten.
Good luck with your new sewing journey!

Me again. The pattern company is Folkwear. A couple of sites came up, it's this one

So happy that you donated proceeds to the Ukrainian crisis. So many people say how sorry they are for what's happening but actually do NOTHING about it. We can't be there but we can send something, no matter how small, that may help in a way that words can't. I just donated to World Central Kitchen (WCK.ORG) the foundation that the amazing chef, Jose Andres, founded. He's actually on the front lines in Poland cooking for the refugees. Again, someone like you, who is really doing something for the cause! You go girl!

I adore the Great British Sewing Bee. And for what it is worth, I have been safely (so far) been able to watch all the past seasons using this super helpful link to episodes:

I don't understand the ins and outs of this (pirated? illegally downloaded?), but honestly, I would pay to watch these but I found no way of doing that from the US, so I just use a VPN and dive in. I also have a Mac and use Bitdefender security...and no issues so far.

I also use the VPN to watch past seasons of the Great Pottery Throwdown and a free account with Channel 4...but you need to sit through ALOT of that is legit in my book.

Alicia, I would totally gravitate towards a woman of your description wearing quilting calicos. The second garment I ever made was a reversible quilted vest in pinwale cord and quilting calicos....this would be about 1977? Holly Hobby is my spirit animal.

Catalinakel says: March 14, 2022 at 11:28 AM

Dear one. yes. to all of this. As I read your words, I remember how many times I have looked to needle and thread to bring me back around to myself. And I recall one of my favorite sayings~ Like the Women of Old! We are blessed who know this secret, the secret of busy hands and happy hearts. Of having more fabric than I need at all times. Of having moved dozens of times, so learned to streamlined things a bit, and got rid of books (which can be replaced or simply got from the library!) to allow space for the yarn and the paints and the bits of things I might use in creative activity. I love this post, and keep checking back knowing you said you'd try to be here more. Thank you. Your presence helps me in my total covid isolation, and I appreciate your heart.

Oh my gosh I love your blouse. How about a quilted coat? That is my next project. The only thing is I might have to make a quilt just to cut it up, I just can't seem to find any vintage ones that aren't a wreak. Have fun sewing and please post more pics of projects.

This post is everything. I love you more for all of it. I've been sewing up a storm recently and organizing all my old fabrics from my early blogging days and actually using some of them. It's just pure joy, making as much as I want to with no purpose other than the fun of it. You are always such an inspiration. Can't wait to see the calico kaftan collection.

Your words always touch me right where I am. I just keep on knitting/crocheting/sewing right along with you...

Sewing,knitting or crochet can be so helpful to people to even combat anxiety and depression. You are a very creative artist! I love your blouse. I was thinking...humm she can make a kit like the one for the calico skirt!!? I still have my skirt that I got the kit from you. Was it a kit or a separate pattern and calico fabric? I can not remember.

I'm SO happy to read that you've found a way to sew again!! I remember first finding your blog years and years ago and being inspired to sew again myself after an accident and back pain. I just decided I was going to do little steps at a time. I made a pair of shorts, size XL out of quilting cotton :) and my sewing has just gone on from there. Sewing still hurts my back some, but I just pace myself and it's amazing what you can get done.

I have been reading your blog for so many years, since the Mothering a magazine article when I had a newborn. Now that newborn is 16 and has three siblings, and I have been so bummed that I have almost no time
To do anything I used to love to do, like sewing clothes for myself. So your post is exactly where I am and I needed it so much! Thank you for still being here when so many bloggers have switched to social media. You still
Bring the beautiful prose and images that I love so much. And you inspire me to bring more of that beauty into my life. What a gift.

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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