Posts filed in: Fabric and Sewing

Pulling Together

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Things of Summer

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Oh, where do the days go? They slide away, they slide away. It's been three months since our stay-home order went into effect. It's felt long and also short, since the days are all so similar they really do run together. I've been having a rough time of it lately. We've gotten out to the woods and the river a bit, and that has been wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I would like to go all the time. I love everything about the river. I love stopping at Jimmy John's [edited: won't be going to Jimmy John's after what you guys have just told me — ugh, thank you, I had no idea] and picking up sandwiches right on the edge of town. I love the drive into the country, past Christmas tree farms and billowing foxglove groves. I love the smell of the woods and stopping the car for a mama deer and three babies. I love watching Amelia play with her toys in the sand. I love watching raptors circle endlessly over the river. I love reading in my chair. I love when Andy and Amelia go on adventures. I love the sound of the water. I want to go all the time. I can't wait to go back. My nerves feel better for it, for sure.

I hope you are all well and hanging in there!

Amelia is currently in the bathtub. I gave her a can of shaving cream and said go for it. She's hooting and hollering in there right now. She just asked me for another can (no). She's spent most of the day in her underpants, watching Inspector Gadget in the office and eating water chestnuts out of a can with a fork. It's over 90 degrees outside and sunny, without a breeze in sight. I watered the garden at about 8:30 a.m. and then shot right back into the AC. Andy is back at work today for the first time in maybe a week. But we'll pay for that now, all that glorious time off; I think he is working seven days out of the next nine days. Twelve-hour shifts. An hour bus commute on either side. That's rough, though he never, ever lets it show. But we miss him when he's not here.

We stopped at the plant nursery yesterday to pick up some shade annuals for the porch and then we went to the library to pick up the book (Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid) I had placed on hold last winter. They are finally doing hold pick-ups at the library. They meet you at the front door; there there's a table blocking the entrance, and they slide the book to you on a tray. Sigh. I can't say I enjoyed being out at all, though I had been excited to go. We were only gone an hour or two. But I was so relieved to be home, back under my tree, watching Andy plant the impatiens and Amelia whack at the lawn with a croquet mallet. I guess I'll stick to the river for a while.

I have started a new Sawtooth Star quilt for myself, but I have not worked on it too much. It will be eight blocks each of ten different star combos, made of my precious calicos and hand-dyed (by me) muslin. It will be a king-size quilt that I will line with an Ikea comforter (turn and burn method [layer batting, top, then bottom; stitch around all sizes leaving an opening to turn, turn then stitch opening closed], then I'll tie it). I like my quilts to be just thin, puffy comforters now. I've decided I really don't like binding and I don't like machine-quilting — it all makes the quilt too stiff, in my opinion. I'm going back to puffballs tied with #5 perle cotton. I made one for my sister's birthday present (see first picture). Stay tuned, we'll see if I get this thing for myself finished. A precision quilter I am not, though I did buy a fancy Flying Geese ruler, and that is helping very much.

Amelia and I baked a blueberry–cream cheese babka, an Earl Grey cake (the recipe I used doesn't seem to be available any more), and a rhubarb custard pie. Today we are going to make Orange Julius popsicles and chicken tacos.

I have finished my design for Things of Summer (digital screen shot is above) and the printed patterns have arrived (though I haven't opened the box yet; fingers crossed that all is well in there), so I will start putting kits together next week, and it will be on sale soon!

What are you favorite historical fiction movies, like big, epic ones? Or series? I am so in the mood for that. I've been watching absolute garbage TV lately. I do love it so!!!

Keeping On

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Hello, hello! I truly hope you are all healthy and well and staying safe. I am thinking of you and wishing you all every good thing right now, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances. These are hard days.

Here we are, keeping-on keeping on. Mimi is doing what Mimi does best — that is, whatever she wants at (almost) all times. For the record, I have zero problem with this. She jumps on her mini-trampoline, writes a letter to one of her friends about her trampoline, does some math problems on the computer, and reads quietly to herself every day at 3:00 (on that I do insist, just to get some quiet). She climbs her tree, she shouts across the street to our neighbors, she is nervous that I've ordered her a new bike without training wheels, and declares she has no interest in learning to ride it. We have gone nowhere but the loading dock at the post office for two weeks now. Well, occasionally we do go walk around the block. I don't enjoy it. She helped me work on cleaning up the front garden and did a surprisingly great job at pulling the stuff I told her to pull. So it goes. She is amazing and carries on without fear or frustration, cheerfully accepting the changes and taking everything in stride in a way that I find humbling and inspiring. She and her friend FaceTimed the other day and just played their toy pianos for each other for a half an hour. I didn't even really hear them talk. They had a fine time.

Andy (cardiac nurse) toggles between home and work, leaving the house in the dark, coming home in the dark, busy at the hospital all day. Empty busses. The sound of crows through the night sky in an empty downtown. The sound of a streetcar bell ringing four blocks away. He gets home around 9:00 p.m. and goes straight to our neighbor's guest house to shower and change clothes before coming home through the mud-room door, which we haven't used in years. Our neighbors are wonderful, and are letting us use the guest house as a place for him to transition between the outside world and home. His shift was cancelled today and a continuing-education class next week was also cancelled so he is home for the next eight days, and I am grateful. So grateful. It is stressful. There have been many tears (mine) and a lot of stress and a lot of worry and a lot of sadness and then just a whole hell of a lot of trying to do everything right when so much is out of our control.

I know people around the country are also sewing masks at home and some people have asked me about that. I am no expert here — I don't pretend to know if they are effective or who is using them. I know that OHSU is not accepting them right now. JoAnn's has collected patterns here and will collect your finished masks for distribution directly "to medical professionals who can best decide how to use them." This article also has information about making masks. I am going to try to make some this week in case they help.

I spent last week assembling and packing up all of the Things of Spring kits to ship off to you. Thank you again so much for your orders. The kits are sold out and I wish I had made more. I always hold out ten or so kits until I know what everyone has received theirs without a problem (and there is always a problem because I always screw something up) and I will trickle those ten back into inventory soon. Don't judge my handwriting on your postcards because it's insane. I know. I was stressed and wanting to get everything out as fast as I could, before our stay-at-home order became official. I do hope you enjoy cross stitching the kit and that it gives you some hours of peace and quiet. I will make the PDF available in the next couple of days as soon as I get organized. ***Update: Here it is! Thank you!

Until then, make pretzels!

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For now, Maggie (and Foxie) are staying cozy and warm. If you'd like to make someone a rabbit for Easter, I've made Maggie's pattern available for free for you. Please enjoy making her and send me your pictures when you're finished, or tag them with #maggierabbit or #missmaggierabbit on Instagram. I love seeing them so much. You can't imagine.

Stay well, my friends. Wishing you every good thing in these hard days. XOXO

At Christmastime

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Oh, December! You are filled with some of the loveliest things. Cold, clear mornings and steaming, spicy drinks. Children bonkers with excitement over the slightest things, the picture of a mouse behind an advent-calendar window, a two-cent candy cane, another tiny ornament for the tree. School sing-alongs and the smell of soup for lunch in the morning hallways. While she's at school, I scurry: writing Christmas cards, baking cookies, starting and finishing a comforter for her, shipping orders as fast as I can so I can get to wrapping the gifts that must be shipped. There's a constant back and forth to the post office. I knit and stitch through the chilly nights, surrounded by aging animals and waiting for my love to get home from work. He comes in with groceries and a blast of cold air and his good cheer, warming the room.

We went to Oregon Ballet Theater's Nutcracker on Saturday afternoon, and it was just pure delight, as always. (The photo of the Waltz of the Snowflakes is by Blaine Truitt Covert, and I always include it here because they don't allow you to take pictures, but I don't want to forget this. It's my favorite part.) Amelia made it all the way through (it's looooong, isn't it?) and snuggled on my lap in the dark auditorium for the last half of the second act. Afterward we went to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner, which felt festive and fun and sits beguilingly right on the river in one of the best spots-with-a-view in town. Boats decorated with lights floated down the river beyond the windows. A balloon guy came over and made her a balloon rainbow, and we all ate sherbert and spumoni for dessert. It was a wonderful day. This morning I was lying in bed and Amelia brought me a tiny cup of what looked like four or five crushed up Cap'n Crunches. "Huh," I said. "Thanks, I think?" "It's a special present," she said. "My nutcracker crushed them for you!" Right on.

Thank you so much for all of your pattern orders!!! I'm rounding third on all my little chores, ready to be done with the to-do list. Today Andy is home, and is already doing the school run, and will do the pick-up, too. My freedom is strange and luscious. I hardly know where to start! I'm trying to tie Amelia's comforter while she's at school — this thing so far is still a surprise, and I keep it hidden when she is home, as much as I wan to be working on it because it's taking forever to tie. My fingers are so sore. (I'm using a big fat doll needle to tie it with perle cotton, and I recommend using a very big needle for this.) We are one week from Christmas, and it really does feel like a slow but steady slide, right into the heart of the season. I recorded The Sound of Music the other night and played the Do-Re-Mi scene for Amelia (it always chokes me up, right when Julie Andrews comes swinging through that sunny green bower and the music swells, oh man!). We sang it together for the rest of the night.

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I made these cookies and I thought you might like them. For me they are the perfect Christmas cookie — chocolaty, salty, buttery, and minty. And just the right amount of sweet. They don't keep very long, so eat them up.

Chocolate Buttercream Mints

Cookies (adapted from Hershey's Chewy Chocolate Cookie recipe, which I have a handwritten copy of from twenty years ago but can't find on their web site anymore):

1 cup salted, softened butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Blend flour mixture into creamed mixture. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 8 minutes (Do not over bake. Cookies will be soft. They will puff during baking, flatten upon cooling.) Cool on cookie sheet until set, about 1 minute. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Frosting:

1 cup salted butter
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Pink food coloring
Crushed candy canes

Cream butter in large bowl. Add powdered sugar gradually and blend very well. Add milk, peppermint extract and blend again. Tint half of the frosting with pink. Spoon frosting into a pastry bag, keeping each color to one half the bag. Use a star tip and blob some frosting onto each cooled cookie. Top with a small amount of crushed candy canes.

 

Wishing every one of you a most lovely, loving, peaceful week as we lead up to Christmas! XOX, A

Dovegray Doll Kits (and Supplies to Make Them) Now Available for Pre-Order!

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Allow me to introduce the Dovegray Dolls, whose kits are now available for pre-ordering!

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These little dolls are entirely stitched by hand and made of wool-blend felt with wool or mohair-wool yarn hair (fiber content depends on which color you choose). They wear a (machine-stitched) camisole and bloomers made of cotton muslin, decorated with tiny silk ribbon bows. The dolls are about 14" (35.5cm) tall.

There are ten different dolls to choose from. Each doll kit has one of three skin tones (dark, medium, or light) and one of five hair colors (black, dark brown, red, auburn, or blond). Let me show them all to you and then we will talk more. Pictured above is Bridie, who has light skin and brown hair.

 

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This girl above is Dorie. She has medium skin and black hair.

 

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This girl above is Honey. She has light skin and blond hair.

 

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This girl above is Mollie. She has medium skin and auburn hair.

 

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This girl above is Sophie. She has dark skin and brown hair.

 

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This girl above is Poppy. She has light skin and red hair.

 

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This girl above is Hollie. She has medium skin and brown hair.

 

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This girl above is Lucie. She has dark skin and black hair.

 

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This girl above is Rosie. She has light skin and auburn hair.

 

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And lastly, this girl above is Sylvie. She has light skin and black hair.

PLEASE NOTE that we are planning to ship all Dovegray Doll kits (and any supplies ordered to complete them) by MID-NOVEMBER 2019. After we get a good idea of the pre-order numbers we will be ordering the rest of the specific supplies we need to complete these kits and get them ready to go. I really did NOT want to guess on these numbers as I have no idea what people will like, so we want to make sure we have everything available for everyone for at least the next couple of weeks.

To make one Dovegray Doll, each kit includes:

For Doll:

  • One 12" x 18" (30cm x 46cm) piece of wool-rayon felt from National Nonwovens in color TOY002-0615 (Champagne) for light skin, TOY002-0624 (Camel) for medium skin, or TOY002-2655 (Safari Brown) for dark skin
  • 1 skein DMC 6-strand cotton floss for all body stitches in color 945 (for light skin), color 3863 (for medium skin), or 869 (for dark skin)
  • Small amounts of various colors of DMC 6-strand cotton floss for facial features, including eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes, eye highlights, and lips
  • 14 yds (14m) Brown Sheep Co. Lanaloft single-ply worsted-weight yarn in color LL41W (Buckwheat) for blond hair, LL69W (English Saddle) for brown hair, or LL03W (Black Bear) for black hair; or Lamb’s Pride color M-154 (Rooster Red) for red hair, or M-89 (Roasted Coffee) for auburn hair
  • 3 yards (3m) DMC 6-strand cotton floss for tacking down hair in color 739 (blond), color 310 (black), 355 (red), color 3371 (brown) or color 3857 (auburn)

For Camisole and Bloomers:

  • One 9" x 44" (23cm x 112cm) piece of 100% cotton muslin fabric
  • 1 3/4 yards (1.6m) elastic thread
  • 8" (20cm) 4mm silk ribbon

 As well as:

  • Stitching instructions with photos
  • Embroidery tutorial
  • Pattern templates

 

You will need a fair amount of supplies to make each doll. Check your sewing kit to make sure you have everything else, or order some of them with your doll kit and we will ship everything together.

You will also need:

 

As I've mentioned, probably more than you can stand, all of the clothes designed for Dovegray Dolls and animals in my Little Animal Family are interchangeable and will fit all of the dolls and softies in these collections.

To accompany the Dovegray Doll kits, we are also offering the Peasant Dress, Pinafore, and Stockings kits in so many different prints and colors:

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To make one Peasant Dress, Pinafore, and pair of Stockings each kit includes:

For Peasant Dress:

  • One 18" x 18" (46cm x 46cm) piece of calico 100% cotton vintage fabric
  • 1½ yds (1.4m) elastic thread

For Pinafore:

  • One 6" x 44" (15cm x 112cm) piece of solid-colored 100% cotton fabric
  • DMC six-strand cotton embroidery floss in various colors, including two shades of green and other colors to compliment dress and pinafore fabrics
  • 2 snaps, 3/16" (6mm) wide (also called 4/0)
  • 2 buttons, 1/4" (6mm) wide

For Stockings

  • 40 yds (1g) lace-weight wool yarn

 As well as:

  • Stitching instructions with photos
  • Embroidery tutorial
  • Pattern templates

You will also need (not included):

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So, as you can see, there are actually TWO separate kits you will need to order if you want to both make a doll and dress her in this sweet outfit.

We are assembling hundreds of Peasant Dress, Pinafore, and Stockings kits out my personal stash of vintage calico cottons that I've been collecting from eBay and estate sales for years. These fabrics are just so lovely and they are getting very hard to find. I have spent hours and hours searching them out and have been holding on to this stash for a long time, intending to use them for these doll kits. I'm so excited about them. Here is just a small sampling of fabrics you can choose. Keep in mind that because these are all vintage fabrics (mostly Peter Pan and Joan Kessler fabrics, if you remember those names), there are a totally random number of each fabric combo available, depending on how much of that fabric we have. There are anywhere from 2 to 38 kits of each of the fabric combos listed, and they are first-come, first-served!

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There are so many more. Look through all of them here.

We also have some new supplies that you will need in order to complete your doll (see the full lists of supplies needed above). We are taking pre-orders for these now and will ship them with the kits. They include:

Doll Needles

Dritz Doll Needles in three sizes #157

 

Fabric Marker

Dritz Mark-B-Gone fine-tipped water soluble fabric marker

 

Fray Check

Dritz Fray Check seam sealant

You will also definitely need hemostats for stuffing, and a #5 embroidery needle, and scissors and hoop, and other notions that we also carry. The supplies lists will link to all of the supplies that I also carry in my shop; check out my supplies page for everything I carry. I will ship anything you order together with the kits.

 

We do ship overseas! To place your order, you will be required to read this information, which contains details about international shipping and customs fees you may incur when ordering outside the U.S. (If you are overseas, the shipping cost charged by Posie does not include any further charges you may incur when importing goods.) To see the shipping-only costs for your order and location, just place the items in your cart and choose your location (or enter your zip code, if you are in the U.S.) and it will tell you how much the shipping is. As usual, I have a sincere request: Please check on and update your shipping address correctly in your Paypal preferences so that there is no confusion when we go to ship. If you do need to add things to your order or change your address after you've placed the order, just email me and we'll figure it out, no worries! I just like to remind people of this ahead of time, because it's a bit easier. International shipping has gotten very expensive so please check things carefully.

Yes, PDF patterns for both the dolls and the dress kit will be available in mid-November, when we are planning to ship the kits. I will make an announcement here, so please stay tuned if you are interested in those!

Also: The Dovegray Dolls are special and are not meant to be played with by unsupervised babies or small children who might swallow the small pieces of their wardrobes, or chew off an arm or a leg. Please use your judgement and watch your baby or child carefully when they are playing with handmade softies, or any toys with smaller parts. Thank you!

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I know there is an absolute ton of information in this post. Take your time and read through everything, and please let me know if any links are broken, anything is confusing, or if you have any questions. I've done all of this computer stuff myself so do let me know if you need me to correct or clear up anything and I will do it as soon as I can. Thank you again so much for your orders and your interest in what I do! It means so much to me that I keep getting to design these patterns and kits and I am sincerely grateful to you for all of your encouragement and support! Thank you! XOXO

Dovegray Dolls Coming Soon

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Well, hello there! How are you? It is raining here this morning and I am well. It's been a busy, exciting, intense couple of weeks since school started. All is well and we are each getting used to our new routines, together and on our own. Kids are so dang brave. It's really incredible to watch, isn't it? It's beautiful. I'm constantly in awe of their abilities to do things they've never done before, go places they've never gone, walk into rooms filled with people they don't know, and basically figure it all out within days. If that. It's so inspiring.

Andy is back at work today after a few days and an entire weekend off, which was so nice. He was home for three weeks on vacation in August and I got used to that. I was antsy to clean the house while he was home. But once he had gone back to work and I had done that, I really missed him and Meems and the long, lazy days of summer, and all the summer things that I've never missed until this, the Summer of Perfect Weather. Suddenly I'm having the summer's-over emotions that most normal people have. I'm looking longingly at the sodden cushions on my front-yard chair, where I sat and read for countless hours, Mimi swinging from the branches of the tree beside me, and I will miss those afternoons. I'm usually just so ready for fall to start that I don't care what's gone. But this time it's a little different, and I am feeling all of the changes.

Thank you so much for all of the Leaves by Hundreds Came orders! They are sold out now. I am busy trying to get my dolls finished and photographed and ready to launch, probably next week. Andy has been in the office during his days off, cutting fabrics for me and generally helping out. We are hoping to have them available for pre-order next week. I first started working on these dolls a couple of years ago. They are based on the animal-doll patterns, and they all share the same body and construction. They can all wear the same clothes. There will be ten different combinations of three skin colors (dark, medium, light) and five hair colors (blond, dark brown, red, auburn, black) you can choose from. Each doll kit comes with a pattern for the doll and her muslin camisole and bloomers and many of the supplies needed to make those things (I'll share full lists of contents at the launch).

There will also be a separate kit (with pattern) available for a calico peasant dress, embroidered pinafore in solid-colored cotton, and knitted wool lace stockings. I'll show you the dress next week. All of the calico fabrics we are including in these kits are vintage calicos from the '70s and '80s, mostly Peter Pan and Joan Kessler that I've spent the last several years collecting either from eBay or estates. It's been such a labor of love and I really have no words to tell you how excited I am to be able to share all of these things with you soon. This is going to be such a cool collection. We will take pre-orders next week and are planning to ship doll kits and dress kits at the same time, by mid-November. We aren't sure how many orders we will get for what skin/hair combos, so we will order supplies on our end after we get the pre-order numbers and begin putting kits together and shipping as fast as we can.

I'm naming the collection the Dovegray Dolls. I wasn't sure what I was going to call them until earlier this summer, when I was starting to work on them a lot. And one night, Mimi and I were sitting in the front yard and we heard a mourning dove.

The sound of the mourning dove is one of the sounds (along with freight trains and thunder) that I miss so much from my childhood. We had them in River Forest (a western suburb of Chicago where I grew up) but we do not have them here in my neighborhood in Portland. (My sister regularly hears mourning doves right across the river in Lake Oswego, but we don't have them here.) If you don't know what they sound like, here is a sample. It's a pretty unmistakable sound.

When I heard it, I couldn't believe it. Mimi cocked her head and listened, too. After just a few calls, she could imitate the dove perfectly, much better than I could. We went and got Gretchen, our next-door neighbor, who also grew up in River Forest (I know, crazy right? Total awesome coincidence. We both graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School in the same year, too, though we didn't know each other. [The high school had almost four thousand people in it, and she and I had gone to different grade schools.]) We all listened. I texted Andy (at work) to tell him what we were hearing. I was excited. It had been decades since I'd heard a mourning dove. We sat out there for a long time, but eventually he stopped cooing and it got dark.

The very next day, the weirdest thing happened: We got a postcard (pictured above) from our local bird shop with a mourning dove on it! (It was a coupon for bird seed.) Andy came home from work that night and saw the post card on the table and said, "OH my gosh, you got a really good picture of the mourning dove!" I started laughing and told him I hadn't taken it, that it was a postcard that had just happened to arrive, etc. We continued to hear the mourning dove for a few days. Mimi and I took the coupon and went to the Backyard Bird Shop and got some special bird seed that mourning doves supposedly like. (She also broke a glass thing while we were there and the ladies at the shop were so incredibly kind and generally cool about it that we will be customers for life.) We put the new seed (I think it was millet?) in the flat feeder right away. Naturally, the minute we did that, we never heard the mourning dove again! Granted, he was never actually in our yard, just somewhere near. The bird shop said that sometimes they sort of find their ways over to this side of the river, but they don't often stay very long. Sad face. I'm still hopeful! I love them.

Anyway, in honor of the summer days we spent listening to the sweet cooing of our mourning dove, I named my little dolls the Dovegray Dolls. The one pictured above is Bridie.

***By the way, that picture above with all the little white dots on it? Does anyone want to take a guess what’s going on there? :)

End of Summer

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The end of summer is so bittersweet, even for a winter-lover like me. Dahlias, these exquisite state-fair square-dancing skirts, are the perfect finale. We went to their festival on a red-hot blue-sky day a few weeks ago. I'd never been before and had always wanted to go. It was too hot to be in an open field, but oh, my, it was so worth it. What a voluptuous display of summer's finest bounty, these petal-heavy beauties. We grew a few of them in our little parkway raised beds this year and I am well and truly hooked. Andy and Amelia and I started making a list of our favorites and then we just gave up; there were too many to love.

School started last week and it has been life-changing for all of us. The first day was much anticipated and was a great success. The teacher was amazing and the playground is fantastic. The school garden is teeming with fruits and vegetables and plenty of places to hide and shade and play. The parents are awesome. The kids are great. It's just all been — astonishingly and unexpectedly, in some ways — great. We are really appreciating everything about it, even the things that I thought would be really hard about it. The playground has a picnic shelter, right in the midst of everything, so you can actually hang out there and linger, and linger we do. Every day after school, even though it's been some of the hottest weather we've had all summer, Amelia runs and jumps and hangs and swings and slides and chases, everywhere and on everything, racing around, making friends, wiping out, getting upset, working it out. And this is just brilliant compared to last year, where, at our old school, there was zero playground culture; literally zero. People didn't do it, because it was a commuter school with a locked campus. I didn't know how important it would be, and it turns out it is super important to her and to us. Some kids go right home. Our kid has always, always wanted to stay, no matter where she is or who is there or what's going on or whether it's pouring rain or blazing sun. Even in preschool, we had some epic leave-takings. They still make me shudder. I can't find that one post where I wrote about her tearing through the rose bushes in the play-yard as if on fire when it was time to leave school, a small ball of pure fury. I still remember what it was like to stand there, catatonic, totally out of tricks, utterly unable to convince her to leave by any rational method, watching her throw handfuls of pine needles at me from the top of her hill, breathing flames like a tiny dragon. Oh my lord. It cracks me up, now. At the time I remember thinking, "I literally have no idea how to get this child off of that hill. At least this place is mostly fenced." It can still be very hard for her to leave. I still feel a mild pang of panic every time it's time to go. However: this, yesterday, to her younger friend (kindergartner), who was having her own hard time leaving: "I know it's really hard, and sometimes you get really cranky when it's time to go. I do that, too." And then she tried to aggressively wipe her friend's face with some kind of paper towel (she pulled from out of nowhere) while her friend ran circles around her mother to get away. (Ack.) But THEN she (Mimi) pulled herself together and proudly marched right out of the playground, as if remembering she was going to try to model some good behavior for the littles. And good lord, it was JUST SO HOT. I stood there melting in the late-afternoon sun, carrying backpack, lunch bag, water bottle, my bag, hoping they would both just depart without drama. And then . . . wow . . . hugs . . . goodbyes . . . they did!

First Day Iphone2a

Got lucky there. But the first week of school has just been really great. I couldn't be more proud of her, or happier to be exactly where we are. (Her first-day-of-school dress was made from Butterick pattern #4833, from probably somewhere around 1977.)

***

The stories and images from The Bahamas right now are just so incredibly tragic. My heart is breaking for everyone there who is suffering these most unimaginable losses. I’ve donated to MercyChefs.com. If you have good suggestions on how else to help, please let me know. 

Early, Early Spring

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I absolutely love this time of year. I was thinking today as I passed a winter garden that had been cleaned up and was starting to sprout daffodils and tulip spears how much I love this time of year — the time before things begin. The time when it's still winter but spring is ready and waiting. The time when things are just swelling slightly, just barely beginning to break the surface. Our plum tree has only a handful of blossoms on it, and that's a couple of weeks late, for it. It usually blooms closer to the beginning of March. It had a severe chopping this past summer; the tree trimmer probably took 1/3 of it (which was dead) away. Still, he said the whole thing was only 40% dead and it needs to be 60% dead for the city to allow you to take it out. It looks absolutely horrible now. Huge limbs needed to be removed so it is now very obviously patchy and uneven and wrecked. Poor thing. It's also leaning at about a 30-degree angle. It's ancient, covered in big knobs and warts. It is a great, hideous, gnarly beast. I both love and hate it.

I looked on Instagram this morning at dolly quilts, intending to make one or two for my darling little boo, who loves to sweetly tuck things in and put them to bed. I haven't sewn in ages, and I miss it. There are a couple of reasons for it, I think. One is that it hurts my back. The way I sit at my sewing machine really kills my back. This has been happening for about ten years, actually. A couple of years ago I had an ergonomic specialist come out and look at my work spaces, and watch me sewing, and check out my chairs and my work table, etc. She essentially said I was sitting up too straight at my machine (irony). She wanted me to slump a bit more, but that's really impossible when you're sewing. You know. I just couldn't see unless I was right on top of the stuff, but somehow that seeing is also hurting my back when I sew at length. And that's the way I tend to do it — massive blitz, and get it all done at once. I power sew. I don't go in there and stitch a few seams, or press a few pockets. No. I BLAST through it. That's what I have time for. Blasting. It is not relaxing, but it is satisfying. Nevertheless, it's not great for my back, and if my foot is painful, I'd rather put it up and knit (or crochet). So that's what I have been doing lately.

The other reason I haven't been sewing is that I think I, and probably every other serious Portland-area sewer, have been in a strange mourning phase over the loss of Fabric Depot here in town. Fabric Depot was one of our two (the other being Mill End Store, which is still open) old-school, full-service, enormous independent fabric stores here in the Portland area (and serving all of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington in general — I don't really even have a clue from how far people came to go to Fabric Depot, but occasionally you would see actual tour buses in the parking lot). It carried, in addition to hundreds of quilting fabrics from every different fabric line and manufacturer, all sewing notions, supplies like scissors and rotary cutters and boards, all kinds of batting, wedding fabrics, gobs of trims and ribbons and buttons, lots of upholstery stuff, various apparel fabrics, embroidery supplies, and I don't even know what else. Serious stuff. Whatever you needed. It wasn't half-filled with crap for your house or seasonal decor or stuff with inspirational words on it or scrapbooking stuff. It was a fabric store that was truly for sewers, and it was old, and it had janky cash registers and they still hand-wrote all of the cutting-counter tickets, and it had a big area with all of the pattern books, and you still needed to write your pattern number down on a little piece of paper and find someone behind the counter to get your pattern for you. It was where you would wander and wander and wander, up and down aisle after aisle after aisle, pushing your cart with your kid in it but more often not with your kid in it, just looking and looking and looking for something that was perfect, something that you needed, something that would work. I can't count how many hours of my adult life I spent doing that. I can't count how many yards of fabric I bought or how many thousands of dollars I spent there or how many things I made from the stuff I bought there. I don't know how many tears I quietly circumvented there, as it was my happy place, the place I went when things were bad, when everything felt horrible, wrong, shaky, sad, or hopeless. It always worked for me, and it always had. All my life I've wandered fabric stores, plotting and dreaming and choosing and hoping. Fabric Depot was my place. I almost always went alone. I almost always had as much time as I wanted. (I wouldn't go unless I did.) I almost always went with a plan, and I almost always came out better for it all. It had what I needed. Almost every single time.

It closed, quite suddenly, last October. I didn't go to the big close-out sales they had before the last day. In the weeks and months before, it had been slowly emptying out, and I think we knew. I didn't want to see it picked over and desolate, could not, somehow, participate in the collective grief that was sure to be inside. That might sound dramatic. I guess it does. But its closing seems somehow to signal larger truths about the state of retail, or the state of the world, that I can't even get my mind around. It felt, and still feels, just painfully localized. Our store. I don't think any of us think there will be another place like that in Portland again. It was too big, and it held too much, so much random, obsolete-seeming stuff that you didn't know you wanted (grommet setters, lacy lingerie elastic, a covered belt kit) until suddenly, one day, you wanted it. But because of that it also felt unsinkable. The ladies there (in their twill pinnies, with scissors in their pockets) had been there forever. They were not arch. They were stable and reliable. Experienced in fabric and life. They knew answers to your questions. They asked you what you were making, and always listened to you ramble on about it. There was always music, there was always a sale, and there were always other people like you, hanging around, laughing with each other, talking about sewing, doing the same thing you were, making things with joy, and sewing away every sorrow. I miss you, friend.

Posie Winter Patterns from the Archive

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I thought I'd put together a round-up of all of my past patterns that you might want to make this winter. It's sort of trippy to look back at all of these! All of them started off as kits, but the kits (except for a couple, which are noted) are all long-since sold out. PDF patterns are available for every one of these patterns, and they are linked to through the photos and the text. People do ask if we will ever "get more" of the kits for these older patterns, and unfortunately the answer is, at this point anyway, no. We (and by "we" I mean me, and Andy, and a trusty assistant that is working for us at the time) actually put every single one of our kits together ourselves, by hand. It works for us to produce kits when a design is launched because there is a lot of interest and we have the numbers that make it possible for us to pay for all the stuff that goes into every kit, including the labor and the assembly. Once I get on to other things, I'm also usually too busy to go backwards and remake kits. As it is, I have a half-dozen ideas I'm wanting to pursue right now, and I only have so much (and it's not much) mental bandwidth available to keep things happening. . . . But I'll talk a little bit here about places I know where you can get supplies to make these things, and hopefully that will help you find what you need.

So, first off, at this time of year, I think everyone is thinking about making ornaments. I designed six collections of embroidered felt ornaments, one each year starting in 2008 with the last one coming out in 2013. I truly loved making these. All of them are made from wool-blend felt from National Nonwovens. I love this felt. Single sheets of it are available on-line at CommonwealthFelt.com. I know a lot of people sell National Nonwovens felt on Etsy, too. All of my ornaments were made with DMC floss, which is available at any craft store. I have a list of all of the felt colors and floss colors I used available here. These are not specifically sourced in the individual patterns, so you will need to consult this list if you want to get the exact same colors I did. Otherwise you can use any kind of felt you want as long as long as it is not too soft. I don't like working with very soft felt, personally. You also need to make sure that all those stitches don't just rip your felt to shreds. So get some lovely, sturdy felt and go for it.

IceSkatingAfternoon

(I guess I still have some of the old labels on these photos. Ooops. Must change that.) Anyway, above is Ice Skating Afternoon.

WalkintheWoods

Then there's Walk in the Woods.

Here is Snow Day. You'll need cross-stitch waste canvas for the mitten, which is this stuff.

SnowDay

Then there was Sweet Home. And we still have kits available for this one.

SweetHome

My personal favorite, Winter Cabin.

WinterCabin

And lastly, Night Before Christmas, with little Mimi with her dark hair! (Remember when her hair was dark like that? I seriously can't even deal with how adorable she was.)

NightBeforeChristmas

Okay. If you prefer to cross stitch, I'VE GOT YOU. If you need cross stitch supplies, try 123stitch.com. They usually have everything I need.

Winterwoods

Oh, Winterwoods ABCs. I still love this one. I designed it after we went to that cabin.

LoveAndJoy

Love and Joy was for Christmas 2016. You could easily change that 6 to an 8. This one is the first that fits easily into an 8" x 10" ready-made frame, which is nice.

FirstSnow

And then First Snow. This was the first of my seasonal series from 2017-18. Also fits in an 8" x 10" frame.

If you would like to make some softies for good little girls and boys, these do not take as long as you'd think. All patterns for all animals and clothing can be found here.

Animals

A few people have written and asked whether I am still working on the girl dolls I started earlier this spring that are based on these animal bodies. And YES, I am planning to produce those patterns and kits for the dolls and LOTS of their clothing. That is on my list for 2019, after I finish Secret Garden. That doll project is bonkers -- probably the biggest one I've ever done, and I got kind of overwhelmed by it and all of my ideas for it. But it is still happening.

Since Santa Lucia Day is coming up on December 13, you still have time to make a A Flow'ret Bright crown (and it's free!)

Flowret Bright

Lastly, if you just want to stay cozy and snuggle, try the Calicozy Quilt. We have two of them, one for me and one for Meems, and we both still use ours every single day. I'm making her a new one for Christmas for her new (well, my childhood) Jenny Lind bed (I wound up ordering bed rails and boxspring, but they haven't arrived yet).

Calicozy

Hopefully I got all of those links correct. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll answer them here. Thank you!!! XO

***Also, we will have a new winter lotion bar available next week if the tins I have ordered are correct. Stay tuned for that — I'll post it on Tuesday morning along with a couple of advent calendar reveals! Very excited.

And Now, School

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Amelia started kindergarten this week. This is her picture from just before we left the house on the first day. The mix of emotions on her face just melts me into a puddle of love and hope and excitement and pride. Oh, what an intense time! Everyone says this, and it really is, especially when you're starting a brand-new school. But it's been absolutely wonderful. I find myself smiling constantly. Partially because I have some free time now, I won't lie (it's amaaaaaaaaazing). But also and mostly because school is just thrilling. New people, new places, new routines, new activities, new opportunities (tap dancing!), new expectations. And not just for her, but for all of us. We have a new commute, too, and it's long; please recommend kids' audiobooks we can listen to on Libby, or podcasts for my drive home. . . .

So yes. Now that I find myself with more free time — like, exponentially more free time — than I've had in months, and actually even years, I'm outside in the yard with my camera, taking pictures of raindrops on apples. It's incredible what doing that does for the soul, and everything else. I've missed it. I've missed writing more often, too. But I honestly need quiet to write, and there just hasn't really been much quiet in my life. I have a lot of things I need to get organized around here. I remember this from last year, too. It felt like literally every drawer and every cabinet needed cleaning and reorganizing. The refrigerator and freezer need major emptying and scrubbing. The pantry looks like a jumble sale. Amelia's tiny dresser is stuffed, literally stuffed full, of clothes that don't fit her anymore under all of the new clothes that do fit her. The basket that holds all of the hats and mitten and scarves now also (I notice) holds five outgrown Amelia sweaters, and a couple of new ones.

Speaking of clothes, I don't know if I've mentioned that for the past two years I've bought almost every single thing Amelia owns (that I didn't make) used on eBay. For years before she was born, I sewed clothes for her like crazy (you knooooooooow that). But I only sewed up to about a size 4, because everyone warned me that she would start rejecting everything I made or picked out around then. Well, when she turned four, she still didn't care what she wore, and she basically had no clothes. I was still very picky but I didn't have time to sew like I had before she was born. So I started browsing eBay regularly. Occasionally I would go to kid's resale stores or Goodwill but I don't have a lot of time to do that, either. So I do spend a lot of my nighttime free-time in my nightgown surfing my iPad for stuff that I like that I know she will like and that is also very affordable. I'm pretty cheap. I make offers constantly, and they get accepted pretty regularly. I have a firm cap on what I will spend. I'll splurge on things like coats because for some weird reason I really care about coats, even my own coats. But in general, I look for the nicest clothing brands that make good quality clothes and I tryyyyyyy to find the absolute cheapest price that someone is willing to let it go for, plus postage. This is still generally so much more affordable than buying anything new (though not as cheap as Goodwill) and it keeps stuff out of the landfill for longer. I've always loved clothes, ever since I was a little girl, and for some reason I find browsing used clothes and vintage patterns extremely fun and relaxing. I was selling her baby clothes on eBay for a little while but it was a lot of work and I stopped pretty quickly after I started. I need to go through Amelia's clothes again and decide what to keep and what to do with the rest. The topic of clothing production and consumption is very fraught with tension and I'm trying to learn more about it and educate myself about the issues. I do want to get back to sewing more for Amelia again, as well. I did make her first-day-of-school outfit, above. The blouse was from Simplicity pattern #9091, circa 1970. And the skirt was a simple elastic-waist skirt from Simplicity pattern #8623, circa 1969. Both pieces were size 7 (though she's only going to be six next month) and made from vintage fabric and trim. She requested a shirt and a skirt and this is what we came up. Sweetest darling, ready for anything.

***

Typical conversation with Amelia Paulson:

Me: "Hi!!! How was school???"
Her: "It was great!!!"
Me: "Yeah? That's awesome! What did you do?"
Her: "I don't know!"
Me: "Oh! Well, did you play with someone?"
Her: "Kind of."
Me: "What was their name?"
Her: "I don't know."
Me: "Ah. Did you learn how to do something new?"
Her: "I don't think so. I don't remember."
Me: "Hmmm. Well, what do you do all day? What's the schedule? Like, what do you do in the morning? Do you have a rhythm to the day like you did in Waldorf school?"
Her: "Yeah, we have rhythm of the parrot, it goes squawk, squawk, squawk."
Me: "Okay."

Or:

Her: "I don't like school."
Me: "How come?"
Her: "Because it's too long of a day!"
One minute later:
Her: "Mom, why am I going home so early today??? [wailing] You said I could go to aftercare!!!"

***

As for me, I have so many new projects cooking and no assistant. Aaaaaaaaagh. Things keep not working out, and the girls keep moving out of state or getting other jobs. I'm mildly freaking out. Kelsey will start working with me this fall until her house sells and she moves back to Idaho. It's good, because in addition to launching the new fall cross-stitch kit (the last one in the seasonal series, and a bit bittersweet for me, I have to confess — I have loved these so much) and a new fall lotion bar, we ARE GOING to do a hand-dyed-yarn advent calendar. YES! I'm twitching. I am excited. It's going to be so pretty. It will also be pretty pricey, as there's a lot that's going into it, including lots of special treats. I will have more details for you soon. Because we are only going to do fifty of these, I might release them ten at a time, at all different times and on different days, so you have a couple of chances to order. I think we are also going to limit these to U.S. orders only, because the boxes will be pretty heavy and we will be shipping pretty close to December 1 (because there is so little time for me to work on these; but I really want to do them). Anyway, if these go well and people like them my plan is to do seasonal advent calendars, like "countdown to spring equinox,"  or "countdown to Midsummer," etc. But in a gentle, whispery way, not like a COUNTDOWN! [shouting] kind of way. We'll see. I have plans. Stay tuned. And watch for new cross-stitch kits and lotion bars in the next week or two!

Has anyone ever hired a professional organizer? I think I might need some help. I need to redo the storage and functionality of my office, and I'm feeling overwhelmed by where to start. I feel like a lot of what I'm storing in my office is stuff I used to use but am not using right now, though I do plan to use it in the future. I don't know. I just want to start this new phase of life with a bit less spatial chaos than I have right now. I feel like I've been totally jerry-rigging every process for a while.

Every thought and prayer is with North and South Carolina right now as you brace for a monster storm. . . .

***My new obsession: baking donuts from this recipe. Sorry I forgot to mention.

Here We Are

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I want to redo my office soon, so I took some pictures of some of the pictures on my bulletin boards. Baby Mimi!!! So cute I can't even stand it. Aaaaaagh. And darling Audrey. XOXOXOXOXOX

Spring is heeeeeeere, and with it days in the 90s and nights in the 40s. Broiling and then freezing. Andy had a cold, then Mimi got the cold, now I have the cold, and Andy's poor mother has been visiting this week, right in the thick of the coughing, sneezing, and nose-blowing. And copious amounts of complaining. Boy, is she a good sport. She does not have the cold. Fingers crossed. We are having a lovely visit in spite of the gnarly sinuses and it's flown by. Everything in Portland is blooming right now. Tomorrow is our school's May Day dance and I'm hoping for warmer weather so that the children can dance outside instead of in the church basement due to cold and rain.

I've been sewing a lot, working on a pattern for a knitting project bag. That's it, above. I have to say, it's been really fun trying to make something with a very specific function in mind. I've made three so far and I think I've got it down. There is a pocket on the back side for you to keep a pattern in, and three skinny pockets next to that for DPNs or crochet hooks or pens. Inside there is another pocket with three grommets to thread your yarn through. I'd seen this on several project bags and it really was thrilling to find that it works. Cool! Right now I'm sourcing leather and hardware and zippers so that I can offer little packs of those things, along with a pattern for you to make your own. More info on this to come, as usual. But it's happening, and it feels good. I do love it when a plan I didn't even know I had comes together.

I made kind of a yummy pasta recipe, adapted from the New York Times cooking app. It's a classic you've probably had.

Pasta, Prosciutto, and Peas (adapted by me from the original by David Tanis)

1 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 heads of fresh broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 lb. rigatoni
4 slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
1 tablespoon finely cut chives
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Put crème fraîche, cream and butter in a wide, deep skillet over medium heat. Turn off heat as soon as mixture is hot, and stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.

Plunge broccoli boiling water and let cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a mesh spider or slotted spoon and add to cream mixture.

Drop noodles in boiling water and cook until almost al dente. Add peas to water with pasta.

Drain pasta and peas and add to skillet. Sprinkle with prosciutto and chives, then toss gently to coat with sauce. Divide among warmed bowls and serve immediately. Pass grated Parmesan at table.

Do you remember the sideways sweater I had started for Amelia a few weeks ago? I frogged it. I had dyed the yarn myself and couldn't get the vinegar smell out of it and it was annoying me. I don't use vinegar anymore (I use citric acid). I let her dye some yarn and I dyed some yarn and I started this same sweater again, alternating stripes of each of our yarns (hers is the pink, mine is the green). It's such a great sweater for TV watching. It's hard to find sideways sweater patterns like this that aren't in French. (This one is from DROPS, but a lot of this style are French.) I might write one for sport-weight yarn, maybe without the peplum. In all my spare time. But I think it would be pretty easy. It's kinda funny because the very first sweater I ever "favorited" on Ravelry was this one. And I still love it.

I think I'm going to try to get Andy to do a video of how I dye my yarn now, which even works with kids, to show you how I do it and how you can, too. Our ten-year-old neighbor was over one afternoon last weekend and I helped both girls dye their own yarn. And WOW do they ever have different personalities and learning styles. It was really fascinating and mildly freaked me out. B was careful and a bit anxious, Amelia was like a runaway train. Keeping them both on task at the same time was a serious learning experience for me. They are five years apart but get along really well. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to do and would make a really cool project to do with a small group for sure. I'll put that on my list. We'll see if Andy can make a video without setting it to ear-shattering heavy metal. Or maybe it should be set to metal. It's not that rad, but he can probably find a way to rad it up.

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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Photography

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.