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Evening Skate Blog

Update regarding Typepad problems: Apparently the problems at Typepad have been solved and the blog should be working these photos should look normal now — I truly apologize for the frustration, and thank you all for the orders! Back tomorrow with a normal blog post, fingers crossed everything works!!! Agh!

BUT: Hello! Do you like WINTER? Oh boy I do. I have three new designs for winter and Christmas for you! The first is EVENING SKATE, above!

This design was inspired by its frame. Weird, I know. But one morning I was browsing eBay for vintage frames, as I do, and I found four of these matching frames available for a pretty decent price, so I bought them. They're nice and generously sized — the frame opening is about 9.5" x 12.5" — and the frame itself was thin, the way I like. The wood color and finish just reminded me of some of my mom's embroideries from the '80s. And it got me thinking about what I wanted to design for this.  Since I had four of them I knew I would do a seasonal series for winter, spring, summer, and fall. And I've been wanting to do something kind of Grandma Moses–inspired for a while. So I had the idea of the ice-skating rink I used to go to in my old neighborhood, when I was a child. It was an outdoor rink at Keystone Park in River Forest (Illinois), a few blocks from the house where I grew up. Every year they would flood the park and make an ice-skating rink for the neighborhood. On winter weekends when we were growing up, my friend Monica Sloger and I would meet up at the end of my street and walk with our pom-pom-decorated skates hung over our shoulders to Keystone Park to skate. It would be so cold, so we'd have double-socks on, and hats and mittens and scarves. Sometimes we'd bring thermoses of hot chocolate to drink in the warming house there. Oh, we used to skate for hours and hours. They would shovel snow off of the rink and pile it up around the sides. Sometimes the big boys would play hockey on one side of the rink so you'd have to watch out. Neither Monica nor I had ever taken any lessons or anything like that, so we weren't very good. But we'd hold hands and try to help each other skate backwards, occasionally do a wobbling spin. When it got dark, we'd head home, walking under the train tracks and near the woods. Funny how I was never afraid then. If it was Sunday, I knew my mom would be making dinner, maybe spaghetti sauce (just "sauce," if you're Italian — we are [though apparently not by DNA, I've come to find out — story for another day]) or chicken and dumplings or beef Stroganoff. Something rich and warm. And my fingers and toes would be just bone cold, and I'd run them under warm water, trying to resist turning it up as hot as I could. Gosh, I just loved ice skating. I remember when I first moved to Portland twenty-five years ago I was stunned to find out it doesn't really snow here. I'd had no idea! I'd never lived anywhere that it didn't snow, and Portland seemed pretty far north to me? But no. Skating happens indoors here (and I have a reconstructed foot, so it doesn't happen for me now at all). But those starry, sparkling-cold nights walking home from Keystone Park still live in my dreams as one of the best parts of childhood, and one of the things that I look back on with longing.

So Evening Skate is my tribute to that place and that time. I have three more designs for spring, summer, and fall planned, and spring and summer are already designed. All four designs are similar in that they share the same alphabet and general design elements, though the details are different. Spring is has a group of people planting a garden, summer has them swimming in a pond, and fall will have them picking pumpkins in a pumpkin patch.

It is stitched on 32-count Belfast linen in Mystic Gray. The design area is 8.63"w x by 10.5"h (22cm x27) on 32-count, and 138 stitches wide x 168 stitches high. The work is done with DMC six-strand cotton floss. Almost all of the design is done with 2 plies of floss over 2 threads EXCEPT for the doggie, which is done 1 over 1. It's not as hard as you'd think, so please don't be intimidated by that. (I just needed that dog to be a dog, and I couldn't do it 2 over 2.) Kits include a printed full-color pattern with a four-page chart, the fabric, and all the floss you need. The frame is not included in the kit. :) The kit is available here. The PDF pattern-only is available here with both full-color and black-and-white four-page charts. This is a big pattern. I recommend printing patterns at 100% (no scaling) at high quality for best results.

ChristmasisComingBlog

Next up is CHRISTMAS IS COMING! This is a cross-stitch ornament kit that includes everything you need to make the four ornaments here. The finished size of them is about 3" x 3" (and the stitching area is about 2" square). The pattern with the kit includes full-color charts as well as a photo-illustrated tutorial on how to mount the stitching to make the ornaments. The kit includes the cross stitch fabric (32-count Belfast linen in Stone Gray), the cardstock on which you will mount the stitching, the vintage calico fabric, quilt batting to make the stitching a bit puffed up, the ribbons, and four of these cute little "2022" charms with 8mm jump rings to attach to the back (or front, if you like):

CharmBlog

Cute! We have Andy Paulson to thank for these! (And I still have many extra charms on-hand, so if you are buying the PDF pattern for this but you need some charms, please email me and I’ll send you some!)

Anyway, these little ornaments were designed kind of on a whim – I don’t know but I have just been feeling so nostalgic lately, and yearning for things that remind me of home (as in, childhood home). I was remembering this time when I was around Amelia’s age, probably a few years older, and I was in a play called Ebenezer. It was a version of A Christmas Carol that was put on every year by the Village Players in Oak Park (Illinois) and I was a member of the children’s cast for several years (any suburban Chicagoans out there remember the Village Players?). We kids had a pretty small roll (it was a mostly adult community theater company) so the group of eight or nine of us kids spent a LOT of time just hanging out in a room backstage, waiting to go on. It was such a fun time. The production was Victorian and we had to have our own costumes. One year (this was sometime in the early 1980s) I saw the cutest outfit probably at Marshall Field’s or Weiboldt’s (those were two of our department stores in Oak Park) and it was a long skirt and a vest made out of dark green velveteen trimmed with cream-colored rosebud calico, worn with a high-collared, full-sleeved kind of prairie blouse with a little self-tie at the neck made out of the same calico as the trim. Oh, I wanted it so bad! But it was expensive and my mom said it was too expensive. At the time, Weiboldt’s still had a fabric department upstairs. And I remember we went up there and looked through the pattern books and found a pattern (seriously, it was probably this one, or something very similar to this) and found green velveteen fabric and cream rosebud calico and she literally made me practically the exact same one that I wanted but even better. It was perfect. I loved that outfit so much. I felt so excited to wear it every night of that play. My mom could and would sew me anything I ever wanted, even in college, and it was all beautiful.

Well, these little calicos are vintage ‘80s and remind me exactly of that outfit, and the cream rosebud one might have even been the exact fabric that my mom used for my outfit. It looked exactly like that. I wanted to design something that was very simple with very few colors that would be really good for beginners, or if you just wanted to whip something up for a friend or co-worker in one evening. And if you want to make all four for your own tree I think that would be wonderful. And I hope they spark a happy memory of days gone by for you, too. The Christmas is Coming! kit is available here. And the PDF pattern is available here. :)

*  *  *

Now on to what I think/hope might be a memory for Amelia. This past summer, the ballet school she’s been going to since she was three closed down permanently. Amelia is a casual dancer – I mean, I don’t think she’s serious enough about it (or anything yet) to really pursue it to any great extent. But she enjoys it well enough and I want her to do some kind of after-school sport (I have a lot of thoughts about this that I find myself needing to express to someone, anyone, somewhere, but I will spare you here and save that for a post for another day), so we decided to keep doing ballet but at a different ballet school (further away, more expensive, but we’ve decided to give it this year to see if it’s still something she wants to continue to do. This school is lovely (from what I can tell; parents aren’t let in the buildings anymore, unfortunately) and they do quite a production of The Nutcracker every year.

When Covid hit, Amelia was in first grade and she was a couple of months away from being in her first ballet recital, which was scheduled to be held in the big theater at a nearby community college. That got canceled and never was rescheduled. Then they had a very small in-person performance for just parents this past summer, but it was basically in their regular classroom and not particularly fancy. So this year, she will be in her new school’s production of The Nutcracker and it feels like kind of a big deal! She is a “party girl” from the “rich family” (which of course she is thrilled by, ha!). This is in the party scene at the beginning. She is wearing a fancy white dress (and apparently her sash is purple, though I didn’t know about the purple sash when I designed this, or I might have made it purple instead of blue; though I guess blue feels more traditional) and also a “wiglet” (I wish I had a video of the first time I showed her the wiglet – her face was hilarious – she just stared at it like she was trying to figure out what it was and then she finally understood it and burst out laughing – it’s basically a cluster of ringlet curls that they wear over their buns).

Anyway! I personally love The Nutcracker and I designed this for Amelia because I think, even if she doesn’t decide to continue to dance, this will be a memorable experience for her, just like my childhood theater stuff was for me. Aside from singing one song onstage with her first-grade class at parents’ night a few years ago, she’s never been onstage before. I just wanted to make something to celebrate this ballet that is beloved to so many people during the Christmas season. In my design, NUTCRACKER SWEET, Clara wakes from her snowy, sweet dream under the giant tree. . . .

Nutcracker Sweet Blog

I had more fun stitching this than I have had in a long time! It is done on 32-count Belfast linen in Blush with DMC threads. You could easily change Clara’s skin tone and hair coloring to reflect your own dancer’s with a little bit of extra floss that you might have, or if you need some let me know what kinds of colors you need and I’ll be happy to send along. My favorite parts of this design are the owl clock and the mouse crown (which Amelia herself suggested). I will say that it has been really difficult to get this Belfast Blush here – I’ve been waiting for it for way over a month, and they were only able to send me seven yards. (“Supply chain issues” are real, and really frustrating.) So we have a total of only EIGHTY kits in stock right now – if you want this one, don’t wait. We will make more when more fabric comes in, but I’m having a very hard time pinning my distributor down on when exactly that will be. So I honestly feel incredibly grateful that they were able to send me seven yards, and I’ve been waiting to launch these here until I had it in my hot little hands (because mama has been burned before, people). Anyway, we have eighty kits in stock right now and will be shipping all orders next week. The Nutcracker Sweet kit is available here. And the PDF pattern (with both color and black-and-white charts) is available here.

And to go with this, my gosh this is a lengthy post, but we also have a new lotion bar, called SUGARPLUM lotion bar:

Sugarplum Blog

Yes. I could not resist. This would make such a sweet little stocking stuffer. It is a bit more petite than our other lotion bars. It is made with beeswax from the local bees of Mickleberry Gardens (and their beeswax is absolutely the best, and I have tried a few); coconut oil; shea butter; lanolin; and a natural fragrance oil from my favorite trusted source for apothecary supplies, Brambleberry (you can read about the difference between essential oils and their natural fragrance oils here). It has a sweet, fruity scent that is a mix of grapefruit, raspberry, melon, sweet pea, rose, and coconut. It is perhaps a less sophisticated scent than our other lotion bars made with essential oils. But it is just delightful and I’m so happy to add it to our collection for the holiday season. We have just restocked ALL of our lotion bars after being sold out for a while (they go quick) – but Andy made a ton of these for me last week while he was home on vacation, thank you babe! So they are ready for you and make great little teacher gifts, stocking stuffers, or hostess presents. As always, they come in a reusable tin, ready for gifting.

Sugarplum Blog 2

Okay guys, I have rambled on for a long time here. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to post this but as I said, I needed to have that pink fabric in hand before I said a word about any of these, and on top of that, Typepad does not seem to be working properly, either (I can see that these photos are cut off on the side, but I think it's on their end, so will try to investigate). I also think I will trot out my backlist winter designs (I forgot to do it for fall) again here soon because I do like to do that on the blog to see all the seasonal stuff together, but that will wait until next week. I’m so excited to have these new things out here, and I truly wish you many happy hours of stitching these designs in the coming colder days. Much love to you all, and thank you for being here. Xo, a

Also: I'm just so curious: What are your memories like this, that you find yourself returning to? Specifically, I mean? Do you have a certain winter memory that just makes you smile, or cry, or . . . something in between? If you have time please share them here with me, especially the little details. I'm feeling so strangely full of longing these days (maybe this happens when your baby turns 10? I don't know) and I really want to hear if anyone else can relate.

25 comments

Oh, I'm so excited about the Nutcracker Sweet! My daughter has been dancing since she was little bitty. She's been in 8 Nutcracker ballet productions working her way up from baby mouse through many roles to Clara and now this year...Sugar Plum. Your design is so sweet and I look forward to stitching it.

I loved going to the Nutcracker when I was a kid! My sister danced, so we usually went to her performances--she was always in Waltz of the Flowers--and my best friend danced as well, at the same studio, so when we were in high school I got to see my friend dance Clara, Sugar Plum, and Snow Queen, in various years. Before my sister started dancing, though, I remember my mom taking us to the Sarasota Ballet a couple times to see a Nutcracker performance, and it felt so fancy and grown up--we dressed up and went out to dinner at this little Italian restaurant that's probably closed now, and then on to the ballet. I've tried to re-create this with my daughter, though with Covid the last couple years, we've watched it at home on DVD instead of going to a local performance.

Hi, I have maybe already said so here at some point but... please write a book: I have been reading your blog for years, because I love to see the things you make, your book recommendations and our kids are about the same age, but mostly because your writing is so compelling. Your stories about roommates, childhood neighborhood, train rides, come back to my mind occasionally as if they're from a literary memoir/novel. I can't put my finger on how you do it, but, please do more.

Wow, Alicia, this is one of my favorite posts ever!! Your story of buying the fabric and trim with your mom reminds me of the time in fifth grade when I needed some material to make a body for the paper maché elephant head I was going to make at school. There was a store in town with a fabric section upstairs where I selected a bright blue cotton. I remember my mother apologetically asking the salesman to cut the small amount I needed, and he kindly complied. While the puppet head was a failure, I treasured the fabric and later turned it into a simple drawstring bag for my snacks. I just realized this was my first ever fabric purchase, and the start of over half a century of fabric shopping bliss.

This was such an uplifting post. I was a skater when I was a kid too. I took lessons but also, our park was always flooded and I would spend so many hours outside skating. I remember that feeling of almost not being able to walk afterwards, from being frozen. I grew up in Calgary Canada, which has long cold winters, and I was shocked to discover that my husband, who grew up in a milder climate, had NEVER had skates on his feet. Never! It was such an important part of my childhood.
The park that was frozen, there was a steep hill beside it, then it was the flat flooded area, then a hill that went down from there. Kids used to sled down the big hill, and if there was enough momentum, keep going over the ice and down the other hill. This was a rare occurrence, and at the bottom of the hill were fences and houses, and honestly, isn't it a miracle no one got injured? Or, not very injured. Probably there were injuries. The 80s, what a time.

You have such a wonderful memory of the details of your life! I remember growing up in northeast Ohio, the snowbelt place. We would go tobagganing at a state park nearby on their big hills with a bunch of friends. Always cold, but we were used to it. Because we lived on the second floor of an old victorian house our kitchen pipes would freeze at least once or twice a year, but my parents still had company over for parties and we would end up washing the dishes in the bathroom tub!
Your designs are lovely. Thank you for sharing your life stories and photos.

Alicia,
First off let me say your crosswork designs are always amazing!! I used to do tons of xwork but now in my 60's dang arthritis has taken away my ability to do anything teeny, tiny like that. Goodbye to quilling, crewel, embroidery, etc. (Insert very sad, crying face here.) Even tho my xwork skills were legendary in my family I never even thought of doing my own designs as you have. They are truly one of a kind!
I've been a long time ice skater (another thing I've had to give up due to injuries) and I'll never forget my first foray out on skates. They were boy's black skates, which belonged to my much older brother. I'm pretty sure I did NOT have his permission to use them but that didn't stop me from going to the very wooded, vacant lot behind our suburban home that would flood in heavy rains. This particular winter day the lot had frozen over and I grabbed his skates, climbed over the fence, sat on an old log and put them on. I had no idea what I was doing and ran over more than one stick, branch and twig, which were everywhere, sticking out of the ice. Days later my brother got out his skates and was furious when he discovered the blades were nicked and dull. He immediately suspected me and gave me "what for"! That first day on skates really started my love of the sport and I kept it up for many years, even becoming part of a ladies ice drill team in my 20's. Ah, the good old days!

Your designs are so beautiful!

Some of my favorite winter memories involve ice skating. We lived in a rural area, so my brother & I would wait impatiently for the pond in our neighbor's horse paddock to ice over, then we'd shovel it and spread buckets of water over it to smooth it out. We'd try to avoid skating when the big kids were there, as they would play hockey and were a bit rough. And my neighbors had a big pile of well loved ice skates (all white figure skating ones), so we never had any of our own - we'd go in the barn and find the skates that would fit us that year. They had a little warming hut and we'd sometimes hang out in there with cocoa. Most of the time we'd skate until we were half frozen, then run home to burrow under afghans crocheted by Mei-mei and have cocoa.

We also spent so much time playing in the snow - building underground tunnels and forts. My mother couldn't understand how we could stand it, we'd be so cold and wet by the time we finally went back in the house!

A wonderful post Alicia!I love reading your stories. And your designs are just beautiful. I grew up in Africa and saw sn9w for the first time in my Thirties in Switzerland. Now I live cose to the snow in Australia but never bothers to go. I would be so frightened to drive in the snow! Loved reading about everyone's experiences whilst growing up. My mom used to sew só many outfits for us.

Thank you, what a blog post. I love it when you tell stories. I was so excited when my daughter was young and took ballet from the studio I dreamed of attending when I was young. She was in two Nutcracker productions wearing costumes that the ballet company had used for many, many years. And then, insert a screeching record sound here, she announced that she hated ballet, ab.so.lu.te.ly no more. She, however loved swimming, just like her older brother. Many angst ridden chlorine filled years followed until, another screeching record sound moment, she tears ligaments in her wrist playing water polo in college, surgery follows, which leads her to decide she wants to go to medical school, application process currently underway. So, the moral of this story is: you never know what those childhood experiences will lead to. Love your newest designs, you really are the best.

I love all of these designs - maybe my favorite you've ever done! And yes, I have tried very hard to recreate my childhood for my children, especially when they were between the ages of 7 and 10. I failed every time and just had to face that we were going to create something new and equally wonderful in this new phase. Age 8 in particular triggered some very.big.feelings for me (overwhelming, incapacitating 😬😂.

These are all delightful.

There are so many "Nutcracker" themed designs out there. but this one is special because it has your characteristic use of space to give power to the individual elements rather than crowding them together. I love that the Christmas tree is so large and the girl so small. I used to be taken to the annual Nutcracker show in London, at the Royal Festival Hall, and an important element was the way the Christas tree "grew" huge at a particular point in the performance.

Incidentaly, you and Amelia might like the London Childrens Ballet performances which are available on youtube


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQBQ96OXuBk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNkjaoZpOdI

and many others.

Oh my gosh, your post brought back so many of my own childhood memories! The skating parties, a mom who sewed (because of her I will always love calico prints), and most of all, the Nutcracker. I was really into ballet throughout my youth, and I even played an angel in a local production of Nutcracker. I was so impressed by the grown-up ballerinas with their buns and make-up and backstage rituals! Now I have to get your Nutcracker pattern :P

I have so many Winter memories. Sledding on Bond's hill with my brothers and their friends. I was always the only girl. Coming home to caramel corn my daddy had made for us. In later years, with our children, we ice skated on a lake directly below our house. A lake I could see from my kitchen window in the Winter. They would have a bonfire and it was so much fun to go at night and get warmed by the fire after skating for hours. I love Winter and all it offers to us. Glad I live where there are four seasons.

I have so many Winter memories. Sledding on Bond's hill with my brothers and their friends. I was always the only girl. Coming home to caramel corn my daddy had made for us. In later years, with our children, we ice skated on a lake directly below our house. A lake I could see from my kitchen window in the Winter. They would have a bonfire and it was so much fun to go at night and get warmed by the fire after skating for hours. I love Winter and all it offers to us. Glad I live where there are four seasons.

I cannot even express how much I adore this Nutcracker piece. Truly lovely! Cross stitch gives my tired “mature” eyes a fit these days, but I might have to give it a go on a larger count fabric. Thank you for a beautiful design 🥰

I cannot even express how much I adore this Nutcracker piece. Truly lovely! Cross stitch gives my tired “mature” eyes a fit these days, but I might have to give it a go on a larger count fabric. Thank you for a beautiful design 🥰

You just know how to conjure things when you write, im there each time. We love you Alicia!

I ice skated for the first time in my 30s, my first winter in Montana. There was an outdoor rink behind the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs, we were up there for an employee party, & decided to finish the evening with skating. I could get going but couldn't figure out how to stop. Fortunately there were huge snow piles around the outside of the rink so I would just throw myself into the snow to stop myself after skating madly around the rink 1 or 2 times. And then do it over again. Even with the lights from the hotel you could still see the stars, and it was perfectly cold and crisp. I hadn't thought about this for years and years. Thanks for bringing back the memory with your own story and your lovely cross stitch skaters.

I ice skated for the first time in my 30s, my first winter in Montana. There was an outdoor rink behind the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs, we were up there for an employee party, & decided to finish the evening with skating. I could get going but couldn't figure out how to stop. Fortunately there were huge snow piles around the outside of the rink so I would just throw myself into the snow to stop myself after skating madly around the rink 1 or 2 times. And then do it over again. Even with the lights from the hotel you could still see the stars, and it was perfectly cold and crisp. I hadn't thought about this for years and years. Thanks for bringing back the memory with your own story and your lovely cross stitch skaters.

These are all just so lovely Alicia. I am particularly excited about the ornaments because despite you saying for years that cross stitch isn't difficult, it still scares me😂 I think these will be a less daunting size for me to start with. The Nutcracker one you have designed for Amelia is such a lovely idea, I hope she really enjoys performing. Some of my happiest memories from my childhood come from the two weeks every year that we spent performing in the local Christmas panto - such fun! I think when your child hits double figures it does lead to lots of reminiscing, I wonder if it's because our memories from our own childhood are often scarce from before this age??

Jane Corbett says: November 08, 2022 at 06:20 AM

When I was young (60 years ago) we had 3 great places to skate. Our local rink had a wood burning stove, wooden boards around the ice surface with lights strung above. To get to it you could take a shortcut down the big hill behind the church. We slid down the hill on pieces of cardboard. There were two ponds a short walk away. One was called the Big Pond, and the other was the Little Pond. I was always a bit scared to go to the Big Pond, as I never felt the ice was safe. There were always boys shooting pucks around, and a wood fire burning at the shore where you put on your skates. The Little Pond was more my style, as it was in the woods behind our house, and it meandered around trees and rocks, providing lots of places to sit and rest. We'd put our skates on at home and walk there. Often my Mom would come with us as she loved to skate. I learned to skate in the ditches around our home, pushing a chair ahead of me. There was never money for new skates, so we passed around skates among our neighbouring families and always had a pair that fit, even it you had to wear 2 pairs of socks! When I was in Grade 5 I won a brand new pair of skates in a writing contest at school. Mom made me get a size bigger so that I would have them for a couple of years. They were Bauer skates, and I'll never forget how beautiful they were! Such beautiful memories of skating in the frosty air!

I was flooded with so many winter memories of skating with my mom when I started reading your newest post. I grew up in Alaska, but in the snowiest city in the state. We didn't have any outdoor rinks, as there was just too much snow. Every once in a while we would have perfect conditions on our lakes... It would get cold and windy before the snow came. I remember my mom calling me, and rushing to Ruth Pond. We'd bring cocoa and skate under the moon. It was always just her and I on the ice, with the lights from the dock across the street casting a slight shadow. I do the same now with my kids, and it is just so perfect and important to me. Thank you for creating what might be the most perfect stitch ever! I can't wait to sit down and start. XOXO

My beautiful sampler kit and my Sugarplum lotion bars arrived, and I am IN LOVE with your new Sugarplum fragrance! It is the best lotion bar yet -- and it smells just amazing. Always so happy to see you post here and on IG.

Great post. Always love your photos and writing.
Growing up in northern Vermont, my Mom had a herb garden and she made wreaths for the holidays which she sold in Boston and NYC. I got to make potpourri with her leftovers and the tag had my name on it. I loved this.
Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving

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About Alicia Paulson

About

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

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