Posts filed in: Embroidery

Big-Girl Ways

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I couldn't be more proud of my girl these days. Every week brings new challenges and new accomplishments, and it's all just so thrilling to me. I'm starting to feel nostalgic about entering the last month of her little playschool. For the past two school years (they don't go in the summertime), she and three of her friends have attended a little "school" at a neighborhood grandmother's house, and it has been just the best experience for all of us. Next year she will go three mornings a week to an official pre-school, and while I know she will be very ready for that, I will miss our bouncing morning walks through the neighborhood (because she can't wait to get there), our lingering after-school traipses to the bakery together, the ease of walking home with friends for playdates. The Portland school system being what it is, and our location in it being what it is, these past two years will likely be the only time in both of our lives that I will get to walk her to and from school. Her new school for next year is about a mile and a half away, and that's too far for me to walk there and back on my bad foot (and too far for a three-year-old to walk anyway). Her kindergarten, if she winds up going to our local public school, will also be just over a mile away, as well. Next year, I'm probably going to drive but park several blocks away, so we can still get that walking experience together. One thing I can do is ride my bike very slowly on the sidewalk so that I'm basically just sitting on it next to whoever is walking. I'm not very good at this and there are a lot of crashes/near crashes/crushed toes, and it's hard to hold someone's hand when they're walking and you're riding a bicycle. But anyway. I'm enjoying every minute of our current playschool walks, and every minute of this time. My girl is growing up, and I am so excited for and proud of her. She loves everything and everyone and every day, and is doing so many new things that it's really quite exhilarating and awesome to watch her. Her sweet, funny, cuddly, goofball personality is blossoming, and I love it.

Weaving all but abandoned, I've been stitching like a madwoman, watching the Night Neighborhood come to life. Pattern and kit will be forthcoming. I have a 65%-off framing coupon for JoAnn's if I can finish by Wednesday, but I'm not sure I can. . . . I hope I can because framing is so expensive, and, for various reasons, I'm looking for a new framer. I always stretch my pieces on foam core myself (trust me, unless you have some sort of master-craftsman-framing connection, you want to do it this way; you will do a better job than anyone else will on your piece, and it really isn't that hard, just time-consuming) and I'm not sure JoAnn's will let me do that. I've never had anything framed there before. I'll keep you posted.

In between all the stitching, I actually designed yet another cross-stitch sampler. Two, in fact — these are birth announcements, one for a boy and one for a girl. It's just bizarre to me, even after all of these years, how the creative process works. I never, ever seem to know what I am going to do, and sometimes I'll feel like I don't want to do anything at all. I'll go and do something else, something that has nothing to do with work (recently, the weaving), and I'll be totally consumed by it, and having a very, very good time when suddenly, zombie-like, I just get up and walk away as if in a trance and go straight into my studio and put my little head down for several hours in a row and BLOOP, out pops something else entirely. There must be some whole other process happening that is just totally invisible to me that brings this condition about. It feels like magic, though.

Morning Light (and Night Neighborhood)

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Oh my, the mornings! Honeygold and fragrant with apple blossoms and lilac. We moved some chairs to the front yard and that one hour, from about seven a.m. until eight, is now my favorite of the day. Andy had the whole weekend off, which rarely happens. The weather was consistently beyond glorious, which rarely happens. I said I wasn't going to make a cross stitch pattern and then five minutes later I did, which often happens. Good thing my capriciousness is so predictable. It keeps me employed. And out of trouble. More or less.

Honey Bunnies, Lovey Lamb, and a Spring Ring

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I just couldn't pick a favorite. Have you ever tried to do a product photo shoot with a three-year-old? It's a free-for-all. You get FIVE MINUTES. Maybe four. Then it's total chaos and stuffed animals are flung hither and yon, the phone is ringing, the dog is trying to get on the bed, the toddler is under the covers "napping" with all the stuffed animals (that she drags, alarmingly, by ears or tail out from under the dog), and then she's up and out looking for "their friend," the prototype bunny who did not make the cut, who differs significantly from the finished bunnies who did and who will just confuse people who see it who think they're getting a pattern for it but won't get a pattern for it, because there is no actual pattern for exactly that bunny. I dare you to try to explain this (even to yourself) while she's looking at you with her bunny-rabbit eyes, hugging and kissing only her prototype (new best) friend that you don't actually want to photograph before she's off, and down the stairs to get some juice. I never want to forget these days. I love it all. It's pandemonium, but I love it.

Meet the Honey Bunnies and Lovey Lamb softie crochet patterns! They are now available for your after-hours very-relaxing crocheting enjoyment.

The Honey Bunny Crocheted Softie Pattern has two color variations (greens for a boy bunny and pink/white for a girl) and is available HERE.

The Lovey Lamb Crocheted Softie Pattern is available HERE.


We also are offering yarn packs that include all the yarn you need to make one critter, along with the plastic safety eyes and nose, and a length of embroidery floss to stitch the mouth. Details about the specific yarns are included on the web pages for these packs (as well as on the pattern pages).


The yarn pack for the BOY bunny is available HERE.


The yarn pack for the GIRL bunny is available HERE.


And the yarn pack for Lovey Lamb is available HERE.

Please note that these yarn packs do not include a printed copy of the pattern. You must purchase the pattern separately and print it at home (you'll have an option to purchase it from the yarn pack pages in the web shop, as well).

Also: We will be taking orders for yarn today and then ordering quantities directly from Brown Sheep Company tomorrow (and we'll keep doing that this week, and next, etc. — so we definitely won't run out). Since this is my first crochet "kit," I really wasn't sure what the sales would be like, and I just didn't want to guess and run out, or guess and get stuck with a whole bunch of yarn in colors that weren't best sellers. This yarn, Lambs Pride Superwash sport is technically machine washable, though I personally wouldn't ever throw one of these critters into the washing machine. But you can easily spot clean them, which I thought was important for a kid's toy. This sport-weight yarn, which is manufactured in Nebraska, is not the softest yarn in the world but it is really durable and it resists pilling very well, in my experience, and I just love it. Brown Sheep Company is one of my favorite companies that I work with. I have carried one of their other yarns (Nature Spun Sport) for years, and designed all of my Little Animal Family knitwear with it, and I love that yarn, too, but it isn't a superwash. Lambs Pride Superwash Sport is almost the exact same yarn as Nature Spun Sport, as far as I can tell, except that it comes in different colors and it is (as I mentioned) washable.

So, because we will have to wait a week for the yarn to arrive, we won't be shipping these yarn packs lickety split, as we usually do. But we will ship them as fast as we can once the yarn arrives so you will have plenty of time to make everything in time for Easter! I would expect to have everything ordered today out by the end of next week.

And if you don't want to crochet a lamb, maybe you would rather cross stitch one?


Do you wonder how I have time to do these things? So do I, mamas. So do I. But I've got mouths to feed, people, and my honey bunny can eat a six-dollar container of organic blueberries faster than you can say 28-count Cashel linen by Zweigart in Smokey Pearl.

This is my Spring Ring. It's just a little counted cross stitch design that can be finished with a 4" (10cm) hoop. It's got fifteen colors and is done on 28-count Cashel linen. It will come as a kit and as a pattern.

 Kits include:

  • One 7" x 7" (18cm x 18cm) piece of 28-count Cashel linen by Zweigart in Smokey Pearl
  • Sixteen DMC 6-ply cotton embroidery floss in 24" (61cm) lengths
  • One 5” (12.5cm) square piece of wool-blend felt, for back
  • One 8½" x 11" (22cm x 28cm) piece of white chipboard for making floss holder
  • Stitching instructions and full-color cross-stitch chart

But you will need to get your own:

Note that a full-color printed copy of the pattern is included with this kits, but the hoop is not included (but is available for purchase separately here).


The Spring Ring Cross Stitch KITS are available HERE. They will be shipping at the beginning of next week.

The Spring Ring Cross Stitch PATTERN is available HERE. It is available as a digital PDF for immediate download.


Thank you for listening and thank you for shopping! Tell me if you have any questions — I'll be home for the rest of the afternoon and evening! I'll be sprawled on the sofa, but I will rouse if you need me! OVER AND OUT. And happy almost-spring, loves. Xoxo

***Oh yes — forgot to mention, temporary bunny tattoos (see Amelia's hand) go out with every order. :)

***Also: The link to digital patterns that appears on the screen after you finish checking out doesn't seem to be working properly. Skip this link and look for an email that will come (immediately) to the email address you used to place your order. That email will contain a link to your patterns for you. Sorry about that. I have a query into SendOwl and will hopefully have a fix soon. Problem solved. Sorry about that!

A Birthday Quilt for My Girl

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A few months ago, I stumbled upon this pin on Pinterest. It was a set of embroidered coasters designed by Japanese embroidery designer Hiroko Ishii in the (all-in-Japanese) book Stitch Ideas Volume 11 (ISBN 978-4-529-04826-2). Before I knew it, I had ordered the book, planning to make a birthday quilt for Amelia.

In the book, there is the pinned picture, another detail picture of a few of the coasters close up, and a tiny set of line drawings — each one about 2" square, maybe. I enlarged the drawings on a copy machine so that they were almost the width of a letter-size piece of paper, so about 8" square. I spent a day gathering my fabrics and planning colors and transferring the designs (I always trace my designs on a lightbox with either a fine-tipped permanent marker or a fabric marker, or in the case of the black one, a white quilting pencil). I kept most of the fabric colors, most of the floss colors, and most of the designs exactly the way they were in the original. (I changed October somewhat, to be more birthday-ish.) And then I started to stitch. And stitch. And stitch. And stitch. Every night, after she went to bed, I hurled myself onto my chaise lounge with a cup of tea and a bag of Raisinettes and some Ice Lake Rebels (obsessed) and got to work. Last week, I finished the embroidery. This week, I framed the squares with 2" calico strips and stitched them into the quilt top. Today, allow me to show you the months of the year that have occupied my every August and September night at the end of this glorious summer we had, the one just before our girl turns three years old.













The whole year:

Oh man. Someone draw me a bath and bring me a good book and pick up my kid from playschool and make some dinner for me, please. Then it'll be right back to work to make some money to start saving for the pony for her fourth birthday because there's just no possible way I can top this thing on my own, ever.

I'm rather proud of this. Andy came in while I was working on it and said, "Oh wow, that's awesome! That's too nice to use!" I said, "I know." He said, "But we are going to use it, right?" I said, "No." Then I said, "Just I am." Then he made that face like the emoji with the big eyes and the straight line for a mouth.

I actually did cry about four times while sewing the top together the past few days. One time was when I was listening to the song Little Waltz by Basia Bulat. Another was when I was remembering the day Amelia was born. And there were two other times. It was just getting so big and I was really happy with it, and kind of weirdly relieved that it was coming together, and my baby girl is growing up. It's strange to have hours to myself, sewing, and thinking, thinking about her, which is what I had over these past few days, alone in my studio. I did little else but work on putting this together, using some of the strips of fabric from clothes I had made her over the past year, the October block framed by the fabric that I'd used to make her birthday dress last week, the background fabric one I've just always loved — salmon-colored flowers against an opal-gray background, like the bright leaves on our dogwood tree against the autumn sky, as it was the October day we brought her home — and that solid-colored frame around the first calicoes the color of moonstone. Oh, my love.

. . .

The top's big, about 54" x 72", so she can use it on her toddler bed and hopefully on her double bed when she moves into it. The back will be 1/2" gray gingham and the binding a sort of pale mustard with lilac dots. I'll try to finish the back today. I'm using cotton for the batting because I have it already. Everything for the top and back I already had in my stash, or got out of my scrap basket. All of it, even that, felt really good. I can't say enough about how much I love Hiroko Ishii's design. It's like a sweet, quiet, wistful, charming poem. What an privilege it's been to make this. I think it's my favorite thing I've ever made, ever.

Now to make the quilt sandwich, and then to sit under it while doing the quilting and binding. By hand (it can be no other way, I don't think). I may not finish it by her birthday. I doubt I will. It'll be close though. You can't rush hand sewing. You don't want to.

It was really hard to photograph this, for some reason. I apologize for the wrinkles. I dragged it all over the place looking for normal light in my house which apparently I don't have. Nevertheless, thank you for indulging me. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll answer them here. I'm gonna go eat a sandwich now and watch Judge Judy.

Still Summer

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Wah! Here, there, and everywhere. Often in the kitchen. I'm surprised, with all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning, and the broken dishwasher, there's been time to go anywhere, seriously. And yet, I have a moment every single day where I ask myself, "Can what I'm about to do wait until fall?" And if the answer is yes (and it's almost always yes, though I'm so anxious for it), we go back outside. These days. There is so much to do. Andy's two-week vacation starts today, and we are staying home this time. Already, most of the days are accounted for. I picture myself running around a track, knock-kneed, arms flailing wildly; I cross the finish line, and fall dramatically to the ground then do a really fast volleyball roll where I land flat-out on my back, and then someone pours an entire bottle of water directly onto my face — and that's September. I bought Amelia her new yellow raincoat and she put it right on. It's very wishful thinking but we girls can dream. We had one lovely, rainy moment that we watched from the kitchen door and I tell you, no two-hundred-and-fifty raindrops and ten whole minutes were more appreciated in the history of the world.

THANK YOU thank you for all of the party hat kit (and pattern) orders. Thank you!!! Things started slowly but have been rollicking along, and I truly thank you. It's a weird time of year to be launching a new kit, but I have so many plans and projects coming up. I'm sort of just whacking at things and hitting them back over the net. But I'm so excited that these hat kits are out there, and I hope you like making them. I'm already working on stuff for Amelia's birthday in October (that embroidery project above, which will be a quilt, bumped the log cabin out of the queue, and that's now planned for Christmas). I absolutely love where her birthday falls in the year. I think it would be my favorite day of the year anyway, but this is the first special occasion we've ever had that falls in October, and wow, what a treat.

Is this not an insane amount of cooking above? Agreed. And much of it repeated recipes, which I'm finding is, as you mentioned, the way to go. I'm ridiculously happy with how this is all going. Above please find blueberry custard pie (without the streusel this time and just a sprinkle of demerara sugar; much improved, in my opinion), chicken with peanut sauce and ginger rice (and steamed broccoli; and I have made a LOT of peanut sauces, and this one is my favorite by far), Sarah's quinoa salad with tequila shrimp added, my dad's Chili Lobo, and another round of blackened fish tacos (which I now make regularly, baking the tilapia in parchment paper at 400 degrees F for twenty minutes, and serve with my dad's coleslaw, avocado, and mango). Amelia and we are in negotiations for a big-girl chair, so she can sit at the table and not be in the high chair. I have mixed feelings about this, as it will change dinnertime from what is now a pretty relaxing scene (because she is fully restrained in her high chair, and seems rather content to be once she is actually in it) to one where she constantly wants to leave the table (cue ensuing negotiations, etc.). She may be ready but I'm not sure I am. Especially with all this 4:00 p.m. cooking, I really can't even express how much I love collapsing into my chair for dinner knowing that she's happily strapped in, unable to destroy anything else. We successfully negotiated the stop-throwing-your-dishes thing (which was a big problem here); I used my Parental Reverse Psychology on her (yay!) and bought a bunch of Very Fancy china salad plates and bowls at Goodwill ($1 a piece, cheaper than plastic, quite frankly), explaining that she now had her own set of Very Fancy Dishes and needed to take care of them, and could not throw them, drop them, fling them, or otherwise. Weirdly, this totally worked. She carries them in to me after dinner as if walking a petri dish across a crowded lab — very, very carefully (she assures me). I make a big deal over this, and she is proud. And I am so proud of her. Any advice for the chair?

Also, yes, I should advise you that I intend to fully embrace the whole toddler bento phenomenon when she starts playschool two mornings (including lunch) a week next month. Whaaaaaa? What is happening here?!?! How have I never heard of such a thing? It's too adorable. I'll now be spending approximately all of my free time in the kitchen cutting stars out of cantaloupe and piercing hotdog bites with dry spaghetti. I can't wait.

***Garter scarf to go with new toddler raincoat. Not at all impressed with my edges or weaving in of ends. May rethink concept, or actually Google proper way of doing this. Go through back loop on first stitch? You can't slip it, when changing colors? . . .

***Her coat is from here.

My Sweetiepie Sampler Kits Now Available!

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Well, good morning! Do you know your ABCs? We're learning them here, and we want to share ours with you!


My Sweetiepie ABCs Cross Stitch Sampler Kit is now ready to order here!

You can click on both of those images above to see them enlarged. :)

This counted cross stitch sampler was inspired by the delightful experience of living with two-year-old Miss Amelia Paulson while she learns, among billions of other things right now, her ABCs. It is stitched on 32-count linen (that's 16 stitches per inch) with two-plies of DMC six-ply cotton embroidery floss. Suitable for boys and girls of all ages, it is, to date, possibly my favorite thing I have ever designed.

Finished Size of Design Area: 13.1" x 10.3" (33cm x 26cm); 210 stitches wide x 165 high on 32-count fabric

My Sweetiepie ABCs Cross Stitch Sampler Kit contains:

One 20" x 18" (51cm x 46cm) piece of 32-count Zweigart Belfast linen in Stone Gray
(79) 24" (61cm) lengths of various colors of DMC 6-ply cotton embroidery floss
Stitching instructions
Illustrated stitch tutorial for special stitches
Color cross-stitch chart with symbols
One piece of chipboard for creating a floss organizer
*Frame not included.

You will need your own:

#24 tapestry needle(s) for cross stitch
Embroidery scissors
4" (10cm) embroidery hoop
Frame and framing supplies

If you are new to counted cross stitch, or need a refresher on the basics, please see my "how to do counted cross stitch" tutorial here.

This is not a hard project, and can definitely be done by beginners, but it is big! And the stitches are small! And there are a lot of colors! There are 47 colors in this sampler. But come on, that is why it is AWESOME!!! Using so many colors gives these little motifs so much depth and richness, especially relative to each other. Besides, you don't want this project to go fast. You want to sit with this and watch every episode of Outlander and then start the new season (which just started).

That said, I think one of the "hardest" parts of making this sampler will be organizing the 79 lengths of floss (in 47 colors) that you will receive in the kit. The floss will come to you in three separate hanks, with about twenty-six or -seven 24" lengths in each group. The pattern includes a list of floss colors and numbers, along with their symbols as used in the chart, organized into the three groups. I've included a piece of chipboard (thin cardboard) and the instructions for making floss organizers like mine.


To help you separate the colors, which can be a bit tricky but not really too bad (since you are given the number of lengths included and the color name, which provides a general description of the color itself) I've put some large photos of my floss, all organized, up on my web site here. This should help you figure out how to tell the colors apart, relative to each other. 

Remember, you need to separate two plies away from the six-ply embroidery floss length to work the cross stitches throughout the sampler. Special stitches, including backstitches and French knots, use one or two plies, as indicated in the instructions. If you don't know how to do these stitches, I've included illustrations and directions for working them in the pattern.

The chart you will receive is quite large, larger than the actual size of the finished piece, and it is broken into four separate one-sided pages. You can use them individually or cut them out and tape the chart together, overlapping the grayed areas. Each color has its own symbol, keyed, as I mentioned, to a list of color names and DMC's assigned floss-color number. To work the design, you follow the chart, counting stitches as you go.

It also really helps to have something dark on your lap as you stitch. The holes in the fabric that you need to stitch through are so much easier to see.


Also, as you probably know, I also carry my favorite supplies in my web shop, should you need lovely, high quality tools. For this project, we have:


Gorgeous little embroidery scissors.


Hardwicke Manor 4" hoops.


Twill tape to wrap around the inner hoop. You don't need to do this, but it's nice, and provides more tension to keep the fabric from slipping out of the hoop as you stitch.


And size #24 tapestry needles for cross stitch on linen.

All supplies will be shipped along with your kit.

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.

What else do I need to tell you. I don't even know. Other than that I am crazy excited about this! If you do have questions, please ask them here and I will pop back in throughout the day to answer. Thank you!!! Xoxoxoxoxo, A&Co.!

Pretty Petals

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Oh, apple trees! My favorite of the flowering trees. So humble and sweet and pretty. And their scent. My gosh, I love them.

I made a pillow and a pizza and more dresses. Thank you so much for all of the zipper advice! I tried what sounded like the easiest thing, and sewed straight down both sides from top to bottom (instead of going down one size, across the bottom, pivoting and coming up the other side) and it worked perfectly! Yippee. That was nice! Thanks! From left to right I used Simplicity 6713, c. 1966, and added a few inches to the length (fabric from JoAnn's); McCall's 8152, c. 1965 (fabric is Liberty Tana Lawn Mae [D]); and McCall's 9525, c. 1968, and added 12" to width of the front skirt, and 6" to each of the back panels, as well (fabric is from Mill End Store). These are rainy-day dresses, things you would wear at Bloomsbury while pressing flowers gathered in the bluebell woods. I soooooo enjoy sewing for my boo. I can't stop.

It's been raining here a bit, and I have been happy. The gardens are just exploding. Everything is fresh and fragrant and frothing with green. Our walks are filled with rainbursts and wild rambles, just to stay outside for longer. The sky the other night was so dramatic, with layers of cloud and light and dark. When I look out the windows in the early evenings, everything glows with bloom and late light.

Slowly but surely, My Sweetiepie ABCs sampler kits are coming together. The materials are finally starting to come in (it takes forever for this stuff to come in). The fabric has arrived in Wisconsin and is being folded. The embroidery floss is on its way, and then will get pulled (all 79 strands per kit, egads). I'm just finishing up the pattern, then that will go to the printer. More on all of this in a couple of weeks, when we're closer to being finished and ready to put them in the shop. I'm ridiculously excited. Oh I love seeing a plan come together. It's kind of thrilling, honestly.

***Oooops, forgot to link to the pizza — it's here, and I added some fresh mozzarella this time, too. Got a bit soppy, but if you let it stand for a few minutes, it's still very delicious.


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It's the winter that feels like spring. Without flowers. I see daffodils and irises and other little spring bulb-type things popping up through the mud, though. The rest of the country is covered in blizzard after blizzard and foot after foot of snow. ALAS, poor us, we have nothing but sunshine and 60-degree weather. Sigh. I am possibly the only person in the Pacific Northwest who's bummed out about that.

The days at home have been lazy and lovely, nevertheless. I made this chicken tartiflette (channeling après-ski fantasies) with the new mandoline I got for Christmas, and it was very, very good. We've been playing and reading and sleeping and stitching. I've been working on version 2.0 of the sampler and I really love this. The new sampler kits should be available in about eight or nine weeks. The fabric is on order, and we're still calculating amounts and colors of floss. This thing has forty-seven colors in it. I'll print the chart very large for you to try to compensate for the small size of the stitches. Also, yes, we're in the process of ordering more materials to make more Maggie, Juniper, and Basil kits. Those are a few months out, too.

Does anyone out there from River Forest or Oak Park or Forest Park remember the smiley-face cookies with the chocolate eyes from Kay's Bakery? Man, those things were the best. And the chocolate bismarks from the bakery next to River Forest Market on Lake Street. Is the market even still there? I loved that place. Thinking about it, and home, lately. I wonder why. I think it's the snow. I remember standing in front of the bakery eating a bismark, waiting for the bus in the freezing cold. Chocolate and pastry cream. The smell of exhaust on the icy morning air. Rush hour. I miss that.

Amelia carries her dolly around, cuddling her and kissing her on the forehead. I say, "Mimi, you're such a good mommy to your baby." She, impatiently: "Oh, I know, I know.

***The book she is looking at is A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books. One of our favorites.

Winterwoods Sampler (Again)

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Thank you so much for all of your generous comments on the new sampler! Since my post I've been getting emails about and orders for the Winterwoods ABCs Sampler Kit so I just wanted to pop in really quick and show that to you again here in case you want to try it out. I designed this kit in 2012. It is very dear to my heart. You can read my original post about it here or order it here. I know that many people  who had never cross-stitched before have made this, which makes me ridiculously happy. This is a good winter project. I love it.


***Also, in answer to some questions from the last post: The muffins were made from this recipe, and the Mammagetti is an old family recipe that came from my mom's mother. I think that's my sister's handwriting on the card. My mom said that when she was little she would often have ice-skating birthday parties and then everyone would come back to her house for Mammagetti. It is kind of a strange recipe — I made it for the first time last week in about ten years. There is an absolute ton of vegetables in this thing, so use a huge pot. My mom says that you really do HAVE to add the cheese. It totally changes it. And you really do have to cook it that long, I guess. As far as the cheese container size goes, I think the one I added was 8 oz. Obviously, you can substitute fresh grated Parmesan or your own favorite spaghetti sauce for the Ragu, but this was the way we always made it in our family. It's a nostalgia thing. I love this but, ironically, my sister doesn't (anymore). I serve it over thin spaghetti with a big blob of ricotta and a big glass of milk. Sunday-night winter dinner. Yummy stuff.

****Oh yeah — thank you for reminding me, Cynthia (and thank you for your kind words) — the line in the recipe that says "fill to almost with water" [sic]. My mom says to add 2 cups of water. Sorry about that!!!

Swirlywhirl, and Slow

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January. What would I do without you, specifically your frowsy second half, after the holidays and the birthdays and the outings? Because there are the lights . . . and the burnt-out lights and the only-half-put-away decorations and the only-half-put-away presents and all the things, things strewn here and there and everywhere, things that only appear here in the second half of January, somehow, and somehow my normally compulsive tidying impulse just drifts away like a little piece of fluff on the sodden winter wind. Bye-bye. There it goes! Instead I settle, and heavily, into the downy puff of calico on our sofa, let Amelia watch too much Peppa Pig (but she's so soft and snuggly, tucked under my big, soft arm where she fits so perfectly, when she's watching!), and cook giant batches of things to freeze for three more dinners, or twelve more breakfasts, all to minimize my time away from needle and thread. Because when I get an idea, especially in January, make way, all you other things I should be doing (cleaning! taxes! grocery shopping!). I must sew.

Could anything be more antithetical to my life right now than making tiny cross-stitches on 32-count linen? Oh my stars, it is slow, so slow, and so small. I couldn't decide if this was a good or a bad thing. For sure, it is stark relief against the background of days with a whirling, twirling toddler, who once again has started dragging the chair all over the house and getting into everything on every surface: the basket of punch cards and keys and stray coins we keep by the front door; my dish of extra buttons from new clothes, and jewelry, and random push pins (?) I apparently (though I had forgotten it, until she found it and strewed the contents around the room) keep on my dresser; the houseplants that are (leaf by leaf) being denuded of leaves; the Lenox wedding-china teacup she brought to me, holding it up in both hands as if presenting a rare bird. I gasped to see it and r u s h e d — you know the oxymoronic slow rush you must do so as not to completely freak her out and cause her to just wig, and throw it? — out of the kitchen to pluck the cup neatly from her little hands and try to determine how she managed to (silently) finagle the elaborate system of ponytail holders we have holding the china-cabinet doors closed (since the attempt at installing the baby lock on that door actually broke the door frame, etc., etc.). When her hair slides loose from its braids, and she is rushing from one of her work stations (the mail basket!) to the other (the dining-room lamp cords!), she looks like Animal from the Muppets (Andy's favorite childhood character, conveniently) in the midst of an epic drum solo. Our house is only so babyproofable. Not babyproofable enough, right now. Winter in Portland: You don't know what raining means until you have a careening, ambitious toddler that can't go to the park every day.

Nevertheless, oh my darling girl, how I love the torrent of language that is flowing from her lips. Almost constant chatter, and much of it starting to make sense, and the sense it makes is so sweet and so funny and so fascinating to me. Wow. The babble, the questions, the songs, the pretend noises (dinosaur! kitty!), the shouts, the calls, the exclamations (yuck-y! mine! no! yes!) the thrilling sentences ("I want to play with this one!"). A jumble of expression, numbers and colors and songs and letters like a burst of confetti thrown into the air every minute. How could I not make an alphabet sampler for my tiny love who is just learning, right at this very moment, the ABCs? I couldn't not. I have never had such fun designing anything, or done it in such a real-time way.  Amelia takes the half-finished sampler from my hands, and names her world: apple, boat, kitty. Egg. Umbrella. Zebra!

I did the designing part quickly, like I do most everything else these days, rushing to finish plotting out every stitch on every single letter and image in one free afternoon. But then the stitching part — oh, that's the slow. And, well, now that I'm committed, it's a lovely, lovely slow. I had forgotten how lovely embroidering can be. I let myself completely settle in. It happens at night, after baby bedtime. Every night this month, by the white light of my hideous full-spectrum lamp, I stitch a motif, and a letter, and maybe half of a next one, drawing the thread through over and over again, finding it restorative after a season of so much activity — holidays, parties, events, trips, hikes, presents, people, etc., etc., etc. — and days of so much swirling, twirling toddlerness.

It's been a long time since I've designed a cross-stitch sampler, and I wanted to make this one a kit to use up the pretty substantial overstock of floss (from ornament kits, embroidery kits, and animal kits) that Stacey recently catalogued. There is a lot, and the palette is so pretty, I think. Most of the other cross-stitch pieces I've designed (and there have been quite a few that I never talked about here, because I did 1/3 of my second book on cross stitch, and none of those could be shared while in progress, which doesn't suit me) have been on 28-count linen. I thought it was my preferred. I do love it. But I couldn't get the color I wanted — Stone Gray, this sort of clay-colored, rosy gray — in 28-count (Cashel linen), only in 32 (Belfast linen). (To refresh your memory about cross-stitch counts, my tutorial on counted cross-stitch is here.) I pouted. I whined again about the cross-stitch industry (oh, fun!). I looked at and tested out about ten different colors. But I wanted Stone Gray. So I grudgingly started stitching on the 32-count, and I worked a few motifs on other colors of 28-count just to torture myself. And what happened was (you saw this coming, I know), I fell in love with the 32. Smaller, yes, but not even appreciably more "difficult" than stitching 28-count, and the motifs wind up looking tighter and brighter and more saturated, and that just feels right for this (rather large, in fact) piece. So now I love the 32! This almost never happens, but it did this time. Then the distributor called and said that Zweigart would custom dye, in Stone Gray, the yardage that I wanted for the kits in 28-count linen. And I said no. Now I'm sticking with the 32. So that's how that all went. And let's hope we can get this fabric.

Did you need to know all this? Probably not. But such is the exciting life of a cross-stitcher. I could hardly keep it to myself! And who else could I tell but you???

I love the design process so much, especially when it's not for a book, where there really isn't time to tweak the colors of the design. When I design on my own, I get to take my own time, and redo stuff until I'm happy. You don't know if colors are really "working" (that's relative) until you've stitched them. And they totally change depending on what background color (and, to a lesser degree, what count of fabric) you're using. I love all of that. I love working it out, and balancing it, and shifting it. I love obsessing about one color over another, changing the placement of an eye or mouth, or just swiftly rendering something to capture the feeling of energy that can't be belabored. You're seeing the first draft of it all here — these are not the final motifs or colors, but they're close. It's a funny life, in a way, to care about such little things in my few quiet hours of the day. It must provide some sort of weird balance, somehow. I don't even know. But it gives me something. It always has.

These are January thoughts, in the year that my baby girl is two.

***Answers to some questions here (more or less copied from the next post): The muffins were made from this recipe, and the Mammagetti is an old family recipe that came from my mom's mother. I think that's my sister's handwriting on the card. My mom said that when she was little she would often have ice-skating birthday parties and then everyone would come back to her house for Mammagetti. It is kind of a strange recipe — I made it for the first time last week in about ten years. There is an absolute ton of vegetables in this thing, so use a huge pot. My mom says that you really do HAVE to add the cheese. It totally changes it. And you really do have to cook it that long, I guess. As far as the "cheese container" size goes, I think the one I added was 8 oz. Re: the line in the recipe that says "fill to almost with water" [sic]: My mom says to just add 2 cups of water. Obviously, you can substitute fresh grated Parmesan or your own favorite spaghetti sauce for the Ragu, but this was the way we always made it in our family. It's a nostalgia thing. I love this but, ironically, my sister doesn't (anymore). I serve it over thin spaghetti with a big blob of ricotta and a big glass of milk. Sunday-night winter dinner. Yummy stuff.

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




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.