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.

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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.

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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.

Hello there!

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Hello there! How are you? We're settling into fall here. It's come on with speed and determination. At 6 a.m. this morning, Amelia and I laid in bed in the dark bedroom, listening to the rain outside. She noticed it. It sounded beautiful. It's so dark in the morning now. We snuggle until the quilt and the wool blanket, both kitters and puppers in the bed, too. After a long summer of tremendous heat, everyone's suddenly cold, and grateful for that. The transition to new season and new routines has been unexpectedly hard for me these past few weeks, though. I feel like I'm scrambling to find traction somehow. I think I'm getting it, but I've been a bit all over the place. I was so anxious for it that I immediately started panicking and flailing about once it happened. Typical.

We went to the river for the last time this summer. It was so shallow it was hard to believe. A flock of geese sat on the sandbar all afternoon. The leaves, tinged yellow, fell into the water. I really loved all the days we spent there this summer. I know Andy and Amelia did, too. Our intrepid explorer has grown so much these past few months. What a blessing, to have these nearby places to be free together. Home by dinner, bath, and then early to bed, clean and tired.

Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comments lately, and for all of the glorious-sounding apple recipes, and for the big-girl-chair advice. I made my sour cream apple pie and this thing just never, ever disappoints. Highly recommend. Double the topping if your pie plate is big and wide. (Put tinfoil under your pan if you think that stuff might bubble over and drip off, though; you don't want that spilling in your oven.) Next I'm going to go through the recipes you suggested and find some more that sound good (they all sound good!). I'm getting back into the whole cooking routine I was so excited about a couple of months ago. SOUP is going to make life just ever so much easier. It tastes just as good the next day. I made kale and potato soup with corn and chorizo and it was fantastic. I had it again the next day and it was absolutely just as good. Tonight I'm making the chicken with wild rice soup I made last year, because I know that was really good. Should walk up to the store and get some sweet potato to make biscuits to go with. And boom, that's tomorrow, then, too.

The big-girl chair is a work in progress. We got a Keekaroo — I happened to spot one at the kids' resale shop that cost the exact amount of the credit I had. I like it (though, as everyone says, we've tripped over it literally every single day since it's been here) but the seatbelt has got to be replaced — she is totally able to take it off herself, thus completely defeating the purpose. Dinnertime now is a constant negotiation where I try to get her to stay in her seat. Last night I said, "Well, I just started eating, and if you can't stay in your seat for a little while I might have to go get your old high chair and bring it back, if it's really hard to stop getting down." I thought that warning might work, since just last week the idea of sitting in the high chair was so distasteful it caused all sorts of pandemonium . But she just got these big, bright eyes and said, "Oh! Can I have my high chair?" Pfffft! LOL. But the big-girl chair'll be good with a toddler-proof seatbelt. The clip is just too easy to snap open. She's not quite ready to be free yet, and, quite frankly, neither am I. Getting there, though. She and I eat dinner alone three nights a week when Andy is at work, and our days start around 5:00 a.m. By 5:00 p.m., I just need to sit for a little while.

Do you like the poncho? I think I like it — well, I love the pattern, I just don't know if I like my colors that much. Does it look like I went to Michael's and got one of those little strips of acrylic paint pots (the "country" colors), and then matched them? Maybe that works, I don't know. This has yet to be blocked. I was going to wait for a warm day and block it outside on the outside table so it will dry faster. The details are on my Ravelry page. Her groovy dress is from a vintage nightgown pattern (Simplicity 4719) that I shortened. I like peasant dresses that gather onto a bias strip, and have a continuous placket and a snap in back. I added pockets to this one but I matched them to the fabric so they almost don't show. It's the softest baby wale corduroy, from Fabric Depot, a few years ago now, I think.

Some very cool vintage postage stamps to use on Amelia's birthday invitations. And paper party hats I can't stop making: I used some of the floral designs in this most awesome book, printed them onto lightweight cardstock on my ink-jet printer, then traced my party hat pattern, glued them together at the seam, added some cotton rick-rack, and made a yarn pom for each. These are for everyone besides the birthday girl (who will get a felt one, of course). I absolutely love party preparations. Love them.

Wuthering Heights

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When the rain came, we were at the top of the butte, sitting in the burnt grass. The purple clouds had stacked up and marched across the sky. I'd talked her out of wearing two tutus at the same time and jabbing at things with the enormous umbrella. At the top of the hill, there I feel free. I would rather be on top of the hill than almost anywhere, everywhere. At home, down the hill, our houses pile up on each other, with fences and hedges and trees and houses and wires and houses and trees so close they block half the sky. On the hill, she runs, stretching her legs, twirling her skirts, chasing seed angels. He blows them out of their pods for her, and I wonder what flowers will bloom next year from this moment. My heart swells with joy. It's good to sit down and rest. I look out over the brown flowers, the dry ponds. The meadow is lovely in its withering. The sky is hyperactive, changing by the minute, the clouds moving so fast I hardly dare look away lest I miss something. They're different, too, in every direction: This way, they're lighted cotton balls; that way, they're whooshes; over there, it's a solid curtain of gray. Far off to the west the sage-blue hills are covered in ever-more-opaque veils of gray; you can see that it's already raining there, and raining farther back, as well. I've forgotten this color scheme: violet/lighter violet/more violet. I turn my face to the sky in gratitude and relief. This saturated air is pure nutrition. When the drops finally start falling, my skin absorbs each one in an instant. I hardly feel them at all I'm so deficient. Rain. Real rain. There's a sudden scramble involving crying, shoulder sitting, a too-big umbrella someone insists on holding, and then more rain, so it's into the stroller, legs tucked up under the hood, more crying, some juice, then quiet. Quiet. Walking. The umbrella, closed, hangs from the push-bar. There is just rain and wind and the lovely crunch of wet gravel. I imagine what the rain sounds like from inside the hooded stroller, her rolling personal tent. Andy and I have stupid-big grins. We push and walk, getting soaked, in perfect happiness. Home, and dumplings for dinner. There are some days you wish would last forever. Powell Butte, Saturday, September 5, 2015. That was one.

Honeycrisp

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Autumn weather is taking her time, coming in in spurts, though the apples are already mostly picked, with brown spots and worms in the ones that are left. We found a few small beauties, sweet and crisp and filled with summer, still. This is the time of year when I feel the most longing. I can't seem to get traction. September sparks emotions that are russet-colored, and crackling, and capricious. I feel one way and then another. The grass is colorless, defeated. The skies routinely cover-over in a merciful low, gray haze. Right now I'm looking out at my backyard and it's as still and clear gray and matte-flat as I've ever seen it. There is no breeze, but it is cool. I hear squirrels and birds and, a-ways off, cars. No one's mowing a lawn, no one's cutting down a tree, no one's nailing shingles to a roof. There are no flashing highlights, no glints, no searing-white light-spots. It's very quiet. And I feel relieved, for a moment. I wish it would stay.

I want to stand in the kitchen and peel fall things, apples and squashes and onions, and I want to saute mushrooms, and roast garlic heads, and make oatmeal for my boo. I made Eve's Pudding (it was okay, not life-changing) and have plans for my pie, and a cobbler, and a crisp. I love apples. I crocheted a toddler poncho and have embroidered ten out of twelve panels (still need to take their pictures for you) on my girl's birthday quilt, all of this at night, on the sofa, watching Ice Lake Rebels and a movie my friend Martha recommended, The Grand Seduction. At night, the breeze blows through the windows at my back. It gets dark before Andy gets home from work. I'm still in my summer nightgowns. I'm trying not to rush so much. It's so hard to break the habit with some things.

***Any apple recipe recommendations?

Forest Flower

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It was finally cool and cloudy enough to go for a walk in the woods. Oh sweet mercy, how I have missed them. Ever so much.

Her Forest Flower, made ever so many years ago, now a perfect fit.

This still-green canopy, and this little wanderer, soothing my hot, dusty little heart. Wishing you a cool, peaceful, love-filled, very sweet start of a lovely new season.

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Late-Summer Sunset

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I have very few photos to show for the past few weeks. In reality, there's been a blur of activity, but I couldn't keep up with it. Andy has been on vacation since August 17 and we've done so much stuff. We had several conversations while sitting on benches at the children's museum, the science museum, the park, and anywhere else there were benches for parents to sit on while their kids run around, about the hilarity  of how every time we sat down we started yawning. Incessantly. He does a lot more running around in these spots than I do, granted. Yesterday, at OMSI, which was a madhouse (since it was the first truly rainy day we'd had all summer and everyone was inside), I sat on various benches and crocheted while he chased the nipper all over the place. It was actually pretty fantastic. The view of the river and city from there is smashing. Especially when it is pouring rain from the sky. I was beyond delighted.

These photos are all from before that, though, from when the sky was filled with the smoky haze of Northwestern forest fires, and the sun glowed through the veil with relentless certainty. The movie in the park was cancelled due to the smoke but we, along with a few other people who didn't know that, wound up there after dinner anyway, running through the dry grass for a while before bedtime. It's been a tough summer, weather-wise. On Saturday, the forecast was nothing but rain, but instead we got nothing but wind, and it blew dried, fried debris out of trees, cracking limbs and sending splintered kindling into every yard and road. The acorns are already spattering every surface and they are absolutely perfect this year. I've never seen such ridiculously perfect specimens. They don't even look real.

Daddy's staycation (usually we go to the river house for several days, but it burned down this past winter, which I didn't really know until a few months ago, and we were just heartbroken, and didn't have the heart to find another spot; they are rebuilding, but still, so sad) has meant a terrific amount of morning-noon-and-night mommy-sewing. More than I've done in ages and ages. Too lazy and sewing too fast to take pictures. But I will. Her dress above is out-of-print Simplicity pattern 6054, from 1973. It's the perfect stash-buster. Also just the perfect dress in general as there are no sleeves to set in in anyway. I've made three so far. I might try to make a pattern like this, and eliminate the zipper, and maybe add some pockets. For now, I just cut and sew and dream in color. Other projects-in-progress include a massive embroidered birthday quilt, a peasant dress and groovy pinafore, a crocheted poncho, a crocheted cowl, a bunch of bloomers, and several more dresses. Details to come when I am not so lazy. I have all sorts of stuff planned. Man, I do love sewing for this kid. It just makes me happy. Everything about her makes me happy.

There has been very little mommy-cooking. There have been more than the usual amounts of eating out (cringe), though Andy has totally been pulling weight in the kitchen. Still, there's been a lot of popcorn. Chili on the rainy day and barbecue on the hots. Also, there's a new dishwasher, which is nice. But I need to get back in my cooking routine, and recommit. It's the last day of August. Andy goes back to work on Wednesday. I'll power-clean the living room and sort the clothes and clean the fridge and sweep the floors. I'll buy some apples and some flowers and make some of my new chai tea, and make a list of things for fall. Mittens and rain boots and oatmeal cookies and roasted root vegetables and quilts and flannel nightgowns and walks in the woods again. It's been a great summer in a million ways. But I'm ready for September. I'm always, in spite of myself, ready for September.

Clackamas County Fair 2015

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It's always the best. I think it's my favorite day of the whole summer, the one we spend at the Clackamas County Fair.  We saw sheep and cows and bunnies and cavies and pigs and alpacas. We ate kettle corn and strawberry shortcake and too much terrible lemonade. We said no to hot tubs, monster trucks, sunglasses, and hippie bags and yes to bubble guns, arrowheads, and cowgirl hats. We listened to a really young guy sing an Eagles medley, and some really old guys sing river songs. We dipped candles, gazed at lady spinners, watched blacksmiths, listened to a harpist, played the drum, and went in a teepee. We sifted corn, rode tractor-trikes, were mad because we weren't tall enough to go on the bears, were happy because we were tall enough to go on the cars, and danced on the midway. We washed our hands a lot. We heard what animals sound like. We talked a lot about Old Man Donald (i.e.: Old McDonald). We congratulated 4-H-ers and never made it into the jam and jelly, vegetable, or cake exhibits. My baby rode a pony and I cried. For goodness' sake. It was just the best day.

Here are our other trips to the fair:
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***The white dress Amelia is wearing here was made by my mom for me when I was her age. I'm not sure what pattern exactly but it looks a lot like (vintage) Simplicity 6184. . . . And unfortunately, I know the moccasin man doesn't have a web site. We had his card once a long time ago but don't have it anymore, I'm sorry. You just have to go to the fair! ;)

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.

Prettiest Party Hats Sewing Kits and Pattern Now on Sale!

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BeautyBlog

Hi! Here are some party hats! Do you want to make them? We have a kit!

It's the PRETTIEST PARTY HATS SEWING KIT and it is now available!

This kit will help you to make the FOUR party hats shown above. It costs $36 plus shipping. The printed pattern, included in the kit, includes templates for numerals 0-9 as well as the entire lowercase alphabet, in case you want to put the birthday girl's initial on her hat, instead of her age. :) I thought what would be cute is that you could make all of them the same number and give them away at a party, or you could make one this year and save the others for next year, and next, and next, and change the number. Or you could make all of them with different initials for different people whose parties you are attending. You could also attach the circle/number patch with Velcro if you wanted, and change it out every year. Oh, the possibilities are just endless [wink]!

Approximate finished size: 7" (17.5cm)

This kit contains:

  • Stitching instructions for hats with color photos for each step
  • Illustrated embroidery tutorial
  • Printed pattern templates
  • Templates for numerals 0-9 and the entire alphabet
  • 31 pieces of wool-blend felt in various sizes and colors to complete hats
  • DMC embroidery floss
  • 2 yards elastic cording for chin straps
  • Clear sequins and clear beads
  • 4 metallic tinsel poms
  • 30 tiny black poms

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You will need:

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These hats are sewn entirely by hand — you do not need a sewing machine to make them. They are fairly simple, and the hardest part is stitching up the back side of the hat, but I show you how to do that so don't worry about it too much. They are so much fun to make. The flowers are very simple and come together easily, and if you just practice your blanket stitch (instructions included) beforehand you'll be fine. They're just sweet little hats. I'm really happy with them!

Here are some detail shots of the four hats:

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We have made a limited number of these kits, and once they are gone, they are gone (in these exact colors, at least, because I know that this mauvey color above is already discontinued [and that was my favorite, naturally]).

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.

There is a downloadable PDF pattern available here if you have all the supplies and just want the pattern. The pattern lists the exact color names from National Nonwovens (the brand of felt I use) as pictured in these hats.

Okay! If you have any questions, please ask them here in the comments and I will get back to everyone here. Thank you ever so much, as always, for your enthusiasm and support for the things I design. I truly appreciate every single order and kind word you give. Thank you, very, very much, most sincerely. It honestly means the world to me!

Updated Update!

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My reprinted pattern page is on the UPS truck right now out for delivery, so I just want to make sure it printed okay before I put the party hat kits up for sale. Stay tuned and I'll be back with details as soon as it arrives. Thank you!

Patterns are here and they look nice! The party hat kits will go on sale tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. PST! I'll be back with the details here then. Thank you!!! Excited.

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.