Posts filed in: Portland and Oregon

A Revelation, of Sorts

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The summer days roll on by, an ice-cream swirl of open swim and lazy mornings, library books and watering the flowers, Ikea trips and riverside afternoons. It's already August, and time is about to enter super-speed. At night, I knit, and knit, and knit, listening to the sound of evening traffic and neighborhood noises through the open windows. Never has there been a more perfect summer to knit, as the weather here still continues to be entirely civilized in every respect, while the rest of the country and the world is more or less on fire. Not here. Here it is cool in the morning, hot in the afternoon, sometimes cloudy. Occasionally it even rains. It’s vacation weather, come to life.

One fine day, Amelia and I went to JoAnn's to get yarn for a new ballet sweater. I've made two in the past, and both went unworn due to "scratchiness." I didn't think they were scratchy, but she did. One got given away and one sits unused in the sweater basket. Thought I, "That's it." Off to get some very soft acrylic yarn we went. She needed black (there's a dress code) so it was not hard to find. We settled on Premier Yarns Everyday Baby. I had two 50%-off coupons, and got two skeins of yarn, totalling $4.99. I knit the sweater and — great experience. The yarn was nice. It did not annoy me at all. It says it's anti-pill. She deemed it soft enough. I was PSYCHED that it cost five dollars.

Amelia is almost seven and has no sweaters that fit her. I went zooming off to my computer to find more yarn. Everyday Baby comes in colors I don't like. I wound up ordering Stylecraft Special DK and Paintbox Simply DK and Schachenmayr Bravo. The color palettes of each were huge, and I could make a sweater for, again, about $6. This was astonishing.

I spend, in general, a lot of lazy time late at night or with coffee at 5 a.m. browsing Ravelry for patterns. For me, the browsing is a huge part of the creative process, and I love it. The new yarn came, and I started re-looking at every sweater pattern ever written for kids in DK-weight and worsted-weight yarn. I'm not kidding. I looked at hundreds and hundreds of sweaters. It was weirdly relaxing. I knew what I wanted. Naturally, I could not find a pattern for it. How is this possible. Hundreds and hundreds, literally hundreds, of sweaters. Oh, Alicia. . . .

I thought back to 1995, when I was trying (again) to learn to knit. I wrote a long blog post about that here. I still find it very moving to read, if I do say so. I think part of why it moves me is that I hadn't often done things in my life that I wasn't good at, or that didn't come naturally to me. Knitting did not come naturally to me. I tried to learn to knit several different times, many years apart. The fact that I stuck with it mystifies me; it was not my style not to quit. I must have really wanted to learn, and I don't know why I did. I didn't really know anyone who knit, it was years before there was any sort of internet community around crafting, Pinterest didn't exist so there were no pretty pictures to be inspired by, and . . . I don't really know why it was so important to me that I kept trying to do it.

If you read the post I wrote in 2010, you'll see that I took a beginner class at a knitting shop in Missoula, sometime around 1996, and it didn’t go well. In retrospect, it affected me profoundly. The teacher was super intense, and went so fast. I remember thinking at the time, "This is seriously the last person I would think would be a knitting teacher." She was like a hummingbird. She had a frantic, edgy energy. I was a frantic, edgy person. I fumbled, exasperated. Her voice was high and fast. She wasn’t trying hard. She made hats for Andie MacDowell's kids! She knew so much and I was lost. Her knowledge came flying out, making the room spin. And her first rule of knitting was only ever knit with wool. Only wool. I was so intimidated by the whole experience that I think I internalized that directive on command. Only ever wool. (Years later, when I finally learned to knit here in Portland, the first thing I made was a baby sweater for my niece out of a super fluffy mint-green acrylic novelty yarn, and I remember that there was freedom — my new teacher had told me to pick anything! — but also guilt in that choice.) I have hardly used 100% acrylic since. Not that I have always used wool, far from it. I've gone through phases. Alpaca is okay but stretches out of shape. I don't like cotton at all. Bamboo and silk are much too shiny — I hate any kind of sheen in my yarn, generally. Ease of care has never motivated me — I'm always knitting and blocking something around the house, so hand-washing stuff is not a big deal (if I wash it at all, quite frankly). I think I was used to thinking that acrylic would be 1) too shiny and 2) not have any give to it, and so not feel that nice to knit with. Also: There are microplastics produced by synthetic fiber, and that is a major downside; I never feel good about consciously choosing to consume plastic and try pretty hard otherwise to do it as little as I possibly can. Hmmmm. Not really good. 

I was never a big Elizabeth Zimmerman fan, for no other reason than it feels so hard to just access the patterns and the writings somehow. Is it just me, about that? Maybe. The format, layout-wise, is totally daunting. I keep thinking that someday I’ll relax and dive in. People love her, and with good reason, I know. I have The Opinionated Knitter and I did try to read it once, but I just got so confused by both the crowdedness of the page layout and all the references to various newsletters that were out of print (when you wanted to follow the thread on something, for instance) or other books I didn’t have. I'd missed the EZ trend and kept stumbling, trying to catch up (go back?) afterwards. It's both charmingly and frustratingly analogue, in a way. Also, I'm still not a very intuitive knitter at all. She is the thinking-person's knitting teacher, and I don't like to be a thinking person when I knit, apparently. I like to be a direction-following robot so I can continue to stay with the plot of whatever episode of Vera I am on. Ravelry says I have knit over a hundred things. I would guess that almost none of them have deviated from any pattern more than the slightest bit to accommodate whatever yarn I had or, I don't know, something else small. I can follow a knitting pattern. Now I even write (doll) knitting patterns, even though I said I'd never write knitting patterns. Going off-trail does not come easily to me.

But I ran into this sweet little sweater by Adele Louise and I just had to make it. I literally became obsessed with this sweater for Mimi. That happens sometimes. It's a heady feeling. There's desperation involved, some mild bewilderment. Whyyyyyy do I care about this? I once spent hours in the middle of the night trying to track down a pattern for a pair of gloves I'd seen on a Norwegian Instagram account, with no reference to the pattern at all. I. found. it. Silly "problems." I specialize. Adele Louise mentioned that she used the percentage system to calculate her cast-on and then all of the other counts for making a round-yoked bottom-up sweater. My eye twitched. I Googled "percentage system" and saw that it was an EZ–invented thing. And suddenly I remembered that first knitting class in Missoula, and how, for our first sweater, our teacher was having us make a sweater based on the percentage system. I didn't realize that that's what it was — the Percentage System, a thing — at the time. I was so confused and overwhelmed by it all. This is how you have to make something? She took my gauge and my measurements and did the percentages and the calculations and literally nothing was coming out right. My sweater, in my fraught, anxious, self-defeating hands came out miniature, practically felted from go. It all seemed much bigger than knitting. It was much bigger than knitting. I never finished the sweater. I have no idea why it wasn't working, or what I was doing wrong. I threw it in a bag and never looked at it again. (Also, the sweater was made from Lamb's Pride Worsted, which is wool and mohair and is what I use for my doll hair. I would literally never be able to wear a sweater made out of this yarn. It is way too scratchy for me [personally]. But it was wool I could afford.)

2019. Adele Lousia's knockoff, then: I got my gauge with the copper-colored Stylecraft (4.5 sts/in) and took Amelia's measurements. I did the calculations and wrote them in my notebook. I worked out the lace pattern from my dear Nadia's original pattern on my cast-on number. I had a plan. I kept going. I figured out how to join the sleeves to the body at the yoke and still stay in lace pattern. I kept measuring. The yoke should decrease at a specific rate, three times, and wind up a certain length (5 3/4"). I kept going. I kept going. I finished it.

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It's a weird, sort-of full-circle knitting experience (that apparently took twenty-five years), with major thanks to not only Elizabeth Z. but Adele Louise and Nadia Crétin-Léchenne, who has inspired my knitting for years and years. And even my first teacher in Missoula, whose name I have no idea of anymore. The yarn blocked out soft and drapey, with nary a shiny highlight in sight, and fits my darling child like a dream. I am so proud of this.

Fireworks and Flowers

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Slow day, today. Meems and I have decided to just stay home, which we don't often do. I think it can be stressful to stay home all day. I'm not sure why, exactly. It always surprises me. Parenting an only child can be seriously bonkers sometimes. You don't get much of a break. My days are long — Andy is gone from 6:00 a.m. until almost 9 p.m. three or four days a week, so I'm on my own a lot. It's a lot. When he's home he's super hands-on, but we also then, all three of us, do a lot of stuff together. So I don't get much time to myself. Most of the time it's fine, but sometimes, when the days have really stacked up, by Day Four I'm fried, no lie. The cooking and cleaning gets old, too. Mimi is easy to feed — veggies, rice, fruit, chicken, yogurt, tofu. Granola. More fruit. But during the day, we eat out a lot. Self-care, Alicia-style, I guess. We eat a lot of simple Thai food out. She's been ordering for herself since she could talk and, aside from spilling entire glasses of water almost every time they don't have lids, she is pretty great in restaurants. And I like to just sit and catch my breath. I frequently read my book while we eat lunch together. People think that's weird, but what can I say. Introvert mothers gotta do what we gotta. She draws, I read, someone else cooks, we eat, someone else cleans up.

Today, apparently, we're going to bake a cake. Vanilla with vanilla frosting and flowers, I'm told. She's downstairs watching Secret Life of Pets. I'm procrastinating watering the garden but I will do it, because I really am sticking to my resolution. It's been nice. My silly little garden, bringing me so much joy. We got the giant, 100-foot-long hose, which makes it easier to take care of things. The weather has STILL been cool and cloudy and occasionally rainy and, yes oh yes oh yes, just plain glorious. When it's so nice like this you can actually go to a park and play right in the middle of the afternoon. It's amazing! It's not 95 degrees! It's 75! Life-changing. No exaggeration. I’m so sorry for those of you sweltering in heatwaves right now. It’s so hard.

I made the sweet little romper for the @knit.beyond.borders auction that's running right now to benefit @raices.texas . It's from the Billie romper pattern from Strikdet. It is 100% merino and has sweet little buttons on the back. I used snap tape, hand-sewed in, on the crotch. I love these little rompers and I wish I had made more for Amelia when she was little. I have a lot of knitting projects going on right now, and a future lot going on in my head. I just sent off the last batch of new-doll knitting patterns to Laura, my tech editor, so there will be probably ten or so new knitting patterns for dolly sweaters, skirts, stockings, cowls, and other things coming out this fall when the dolls are launched. All of the knitting and new sewing patterns (also coming) will fit all of my animal softies, as well; they all, dolls and animals, have the same bodies. After I sent off the tiny samples, I started thinking about what Amelia needs for fall. First up was a new ballet sweater. I've made this one and this one so far, and she wore neither of them, claiming both were too itchy. New sweater is being knit off of the same pattern, which is perfect. But this time I'm using very soft acrylic yarn because 1) cheap and 2) soft. Cheap and soft are now my guiding priorities when knitting for Amelia. It's a relief, on some level, to finally realize how much going Cheap-and-Soft is increasing my joy in knitting for this kid, at least for stuff like this which is worn close to the skin! I had two coupons for 50% off two separate items at JoAnn's, so we wound up spending $4.99 on the yarn, total. The sweater is black (she's moved up to the next class, so black-leotard dress-code) so choosing pretty colors, which a lot of acrylic yarns, I've found, do not come in, at least in my opinion, was not a problem here. The yarn is also washable and anti-pill. The best is, though, that knitting with it is not as annoying as I was worried it would be. Acrylic notoriously doesn't stretch or give or feel that nice to knit with. But this really is not so bad! I'm quite pleased. I need to find the yarn label to see what the yarn is called because I can't remember. But I will post a picture here and details on Ravelry when I'm done (and I'm almost done). I have a lot of things to put on my projects list, I think. I'm behind with that.

At night I knit and knit and watch episode after episode of Gardener's World and Monty Don (on Acorn TV, I think?). It is literally the most relaxing television show in the history of the world. I love it so much.

All the Things

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I had a backlog of photos on my camera that I needed to upload this morning, and the timing was perfect because it appears I have a whole entire day to myself, which doesn't happen very often. I'm up in the big bed still in my nightie with the computer on my lap. It's cool outside and the light is flat and wonderful; I can see the trees through the guest room windows down the hall. Andy and Amelia are running around outside; I heard them take Clover out earlier, and I heard music coming from the wagon. I think they must have also been trimming the jungle that is the side yard under the bedroom window. It's no matter to me — I'm off duty after a whole lotta on-duty and it feels lovely.

We've had such nice adventures so far this summer. Andy's mother, Sue, and our niece Brooke were here for a short week a while back and it was such a nice visit. It had been several years since Brooke was here — Amelia was about nine or then months old the last time, we figured. What an utter delight to see these two wonderful young ladies and their grandma getting to spend time together in real life, I can't even tell you. I'm so grateful that they made the long trip out here. How blessed we are to be able to share such nice days, as the weather has been the absolute ultimate. We spent their last day here at the Japanese Garden and it was exquisite.

Since then, Andy and Amelia and I and sometimes just Amelia and I have been going to parks and the river and the woods and the berry farm and the ice cream place and just hanging out and literally basking in the perfect weather. You can do anything in this weather! Anything! It's so excellent that naturally a small, niggling part of me is also living in a constant state of near-panic that it will change any minute, and the temperatures will rise, and the fires will start and the air will turn smoky, as is my style of enjoyment. I know it is coming. But for now, we saunter and linger waterside,  under this holy green canopy, stuffing our mouths with tayberries and soft-serve.

Amelia just made and brought me a ham sandwich with a side of stale taco-flavored Doritos and a little handful of M&Ms. Breakfast of champions.

Thank you for your kind comments on my studio re-do!!! I've been in there only a little bit this week but gosh, it's really making me so happy. I think it will change a bit as I use it, and some of you who didn't like it as much have some interesting points. But I was so ready for the change and I love it. I'm still not happy with the overhead light in there, but I am going to work on that. I'm thinking of getting some colored window film for the skylights. Not sure if I should get yellow, or orange, or the salmon pink. . . . Probably yellow. Or maybe a pretty decorative one. . . .

I want to make Amelia something special for her birthday this year, and I know I need to start thinking about it now. I'm thinking about maybe a new Calicozy comforter. Or some other kind of quilt, maybe log cabin? She will need some new sweaters and hat and mittens for fall, too. She's getting so big. I miss making lots of clothes for her. She likes the stuff I pick and would definitely still wear anything I made for her, but I haven't spent the time doing it. I want to get back to it, before she really really won't wear the stuff I make.

I need to make a giant to-do list and get myself back on track. I feel like sparks are shooting out of my head and then fizzing to void before I can fully notice them. My mental bandwidth has felt narrow for quite some time, but I really want some of it back. Working on it. Not sure where to start. 

Summertime Starts!

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It's Andy Paulson's birthday today! Unfortunately he has to work! We went to Oaks Park on Saturday instead and had such a nice time. The weather was absolutely perfect — I think every other memory I have of Oaks Park is scorching hot, so this was so nice. It's an old-fashioned amusement park and it is a lot of fun, especially with little kids. It's one of Andy's favorite places. I love it, too. Happy birthday, my dearest love. I hope this year is filled with so much joy.

We've been busy doing I don't even know what, just cruising into the end of the year and doing all of the end-of-the-year things, carnivals and dance performances and final swimming lessons, etc. Andy and I were trying to make our favorite honey-chipotle chicken tacos in the slow cooker; it had been plugged in for about an hour when we realized it wasn't getting hot at all. It was a very old slow cooker and we didn't even try to diagnose it. Those things make me nervous to begin with. So on the way to pick up Meems from school we stopped at Target intending to get a new slow cooker. We came home with an Instant Pot instead. I honestly hadn't even considered getting one, but we saw that it had a slow cooker setting in addition to the pressure cooker feature and so we grabbed it. Late to the trend, as usual, but we're making up for it with a) a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm and b) five Instant Pot meals in about six days. We made the tacos, as well as this jambalaya, Indian butter shrimp, coconut curry chicken, and the lemon–poppy seed breakfast cake (which I turned into Andy's birthday cake) from this book. I was not a big fan of the cake as a birthday cake. It was kind of like a steamed bun. It would have been great for breakfast! Ha. It sure was cute when it came out though.

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We ate it just the same and had such a wonderful birthday weekend! XOXOXO

The Work of Spring

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My baby girl is growing up. She frequently would like me to make her a cup of chamomile tea. She sets her little table with a tablecloth and the good china and wants to sit there by herself for dinner. She climbs trees higher than I feel comfortable with, and I try to remind her of the rules (you don't climb higher than you can get down from by yourself) without my voice going up in pitch just that very little bit that says I'm nervous. She tells me she's careful. She wants jeggings but she doesn't like how they have pockets in the back instead of the front. She brings me countless dandelion bouquets, and it is very hard for her to have the self-control needed to let all the tulips and daffodils now blooming in the yard stay in the ground, uncut. She is reading the very early reading books (but tells us she "already knows how to read"). Her baby teeth are falling out right and left. She's pounding nails and digging holes and knows all the words to songs I've never even heard. She is so thoughtful, so joyful, so quick to assist, so eager to play. She can take your toes off if you're not careful, dragging her footstool over as fast as she can to help you at the counter, to climb up to get a glass, to reach the water. She's busy. She's very, very busy, always drawing, always stapling, always cutting stuff up, always gluing, always arranging her nightstand or making a book. Today is the first day back to school after spring break, and it's my first time having a couple of hours all to myself in well over a week. It's been a whirlwind, and we didn't even really do much, or go much of anywhere. But it was so nice. The weather was gorgeous, the garden is starting to bloom, and we spent a lot of time cleaning up our spaces and uncovering the flourishing new growth of spring.

I spent some time at a bread-baking class with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in the Columbia Gorge. I drove out to the convent one morning by myself on the recently opened historic highway and wasn't prepared for the devastation. It is still very, very raw in our beloved gorge after the Eagle Creek forest fire, started by one teenager with illegal fireworks, burned 50,000 acres back in the fall of 2017. The fire, miles wide, went right across the historic highway. Everywhere the trees are still bare, brown, broken, the cliffsides denuded of green, now nothing but brown dirt and crumbling rock. Occasionally, you'll drive through a few dozen yards of road that the fire missed, and you'll see exactly what is missing: the green is gone, the layers and layers of moss, tiny filaments of green branches creating a haze overhead and through the woods, all the gauzy layers of greens, creating a complex web of new growth, small growth, old growth, so much green, depths of green, like green tulle tumbling upon itself in frothy layers of lichen and lace. It's all gone now. The spring sun blazes down there now. The slanted March light is harsh and unfiltered, and everything is brown. It's mostly just rock, and the blackened backsides of tree stumps, and the violent jumble of rock and log that comes right to the edge of the road, and starts up again right on the other side. It feels, as you're driving, that there should be many more guardrails; without the comfort and cushion of trees and leaves, the road feels like a hair's width, clinging to the side of the cliff without a spotter. It was startling. I wished I had not been there by myself. I was late, and the going was slow, winding and winding, rocks on the road, everything feeling like a landslide about to happen. I was disturbed, thought about calling Sister Rose and sending my regrets, and turning around. But there was nowhere to pull over, so I kept going. I couldn't not think about our many drives through the years, drives through what was once a cathedral of green, Wilco playing on the car stereo, sunlight dappling through the leaves, the air cool and clean, Amelia in her car seat on the way to her birthday lunch, or Andy's birthday lunch, at Multnomah Falls. It's different now. I wasn't prepared. It made my heart ache. Next time, whenever that is, we will go together, and I hope that spring and summer and time will start to have worked their magic once again on that aching and injured place.

Sister Rose taught us to make a lovely, homey white loaf, and that weekend I taught Amelia how to make cinnamon rolls. They were delicious. We used this recipe (and cut it in half). I don't like brown sugar so I did all cinnamon sugar. They took hours to make, which felt perfect for that rainy Saturday morning, and we at them for brunch. It felt good to knead the dough, and I had to knead it, because the Kitchen Aid is broken. The big screw that holds the mixer up came out somehow, and the whole thing is listing into the bowl. I need to take it to a repair place. Is there even such a thing?

Slowly but surely, all of our Secret Garden projects are coming together. We have candles to pour and wax sachets to make, and fifty more skeins of yarn to dye, and then just a whole lot of assembling and packaging. The soap is cured and wrapped, the patterns are printed and waiting, the floss is pulled, the duplicate stitch yarn is dyed. The lotion bars are half done. The bath salts need to be made. The labels are in my hands and the jars are on their way. The hoops — I almost forgot about the hoops. The hoops arrived from Denmark (after the embroidery kit patterns were printed) and they are a bit smaller than the hoop I used in the photo. There was some confusion about measurements, as I measured 6" from the inside of the hoop, and the manufacturer was measuring from the outside. Nevertheless, everyone here agreed that the smaller hoops actually look even better than the sample I'd photographed, so we are using them (and attaching a note about this to the kit). Things like this seem to happen. It's kind of the risk of taking pre-orders. I'm making peace with that. Very luckily, I really think this is actually a better option and one I would've chosen for it myself if I'd known. So hopefully that will be okay.

Our neighbors cut down a small birch tree on their property this morning. I asked them if I could have several of the limbs to use to make some edging for our raised beds, which we've cleaned up but haven't planted yet. So I have a pile of branches in the driveway and now need to teach myself how to make a simple woven border. I have an idea but I have no idea if it will work. I'll keep you posted.

Right now I'm listening to the purring of three baby squirrels that have taken up residence in a duct pipe above the exhaust fan in the crawl space about my studio. They are bustling around in there quite a bit today. We suspected they were there because I've been hearing something for a while, and Andy sent his phone (taped to a stick and recording video) up into the duct to see what was going on. Yup, three of them, all balled up together in a nest of fluff. Dang. They're so cute now but they can't stay there forever. I've been assured they can't fall through the exhaust fan into the studio, but I'm not sure I believe it. They literally sound like they're right there. Right above the fan duct. Time to make some calls.

***Amelia's new sweater is the Summer Rain Cardigan. I used leftover Purl Soho Cashmere Merino Bloom, which is baby soft, because I really wanted to make sure she would wear it. And she really does. It came out just how I wanted. For her new slippers I used this pattern and leftoever Lang Yarns Merino+ Superwash. Trying to hit that stash yarn hard these days. It feels good.

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.

Weekend Away

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Aw, helloooooooo out there. I feel like it's been so, so long since I've had time to be here. The holidays are so busy. New Year's always stresses me out. It was my birthday a couple of days ago. My brother-in-law's is today. My mom's is tomorrow. My sister-in-law's is the same day as mine. My other sister-in-law's is in a few days. It just goes onnnnnnnnnnnnnnn and on! Andy, Amelia, and I went to Skamania Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge for the weekend. It was really, really nice. It's about an hour east of Portland. We got there on Saturday afternoon and left Tuesday morning. It's a nice place. We splurged on a fancy suite with a fireplace. There isn't a whole lot to do there at this time of year — we took a hike on Sunday and it poured cold rain the entire time. But it was nice. We spent hours and hours in the pool and hot tubs both Sunday and Monday. I think my favorite time was floating around in the outdoor hot tub on Sunday when it was cloudy and rainy and foggy and freezing. It felt like we were in some medieval hot spring. We had it all to ourselves on Monday, literally. We were the only people in the pool all day. It was so weird to just have so much time to do nothing. I clutched a big rubber ball and just floated around aimlessly. Paddled here and there. I thought about my life and the new year and the new decade for me, thought about all the things I am happy about and all of the things I want to change about myself, all the things that worry me, all the things I want to accomplish this year. I never think this way at length but I was thinking this way in the pool. I was making lists in my head. I have so many ideas and things I want to do.

At night, we always turned in early. Andy was fighting a cold. We watched Nickelodeon shows that we never watch and it was a blast. All these kid sit-coms. I laughed out loud at every single one. Mimi stayed up late. We snuggled in the bed. The wind howled outside. It's very windy there and the wind whistled in the fireplace and against the windows. On Tuesday morning, the morning we were to leave, it was basically starting to rain ice and I couldn't see across the river we were in such a cloud . I flipped out and hustled everyone into the car because the weather report seemed to indicate things might get worse. I really did not want to get stuck out there. And honestly, I was ready to get back to regular life. Turns out that right where we were at the lodge was the worst — the road was fine. But I was still ready to go home. We drove back through the gorge through the rain and the pines, listening to Woody Guthrie singing about the Columbia River. Amelia had learned the song at school and we sing it around the house often now. When I asked her if the river was what she expected, she said no: She said she thought it would be "rolling," and made big circles with her hand. It was so adorable. Roll on, Columbia, roll on. When we got home, we found this gorgeous cake that my sister, who had been house- and pet-sitting for us, made for me. I squawked with delight. What a treat. Andy and Mimi went to the grocery store and bought stuff to make individual lasagnas and they spent the afternoon making them. We had such a nice dinner, and such a nice weekend. I feel just beyond blessed in so many ways. Andy and Amelia are literally two of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met in my life. I love them so much.

Today it's been back to school and work for all of us. When I got home after drop-off, I realized I hadn't been alone in the house for weeks. It was quiet and clean. Luckily I had done a lot of cleaning before I left, and we'd put all our Christmas decorations away. Everything was nice. The studio and office are not nice because we're in the process of reorganizing them. But everything else was nice. I felt my shoulders dropping. I photographed all of the advent calendar treats I just haven't had time to show you yet. It felt good to get a little bit caught up. I made some things I want to put in my web shop next week. I watered my plants. I drank a cup of tea. I ordered a 2019 calendar. Then it was time to go back to school for pick-up, and then ballet, etc. But honestly, I'm so happy to be back in the routine. Hello, January. Here I am.

P.S.: I have done a lot of knitting that I need to photograph and get on Ravelry. But I did finish a little hat for Mimi and it is the Faded Splendor Tam. It actually matches her plaid coat perfectly, but she didn't bring that one on the weekend. All of the yarns I used were various fingering yarns that I dyed myself. This hat is supposed to look like a beret (we were trying to make a hat that looked like the one Annabelle wears in Mary Poppins Returns [which we've seen three times now, and it is awesome] but I think I need to block it on a plate to give it that beret shape. Alas, it's cold here and Amelia doesn't really want to take it off! I'm so pleased by that I can't bear to swipe it from her for the time it would take to block and dry it right now. But I really want to see if it can be a beret! :)

At Year's End

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Oh, the days, the lovely days! One after another, filled with light and love. I'm already missing it all, this holiday season that has been so simple and sweet and soft. I'd been meaning to get back here to update my blog last week, last sometime . . . the days rolled out and on, a blur of lights and cookies and carols and crows against the blue morning sky and I never could slow the roll long enough to take stock. Andy's sweet grandfather passed away just before Christmas. He would've been ninety-five in February. He always sang "Happy Birthday" to us, to all of his children and grandchildren and many great-grandchildren on our birthdays. I picture him with his date book and phone book, marking time and leaving these sweet singing voicemails throughout the year, year after year. Andy flew home to Chicago to be with his family in the early morning hours of December 26th, and Mimi and I spent the rest of the week curled together like fluffy kittens, snuggling under blankets watching movies, going out to the wintergreen woods for walks, trotting about downtown to see the lights and the people, going out to fancy lunches and ordering whatever we wanted, messing up every single corner of the house with our gifts and toys and treats. Bubble baths and storybooks, Christmas cookies and new nightgowns. This unexpected week where it was just us girls is one I will never, never forget. Andy got home yesterday evening and we all had a sleepy, sweet reunion. Our dear little Christmas tree is drooping and tired. The floors need sweeping, the beds need straightening, the big house and the dollhouse are basically trashed. But we have had love and joy in abundance and I am so grateful for it all.

Merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, my dear friends! Thank you for all of the generosity, kindness, support, and great friendship you have shown us this year and all these many years. I hope your holiday season has been filled with light, and I wish you much love and peace and comfort and joy in these last days of the year as 2018 trails off and we collect ourselves to begin again. Thank you all for everything you give here, and for all of your indulgence in and encouragement of me. You brighten and enrich my life more than you could possibly ever know. Thank you!

Love,
Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and, last but not least, our nineteen-year-old little Bee

Halloweentime

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Ahhhh, tomorrow is Halloween. It's never been my favorite holiday. I'm really not sure why. This year we put some orange lights on our fence and some fake cobweb stuff and now I like it a bit better. The yard looks cute and delightfully seasonal, I must say. My garden is one of those that is filled with grasses and meadow-type plants, and they look beautiful now. I love the season, I've just never been that into Halloween, even as a kid. The only costume I can really remember wearing is a giant footie sleeper — I was a "baby." I wore my hair in two high ponytails and carried a stuffed animal and sucked my thumb. In, like, fifth grade. Uninspired. I remember that I just wanted to be warm and comfortable and I didn't want to wear my coat. It was always such a bummer when it was cold or raining on Halloween and you had to wear a coat over your costume. I also remember one time, also when I was a kid, that I wanted to have a Halloween party in our basement because a character in a book I was reading had a Halloween party in her basement. Our basement wasn't finished. It was like a cellar. I colored about twenty pumpkins with colored pencils on notebook paper and cut them out and hung them around the basement. It looked pathetic. I don't know why I wanted to do this — it was not a good basement for a party. I think I stuck a notebook-paper pumpkin on the washing machine. It was there for the next twenty years. The party was a total bust. It kinda makes me sad for little me. I couldn't wait for it to be over. Amelia is obsessed with candy, so she can't wait for tomorrow. She never gets that much but even ten pieces of candy to her is like winning the lottery. She's really in it entirely for the candy. She went to a party this past weekend at a school friend's house and took her owl mask (she's an "owl princess," by the way) and wings off within five minutes of getting there. I asked her if she wanted more elastic for her upper arm, or another solution to those wings (not sure what it would be, but I could come up with something, I bet) and she said no, thank you, byyyyyyyyyyye. So we'll see. There's something to be said for the costume that's as wearable as possible. I'm not sure this is it. . . . But it sure was fun to make. (I used this pattern for the mask and this tutorial for the wings).

We went to the pumpkin patch with our dear friends the Montgomerys, with whom we've gone to the pumpkin patch every year since our kids were babies. I love these kiddos together so much, romping and falling and running and riding. Pure joy. They're getting big now. The weather this fall has been unbelievably gorgeous, mostly dry and crisp and golden. The rains came in suddenly on Saturday afternoon; Amelia and I were out in the country then, and we got dumped on. On Sunday afternoon, thunder rumbled across the sky from one edge to the other. Andy laid on the sidewalk and listened to it. The sky on the west side was steel gray; to the east, the bright-white sun was poking through holes in the clouds. Thunder . . . thunder . . . and swishing of yellow leaves on the trees. Soon, everything will have fallen, and it will just be cold rain. I'll like that, too, as I do, but I can see why people feel anxious about November. It's very gray and very dark. I honestly don't know how Portlanders who don't knit or crochet make it through the winter!!!

Here, we are allllllmost done with the yarn advent calendar. Now that Halloween is almost here, I feel like I can move forward with this. I know I haven't said that much about it, at least not in proportion to how thoroughly it has taken over this house and my life. All our lives, here. I'm going to put together a post about it and let you know the sale date and times (I think I'll offer it in two batches that day, at two different time — there are only fifty calendars available) early next week. I don't know how much to say about it, because I really, truly want it to be a surprise. That's been so much of the fun of it. I'll dish on the yarn details, but not the other stuff, I don't think. I'm doing so many things for it that I've never done before, and I have honestly loved every minute of getting all of it ready. That said, I'm also ready to be done with it, and send it all off into the world. It's almost time. We have thirty more skeins of yarn to wind and fifty more _______s to make and a whooooole lot of wrapping and tagging and assembling and boxing to do, and then we're done. . . . Yay!

Wind in the Willows

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Ohhhh, I want to go back. Three days at the river. It was short but felt long, in some ways. You follow the sun, there, moving chairs and blankets to stay in shade or face the river, from morning until dinnertime. The day passes in quiet arc of meals and trips down to the river and trips back up the hill to get out of wet, sandy swimwear and rinse off the sunscreen. Bald eagles circle lazily above. Ducks splash and dive and surface. It's absolutely incredible to be in a place where there are no roads, no cars, no other people. Where there is complete freedom to do whatever you want, for as long as you want, for Amelia to just wander around and find things to do, or not do. For me to be able to hear her wherever she was, even when she was out of my sight, building fairy houses or stacking dominoes or taking a bath. At dusk, the crickets come out and their chirping is the loudest sound around. Each night, after Amelia went to bed, Andy and I sat around eating bowls of cherry ice cream and watching a Christmas movie on Amazon. I don't know why we watched that but it just felt like a vacation thing, and required nothing from us in any way. I read (I did not finish my book, nowhere near) and knit (I ran out of yarn) and none of it bothered me one bit. I spent countless hours just watching the river roll by, and watching the light change, and watching the birds. The air smelled like mud and green things. Amelia saw a snake in the brush — twice — and screamed the house down. Andy pulled her up and down and across the river in her raft, going ashore often to explore, looking for the beaver carcass they found last year, finding a beaver den, finding crayfish claws, gloopy seaweed, snail shells soft as fingernails. Families of ducks flew up and down the river roadway from morning until night, landing with a collective sploosh. We rolled around on quilts on the grass and took long showers. We all slept so late that we missed the mist rising off the river in the mornings. We cooked and ate and let the house get so messy you would've thought ten people were living there instead of just us, just us three. It was just wonderful.

On the way home, we stopped off at Amelia's new school for her first meeting with her new teacher. As the teacher led her around her beautiful new classroom, and introduced her to the class bird, and showed her cursive letters and told her she was going to learn how to write them this year, Andy and I sat off to the side and whispered quietly to each other, talking about the room and the teacher and Amelia and everything, and feeling so full of hope and nervousness and pride and a thousand other emotions I don't know how to name.

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.