Happy New Year!

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Well, hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Hello. Happy New Year! I hope yours is starting out well. Lazy days turned into lazy weeks, here. It was glorious. It snowed. Things got cancelled. Things got rescheduled. Family came. Family went. The house got trashed. Movies were watched over and over. I knit and knit. Toys were played with. Books were read. Lots of treats were eaten. Lots of snuggling happened. Lots of days involved no driving whatsoever. Lots of mornings started incredibly late. Lots of baths got taken. Antidote to occasional intrusions of holiday stress: hours of mind-tranquilizing tasks. Like knitting row upon row upon row of stockinette stitch. Winding about a hundred skeins of embroidery floss onto tiny plastic bobbins and arranging them by color into boxes (a job that has needed doing for YEARS now). Cross stitching, ripping out, stitching again. Middle age descends: here's me, sitting in my cozy corner under a comforter doing these things while wearing a new flannel nightgown and watching Just in Time for Christmas. My happy place. I think I was purring. Ohhhhh, you know. It was lovely. I needed it. We all did. I hope your holidays were just as wonderful.

I blocked and put buttons on my Ellen Cardigan (still have yet to put it on Ravelry, sorry) and oh, how I love that thing. I'm really proud of it. It's the third or fourth sweater I've knit for myself and the first one that's ever fit me perfectly. As I mentioned before, I followed the colors of the original pattern exactly, and I made no modifications to the knitting (size 48). I loooooove it. I immediately started  another one based on the exact same sweater pattern, but changing the yoke design. For a while now I've been wanting to make the Ryðrauð sweater but I was nervous about doing any sweater from the bottom up, or, honestly, any sweater other than the Ellen (from now on, forever and ever) because I find it almost traumatizing to make sweaters for myself that don't fit. As I said, I've only made a handful for myself but, if I'm honest, there is something about every one of them that I just don't like. The neck on my Ramona cardigan is just way too big and falls off my shoulders. My Strokkur I made too short and I'm constantly pulling it down (well, I would be constantly pulling it down if I actually wore it). My Birkin sweater was tragic (yoke too deep, my colorwork too puckered, the neckline too funneled, body too big, sleeves started way too low on me, etc.). It just doesn’t fit my shape well. And that was size XL in fingering-weight yarn [shrieking]. I’ve seen plenty of people make this pattern now and it looks so gorgeous on them in all of the photos I’ve seen, but I just didn’t succeed with it. I don't have very much experience knitting adult-sized garments and I find it to be very intimidating and weirdly heartbreaking when I do finally take the plunge and it just doesn't work out. I know I should just chalk it up to experience but I don't. Instead, I just stop trying. But for some reason the Ellen Cardigan seemed like it would work out for me and then it did, and I don't know that I've ever been so happy with anything that I've ever made for myself, sewing included, and it gave me a lot of confidence. It was such a good feeling. Has that ever happened to you?

So, back to the Ryðrauð. I first saw Lori's version of that sweater a few years ago and I just thought it was so pretty. But, as mentioned, immediately after finishing Ellen I was nervous about ever making a sweater that doesn't fit like Ellen. So I took the Ellen colorwork chart for my size and figured out (on my cross-stitch software) a modified, simplified version of the Ryðrauð flowers that would fit right into the Ellen yoke and also could be done from the top down. And that kind of looked like this:

MyYokeSweater

I really had no idea how to do the chart the right way re: the repeat, so this is the whole yoke. Pffff! It worked out pretty well, except that as you can see there are huge spaces between the contrast color stitches of the taller motifs on the first few rows. I tried to float the yarn as loosely as I possibly could but it's still puckering a bit so we'll just have to see how it goes. But I think it's okay-enough. Also, I knit the neckband directly onto the yoke in the navy blue version; the Ellen has you pick that up last and I found that it curls a bit (and also makes the buttonholes space out rather poorly at the top, then).

Anyway, this morning I was trying to get caught up with my overflowing and neglected email in-box (yes, I pretty much suck at everything that has to do with answering all but the most urgent emails, even on my best days) and noticed that a blog reader named Kristi (hi, Kristi!) had suggested that I watch a podcast from Nicole at The Gentle Knitter. I follow Nicole on Instagram and love her work so much but I didn't really know about the podcast. I tuned in to the first few episodes and was totally thrilled to find that she was (or, actually, had been a year ago) knitting the Ryðrauð sweater (also inspired by Lori's version)! Snap! Well, Nicole is, like, the most patient, lovely, gentle creature on earth and she explains everything in such a calming way and she has so many interesting things to say about the Ryðrauð that it is well worth watching if you are interested in knitting it. She also talked about how you can catch long floats on the back of the sweater and I didn't even know that, so I will definitely have to look into that for next time. Also, I don't know, but if this navy version works out and I find myself with at least two sweaters in my closet that I love to wear, I might branch out a little more and risk making more things for myself. I purled the colorwork, above, and it's kind of a giant pain. So, all this is to say that 2018 might be my year of steeking more sweaters (I've only done it once before, for Mimi), and that's kind of an exciting feeling.

Ramble, ramble. I haven't gotten out too much lately.

What kind of cake should I make for my birthday?

This Little Light

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Christmas is coming. Funny how it makes you think of things. I was thinking about how my dad always saved all of his Christmas shopping for Christmas Eve day. I'd go with him to the Oak Park mall. We called it the mall then — it was a pedestrian mall where Lake Street used to be and now is again. In those days the street was closed and it was all pedestrian. When we were done we'd go to one of the two old-fashioned-type restaurants on the mall. I wish I could remember what they were called. One was on the corner, across from the bank. And the other one was a few doors down from the theater. They were both the types of places that served club sandwiches and Crab Louie and milkshakes in those tall glasses with the rest of it given to you in the big metal tumbler. At home my dad would burn frankincense and myrrh and cedar cones, and our relatives would come for Christmas Eve evening, or we'd go to my aunt and uncle's, or my grandparents', or my cousins' in Chicago. It was fun. It would snow, or there would be snow. It would surely be freezing. We'd be tired on the way home, and fall asleep uncomfortably in the car, then not want to get out. I miss those days. Christmas makes you remember things.

Here at home, Mimi and I are lazy and warm. Andy's just finishing up his stretch of work then he is gloriously off for a few days. My family is coming here for Christmas Eve and I'm going to make lasagna with my mom's sauce and another yule log. My sister Susie is going to sleep over and make sticky buns for Christmas breakfast. Mimi and I have been eating rice pudding (just make some jasmine rice, then keep adding milk to it along with a cinnamon stick and some cardamom and cook it on low for . . . quite a while, actually — it will keep absorbing the milk and get thick and yummy; serve with cinnamon sugar and a bit of butter and more milk). We're going to bake chocolate sandwich cookies with peppermint frosting today. It's kind of ridiculous, how decadent all this is. We should eat raw vegetables for dinner. Likely, once again, we'll have ham sandwiches on waffles with mustard. Christmas.

I probably will be too busy then idle to come back here before Christmas, and, likely, you will be busy with your holidays, too. Thank you for all of your kindness here throughout this past year, and many past years. I wish you ever so much peace and love and light this season of celebrations and slowing. Slow days, laughter (and mania) of children, friendship, fellowship, family, lots of movies, good food, snuggly animals, and lots of love. I wish you all of that from all of us here. XOXO

With love,
Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and Bridget Paulson

Sparkle Shine

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Oh, sweetness. The days are cold and sun-sparkled, though it's dark and warm in the house. I'm done with all of my shopping and shipping and general fussing now so I'm feeling fine. We have a shop, above, and we sell, apparently, pillows, earrings, "anything you want to put on Susie Sheep" (Susie Sheep [i.e.: Peppa Pig's best friend] is the name of our dress form), and ornaments if you need to do some Christmas shopping. We are open for business at 6:00 a.m., and ready for you.

Imagine this: I get all day today to work in the studio and cook! Andy's doing Daddy Duty all day, including school runs, grocery shopping, and ballet. I'm very excited. It's not often that I get to stay home all day without having to go somewhere or other. I'm going to bake cookies and make some more chicken and dumplings. I've put cedarwood, orange, and pine essential oils in my diffuser and I am pretty excited. I might even write a Christmas card or two. I made a couple of pomander balls from Kyrie's recipe and I'm waiting for them to cure. One of my favorite memories of childhood Christmases past.

The rosy-cheeked dollies are dressed in warm sweaters. A few people have written and asked me questions about the dolls, patterns, kits, etc. So, here's my plan: I'm planning to release a pattern for the doll with an outfit, just like all of the animals had. She will also come in a kit form, and you'll be able to choose between two different skin shades and four or five different hair colors. The kit will come with fabric, yarn, and embroidery floss for the outfit, which is likely to be an 80s calico peasant dress with an embroidered pinafore along with bloomers and knitted lace stockings. Then there will be many different new clothing item patterns available, both for knitted and sewn clothes, and maybe even crocheted accessories. So far I've got a wool cape, a cross-stitched peasant blouse, a gathered skirt, knitted cable turtleneck, colorwork sweater, pixie hat, knitted skirt, knitted cowl, and ballet outfit. I'm also going to repackage all of the existing animal-family clothes patterns so that you can buy and make each of them separately. I am outrageously excited about this, if you couldn't tell. Nothing will be available until spring, sometime. It takes a while to make it all happen. But thank you for your interest and I'll keep you posted!

We went to see The Nutcracker downtown this weekend and it really was magical. That picture of the Waltz of the Snowflakes is by Blaine Truitt Covert and I found it online. They are very strict about not letting you take any photos of the performance but years from now when I look back on this post, I will want to remember that stage, and what it was like for us to sit next to our little girl in the dark auditorium with the orchestra playing and glittering snowflakes falling through the air, and all of those ever-lovely dancers twirling. The sweetest dream. A perfect day.

December Now

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I haven't quite reached a peaceful holiday state of mind. I like the week between Thanksgiving and December better than December, in a way. As soon as December starts, I feel — in spite of my best efforts — like I'm being a little bit . . . chased. Chased by a calendar. I'm a cartoon character with legs spinning. I finally sit down to have some tea and a cookie. "Oh shit! I have to order the Christmas cards before they're not 40% off anymore!" Get back up. Go get stupid computer. Ugh. So many things like that. You know. Even though you try not to have too many things to do there are still a lot of things to do. . . . I resist feeling that anything is actually urgent but things feel urgent. . . .

Amelia decorated her little tree. It is so adorable. It looks like somebody stood across the room and threw lights and ornaments at it but in fact she was quite deliberate. Around the house she sings and hums a constant medley of carols, making up half the words. It's amazing how kids just . . . pick it all up, somehow. Every year there's a little more intensity to her experience. It's completely fascinating to watch her put things together in her mind. "Oh!" she exclaims, looking at her tree. "I need to go say my mushroom prayers!" A million things said like that a day, things I couldn't make up if I tried. It's like interpreting a Mad Lib. She is so engaged with everything she does, and it's done in her very own way. Five years old. Enchanting. Darling wonder. Sweetest, sweetest heart.

Frost Fields

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Oh, hello! How are you? I've been doing almost nothing but making dolls, doll dresses, doll stockings, doll capes, doll hair, doll sweaters, doll blouses, doll skirts, doll collars, and doll hats, and then remaking them trying to get them how I want them. It is so much fun. I have so many ideas. I'm thinking about all the details quite a lot. I dream about them at night and wake up with potential solutions in the morning. Then I try to work them out that night. Yesterday we forgot Amelia's ballet slippers and had to borrow some from the ballet mistress. She asked me what size slippers Amelia wore. I told her I wasn't sure, but said I knew what size my doll's feet were (16 sts around on size US5's in sport weight yarn). Everyone in the foyer laughed nervously. The teacher turned and asked Amelia. Amelia said she was size 11. I knew that!!! Sheepish.

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S.? We sure did. My family came and squeezed around our table and it was great. My sister Susie stayed on afterwards and made me laugh for hours with her work stories. Me, in nightgown, falling asleep: "Good lord, this story is taking forever!" Her: "Dude, I told you, I work 12-hour shifts! A lot of stuff happens!!!" On Friday I hung my two new prints that I got for my birthday last year from the English artist Jo Grundy. I had wanted these forever and I am so glad that I got them (for Andy to give to me [wink]). They inspired my mantel decoration this year, which is a frosty-winter-fields theme. Andy worked on Saturday and Amelia and I went out to Craft Warehouse and got some new little things: the lighted willow garland and a couple of little resin birds and her absolute favorite, the snowy owl. Believe it or not, I had almost everything else already, and a lot of it came from Craft Warehouse (a local indie craft store here in the Portland area) over the past few years. The little wooden plinths and the woolly trees and the metal houses (not sure where those were from, actually) and the cottonwood wreath I already had. Andy's grandfather carved the tall Santa many years ago. We bought a spray of fake frosted fern leaves and cut them off and scattered them around, along with a couple of little bottlebrush trees and juniper sprigs. The teapot was from Goodwill for $3. The snowflake garland I've had for years and years, and the stockings are from Etsy. We couldn't find Amelia's bunny stocking but I think it's in with the Christmas ornaments; we're getting our tree this weekend and I'm sure we'll find it when we open those boxes. Speaking of, Andy brought up everything seasonally related from the basement — Christmas stuff, other fake-foliage stuff for spring and fall that makes Andy insane, wreathes and such. We went through it all on Sunday and that was sort of an exhausting exercise. At some point while Andy was still cleaning I tried to pluck Amelia from the fray and took a bath while she played on the side of the tub. This is one of our favorite winter activities. I love winter baths and I never cease to give thanks for them, and for hot water. Afterwards, when everything in the living room was clean and pretty, Andy put on carols and made us some hot chocolate and it felt like the perfect start to this lovely (my favorite) season. Winter is here. I wish you peace and warmth and kind shelter and love in the days ahead. XOX

Wild Week

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Good morning, my friends. Hello, hello. I hope you are well! We've been well and buuuusy! Which I like, but now I'm tired. I didn't even take any pictures this week. But we have all of the First Snow pre-orders out and on their ways to you. The downloadable PDF-only version of the design is now available here. (And yes, the kit is still available, no problem — it is here.) I hope you like this pattern and kit. I wound up doing all of the shipping myself — Stacey was in Japan and is now back but will be taking more classes in January and won't have time to work with me anymore (tears). Andy and I wound up doing everything on this kit together. He pulled all the floss and cut all the fabric. I stuffed all the kits and did the shipping. But it was quite an excellent experience for me to do all of the shipping myself again. It's been a long time since I've done it. I found it very poignant, and got a little bit emotional. I love seeing everyone's names, and your addresses, and your streets and towns and cities and countries. I recognized sooooo many names from over so many years of doing this. It made me think of all the years, and all of our conversations, and all of your comments and your sweet notes and just . . . I don't know. How much I love all of this and how lucky I am to do it and how, when I was a little girl I think I actually always wanted to do this. My parents were into mail order and they had a few little businesses throughout the years. I had my first mail order business when I was thirteen. It was called Autumnbrook Farm and I made model-horse blankets and saddle pads and little stuff like that. I made enough money to buy a pair of really pretty dark-brown suede chaps at Hinsdale Tack Shop and I wanted to write a tearful letter of gratitude to the readers of Just About Horses magazine (where I advertised), thanking them for their orders of tiny horse halters and for making my greatest dream (chaps) come true. I did love those chaps so much. I guess I thought better of it then and did not submit that particular letter to the editor, but I feel the same surge of emotion every time I get orders and every time I ship. Thank you. You'll notice that my handwriting on your postcards looks deranged. Sorry about that. I don't really write by hand anymore ever. Do you? Compared to how much you used to? It's so weird! I was speed-writing, admittedly. But I can usually write much more nicely, FYI.

Anyway, so, thank you for everything you do here and for all of your kindness and support. I means more to me than I regularly say. XOXOXOXO

I've spent the last few days working on a new doll design based on my animal patterns. She will have the same body shape and size and will be able to wear all of the same clothes. The idea for her sort of exploded out of me the minute I was finished shipping everything. I actually do get a lot of ideas in the shower. It's really cliched but true. It's the only time I'm just sitting there not doing anything else at all. I think I had thought about doing a girl doll for a long time but I didn't really know it. I started cutting and sewing in every little spare minute, littering the living room with needles and felt and floss and yarn in a way that I haven't done in a while. My first animal patterns came out maybe in . . . 2013? It's been a few years. Maybe it was 2014. People ask me about whether we'll make more of those kits (there are five animals total). And no, we won't. There will now be these new doll kits sometime this spring, though. I've been thinking relentlessly of all the ways to do it. Andy cracks up when I have the making-fever. I read him the list of all of the clothes I had planned for the doll: new blouse, new skirt, and cable sweater, cardigan sweater, beret, flounce-collar blouse, cape, cable cowl, knitted skirt, bloomers, pixie bonnet, detachable collar, lace legwarmers. Your basic insanity. He gets me. Right now the doll prototype looks mildly feral. This is possibly no coincidence. I've turned into a wild animal.

I made a pattern for a Santa Lucia (which is December 13) crown with hellebore flowers, mistletoe, and holly for you. My model was freezing when I took her picture in her nightgown on top of Mt. Tabor on the only not-raining (though totally freezing) day we had a couple of weeks ago. She is part Viking-descendant but she doesn't like the cold. I love her.

Flowret for Blog

The pattern is free and you can download it here: A Flow'ret Bright Winter Crown Sewing Pattern. The candles are removable, so you could take them out and just wear the crown. It's adjustable in the back (elastic) so you can make it any size you want. I hope you like it.

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. We're having Thanksgiving here at our house and I expect we'll get our Christmas tree this weekend, and maybe start decorating. We usually do, anyway. I'll be back to show you next week. Until then, I wish you all a wonderful, wonderful week of peace and joy and slowing as we enter the holiday season. I'm very grateful for all of the love and kindness and deep thoughts and un-deep thoughts and humor and joy you share with me constantly. It helps me understand the world and understand myself so much better than I would otherwise. You all bring light to our days here and for that I sincerely thank you. Thank you. XOXOXO

Full Swing

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We're in it, here: full fall swing. Halloween came and went in a frenzy of costume-sewing/meowing/negotiating for candy. Kids are so obsessed with candy!!! Amelia says she wants one piece of candy after dinner after she accomplishes her "chores." The things she considers her "chores" include: setting up the pillows on the couch in a nice way and propping up various stuffed animals at charming angles to greet me when I come back downstairs after putting her to bed; putting her eighteen pairs of shoes and boots back in her baskets instead of leaving them in the middle of the floor; hanging up her coat instead of dropping it in the middle of the floor; putting away her scarf and hat instead of dropping them in the middle of the floor; climbing on all manner of furniture to reach the wood blinds to pull them down and close them before she goes up to bed; remembering to wash her hands without being told after going to the bathroom. Hrmmmmmmm. . . . Good deal for her, eh? These are all the things she is supposed to do anyway. . . . Maybe it's really a good deal for me. Now she does all of them in lightning speed while singing the clean-up song and then comes skidding to a halt in front of me, smiling and holding her cupped hands out to receive her treat. I don't bribe with sugar under normal circumstances, but hellity hell it really works! Good thing she only has three pieces of candy left. This is too easy. . . .

THANK YOU for the discussion on working from home vs. renting a remote space. That was really fascinating and I truly appreciate so many of you taking the time to share your experience and thoughts with me. I really needed to hear all of that and I am so appreciative of the perspectives. I would only be going to an off-property space during the time that Amelia is in school, and I would still probably keep my sewing stuff here, but honestly, I really am now thinking it's probably too complicated and too expensive to consider. I think I have fantasies of having a really cool, big, shared, white-washed space where other people would be hanging out doing creative things, and I could have room to store my stuff and still have it all within reach, and also not have it anywhere in the living space. Like, embroidery floss, for instance. When we work on kits, we have a palette of probably sixty? seventy? different colors that I routinely use in my designs. Each color has a big, fat 500g cone of floss. For kits, we break down the big cone by winding it onto several different smaller cones, depending on how many strands of that color you need in a kit. So in First Snow, for instance, we have over thirty colors and over fifty separate lengths of floss. Each length needs its own cone since we pull all the floss at the same time. So that's a lot of cones sitting in the office over the weeks that we are working on this. It's just not realistic to be schlepping them up and down from the basement every day. Felt and fabric, too — they take up a lot of space. Welllllll, you get it. But honestly, I took every single comment truly to heart and you gave me so much to think about. And I think the obvious conclusion Andy and I came to was that we need to clean out the basement thoroughly, and think of more creative storage solutions right here on our property. We have a pretty small basement, as half of the house only has a crawl space underneath it. We do have attic storage, although it's truly just storage, not standing room, and you have to use a ladder to get up into it through the ceiling in the hallway. But these are all just details I need to think through more thoroughly, and I think I can do that, especially when I have more time to think. As I said, I definitely have time to decide, as we wouldn't be doing anything (except reorganizing here) until the year after next. But just reading through everything you wrote gave me a more hefty appreciation for all of the great things about working from home, and that was really helpful, so thank you.

It's about the most blustery, Winnie-the-Poohish day you could imagine here today. The trees are whipping around outside my rain-spattered window, and the wind is howling. I keep hearing things thwack against the house and the porch. Tonight is our school lantern walk, and I don't know how those little lanterns are going to stay lit in this gale. I've been cooking and baking lately. I made a frittata like Megan's with roasted delicata squash, sauteed mushrooms, fresh spinach, and chevre, and it was delicious. I made the NYT's curried cauliflower soup and it was really nice, especially with the famous but no-less-delicious-for-that Dutch oven no-knead bread. I did Mark Bittman's speedy version as well as the long version, and quite honestly, there was no appreciable difference that I could taste or tell, so it's Version Speedy for us from now on, and bread in 4.5 hours. That bread is so good. I mean, what in the world? How is it even possible to get something that tastes like this out of a regular kitchen, with so little effort? I can't even deal with it. I don't even like bread that much (unless it's really, really good) but that thing is amazing. I've made it probably ten times over the past few years and it works every time. I also made Mark Bittman's Everyday Pancakes and those were very good. I've totally been getting my money's worth out of my New York Times Cooking subscription and highly recommend it. Everything I've made from it has been great. I love surfing it on my iPad for relaxation. The photos are beautiful. I don't know. I needed some cooking inspiration, and this has been good for me. I seem to need a lot of hand-holding in the kitchen. I love to cook but even after all of these years of cooking I absolutely need recipes. I cannot think of a single thing that I know how to cook by heart. Not one single thing! I'm also kind of a picky eater, so, in all honesty, a lot of cookbooks don't really work that well for me as anything other than inspiration or eye candy, because I find that I might make one thing out of the whole book. Maybe two. I keep the books because they're beautiful. But they aren't that practical for the way I cook. I totally cherry pick, and I like the "search" function. Anyway, this isn't an ad — I mean, I guess it is, but it's unintentional — I have just been happy with that subscription and it's getting me out of my cooking shell, or rather my non-cooking shell, and Andy and I are both happy about that. Maybe it's also just the season of cooking for me. I love fall and winter food so much more than summer.

I've also been knitting hats and gloves and cowls. I don't have any photos of any of them, apparently, but I will take some. I'm using this pattern and have bought lots of colors of Worsted Twist yarn in many of the same colors they show to make us a bunch of stuff that we need for cold weather, and I'm really enjoying this kind of knitting — lots of stockinette, lots of knitting in the round, nothing very complicated, small things that go quickly and feel soft and warm and utterly practical. I seem to need a lot of direction lately. It's kind of a wonderful relief, I have to say.

Fall Frolics

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Happy Halloween to you! We have a fluffy pink kitters here that hasn't stopped meowing for three days. She's also hardly taken her plushy duds off since they were finished (by me, and no, I don't enjoy sewing polarfleece, but this is what she picked out, and it is, at least, very forgiving to sew!). Her fur is already matted and filthy, mostly from crawling around on all fours (while meowing), which cracks me up. She's showing you her paw here, FYI.

Thank you sooooo much for the First Snow pre-orders! Yaaaaay! I'm thrilled. We are going to go ahead and make all 600 kits that we have enough floss for. This should get us all the way to Christmas without selling out, so I'm very pleased that there is interest in this. The fabric has been ordered, the pattern is finished will be sent to print tomorrow, and Andy is going to pull floss for me this time. So we are on-track, and I will keep you abreast of our progress. We'll ship as soon as we have everything together; I'm still thinking it will be about three weeks (and the PDF-only option will be available at that time, too). But again, thank you so much for your enthusiasm for this design. I couldn't be happier with the response, and I will be doing a few informational cross-stitch posts between now and ship time. I've been meaning to do these for a while, so I'm looking forward to them.

The weather here has been ridiculously excellent. We never get autumns like this — crisp, cool, colorful, crunchy, perfect. We've been sincerely spoiled this year, and it's really nice. We've been able to get outside quite a bit and it's been wonderful. Today is Halloween, and the weather is gorgeous. I'm so happy for all of the kids!

I've been toying with the idea of moving my office out of the house. I would love to hear what those of you who work at home OR have space to work outside the home think about it. I've been working at home for seventeen years. It has mostly been a wonderful experience. But as Amelia gets older I'm wondering if we need more space for living instead of me working. Posie is pretty bulky. Right now my business takes up two fairly large rooms in our fairly small house. We've thought about building a second story over my studio, which is already an addition (built by the previous owner). But it's too expensive. We've thought about maybe putting a shed in the backyard, but the yard's too small and I think the shed would be too small for what I really need. I really like the convenience of working at home. But it does feel isolating sometimes. I feel like I'm in the house too much sometimes, and I get antsy. But maybe I just need to take myself out to lunch. I've thought about getting a studio space closer to where Amelia will be going to school next year, which is about twenty-five minutes away, so that I can be working while she's in school and I'm not driving back and forth quite so much. But that neighborhood doesn't really seem to have any spaces available, at least ones that are advertised. You know what neighborhood does? My own neighborhood. :/ Womp womp. Sort of defeats half of the purpose. Also, I don't know if I could afford to pay rent on a space outside of the house, because my dumb neighborhood has gotten so trendy and expensive. Oh, decisions, decisions. What do you think? Any thoughts about this? I'm in no rush, but this will be a future consideration, and I feel like I want to get my bearings on it. If you've lived either of these experiences, I'd love to hear your advice.

First Snow Available for Pre-Ordering

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The First Snow Cross Stitch Sampler Kit is now available for pre-order! Please CLICK HERE to order.

Finished Size of Design Area: 6"wide x 9"h (15cm x 23cm); 104 stitches wide x 144 high on 32-count fabric

The kit contains:

One 14" x 16" (36cm x 41cm) piece of 32-count embroidery linen in Star Sapphire by Wichelt
(55) 24" (61cm) lengths of various colors of DMC 6-ply cotton embroidery floss
Stitching instructions
Illustrated stitch tutorial for special stitch
Full-color cross-stitch chart with symbols over color blocks
One piece of chipboard for creating a floss organizer

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.

 

Hello, my friends. I have a new design for you. I really love designing cross-stitch patterns. I NEED TO DO MORE OF THEM. I love them. I love the process of designing them. I usually start with one element — in this case, I couldn't stop thinking about what happened this summer when the bird stepped onto my finger. I've seen on Instagram that this is a whole thing, people who feed birds out of their hands. I think my heart would explode in a shower of birdseed if that actually ever happened to me. But this summer a little chickadee did walk onto my finger. He had flown through our (open) window into the dining room, and spent the morning flying from curtain rod to pendant cord to lampshade, not seeming to be in any distress but singing merrily away for hours. I was eventually able to coax him onto my finger and carry him back over to the open window, where he flew off (but not before trying to climb a ways up my arm, away from the window — ha!). Nothing like this has ever even come close to happening to me before, and honestly, I still think about it more often than you might believe. Every once in a while, when I'm sitting in traffic, or listening to the news, or carrying groceries — in other words, something generally not-my-favorite — I'll suddenly remember: A chickadee walked onto my finger! And in that moment I can feel his nervous little feet, remember how light he was, remember how my heart raced, and how I held my breath. . . . It really was like magic. . . . Well, that's what initially inspired this piece. So I started with that.

But then, after that, it's always a little bit of a mystery where the rest of the elements come from. Things just start popping into my head. I can see a little scene, almost like a little dream. I peek in on it. It feels a certain way. I knew the air was cold and clear there. I smelled the pine and heard the geese overhead. And then, as in my real-life, ever-present dream, I saw the snow starting to fall. And all of this comes in a bit of a rush. And so I draw quickly, even though I can't draw. I just put vague outlines of the elements, moving the pieces around until it feels right. And then I begin to work on the details of each element. And this can take me a while. I look at old cross-stitch books and photos of animals and houses on Early American samplers, and start putting together all of these little things I love. And then I sit around with everything for a few days, moving things a stitch or two to the left or right — and sometimes even hastily scrapping an entire element and swapping in something else. I'm weirdly pedantic ("They don't make the right shade of mauve for this!") and then weirdly capricious ("I'm getting rid of everything on the left side. Delete!"). And when it finally comes together in a way that pleases me just enough, I STOP, and print the chart, and just get stitching. And then again, I go go go. When I'm focused on my Posie projects, I'm intensely focused until I'm finished. If I don't finish in a burst, woe to the future of that project. It probably won't become a product. I like a lot of quiet (though my life is not very quiet, ever) but I can be intensely verbal sometimes. I find it fairly easy to express myself verbally. But there must be this other part of me that communicates in pictures, because when I'm designing patterns, especially cross-stitch patterns, I find that they satisfy a deeper, more mysterious need, one that's both visual and tactile.

Because I think I enjoy the stitching of the pattern every bit as much as I enjoy the designing of it. There's a strange sort of existential (I'm getting deep) relief in just following the chart. I feel the same way about knitting patterns, and even sewing patterns. Just, seriously, give me the chart so I can turn off the decision-making part of my brain. I, personally, do not improvise on the fly too much. I like to get all my changes down — I like to think them all through, if there have to be any at all, and then I like to get them down on paper so that I can relax. I only ever do the actual handwork part of crafting at night. And I'm tired at night. I'm not a night person and I never have been. I'm industrious but only in the quietest, most specific ways, and they involve nightgowns. And travel shows. And needles and threads of various sorts. And feet up up up. And not much thinking. Patterns are a blessing.

I think you will like this because, although it has taken me years — like, years and years — I've finally learned something about framing finished pieces of embroidery. It should be less expensive and I should do even more of it myself. To that end, no more custom-sized designs from me. I'm only going to design things from now on that fit in a ready-made frame. Framing custom pieces is just way, way too expensive. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to understand this. I'd much rather save my money to spend on supplies and patterns or kits (yes, biased) than frames.

So, to that end, this kit (like Love and Joy, last year's pattern) is designed to fit in a ready-made 8" x 10" frame. All you need to do is make sure the frame is deep enough to fit a piece of foam core (and glass, if you want to use glass. I never use glass. I don't like it. I have my embroidered pieces hanging all over the house, and I don't feel that they suffer appreciably for being exposed). What you will do is wrap you embroidery around a piece of foam core, and stretch it with the help of about a million sequin (about 1/2" long) straight pins. You can read my tutorial about how I've done that in the past (though I finished the rest of the framing with custom frames at a frame shop). But with an 8" x 10" piece you can even buy the pre-cut foam core at the craft store (JoAnn's or Michael's, or easily online) for just a couple of dollars. A frame store can also cut foam core for you for just a few dollars if you ask nicely.

I'm not trying to take anything away from frame shops or people who do a really good job framing embroidery. In my experience, though, there aren't that many of them out there, and it does take some skill. You could obviously take anything to a frame shop and have it done by them if you want to. But if you don't, and you have the patience and the time, framing something yourself for very little money can be really rewarding and a really fun part of the project as a whole.

This kit is done with two plies of DMC cotton embroidery floss on 32-count linen. That means it has sixteen stitches per inch. If you are interested in seeing a tutorial on counted cross stitch, please read the one I did here. Also, because it will take us into November to get these kits out to you, it will give me time to post a more in-depth discussion of cross-stitching, so if, after reading that first tutorial you find that you still have questions, please ask them here so that I can address all of them in another post to come.

Okay! Phew.

 

This kit will be shipping sometime in the second half of November. We will order fabric based on the number of pre-orders we get over the next several days, and I'll keep you posted on our assembly progress.

The pattern-only option will also be available separately as a downloadable PDF, but not until sometime in November. I'll post here when that is ready, too.

 

As you probably know, I also carry my favorite supplies in my web shop, should you need lovely, high quality tools. These are the exact ones that I use every day For this project, we have:

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Gorgeous little embroidery scissors.

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Hardwicke Manor 4" hoops.

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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.

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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.

As I said last year, there is something so poignant and sweet about winter holiday crafting, to me. I honestly think it's the dearest, most optimistic kind of making we do all year. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to come from the heart. I hope this new little sampler kit provides you with many (but not that many; it's just the right size) quiet hours of peaceful stitching this season. And I hope it snows where you, and I, both are.

Love and joy to you,
Alicia

Feed a Crowd

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Well now, here's some more food! I made my mom's mom's spaghetti sauce for our neighborhood pumpkin-carving party the other night. This sauce was a staple in my mom's party repertoire. It came from her mother, who was not at all Italian. Regardless, this is delicious. It really doesn't taste like any other spaghetti sauce I've ever had, anywhere, but it's one of my absolute favorites. It makes a VAT of sauce — we went through two pounds of thin spaghetti for nine adults and eight children, and had sauce left over. (I should have made another pound of spaghetti, honestly. But there was plenty of sauce.) It has pounds of vegetables in it. It cooks for hours and hours. And it truly seems to please everyone, from kids to adults. It's got a wonderful sweetness to it. Like so many family recipes, this one has two brand-name ingredients in it — Ragu sauce and Kraft Parmesan cheese. I'm sure you could substitute other brands, but I personally wouldn't DARE. But that's just me. When I make this I want it to taste exactly like my mother's sauce, and it truly does. But if you like living on the edge, you should totally use what you have or what brands you prefer because I am sure it is still going to taste so good.

What you don't want to change is the amount of time this cooks for. A total of four hours. It matters. Plan to make this the day before your party and then just warm it up the day of. That's what I did and it worked great. (I'm guessing it would freeze perfectly well, too, if you're not in the habit of feeding seventeen people at one time.)

Mamaghetti

6 medium yellow onions
6 medium carrots, peeled
6 stalks celery (or basically, all of the stalks in an entire head)
1 bunch of parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of ground beef
1 24-oz. jar of Ragu Traditional spaghetti sauce
3 6-oz. cans of tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 cups water

1 8-0z. jar/can of grated Kraft Parmesan cheese

In your largest heavy-bottomed sauce pot (I used my enormous oval Le Creuset pot), brown ground beef until it is no longer pink. Pour off all extra fat. Using a food processor or food mill, grind onions, carrots, celery, parsley, and garlic in batches until all of the vegetables and herbs are finely chopped (but so that you can still see a bit of texture). Add all vegetables to the pot, along with Ragu, tomato paste, cloves, bay leaves, and 2 cups of water (I fill the Ragu jar 2/3 of the way up with water, and shake it to get all of that sauce out of the bottle). Bring all of it to a robust simmer, and then turn down to a low simmer and cook, covered, for three hours, stirring occasionally. After three hours, add the entire jar/can of Kraft cheese, and stir into sauce well. Cook at a low simmer for one more hour.

Serve on top of buttered spaghetti with lots more Parmesan cheese and even a big blob of ricotta. Good with garlic bread and a glass of milk, too.

I also made apple crisp for the party from this recipe (I doubled it). I thought it came out very nice. Classic, nothing sophisticated or fancy, but all of it perfect for a dark and stormy night with our friends and kids, and a whole lot of pumpkin (alllllll over the place).

Gonna work on getting my cross-stitch kit ready for pre-order this week, so stay tuned for that, but don't panic. There will be plenty of time to order, I promise. Excited about this one.

About Alicia Paulson

About

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

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.