Posts filed in: Fabric and Sewing

Happy New Year!

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Oh, the messy, bright blur and wonder of all of these days! For goodness sake. Where does the time go? I would've written sooner but I was too busy making a dollhouse floor out of Popsicle sticks and looking at every miniatures web site ever constructed for the perfect diminutive wallpaper. I certainly am enjoying Amelia's Christmas present! And everything else about the holidays. It's been a glorious few weeks. Christmas with a four-year-old is the absolute best.

Today the winter sun is shining ever so brightly, and it's so windy that my office is flashing with light. It's freezing cold. It's Amelia's first day back at preschool in three weeks. Ahem. Mummy is a bit  e x h a u s t e d. The holidays, no matter how "simple" you try to make them, wind up being crazy busy. At least for us. Yesterday I got to spend the day by myself, and that was the first day that I haven't spent pretty much all day (and night — she keeps waking up) with Amelia in the past weeks. I went out to lunch at the brewpub all by myself, and they gave me such an awesome table, right in front of the roaring fire. I ate fish tacos and read my book and texted my friends. Then I went to the bookstore for a few hours and then I went to JoAnn Fabrics. At JoAnn's, which was pretty much empty, I wandered aimlessly and thought about things like should I buy these seven little silver cones (apparently jewelry-making findings) for $3.49 or should I use an old toothpaste cap for a tiny pendant-light-fixture (made out of a drawer pull) escutcheon??? I think about things like this now, when I have time to think of things. It was quite wonderful to wander aimlessly. I even looked at a magazine. Yes. It was a really nice way to finish the "vacation."

I wish you all a very happy new year and hope that you had a wonderful holiday season! It's my birthday in a few days and I want to make something good for dinner but I don't know what. Any ideas?

***The raspberry thumbprint recipe can be found here; the dress pattern I made for Amelia is Simplicity #9297 from 1979, and the fabric is from the wonderful Pioneer Quilts; the dollhouse I got used on Craigslist (but the same one is here) and I was totally inspired to get it because of Artemis's darling version — seriously, is that not the cutest ever; and I made Meyer lemon pudding with some gorgeous lemons my dear friend Sarah gave me for Christmas the recipe is here. I honestly don't think you need to add the butter, and a little zest could easily replace half the lemon juice.

Snow Day

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Oh, snow. I wait, I wait. When it comes, I'm beside myself, even though, almost every time, snow in Portland quickly turns to ice. I can't get off my own front porch. The enormous orthopedic shoe I wear on my left foot has as much traction as a salad plate, and is almost as big. Nevermind; the winds were too strong to brave going out, anyway. The branches on the black trees whipped and whistled. The air was ice cold. I pushed open the back door against the wind and scooped cup after cup full of snow; she ate it with an espresso spoon. We sat in the upstairs windows and watched the slice of neighborhood we are granted to observe. No one came, no one went. The mail lady came and quickly went. Inside, Amelia nibbled on raspberries and watched Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I drank hot chocolate and took a bath and read Farmer Boy. By dinnertime it was raining ice. I flung salt toward the front path from the front porch. Not even from the porch — from the door. Ice covered everything. On the way home, around 9:00 p.m., Andy's bus broke a tire chain on the bridge. Everyone but Andy got off the bus and onto some other bus. He sat and chatted with the bus driver, who was from Cleveland. Eventually, someone came with new chains. He made it home and I relaxed. This morning, ice still covers everything but it's raining hard. We're having a party tonight.

Above: the ornaments I made for Amelia's little tree and our mantel. I loved making every single one of them. The gnome and mushroom and raccoon and owl are from Little Dear (Aimee Ray); the running bunny and animal portraits are from Bumpkin Hill; the angel is from I. Manufatti; and the winter girl is from Mimi Kirchner. I bought a bunch of these patterns last year and just never got around to making them. I made almost all of them over Thanksgiving weekend, and stitched the year on the back of each (unless I forgot, which I did sometimes). I got the stockings from Etsy, too; just search for "vintage quilt stocking." There are tons of them.

Every night, for weeks now, I have been knitting Amelia this sweater. It's bottom up, and I'm not even to the sleeve join. I've never knit anything so slow in my life. I love it but . . . ugh. Every. Single. Night. That lace pattern just doesn't grow. I've looked at a few versions of it on Ravelry and I like the look of the lace unblocked and sort of squished down, so, there ya go — even slower, then. Hopefully I'll finish it while it's still cold out. Last night while I was putting her to bed, we were lying in the dark and she said, "Mom? I want you to knit me a [insert me bolting upright here] sweater . . . with buttons on it, in the front." Me [feigning nonchalance]: "Oh, a cardigan? Sure, baby. I'd love to. What color?" Her: "Pink . . . no, rainbow!" It took every ounce of strength I had not to jump out of bed and run downstairs and start surfing Ravelry for patterns. Fifteen hours later and I've got pattern picked and yarn on order. . . . Hurry up, Faunajakke lace!!! I've got an order for a sweater from my kid.

Another conversation: "Meems, don't you think it would be nicer to keep your room cleaner and not have so much stuff on everything and falling off of everything all the time?" Her: "No." Me: "But don't you think that when it's too cluttered and there's too much stuff on your nightstand you can't see what you have to play with because there's too much stuff everywhere?" Her: "No."  Me [flailing]: "Oh. But if there's too much stuff in your way it's kind of overwhelming and you can't, like, play with it . . . very well . . . because it's falling . . . everywhere?" Her: "No." Me [twitching]: "Um. . . ."

Santa Lucia nightgown at the ready. Milk-white flannel. Tiny lace trim and a silk ribbon. Simplicity 3586. We do agree about this.

School Days

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Well, well. School has started and it has been wonderful. School days! All two of them so far! :) First day: All the parents and kids wait in the foyer for the classroom door to open. There is one moment . . . one quiet, worried moment . . . taking her boots off, hanging up her coat. I bend down close. I can see everything move across her face. Curiosity and courage win out. Twenty minutes later, when the door opens, she gives us our kisses and hugs, turns to wave, and walks right in, wide-eyed with delight. Reportedly, she was the first one out on the dance floor. At school they dance, play, sing songs, garden, bake bread, cook soup, go outside, make music, rest, eat lunch. Her teachers texted mid-morning to say she was doing great! I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath. After school, at pick-ups, she shrieks with glee and runs down the hall toward me, carrying Foxie and swinging her lunch basket. I scoop her up — she's so big — and hold her close, her weight heavy and limp with relief and fatigue. She presses her cheek so hard against mine and says, "Mommy . . . Mommy. . . ." I hold her for as long as I possibly can. Oh, my overflowing, fast-beating heart! School is intense! Even for us parents! I can only imagine what it's like for the children. So many new spaces, new places to put your things, a routine you've never had, new kids, new parents. My big, brave, beautiful girl. She inspires me every single moment. I love her so and am so thrilled for her.

After drop-off the first day, Andy and I, shaky with nervous energy, stopped for breakfast. Sitting next to each other, ordering the exact same thing, giddy with freedom (though we can't stop talking about Amelia), we linger for the first time in years. At home, with newfound empty hours and a huge list of chores I've been desperately needing to do, I do nothing, circling the rooms in a daze and working on my hand puppet. Andy gets a long-overdue haircut. The hours go perfectly slowly. Three mornings, twelve hours a week. It feels  monumental. I actually sit at my desk and space out. I can't remember the last time it's happened. After school yesterday we walked through the neighborhood to mail her birthday-party invitations and her six chain letters. The sun was shining, the air was cool, the leaves were red. She cried — bawled — when we passed her old friend's house and her friend's car wasn't there, and we didn't stop by. Maybe tomorrow, I said. Lillian might be at school, too. A different school. The bitter-sweetness of it all moved me. And her.

Another neighbor was cleaning out some old spaces and brought over a puppet she made years ago. That's hers, with the yellow hair. Amelia took down the tension-rod curtains in my office and brought them out to the back yard, and Andy set them up on some chairs. I listened to the two of them do a show (which lasted about four minutes) and it made me want to make a puppet. I got a dowel and some Model Magic and sculpted a head, then covered it with papier-mache (I just used newsprint and flour-and-water paste). She's my first puppet. I can't believe I've never made a puppet before, ever, even as a child (that I remember, anyway). I started off saying I was making this one for Amelia but now I don't really want to give it to her because it took me about three hours to put her yarn-hair on and I know Amelia will quickly peel it off, even if she says she won't. I told her I'd give it to her when she's fifteen. Guffaw. I'm probably serious, though. Usually I'm not like that — I gave her all of the stuffed animals I made (and who even knows where they or their clothes are now), I really don't care that much about my furniture or walls (though they haven't suffered too much, I don't think), and I certainly don't care how she destroys her clothes when she's playing — but I'm pretty sure I should keep this puppet out of reach. Better make another, less-precious one.

Actually, she's sitting in my office right now, holding the puppet (that I accidentally left on my table) and touching her hair very gently and then giving me a tiny little wave when she sees me watching her. Maybe there's hope. . . . Maybe I'll give it to her when she's fourteen. . . .

Sweet Summer

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Our lives seem to have this small circumference right now. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that but I've felt a sort of pulling in. When deciding what to do I'll choose the easiest, most do-able option, treading ground that's familiar and simple, staying in the slow lane. It feels like an instinct, some primitive reaction to the world at large (while trying to process the large, often terrible things in it, and failing, failing) making the same recipes over and over, cleaning the house, going to bed early. My days alone with Amelia are long and light and sweet; suddenly toddlerhood feels different, less about mitigating meltdowns and more about true communication, shared emotions, playing at so much make-believe, doing drawings of things ("This is a house, laughing; this is a flower, going down the stairs"), giving and getting the sweetest kisses and hugs. I've listened to almost all of the Janet Lansbury toddler-parenting podcasts in the past couple of months and they've added a lightness to my heart and sharpened my perspective on what's important to me, parenting-wise (and Andy; we see pretty much eye-to-eye on all parenting stuff). Watching Amelia play her days away is so fascinating and funny and just excellent. Listening to toddlers talking to each other is just about the sweetest thing in the world. She is no wallflower, and gravitates toward the slightly older girls, four or five years old. She walks up to them and says, "Hi! I'm Amelia! What's your name?" Then she'll look over to me and shout, "Mom! I made a friend!" Huge smile. Heart explosion into a thousand pieces of salt-water taffy, every color of the rainbow. I pray for peace for our children. All of them, everywhere.

When I've had some free time, I've been sewing a bit. The pink dress is the Hattie from Brownie Goose, and the pocket dress is Simplicity 8087 from Ashley of Lazy Daisy Jones. Super cute, and reminds me so much of the house-dresses that my grandma used to make for herself — also calicos, always simple A-line dresses with patch pockets, short sleeves, and bias-tape bindings. I don't think I ever saw my grandma in anything but a dress like this, though she preferred black and navy calicos. The fabrics were always worn so soft. I can picture them now. I wish I had a couple of those dresses now. I bought the Ann Carolyn smock pattern by Odacier for myself after seeing some really cute versions on Instagram so maybe I'll have some cute clothes too, one of these days.

Here is a meltdown: Yesterday Amelia was putting on a cute pair of mint-green jean shorts from Baby Gap and she freaked out. "Mom, the tag is in the back but the pockets are in the back! Why are the pockets in the back, Mom? Nooooo! Whyyyyyyyy? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?" Tears streaming down her face, very Nancy-Kerriganesque. Apparently the child has never seen a pair of jeans before. This is how you know you're a serious home sew-er (of mostly dresses).

The weather here has been, dare I say, practically perfect in every way. Cool. Bright. Sunny. Cloudy. Not too hot. Not too cold. If Mary Poppins and Goldilocks had a baby it would be the weather in Portland lately. Thumbs up there.

I'm starting to collect reading material and knitting projects for our cross-country train trip later this month. Cozy mysteries, and a fair-isle sweater for Amelia's birthday. Recommendations for cozy mysteries appreciated (they need to be reeeeeally cozy, and not too scary)! ***Oh, and yes, I've read almost all of Agatha Raisin! :) Love curmudgeons! Thank you!

Middle of June

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The apples on our Cox's Orange Pippin apple tree are already turning red. I'm not sure if that's normal, for mid-June, but it seems early. The weather this week has been blissfully cloudy, cool, rainy, and it even hailed yesterday, but the weekend should heat up in time for swimming lessons to start next week. Amelia is excited, and practices "swimming" circles around the living room, showing me how she will blow bubbles and paddle and put her face into the water like a big girl when she gets there. This age, oh man. It is just awesome. It is busy. It is mercurial. But it is fantastic. There's just so much going on for her right now as she gains independence and confidence and grows in physical and emotional ways. When she's angry, she stomps her foot as if trying to freeze the entire kingdom (thanks, Elsa) and her fury truly blazes, hot and sure. When's she's cuddly she'll wrap every long limb around me and tuck her face deep into my neck, or put her hands on my cheeks and look into my eyes. When she's sweet, she tilts her head to the side and talks to her stuffed animals in the sweetest little mommy voice, explaining things patiently and patting heads and tummies with reassurance. When she's silly she squeals and launches herself in wild arcs around the king-size bed, flopping and jumping and bucking and kicking, trying to reach the mobile with her feet. She's very tall for her age, I think, taller than the other kids who were exactly her size when they all started playschool together last fall. Every week we measure her against the yard stick at the library, and she's grown four inches since her third birthday, eight months ago. My sunflower, stretching and swinging and singing for the sun, sweet and big and brave and true.

I made honey/garlic/butter/coconut milk shrimp for dinner, and it was delicious. I made a couple of pairs of baby-doll pajamas (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5562, c. 1982) and a couple of shirts (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5757, c. 1964) and a couple of skirts (from vintage McCall's pattern #7882, c. 1982). I made plans for a birthday dress (vintage McCall's #2661, c. 1970) and ordered some beautiful Tana Lawn (Michelle, in Blue) for it. I finally started knitting a present for a friend (more about that later). I think I may have resolved to give away almost my entire yarn stash. I feel like it's just holding me back somehow, and I can't really explain that, because it's not that big, and I did feel like I was making a good-sized dent in it this past year. But there's just something about it that isn't helping me anymore. Maybe it can help someone else. I feel like my palette and my fiber preferences have changed, and my stash is reflecting a me that was, and not the me that is. I don't even want to have a stash at all, in fact.

Rainflowers

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I just finished the quilt! I'm really happy! It's in the wash right now. I can't wait to see it after it's been washed and dried. I backed it with pale mauve-pink double gauze, soft as a cloud. I used cotton-wool-blend batting (I think it was Hobbs). I used a cream-colored fabric with tiny turquoise dots for the binding. I did the binding completely by machine: I used 2 1/4" cross-grain strips, folded in half lengthwise and applied to the front of the quilt sandwich with a 1/4" seam. I wrapped it around to the back and made sure it just covered the seam on from the back, and pinned it perfectly in the ditch, just catching the back edge. I pinned a lot. Then I stitched in the ditch all the way around, catching the back edge, and it worked perfectly. You have to go slowly, and you have to pin a lot, and you have to remember to look at the front edge of your presser foot as you stitch in the ditch — don't watch the needle, watch the groove in the front of the presser foot and make sure it's centered perfectly over the ditch. My stitches were almost imperceptible. The back edge was just barely caught and looked great. I always do my binding by hand on the back, but honestly, this looked so good and saved soooooo much time, and so many hand stitches, I don't know that I'll ever do it by hand again! Well, maybe I will, but not in the near future. This looked really nice. The trick is the pinning exactly in the ditch. If you've pinned in the ditch, and you've caught the back edge, you will catch it when you stitch. Just take your time.

To quilt it, I decided I really wanted it to be as soft and light as possible. I was thinking of tying the whole thing, but again I just didn't want to take the time, as the big-girl bed has been purchased and just needs to be put together. Tying this would've taken too long and I'm just getting more picky about what I want to put my hands through these days — tying is pretty hard on your fingers. So, proud of my ditch-stitching on the binding (and yeah, I bound the edges first; the double-gauze felt a little shreddy and I thought it would be best to get the edges completely enclosed before I started handling it too much), I decided to quilt it by machine-stitching in the ditch around every patch. I just started on one edge and tried to follow it as far as I could. This required pushing a whole bunch of the quilt under the arm several times, so I don't know how this would work on a regular machine on anything bigger than a throw (this quilt measures 55" x 57", and yes, this was a fairly random measurement on my part; I basically just wanted something that would work right now on that little bed, and I didn't want it to be too big that she couldn't curl up under it easily on the sofa after it's too small for the bed; conveniently this just fit on a packaged throw-size batting [60" x 60"], but that was sheer luck, because naturally I don't think about any of these rational things beforehand, good grief) but it worked out just fine on my machine. Anyway, I just kept  stitching seams, backstitching a bit when I would hit a dead end, and then starting over. The batting package said I had to stitch it at most 4" apart, which is pretty tight. On the bigger patches I added a few ties.

I daresay I've never enjoyed making anything more! A lady at Fabric Depot once said to me that the best quilts are fast, fun, and finished, and this one certainly was that. I'll be hard-pressed to ever do a quilt another way, honestly!

I'll take more close-up pictures once we get the bed set up. That's going to require the whole room being rearranged so it may not be until next week.

***Oh, oh — and for those who have asked, some details about my crocheted blanket (also for Meems's new bed) are here (and I think that stitch is called the harlequin stitch, maybe?), and the bloomers pattern I used was Style pattern #3206 from 1980.

Rainbow Bright

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I've been busy with some fabric and some bloomers and some dresses. Now at least Amelia has something to wear. I definitely don't. I should probably make something for myself one of these days. Instead I made honey-mustard chicken and rosemary potatoes, which was very good. Loving that whole put-the-skillet-in-the-oven thing. Finally I'm getting to the chicken!

After I sewed several things, there literally was no more room in the scrap basket. The scrap basket is enormous. It's about two feet tall and two feet in diameter, I think. I've had it in my office for . . . sixteen years now. Both Bridget and Violet used to sleep in the scrap basket when it wasn't overflowing. Once I started pulling scraps out of it I swear it was like one of those vacuum-packed storage bags, and it basically expanded to about twice its volume once the pressure was lifted. Slightly appalling. I threw half of it on the floor and started pulling out only the scraps I wanted for a new quilt (which I didn't plan to make until one second before — yet another SQMI [Spontaneous Quilt-Making Incident] — I can't count how many I've had now — I'm just wild like that I guess). I stood at the (newly lifted with bed risers) cutting table and ironing board and pressed and rotary-cut a big pile of scraps into rectangles. I had no specific sizes — I just cut everything into the biggest rectangle that I could get out of the crazy-cut scrap. When I had a big pile, I started sewing pieces together a lot like you do with log cabin blocks — I'd stitch one piece to another, then trim the longer one right at the sewing machine with a pair of scissors. When I had a few pieces put together, I'd press it and then trim it into another rectangle with the rotary cutter. It was amazing how out-of-square the "block" would get after a few seams. But I'd just keep squaring it a bit. Eventually, I had four or five big patched rectangles and then I stitched those together to make a long strip. I did all of this in an afternoon while my sister was standing in the studio talking with me. I was barely paying attention to what I was doing, and there's a lesson for me. I like this as much as any quilt I've ever made (so far). Not sure if it will be smallish, for Amelia's pending big-girl bed or really enormous, for our king-size bed. The last time I made one for that bed was four years ago (named, I was delighted and surprised to see — I didn't remember this! — the Spring Rain quilt). That was epic. It's a pretty cool feeling to make a quilt out of only scraps. Our foremothers would be laughing at that statement, I know.

Sunshine Sprout

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Um, the weather? Sixty-three degrees yesterday? Me oh my. We spent hours walking along. Everything is burgeoning. I tucked a sprig of daphne in her hair. I put it on my nightstand last night. Sweet smell of springtime. When I was a teenager, I worked after-school and weekends as a candy girl at the Lake Theater in Oak Park. Next to the theater was a store called Essence, and it was a gorgeous little shop that sold bath and body products. Inside it was all dark wood shelving and glass cabinets, baskets of dried flowers, bars of hard-milled soaps, Crabtree & Evelyn stuff, vanilla and violet perfumes (I had my bottle of vanilla perfume forever, and kept it long after it was empty — frosted glass with a little vanilla-colored ribbon tied around the neck). I used to haunt the place after school and before work started. The same lady worked there forever. She looked like the lady who sang back up for Stevie Nicks on The Wild Heart. She was always there. She was never friendly to me and I was very intimidated by her. I thought she was possibly the coolest person alive. I loved all of those soaps and flowers and lotions and perfumes so much. I would go in and figure out what things I could afford to buy and what things I had to save for. I saved for a long time for a bottle of lilac perfume (which I still have). I was trying to tell Stacey the other day about the Spring Rain scent (and packaging) from Crabtree & Evelyn. This scent was discontinued several years ago, and then I guess they brought it back, or something. I bought some two or three years ago and it was NOT the same at all (and didn't have the pretty packaging). The scent was so different I actually threw it away. Amelia's dress (which I made a few years ago, and is Liberty Tana Lawn, but I can't remember the name of this colorway) reminds me of the old Spring Rain packaging. I also mourn the discontinuation (?) of Crabtree & Evelyn cherry soap. That was my absolute favorite soap ever. It reminds me of taking a hot bath one night in our little hotel room at the Crofton Hotel in London after walking all day in the rain all over Hampstead Heath and arriving at Highgate Cemetery just as the ancient lady was locking the ancient gate with an ancient key (that's how I remember it, anyway). It was November, then. I had walked all the way there, from Kensington. I can't imagine how many miles that was. It took me all day. I was alone. I took the tube home that evening, in the rain. When I got back to the hotel, I ran the hottest bath in the world, and had a new bar of cherry soap. There was a casement window that opened — no window screen — above the bathtub. It was inky black outside, and drizzling. I could hear Londoners outside — it was Friday night. I was so incredibly tired and happy that night. For some reason, I just always remember and think of that day, and that night. I think I knew, even then when I was twenty, that there would only ever be that one single November day that I would spend walking for miles and miles across London to Hampstead Heath, stopping at John Keats house, grabbing Indian food on the way home, counting how many pound notes I had left to see if I could afford the tube after eating dinner (this was before such things as debit cards). Ah, well. A very strong '80s-era Laura Ashley-vibe will always be alive in my heart. My friend Martha told me she is sending me a bunch of fabric from her stash of Peter Pan and other '80s calicos. That she has a stash (gifted from a friend's mom) at all is so exciting sometimes I actually fall asleep thinking about it. I love little flowers. I made this little style board on Pinterest a few years ago that reminds me of all of this (because I think about it often), or something. I'm so excited to get the fabric. It's weird how things come full circle sometimes. The circle's always there, but sometimes it comes all the way around.

Do you have a little bundle of memories about something, several things, that all sort of converge (sometimes, some days) in a smell, or a picture, or a color of sky, too?

Made three little dresses for Meems this week (two pictured above, one with a Mina vest). Will photograph with details once they come back out of the wash. :)))

Rings of Spring

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* * *  T H A N K   Y O U,   E V E R Y B O D Y ! ! ! * * *

Thank you, thank you for all of your orders and kind words about the new spring things.
I am so so so happy that you are excited about these. They have been a lot of fun for me to design!
If you ordered Spring Rings before last Friday, your packages are in the mail.
We are still waiting for yarn to arrive to ship yarn packs, but it should be here any day.
Thank you again for your support. It is humbling to watch orders come in, and I feel so incredibly blessed every single time.
Thank you! XOXO

Ah, and spring has indeed sprung 'round these parts. I need to look back to see what day our pink plum tree normally blooms, but I think it's a bit early this year. This is the week that it looks nice. The rest of the year I wish it were (almost) any other kind of tree. We have been ridiculously runny-nosed and coughing like one of those old-fashioned car horns that go "Ah-HOOG-a! Ah-HOOOOOG-a!" Just gross. Thank God Stacey's here to do all the work for me. It goes: Amelia gets sick, I get sick, Amelia gets well almost immediately, I stay sick, I take bagfuls of remedies, I wash my hands approximately seventy-five times a day, I continue to be sick, I insist I'm not still sick and am feeling better, I feel worse, Amelia gets sick again, Amelia wipes her runny nose on my face, I feel even worse, Amelia gets better, I shiver on the sofa drinking peppermint tea and beg to be allowed to go to bed at 7:45 p.m., I finally feel better (after a month). Amelia goes, "I'm coughing, just like Mommy." Ah, well. February. Today is the first day in a long time that I have felt really good, and it is thrilling, absolutely thrilling.

I have not had a chance to make ANY of the chicken recipes you provided, though I did make chicken stock from the Silver Palate Cookbook, one of the first cookbooks I ever owned and still love. I also realized that Amelia has almost no clothes that will fit her this spring and summer, and set about pinning a jillion things onto my Pinterest board, and sifting through my patterns, and thinking about color palates (rose-gold, salmon pink, gray sky, minty green, plum blossoms, milky whites, rainy blues), and shapes (peasant, peasant, and more variations on the peasant).

Do you recognize Amelia's navy gingham dress? I cry just now, re-reading that post. It's from almost exactly six years ago. 2010. I had so much time. Actually, I can't even talk about myself as I was then, laid bare, quivering with hope and dreams, sewing for survival (as I had sewn several times before. So I recognized it). I'm moved by what I wrote back then, and I remember it like it was yesterday, remember every dress I made, every fabric I washed, every little piece of rick-rack or eyelet I chose, every pocket I trimmed, every pattern I cut out. Every one of those things kept me believing, even when I wasn't sure (and trust me, I wasn't sure a lot). Occasionally someone would (gently, always gently) criticize a choice I'd made — those buttons up the back look like they'll be uncomfortable when she's strapped into a car seat; that wool's gonna be hell to wash when it's thrown up on — and instead of being hurt I'd be amazed and think, "She [dear commenter!] actually thinks a real kid is going to wear this! She really believes it's going to happen!" And the specifics of the advice only barely registered with me. I would happily wash wool by hand every day, if only a kid would come and barf on it, if only the dream would come true.

Waiting to be chosen to be someone's mother (or father) is a state of being I still don't really have words to describe. Maybe you know it; maybe you can't even imagine. I think all of us adoptive parents probably carry around this same inability to describe the experience. And I would bet that most of us, in the end, wouldn't trade it for the world.

(That's just a guess. It's certainly true for me, though living it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.)

Of course, once it happens — and, oh my, it happens — (and I do pray that it happens for you, I truly, truly do) — the fact that anything just gets washed, somehow, some way, let alone washed by hand (hahahahah!), is the new dream. Those carefully pressed French seams and hand-stitched three-inch hems wind up in the laundry basket along with the milk-covered onesies and the Velcro-closured (gah!!!) sleepsacks and the Old Navy leggings. That you are able to say, while laughing, "Oh, poo! There's barf on the smocking!" and blithely toss a Bishop dress into the washing machine is just one of the great benefits of being a parent who had to cry a few tears into your needlework to get here. I have such tenderness in my heart for all the little dresses now. Watching Amelia wear and then outgrow them fills me with nothing but astonishment, and gratefulness, and pure joy.

That said, sewing for me now is different. I'm still dreamy. I still love it beyond reason. I still love the planning, and the picking, and the thinking, and the sketching. I love going to the fabric store with my girl, and pushing her through the aisles of fabrics, and watching her touch them (and grab them, and pull them off the shelf, etc.). But the sewing itself has to happen like lightning. And although I am a romantic, the actual sewing itself is just all business-practical now. Because they grow out of it all so fast. And, I'm sorry to say this, but the details don't really matter in practice. You gotta do what you like, and skip what you don't like to do. Stuff like buttons? No. I just don't want to do buttons. I don't want to do buttonholes and I don't want to sew on individual buttons. Set-in sleeves. NO. Just, no. I can count the number of gathered, set-in sleeves, in thirty years of sewing, that I have gotten in correctly on the first try on one hand. Zippers? Maybe, but not really. She gets her hair stuck in them anyway. Elastic casings? Meh. Too much work, as well. Snaps? YES. Continuous placket back opening? YES. Ties? Yeah, okay. Self-lined patch pockets? Yep. Raglan sleeves. YES. Elastic stretched and sewn directly above a sleeve hem, and not threaded through a casing? EVERY TIME. Simple, unfitted shapes that let her run and move? Obvs. Saving my energy for those few designs that really make me work for them? Mmmmm, okay. Yeah. Yes. I can do that. Stay tuned. I'm sewing for Meems again.

January Ends

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Amelia's portrait of me is as accurate as could be, IMHO. I'm wearing my glasses and my hair is sticking out.

My computer — and I — are in a state of semi-function. Computer is more or less working properly, loaded back up with its stuff, though everything is different — different email program, different photo transferring software, different mouse pad thing (that I hate), different Photoshop (I'm on Creative Cloud now, after using old CS3 forever), different color calibration, different lots of stuff that is making life on the computer both easier in some ways and harder in others. I'm trying to figure out how to reset my defaults to where they had been, or something. . . . It's really amazing how automatic my old processes were to me, for better or worse. This has been one of the harder transitions to new equipment for me. I'm getting old. And googly-eyed.

Also, I have a cold. I'm still just not quite up and running.

Andy's home today. I'm hauling my basket of yarn upstairs to watch House Hunters International and crochet. I'm working on my new patterns, which will also be kits. There's Honey Bunny (a pink and a blue version) and Lovey Lamb. They've been the perfect January projects — very simple, and very long (well, the lambie, at least, has been almost tediously long, which has, strangely, been also quite perfect). Kits and pattern will be ready in the spring. I'm sad that January is almost over, I really am. I was sitting on the sofa the other day, doing absolutely nothing. Amelia was completely confused. "Mom, what are you doing? Mom, are you okay? What are you doing?" Me: "I'm sitting here doing nothing." Her [bewildered]: "Why, Mom? What are you doing?" Me: "I know this is very strange for you, Amelia, as it's quite possible you've never seen me sitting down and doing nothing in your entire life, but people actually do this. I'm going to do this, and then Daddy is going to bring me some cinnamon rolls. Isn't that wonderful?" Her [uncertain]: "Yeah!"

I'm not even kidding, we literally had that conversation.

Thank you for all of your kind words on Andy's award. We were both very touched by your kindness. Thank you. Amelia and I were back up on the hill on Wednesday to see Andy be presented with another award at the OHSU Golden ROSE (Recognition for Outstanding Service Excellence) awards ceremony (another one!). This one is awarded every month to several different OHSU employees who are nominated by someone else at the hospital. Each nominator stands up and reads their nomination to the roomful of people while the nominee stands next to the podium. The stories were amazing. I wish I could remember all of the details of each of the stories, but I know I'll get them wrong, and the January recipients aren't up on the OHSU web site yet. I will link over there when they are. (Update: Here they are!) I couldn't be prouder of Andy, or to be a part of OHSU, both as a patient and an employee spouse. It's such an exceptional place.

Today, the sun is shining as bright as could be. The angle of the sun is low, and glaring — a winter sun. Everything is soaked and glinting. Keep warm out there, friends. Stay slow. Let's drag it out as long as we can.

***By the way, that's Andy's view every day at work. And that picture doesn't even capture it, really. Isn't it amazing?

 

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

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.