Posts filed in: August 2009

Arden's Quilt

comments: 140

On a Friday afternoon in mid-summer, we got a late start on our shopping because the dog had gotten stung in the nose by a bee, and we didn't want to leave her alone with her big, sad nose. We made pizza dough together and set it aside to rise in time for dinner at five. We looked at the quilts I had made that were here and there around the house and we talked about quilts, and what they are, and how they get made (stuff gets cut up, messed around with, and put back together). Andy arrived home around three to hang out with the dog, so we headed out to the fabric store to get the material. Arden and I had to be home by the time the dough had risen!

I had done some math beforehand so I knew exactly what we would need. We grabbed a cart and headed toward the quilting cottons. I told her to pick out a solid color (hot pink) and then we would pick out six prints (I'd written the pattern for ten, but I knew that settling on six would be plenty). We looked at the pinks and talked about how pinks were different — some were more yellow, some were more blue. She tried to decide between two of them and put her eye right up close to the fabric, about an inch away: a secret "Pick Me" message encoded in the weave? I tried not to bust out giggling [or sobbing — so, so sweet] and told her to stand about eight feet away while I held big swaths of the fabrics up next to each other, and then it was obvious: That one. (Turns out, you have to actually stand back to see the secret message.) We thunked the bolt into the cart and zoomed off toward the prints. We were guided by the preferences she'd mailed me a few weeks before: hot pink, lime green, sky blue, and purple, in stripes, big flowers, and no tiny calicos. Check. Down the aisles of bolts we raced.

     "How about this one?"
     "I love that one! [Thunk.] How about this one?"
     "I love that one!" [Thunk.]
     "How about this one?"
     "Yes!" [Thunk.]
     "These are so cute!"
     "I know, these are adorable!"

Thunk, thunk, thunk thunk. The cart filled up. Thunk. Thunk. Back and forth we went, congratulating each other on our choices.

     "I love the little sqares you picked out!"
     "I know! I love the stripes, too!"
     "This is gonna be so cute!"
     "I know! This is going to be adorable!"
     "Totally! And are you not just totally psyched to have such an awesomely cool aunt to make you your very own quilt?!" 
     "Totally!!!"

We picked out the backing (white with bright yellow polka dots). It was already 4:15 and we would need a half-hour to get everything cut and make it home. As fast as we were going, however, it wasn't fast enough. We were picking out the binding when suddenly someone was ready to be done.

     "Aunt Alicia, I'm starving! I am so hungry! I'm so hungry I can't even shop anymore!"
     "Oh my goodness! Well, then you'd better start running back toward that corner so we can get the batting!"
     "Back where it says 'BATTING'?"
     "That's the one!"

I sped along behind her, cart rattling in alarm. We got everything we needed and had it cut, then zoomed back home to check on our dough and start on our pizza before someone keeled over from sheer hunger. Once the 'za was in the oven, we went out back and took a picture of our goods:

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I started sewing the next day. The quilt was small — a throw quilt, perfect for sitting under while reading Warriors, or snuggling up with to watch Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. I'd finished it by Sunday, tossed it in the wash, and then folded it neatly. It waited on the sideboard until last week, when I gave it to her at the park.

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We named it the Raspberry Lemonade Quilt, because it reminded us of raspberries, and lemonade, and other summertime treats we love.

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Like summer afternoons together, in general.

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And really just all things dreamy and, oh, just all things so very, very precious and sweet. So very sweet. xoxo

Autumn-Approaching Pasta

comments: 29

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Thank you so much for all the nice comments on the pillowcases! I am so glad you like them. I like simple silhouettes like that sometimes. (And in answer to a few people who asked about the pink gingham pillowcase underneath the green one — yep, it's just a pink gingham pillowcase underneath the green one because the pink one was already on the pillow and I was too lazy to take it off. :-)

Our staycation has been wonderful so far — I can't believe a week has already gone by since it started. I LOVE having Andy at home every day. We've gone to the pool, hung out at a Beavers' game, gotten a few projects done around the house, started the puzzle, and . . . that's about it. Cooked a bit. The pasta above was totally delicious, and made from a recipe I found at Sweet Paul's blog (though I just used regular cabbage because that's what I had and Portobello mushrooms because . . . they're awesome). I love very simple pastas that aren't overdressed, and hearty, hefty rigatoni tubes hold up well with cubes of pancetta, chunky mushroom pieces, and fresh cabbage. The Festa Italiana is going on here in Portland, so there will be much more pasta-eating happening this weekend for us! Yay!

Free Embroidery Pattern at Sew, Mama, Sew!

comments: 77

QueenAnne1

In the throes of Ollalieberry Overdrive, I was looking at these dark, mossy-green sheets and thought I should take a few minutes to embroider a little flower on the pillowcases, and have an ensemble. For the design I took one of my inspirations for the quilt, the delicate blossoms of Queen Anne's Lace.

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To create the template, I literally took a sprig of real Queen Anne's Lace and placed it on the copier. I made a copy and then traced (using a lightbox) the major details of the copied flower onto another piece of paper. It's helpful, when you're tracing, to think about what stitches you're going to use to stitch it, because that helps you decide how to trace. Then I reduced it so that it would fit comfortably on the hem. The embroidery uses three simple, basic embroidery stitches — back stitch, stem stitch, and the French knot — and is done entirely in one color.

People frequently ask me how to "finish" the back of the stitching when doing pillowcases. My answer is, "You don't. Don't worry about it." Wash them, dry them, they'll be fine. Stitch through both layers of the hem, do the best you can, secure your threads, and don't worry too much about the back of your work — it gets better as you get better, so just keep stitching. I promise.

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To celebrate the month of hand sewing being hosted by the lovely ladies at Sew, Mama, Sew!, I've put together a free Queen Anne's Lace Pillowcases pattern for you to download there! And please check out all of the other gorgeous projects, inspirations, and tutorials they've put together for us this month — yay hand sewing! If you've been wanting to slow down the end of summer with a quiet afternoon spent stitching on the porch, I know you'll find something wonderful there. I'm going to go over and look right now, and am putting together a bundle for Iraqi Bundles of Love today, too.

Minty Fresh

comments: 56

IceCream1

Andy, Arden, and I made homemade mint–chocolate chip ice cream (Arden's choice) a couple of weeks ago and it was yummy. I had a special bar of chocolate from The Meadow, and we used big handfuls of mint from the back yard. We didn't have a ton of time (you know how cooked ice-cream tends to take a ton of time), so I did a little research and decided to go with a sweetened, condensed-milk version instead of a cooked, egg-custard version, and I must say that I might even like this easier version even better.

Our Mint–Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups fresh mint leaves, washed and bruised
1 14-oz. can sweetened, condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
About 1 1/2 oz. of chopped dark chocolate

In large saucepan, stir half-and-half together with heavy cream. Add mint leaves and bring just to a simmer. Let simmer for three minutes, then remove from heat. Let mint leaves sit in cream mixture for fifteen or twenty minutes, depending on how minty you like things and how strong your mint is. Strain mixture into a bowl, discarding mint leaves. Stir sweetened, condensed milk into cream mixture until it is dissolved. Add vanilla and chill mixture for at least an hour (most recipes tell you to chill your cream mixture for several hours, but we didn't have that kind of time and it still worked out fine — but if you have the time, do it, since you want this mixture to be very cold).

Freeze ice cream in your ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. When the ice cream is thickened and frozen,  add chopped chocolate and stir well. Transfer the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours, until hardened.

Tastes just like summertime! I saw Rick Bayless make sweet corn ice cream on television the other day and I am totally trying that. I'd never heard of corn ice cream before, but — yes, please!

The Clackamas County Fair

comments: 101

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Oh, how I dearly love the fair!

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We love to visit with the animals.

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We say hi to the snoozing pigs.

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We feel nervously scrutinized by chickens.

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We wish we could pet a pile of ducklings.

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We contemplate the doves.

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We are contemplated by one.

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We wonder which egg is best.

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We take portraits of bunnies. Here's one I call "Bunny #1."

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"Bunny #2."

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Aw! "Bunny #3"!

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We eat marionberry shortcake (the marionberries and the shortcake are in there somewhere, I think).

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We admire the winners.

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We appreciate the skills.

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We offer a strand of hay to the dairy cows.

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We share frozen lemonade.

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We feel our stomachs drop while watching.

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We giggle (along with their dance teacher) at the dragony dancers.

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We buy moccasins from the mountain man in the Pioneer Village.

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We peer into his rustic cabin.

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We see the ladies' sunlit, quilt-covered tent.

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We watch how brooms are made.

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We wonder how many calicos there are in the general store.

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We think about the people in the Pioneer Village.

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They're friendly enough, but it's clear we're just living in their world when we're here.

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We do love visiting.

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We are always so glad to be a small part of it all.

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We are just overgrown 4-H kids at heart.

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Who really want to be cowboys.

Late-Summer Garland

comments: 45

Embroidery2

I've been trying to break out of my usual color palette lately, first with the hot pinks and lime greens of Arden's quilt (which is so cute, and finished, and I'm planning to give it to her next week and get a photo) and this past week with an idea for an autumn apron (inspired by the maid's apron in this Marple) in linen with some jewel-toned satin stitch. I didn't really set up this photo, just snapped it as it lay when I put it down so it's not a great pic, but the colors really grew on me, I must confess. I show you the finished 'pron when it's, (er), finished.

Embroidery3

Thank you for all of the potluck suggestions! Yippee! Now I'll have to choose! I'll let you know what we come up with. I think I need to branch out with my cooking a little more lately, too. I did wind up printing out all of my internet recipes and putting them in a binder. That took a whole four years and . . . ten minutes. So, I am now ready for more. Thank you!

Andy's two-week vacation starts today! Awesome. We're having a staycation this year, but those are nice; the county and state fairs are coming up (oh joy!), the U.S. Open (on TV, of course), I bought a new puzzle to work on (the ultimate in vacation recreation), have one (measly) night booked at a campground, our block party (fun), an afternoon at the pool with niece and nephew (double-fun), I can't remember what else. I plan to make homemade ravioli. I want to work on the Blueberry Buckle quilt. But I think that's it. That's enough.

As I write, Clover Meadow is rolling around on the floor, moaning pathetically and trying to look as adorable as possible (on back, with paws dangling like a sea otter; on side, batting eyelashes) so that Andy will be convinced to get up and take her to the park. He just looked at her and said, "If you get it cute enough, we'll go."

Hot Summer Soup

comments: 100

Soup3

Thank you very much for all of your gentle and truly kind comments on Tuesday's post. I got choked up reading so many of them, as I always do when people talk about love, and animals. I have been in love with one animal or another my whole life, it seems; even when I had no real-life pets, I rode an imaginary horse through my neighborhood, or I named an imaginary puppy, or I dreamed about getting my very own cat. It's funny how some people are like that, and some people aren't. I wonder where it comes from. When I was really young, I decided that if I was ever lucky enough to have my own dog, I wanted a corgi, and I must have only known about corgis from the lovely, gentle Tasha Tudor, whose books I had as a child and whose life and work has influenced me in too many ways to count. If I couldn't have a 13.2-hand dapple-gray Connemara pony with a black mane and tail named Musette (specifically), I wanted a corgi. When Andy and I have a disagreement, no matter what the topic, I just eventually say, "Well, fine, but I was the one who wanted a corgi!!!" and then, y'know, that's it: I win, hands down. It just works that way.

Shall we talk soup? Let's. This is my creamy corn bisque, modified over the years from a recipe that originally appeared in The Oregonian a long time ago. We made it last night and ate it with fresh garlic bread.

Creamy Corn Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large leek, white portion only, rinsed and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup corn kernels (you can use frozen corn here, if that's what you have)
1/2 teaspoon salt or more, depending on how well-salted your chicken stock is

Sour cream
Hot sauce

Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add leeks and carrots and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Add herbs, chicken stock, and potatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low; cook, covered, for ten minutes until potatoes are just tender. Stir in half-and-half, corn, and salt. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for three minutes, stirring. Serve with a dollop of sour cream with a few shakes of hot sauce stirred in.

I am going to a potluck party on Saturday. What is your favorite summer potluck dish that doesn't have vinegar, olives, or salmon (I don't like those things) in it? And I know this is sacrilege, but I don't really like tomatoes, either, so forget those. I almost always bring Ina's Pasta, Pesto, and Peas to summer potlucks, and I love love love it, but I really need something new.

In other news, I am completely obsessed with watching Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations lately. The Montana episode is coming up on Monday night and I am so excited.

*In answer to the questions about half-and-half, it is half cream and half milk, sold already blended in the U.S. Be careful adding milk to hot soup because it will separate and curdle if it boils. Heavy cream won't, so if you don't have half-and-half, I'd probably add half cream/half chicken stock or water.

comments: 127

Puppy1

This past weekend was the second anniversary of losing Audrey. Time: It really flies. I used to hear people saying that when I was younger and I would think they were crazy. Were we on the same planet? During those long, boring, too-hot days of late summer, when there would be nothing to do but wait for the ice-cream man (who came down our street every night, right after dinner), I couldn't imagine how time could pass any more slowly. One morning I convinced another neighbor kid to start riding bikes around with me at 11:00 a.m., looking for the ice-cream man. We rode up and down and around the block, stopping occasionally to build traps in the sand pit or swing on the swings near my house or eat sandwiches, but generally the plan for the day was to ride around until we "found" him. Seven hours later we heard that ice-cream music warbling somewhere in the distance, right on time, right after dinner. Found him! I don't imagine that time ever goes so slowly now. But I always feel that need, in August, to slow it all down, and somehow that feeling is connected to my memory of Audrey, now.

Clover Meadow is, once again, curled next to me, smooshed between my hip and the pillow on the sofa as I write. She doesn't seem to mind that there is only a foot and a half of space. I certainly don't mind. She puts herself here (when Andy isn't home, that is — otherwise she only has smooshes for him). But I always feel a little amazed, somehow: She loves us. No matter what else I don't do with my life, no matter what I've messed up and will mess up. That's really something, though I know deep down it's more like grace, not earned but bestowed. I'll take it. It's a profound experience, to feel grace manifested in a warm, soft corgi cheek, pressed into your leg. You feel like you belong. She sleeps, breathing deep, paws twitching, the tip of her bunny-pink tongue just barely peeping out. On Saturday morning, I kissed her soft forehead and whispered secret messages for her to pass along to her auntie. Do you think that happens? Even on some sort of pure energy level? That, somehow, things that loved each other stay connected? Do you think there is some way that she might've heard?

I hope so.

Calico Blossom Fever

comments: 82

Hexes3

Many hexes! Yes, we're still here on the hexes. It's true that once you start you'd better settle in, 'cause you can't stop. Well, scratch that — you'll stop once you get a tender makings of a callous on your finger (if you're one of those people, like me, who can't use a thimble but prefer to sew through the papers, and not just baste the seam allowances at each corner) and that's probably a good sign, anyway, that you should get up and go outside. I was getting over my cold and didn't feel like doing anything, so it was good medicine.

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Also, I was just liking these colors together: milky blues, apricots, Bellini peaches, lilac-y pinks. The weensy pincushion was a gift from my friend Aimee who is the stylist at Cargo — you might still be able to get one there, I don't know.

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I'm still not sure what I will do with all of them, ultimately. I did put a few on the wrap skirt I whipped up (same as these). I've been kind of a hand-binding machine lately. In the past few weeks, I've finished binding two quilts (one was little, granted) and a wrap skirt by hand. Then I hand-appliqued three of the blossoms to the skirt. Wore it to the bagel shop and had a chicken-salad sandwich. Yes, that's as exciting as my life has been lately.

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Thrillsville.

Hexagon Piecing

comments: 102

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Oooooh, I had a feeling. I had a feeling these would be addictive. I've wanted to do this — English paper piecing — for a while but I wasn't sure I could handle another distraction. I'm still not sure I can handle it, but let's just say I am completely distracted now.

Before I go on in this direction, I will say that I did finish Arden's quilt already. I just need to photograph it. So I am, at least, a little bit collected. I'm about to go into a collected trot here, to use a horsey term. A collected hexagonal trot.

Here's how you do this: Get a whole bunch of hexagon papers (do yourself a favor and splurge on these already die-cut heavyweights. Mine were $19.00 for 600 1"- [2.5cm-] sided hexagons, and they are totally reusable, so to me, this is a purchase that is well-worth the money, since your wrist will already be getting enough of a workout without having to cut out all of those hexes yourself). Then cut a whole bunch of 2 1/2" (63mm) squares of your favorite quilting cottons with a rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, and clear plastic ruler. (If you want to make a different-sized hex, the size of your square will vary relative to the size of the hex; a chart to help yo determine how big to cut your squares is here.) Then get a straight pin, a sharp, hand-sewing needle, and some cotton thread (the same stuff you'd use in your sewing machine).  Pin the hex to the wrong side of the squa, fold the fabric over each edge of the hex, and baste (through the paper) in place. I tied knots on the front sides of the hex in both the beginning and the ends of the basting thread because it is easy to (after the hex is stitched to six other hexes) remove the basting thread from the front by clipping each stitch and pulling on the knots.

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Many tutorials that I found on-line and in some old books that I have want you to trim the fabric into a hex, leaving a 1/4" (6mm) seam allowance, but that seems like extra work, and if the Paper Pieces peeps say you don't have to, I believe them. Wrapping full squares worked just fine for me. To stitch two hexes together, just place them with their right sides together and whipstitch along the top edge, being careful not to stitch through the paper — just grab a few threads from each hex and make small, even stitches.

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I stitched twice through each corner and knotted at each end. I'm sure there's a way to carry your thread around to stitch each seam of the hex (to another hex), but that proved to be too much for my addled brain to manage, so I just finished off every seam before starting the next. Here's another view of one seam, kind of tilted open:

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To make a flower, I stitched all of the hexes to the center hex, then once all six sides of any hex are attached to other hexes, you can clip the basting stitches and take the paper out. This allows you to fold that center hex, making it easy to stitch the sides of the other hexes together to form the petals.

This is not sewing for the faint of heart — when I was at Fabric Depot buying the hexagon papers, I was asked by the saleslady what my pain threshold was, and I answered emphatically, "High!" (And by the way, my cutting mat, pin holder, and most of my tiny calicos come from Fabric Depot, though I have an enormous stash of calicos, collected over twenty years, so a lot of fabrics that you see me use come just from my own shelves. I have been getting a lot of questions about fabric lately, so I will do a whole post about that soon, and give you some great local sources when my head is more unstuffed.) Sewing hexes takes some precision and patience, but if you have those tendencies (and I would say I do, generally, unless it really doesn't matter, and then I don't), you will like these. I think this is a nice tutorial that will get you started on a little placemat and doesn't make things more complicated than necessary.

I still haven't decided exactly what I will do with mine, though I have a few ideas. One is to stitch at least a few of them to a oatmeal-linen wrap skirt that I bound the edges of with one of the fabrics that's in the hexes. There's also potholders, bags, placemats, pillows, stuff like that. Another idea is to make little collections of similar flowers and then cluster them together in random groups, and then cluster the random groups together, and then applique the whole big cluster to a whole cloth, either a runner, or a tablecloth, or maybe even a quilt. That would be a seriously massive project. I don't know if my pain threshold is that high. It's high, but I don't know if it's that high. I only have five flowers done, so perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

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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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.