Posts filed in: February 2006

Just Me and My Puppy, and Her Puppy, Thinking

comments: 35

PuppiesAudrey and I decided to take the day off yesterday. We've been rather pensive, really. Even Plumpy (Audrey's puppy) looks a bit . . . weighted down. It's raining, and muddy, and cold, but clearly, spring is on its way, and we're ready for a fresh start.

Thank you, each and every one, who commented on the post below. I'm really touched by your cyber-pats on the back -- thank you -- and relieved by those that have recognized that self-employment, even lovely, creative self-employment, is not . . . charmed. It's about as charmed as my pretend vision of the country, or jolly England. I know you know this. I'm flattered and honored to be any kind of inspiration, but I'd be fairly uncomfortable with it, too, if I didn't think I'd communicated my perceptions, struggles, and realities honestly. I think the joys are pretty obvious. I mean, those pretty much are what you think they are.

But as with anything else that requires you to pour every ounce of your strength and talent into it, it's a lot of hard work, a lot of tears, a lot of stress, too. And I share it with you not so much because I am interested in encouraging you to start your own business, or not start your own business -- I really, honestly, truly have absolutely no idea whether or not you should start your own business, and I would never, ever presume to encourage or discourage anyone to do or not do so. Not because I don't really care but . . . this girl has her hands full. I mostly -- almost entirely -- care about whether or not I'll be able to continue to do it. I share it because I'm trying to figure it out, too; since I work mostly alone and thus talk mostly to myself, it's good to have conversation. And if through my own honesty I can shine a little light that helps anyone else, well, that is more than I could've hoped for. My goals: They're basic. Survival is one. A general sort of not-too-delusional happiness is one. I do what I can to keep these coming. I try to control what I can, brighten a few corners with pretty things, and not contribute to suffering in the world as much as possible. But . . . a girl's gotta pay the rent! And she's got puppies to feed!

As you might know, Debbie Bliss is one of my great inspirations, not only for her designs, her yarns, her books, and her beauty, but for her longevity in her industry, and her flexibility. A couple of years ago, I read an interview with her in Interweave Knits, and it has both inspired and haunted me ever since. But I am grateful -- truly -- for its lessons, which wedged themselves into a crevice in my mind and have never been all that far from my own thoughts about everything I am trying to do myself. This is from the spring 2004 issue of IK in an article called "Design Sense & Sensibility" by Brenda Dayne:

" . . . Debbie has published over twenty books of knitwear designs for babies, children, and adults, and has become one of the most hardworking and prolific designers in the business. Despite her publishing success, however, she's found it difficult to make a living as a handknit designer. 'People often assume that if you have books in print, and are selling patterns for publication, you're doing well,' she says. But the reality of making a living from handknitting is that it is 'very, very difficult.' "

Even for Debbie? Oh my. Really? Wow. It continues, and don't you think this sounds just dreamy:

"Prompted by a desire to turn her design skills into a profitable business, Debbie opened a childrenswear and yarn shop in a quaint and trendy London neighborhood in the spring of 1999. The shop showcased her kids' knits in a setting plucked from a 1950s' nursery. Displayed amid a chalkboard, school desks, and diminutive chairs were Debbie's child-size cardigans, miniature Aran pullovers, whimsical hats and mittens, and her signature booties designed with tiny ears and eyes to look like baby animals."

What, and I mean what could sound cooler than that. We would love that! say we. We would shop there everyday! But let's keep reading:

"Word of the quirky little shop soon spread, and it became a sort of pilgrimage destination for handknitters from around the world. The pilgrims, however, were more interested in visiting than buying. . . . At the end of her three-year lease, she reluctantly decided to close the shop doors."

I read this in bed one night, after about a year and a half of owning Ella Posie. I sat straight up as if someone had attached a string to my head, and pulled. The light bulb went on. If this could happen to Debbie, I had to accept that it could certainly happen to me. It happened all the time, to good, talented, hard-working people who were doing everything right. Granted, Debbie admitted that it was difficult to balance running a shop with designing, and family obligations -- but who doesn't need to balance these things? Having popularity, spewing adorableness, doing good work, and offering inspiration don't automatically pay the bills or buy groceries. Failure isn't even necessarily personal; it's just . . . I don't know what it is. Statistical. It depends on so many things. I don't have a degree in business. Nevertheless, you'd be surprised at how few people buying something it can really take to keep a thing alive. Not all that many. We are simple people, we yarny types. We're not trying to be millionaires. We're trying to pay the bills, and keep doing what we're doing. Customers who make choices about where to shop, who see value in helping keep independent, neighborhood businesseses alive, make that possible.

I don't write this with the intention of sending you sullenly, guiltily into my store, I really don't. But I do urge you to consider your own relationship to whoever it is that inspires you -- consider and honor it by recognizing the reality, be it financial, practical, or temporal, behind that person's . . . availability . . . to inspire you.

I've received many private emails from shop owners and designers in the past day who have inspired me to follow up with this post. I feel a responsibility to speak not only for myself but for them.

I also encourage you to consider spending some of your money at local, independent businesses, in your own neighborhood, wherever that may be. Here are some reasons why. I find them extremely compelling, in an empirical way.

Posie, Ella Posie, and Posie Gets Cozy

comments: 57

Posiegirl Well -- how cute is this? It was made and sent to me by Yulia, a blog reader in Indonesia, who designs really beautiful digital scrapbook pages. She got the line art from her brother, along with five other girl drawings, and thought I would like it. I LOVE it. Love it. It feels so specifically like an evolution out of the logo (see below) that I've been using since I started Posie six years ago that I'm going to try and slowly incorporate it into my branding, and hope like hell that I use up the 500 business cards, 200 woven tags, and 700 stickers that I have already, printed with the "old" logo. I don't know exactly what the copyright issues are surrounding this image; Yulia thinks her brother won't remember how he found this. If anyone recognizes it, let me know. Thank you, Yulia!

Label I've been wanting to write a little biography of Posie/Ella Posie/Posie Gets Cozy for a while, because pretty much every day I have a conversation in the shop/get a phone call/or receive an email from someone who is confused about the difference between these things. To that end, a little history, if you'll allow me.

Embroidery1 I started Posie: Hand-Embroidered Designs in 2000, when I began doing silk-ribbon embroidery on commission for a few fashion designers here in Portland. When asked to have a trunk show by one of them (and a trunk show, in case you aren't sure, is basically a special event where you come into a location with your things and sell them to the shop's customers for that day), I said sure. I made up some things that could be sold directly off of a table, as opposed to taking orders for commissioned embroidered pieces. This was my first sampler, from which I took orders for custom work.

Sachets Those first trunk shows led me to develop a small line of embroidered sachets and covered photo albums, which I sold wholesale through a rep group out of the Seattle Gift Center, whose territory consisted of boutiques throughout the Northwest. I was able to do this for about a year before it wore me out, since I was making everything myself, by hand; though I had pretty good sales, the amount of money I was netting on these items meant, unfortunately, that making them wasn't worth the time and energy it took. I worry about my wrists.

Pho_press_clinsert1_1 In early 2003, I quit selling my products wholesale and designed a web site, where I could make things available on-line, direct to my customers. I added handbags and other accessories to the line, and officially changed the name of the company to Posie: Rosy Little Things. The url for wasn't available; we settled for the more obscure, which has proved to be a source of great confusion, as people started (naturally, I guess) thinking that the name of the company was Rosy Little Things. But it's not. It's Posie. (People often tend to spell almost every word related to Posie, rosy, or cozy differently as well: there's "posey" and "posy," "rosie" and "rosey," and even "cosy" and "cozey," all attached to links back to my sites [for which I am very, very grateful!!!]. It's my own fault for picking such a random, unspellable name anyway, but what can I do now? Note to self: Pick more normal name for business next time!)

Springfling03b Anyway. I began to sell my things retail, direct to customers only. Products were priced at an amount that I could live with, and I was lucky enough to get some substantial national publicity for my photo albums. This brought customers who wouldn't have found me in a million years to my web site. That was a really fun, very busy time. We had several Posie parties here at our house and hand-made hundreds of invitations and decorated things in pretty ways, and met a lot of really great people who were so encouraging and helpful. I really enjoyed that time. I loved designing these parties and having people over in the backyard and inviting them into my studio. I don't do this anymore.

Ellastore In late 2003, Carmen Bailey, one of the local buyers who bought my products when I sold them wholesale, contacted me and asked me if I wanted to become partners with her in her small bridal-y boutique, called Ella, out of which she also ran an event-planning business.  I agreed to join her, and we opened "Ella Posie, " a boutique, in our first location on East Burnside in October 2003. It was very small, and physically inside a furniture store called Sofa Table Chair, but very, very sweet. I kind of miss that space, pictured above. It had the most beautiful light. We "split" the rent, the time we spent there, and the geographic space of the shop evenly -- products that Carmen procured were on one side, the Posie product line was on the other. (You wouldn't know, just walking in, how things were "separated"; our aesthetic has always been quite consistent with one another's, so the average customer sees a just a nice display. But our two businesses, Ella and Posie, have always been and are still quite separate. The boutique is one aspect of what we each do; we are each quite busy with the individual businesses of Ella, the event planning service, and Posie, the product line, when we're not at the shop itself.)

ShopwindowIn March of 2005, Sofa Table Chair, our landlord, decided to move from the Burnside location to a new space on NE Broadway. We had grown to love our neighbors, and didn't want to stay in that (not very good) location alone, and quite frankly didn't know if we could afford to pay rent on a space of our own. Conveniently, there was an unfinished back room in the new building that Sofa Table Chair purchased; it had a dirt floor, no windows, one bare light bulb hanging from a very high ceiling. It was dreadfully raw, but as soon as we saw it we knew that we could work our magic. We did almost all the improvements ourselves, aside from the installation of the windows, the electricity, and the painting. Susan, the owner of Sofa, would give up a quarter of the front window that faced the street for an Ella Posie display, but customers would have to walk the long length of the furniture store to get to our shop, as we no longer had our own entrance (as we did on Burnside). We tried to counter this unusual situation with our logo painted as big as we could on the front window, a great big sign hanging off the side of the building, a sign on the front door, a sign on our interior door, a big sign over the top of our interior door, an A-board on the sidewalk, and a lot of suggestively pink things (birdcages, dresses, flowers, parasols) in our window display (this photo is from way back when we first opened; we have lots more stuff in the window now, but I don't have a photo of that), and yet. . . .

Insideshop_1 I truly didn't anticipate the problem that having a space inside a space would cause people. Every day as I sit in the shop, I hear it over and over: "I didn't even know you were back here! Does anyone even find you back here?" Or "You need to get a shop on 23rd Avenue!" (a swanky shopping neighborhood a few miles west, where rents can be upwards of $3,000 per month). Or, my favorite, "You guys need a sign!" I have been known to sob weakly, "But we have five!"

It is incredible to me how many times a day I hear this. Our location seems to disturb and confound many people to the point of distraction. After almost a year in this space, I have to admit, I am weary of and a bit depressed by the conversation. This is what we can afford. We do the absolute very best that we can with what we've got. Our profits are slim. So slim. In spite of our location, we think we are providing a lovely place full of unique items that enhances our city nevertheless. Unfortunately, we can't afford to advertise the way we'd like, or pay more rent, or change neighborhoods. Also, we like where we are, honestly, and we love our neighbors, which counts for a lot. We rely on word of mouth, return customers, and lots and lots and lots of elbow grease to make it work. But let me just tell you, it doesn't work all that well. Nevertheless, we maintain that our existence is valid and special and worth appreciating; we hope that people will recognize the importance of having unique little spaces like ours in their city, and support us. If they don't, we won't be able to stay. And their shopping alternatives will be more and bigger corporate behemoths who can afford to sway the masses in a way that we just can't, and never will be able to. End of sermon, though just talking about this makes me tremble with earnestness and desperation. I believe so sincerely in what we're doing, and worry so frequently about our future that it overwhelms me sometimes. And having the same conversation over and over again, about how flabbergasted people are by where we are located, is discouraging, and, at the end of the day, not even the point.

Excuse me while I go wash my face. I'm flushed.

I do realize that they didn't invent the phrase (admonition?) "Location, location, location!" for nothing. I really do.

I do.

Shop2 But where was I. Oh yeah. So, when we had the opportunity to move Ella Posie to our new, bigger location in April 2005, we were able to bring in about 30 new product lines in addition to my own, designed mostly but not exclusively by indie designers, some local, some national, some international. We work hard to find unique, high-quality product lines, and we are really proud of our carefully edited collection. I must admit that many, many times, people walk into our shop and they are filled with wonder at the discovery, and they spend time looking at all the little things we put together, and they are charmed by what we've created and where we've created it. We love these people. So much. Thank you thank you thank you for "getting" what we're trying to do. Also, the local (and national) press has been so good to us, and me. I am grateful and indebted to them for their generosity in covering our endeavors. It makes a huge difference. And I certainly don't mean to imply that no one cares, or shops! They do, and it goes a long way. It really does. I just feel like things are . . . pretty shaky at the shop sometimes. I know our shop is not alone in this, either. I'm worried yet hopeful for all of us.

Nevertheless, in September of this past year, I was feeling pretty anxious and overextended and a bit exhausted. I started reading craft blogs for fun, and met Ms. Amy Karol of Angry Chicken, who so kindly encouraged me to start Posie Gets Cozy, this blog, about my Posie-ish life, which is almost my entire Alicia-ish life, really, since my businesses are comprised of all my favorite things and the vast majority of my time. I have to work hard to think of things that I like that aren't related to my work, but here are a few: dinner, tennis, dogs and horses, ice skating competitions, the beach, my nieces and nephews, laying on blankets in the sun, the penny whistle. I would say television, but you know that almost every single thing I make is made against the background of the WB, right? So television is a big part of Posie. But I have really enjoyed having the blog. It's so easy and fun and relaxing. I love it. I had no idea that I would.

Anyway, you're sweet to be reading this whole thing or even remotely caring. I feel kind of funny writing all this, as if it could be interesting to anyone but me, but I guess that's why they call it a blog. Thank you for indulging me, as always. You're the best.

The Goldilocks Theory

comments: 35

Book_1Every month or two I threaten to pack it all up and move to the country. Lately, I've been thinking about wine country in the Willamette Valley, just outside Portland, where the hills roll smoothly away from the ocean, and little vineyards trace diagonals across the fields. I think it frustrates Andy that I'm always doing this; we live in a fairly urban neighborhood, and he is quite happy here. Maybe he'll want to be a country nurse practitioner someday, I don't know. . . . I feel like there must be a place that's "just right." But that might be wishful, wistful thinking, and I don't want to be one of those people that can't be satisfied. No no no. I really don't. Nevertheless, neither do I want to be someone who pines, when it wouldn't be that hard to make a change, really.

BookdetailThanks for the comments about home yesterday, and thanks for the head's up about the stuffed houses  by Cassi at Bella Dia and Heidi at My Paper Crane. I'm sorry I didn't see these, you guys -- they are adorable, and I'm embarrassed to say that even though both of these blogs are on my list, I missed them. I will do something very different, I promise. I looked at my list and moved some things around in my sidebars last night, and thought about how there's been some chat around the blogs lately about how to include links that you like and keep things manageable -- and even visually manageable -- at the same time. I have a subscription to Bloglines, but I never use it; I like to look at people's blogs the way they design them, and I don't like the way that Bloglines makes everything look, though it seems more convenient. Nevertheless, I have just about the worst memory on earth, so unless I put things on my list, I'll forget to check them (and obviously even if they are on the list I forget to check them). I usually go through things on Tuesdays and Fridays when I'm at work and have wi-fi, otherwise it's no fun to wait for pictures to download. But then there's the issue of having a gazillion blogs on the sidebar, and that just . . . doesn't look nice. Except that I think people really appreciate having them. Not to mention that I sincerely believe in and do try to support the people who have supported me.

I have this theory that's been cooking around in my head, ever since September, when I started shopping exclusively at our little, independently owned neighborhood grocery store, Zupan's. Nevermind that we live two blocks from a Safeway; I can't stand the place. When I told the sales guy that their milk refrigerator smelled extremely bad and was caked in nasty, crusty old milk, his response was, "Well, it's too hard to keep clean." When I told another worker that I repeatedly find expired food on their shelves, in every department, he said, "Well, I've never seen any." That was the last time I shopped, like, for-a-whole-week-shopped, at Safeway. Zupan's, though more expensive, fits me just right. It's the right size, it's beautiful and pleasant and clean, they're always extremely nice to me when I'm there, and most of all, I feel like they've actually edited their collection of stuff in a way that makes my life easier and nicer. Instead of having a billion things to choose from, I let their choices be my guide. It feels like a small-town, old-fashioned grocery, and though like I said, it is pricey, I know that I am investing in my own mental-health and my community by shopping there, so I never mind. I know that a lot of people love Costco and places like that, but when I go to stores that are that big, I feel so panicky and overwhelmed and the experience just feels so wrong it negates all the money I supposedly save. Even the carts are enormous and unwieldy. I feel like Alice, freaking out in large-o Wonderland.

Nevertheless, this is the Goldilocks Theory, in honor of  that other searching girl, and it's about finding a thing, a size, that is just right for you. Whether it's a house, a yard, a city, a store, a group of friends, a number of blogs, a job, an amount of work, a number of emails you can answer well, a number of handbags, a number of new product lines for spring, even when people are yelling at you for more, and for more faster. There's just got to be a size, a pace, a place that's "just right," within all these genres, don't you think? And if we try to find the things that are just right, do you think that adds up to happiness and peace?

I'm not sure. I might just pretend that it does and see what happens.

Pincushions, Pinafore, and Home

comments: 20

Pincushions_1 Ugh -- I have lo-mo today. Low motivation. The hubby, on the other hand, is highly motivated. Up at the crack of dawn, coffee racing through his veins, he had folded one  four loads (I stand corrected) of laundry by the time I stumbled downstairs at seven, where he greeted me joyfully at about 4-5 times his natural volume (which is high). The man is noisy. Everywhere he goes, noise. And chatter. Along with whistling. And joyful screaming for the dog to follow. As well as exclamations over her cuteness. And invitations for me to agree about how cute she is. And wonderings about whether I've looked at her in the last ten minutes? I haven't, no, but I can safely guess that she is still very, very cute. I try not to speak, generally, until after 9 a.m. It's just . . . better for everyone that way. I really missed him. It's so good to have him home.

We saw Nanny McPhee yesterday afternoon -- so fun! Cool movie. Amazingly cool set design and costumes, and all the color in this sort of super-saturated story-bookish way. I loved it. Evangeline, the scullery maid, wears the cutest, cutest, cutest pinafore/apron. I got this one at the doll and teddy bear show here in Portland over the weekend. Dolls actually scare the bejeezus out of me, generally speaking, and doll shows are . . . pretty scary too, I must say. It was my first one. I got this little pinafore there, though, in honor of my bags, as well as these little velvet strawberries. Oh, and this itty-bitty birdcage. I guess it must be a dollhouse birdcage? Now, dollhouses I like.

Flowers_1 I've been thinking about what to make for Plush You II, and I'm thinking, after seeing the movie yesterday and sort of having this idea kicking around my head for a while, about stuffed houses. Kelly (who is a fantastic writer) at Her Able Hands wrote something really beautiful yesterday about the connection between house . . . and life . . . and things . . . and thoughts. I think about houses a lot. I have a disability and can't do a lot of what I want to do, so my house is, in many ways, my world. When you are disabled, the world, the outside world, sort of controls you. At least, it does me. It tires and challenges me to the point of tears some days, just doing normal things. Streets and neighborhoods and states that were easy adventures to navigate becomes wildnernesses, blackberry brambles, cities of endless limping steps. But my little house relieves me. It lets me be the real me, the one I want to be, not the one who stumbles around in pain. It's not perfect by any means; it's just a work in progress, like anything, everything else. But I try to treasure it, since I wanted it so badly. I try not to take it for granted. When you see pictures of my house, you should probably know that it is my substitute planet. Also, I grew up in the hometown of Frank Lloyd Wright, so maybe house-obsession is in the drinking water there.

Look, flowers on the plum tree in front! Spring is coming!

Color Coordination in Gift Giving

comments: 9

Gifties2Wow, what a pretty haul. My mailbox was just cling-clanging away this week with presents from near and far -- dear me! Thank you so much! I brought everything home last night and thought it made a really cool, color-coordinated collage -- I mean, everything looked like it belonged together, and from all different people to boot.  Thank you!

The stationery in the bottom right corner is really beautiful, with little holes punched in along the bottom and grosgrain ribbon trims in turquoise, hot pink, and orange, and you can't tell from this photo but it is personalized with "ella posie," the name of my shop. This was a gift from Sierra at Ess & Jae, who make gorgeous invitations, announcements, and stationery. So pretty -- and I do love anything with my name on it!

Gifties3 The Rowan Beach Cool book and the vintage buttons are from Jenn -- so sweet of her to give these to me. I LOVE THE PHOTOS IN THIS BOOK. Love them. It's all sort of retro-English-seaside in persimmon reds and glowy lilacs, with bathing caps and ballet flats. I am loving this book. I'm a fairly sucky knitter, really -- but so what. There is this one picture of a girl with flowers  This picture is just stunningly gorgeous to me. Isn't she pretty?

(Speaking of stunningly gorgeous, did you all watch Sasha Cohen last night in the ladies short program? I couldn't take my eyes off her. Exquisite girl. We were ecstatic that she did so well -- I think I was holding my breath the whole time, it was just so exciting to see her pull it off. Just . . . I don't know. There is something so moving to me about watching her, compared to watching some of the fresh-faced/sock-it-to-ya/nothing-to-lose younger ones (as Andy says, "They haven't lost enough yet, to be able to express what it feels like to have things to lose"), or even Michelle Kwan, whose emotions, although always blatant, seemed less . . . sincere . . . somehow. I feel like Sasha's perfectionism, the burden of her perfectionism, is incredibly moving -- her performances always seem so fraught with that tension and electricity. I know a lot of people don't like her, but I do. When we saw her skate in real life at Nationals last year, she made the place feel completely different the minute she got on the ice -- I mean, that entire building felt different, and that place was gigantic. I really, really hope she does well on Thursday. Really. Okay. Take a breath, Alicia. Also, are you just loving that Olympic Ice show that's on every afternoon? Even grouchy old Dick Button is having a great time -- miracle! I love ice skating.)

Where was I. Oh! There's the orange-slice knitting needle roll from Dacia, what a sweetie. How incredibly kind of you, Dacia. I think I do need to start knitting again. I couldn't possibly have more inspiring equipment. At the bottom middle, there is a crochet hook case that came yesterday as well (I ordered this one) from my illustrious and amazing friend Megan of The Organized Knitter. It's of vintage fabric, and lined with hot pink. So cute. And Kerrie of HipKnits sent that amazing yarn. So cool. The pale pink is the most lovely, smooth, shiny silk. It sort of reminds me of frosting in the bowl of the Kitchen Aid as you are swirling the pink food coloring into it. Luscious. I'm thinking handwarmers. Yum.

Thank you ever so much, you lovely people. Thank you thank you. I'm going to go play with my presents now.

The Pinafore Collection

comments: 32


There's nothing like a mountain of  fabric on a spouse's chair and the deadline induced by imminent arrival of his plane to motivate one to . . . sew. And sew I did, so that he wouldn't see what a disaster I made of the house while he was gone. Wow. Weird how 48 hours in a house by oneself with a sewing machine and plenty of groceries produces such a mess. But look what came out of it!

Aw, I'm pleased. I sewed twenty handbags and got handles and buttons put on seven of them before this morning. Thank you to all of you for your really nice comments yesterday -- I really appreciate so much encouragement and kindness. Melanie asked me a couple of interesting questions I don't think I've been asked before. I'm usually terrible at answering questions, but before I forget, I'll answer them here.


First she wanted to know if I ever keep something for myself that I originally intended to sell. My answer: Not often enough! But I am trying to make a point of keeping more for myself, since it's dawning on me that I won't be doing this forever, and I won't have any tangible evidence that I did do it if I don't start keeping my favorites. I have let a lot of things go that I wish I had kept, actually -- though I usually don't wish that I'd kept it until it's gone. Oh well. Sometimes I just get going so fast I'm only thinking about how to get through the day. Having the blog is actually helping me be a lot more thoughtful and reflective about things, and I hope the result of that will be that I pick out my own bag first, and then do everything else second sometimes.

Melanie also asked if I was surprised by which bags went first and which do not. My answer: ALWAYS! Always. It's totally bizarre to me. That's why now when I'm working on something that is not totally jazzing me, I just keep going because I know it'll be the first one to sell.

Do I attempt to forecast future trends? Um, sadly, no. I can barely keep up with the present. Although it probably makes business sense to do so, I wouldn't say that I consciously watch trends or even know what they are (if you saw me in real life you would say "Clearly!"), though I'm probably always absorbing things and responding to them just like anyone else. I don't mean to sound disingenuous about this. Maybe being fickle and capricious in one's tastes can sometimes make it appear as if one is aware of trends, when really, I just have a short attention span for certain things, and a lot of ideas. I will say that I am always trying to do something that fits specifically into Alicia-world. I'm guided most consistently by the little stories I make up. They help me find a focus for the difference colors, patterns, and ideas that I like. People come into the store (or call, or email) and say, all day long, "Oh, you should make this, and this, and this!" I've learned to just smile politely and say, "Well, I'll keep that in mind! Thanks!" If someone tells me to do something I usually don't, just on principal (sorry, Dad), because I get twitchy and freak out when anyone wants me to do . . . anything. I always just make things that I like. For instance, I consistently have to be reminded to make things that are black for fall, because I don't like black and I never really use it. And when I do succumb to customer "suggestions" in my designs I have to be feeling it as much as I "feel" anything else -- another reason I don't do custom work at all anymore. Inevitably I would wind up designing things to meet customers' criteria that I didn't like, but then the things would have my name on them, and that was just no good. So -- I just make what I like, and what I have always liked, and sometimes the things I like are popular, which I also like -- makes it a lot easier to shop. My tastes really haven't changed all that much since I was an itty bitty. I had a mint green room with pink flowers. I was a total prissy goody-goody in a rock-'n'-roll family, and I dressesd sort of preppy in a tattered, second-hand hippie-chick sort of way. I was big into The Smiths in high school, though. Maybe those things aren't so far apart, really. . . .

Beginnings of Bags

comments: 28

Fabricsforbags_2When I start developing each collection of Posie handbags, I always start with the fabric. Usually I have a vague idea of the shape of the bag, and a "feeling" that I want to capture, but really, it's all about the fabric.

This February I've had an idea in mind about a room in spring -- an English nursery, actually, way up at the top of some old wedding-cake-y house, filled with lilacs (actually the lilacs are down in the yard), confectionery molding and slanted ceilings, tattered flowery wallpaper and flannel eiderdowns and big, paned windows. I have this idea when I go to the fabric store.

At first, nothing appeals. I take a deep breath. Keep looking. Sure enough, certain prints rise to the surface. They seem to indicate relationships with other prints I may have passed. I go back. The idea fleshes out. The cart becomes unwieldy. I always buy my fabrics locally, on sale days. This spring, it's patchwork, polka dots, prints like old pajamas, eyelet. When I get back in the car with my huge bag of fabric and a little bit of anxiety over how much money I've just spent, I see a small strip of paper face down on the passenger's seat. It's an old paint chip from when we painted some stuff in the shop. Pale pink, it's name "Pinafore." Perfect. Meet the beginnings of the Pinafore Collection by Posie.

Bagbeginnings1_2 It sounds like I made that up, but I swear I didn't -- it's uncanny how often things come together when I'm coming up with my little concept, so lovely and easy -- and actually, this part usually is. But it's the only part that ever really goes love-ily and easily, at least for me. If I could just sit around designing concepts and sketching them out and making the first one, I would. And the first one, or ones, can take all weekend, though it's nice work, exciting; I make coffee, watch BBC America, make a mess, hold my bag at arm's length and stare at it happily. There is a thrill in seeing something that you've pictured in your mind actually work out. You say, "How cool -- that's exactly what I wanted to happen!"

Of course, it took all day to get that one. The logistics of actually getting a whole bunch of 'em made can be more complicated. Because most of the things in the Posie product line are one-of-a-kind -- probably related to each other but not exactly like each other -- it makes the manufacturing part a laborious, slightly complicated process. Because I do so many different products, and such small collections of each, it's usually impractical or impossible to get help that I can afford, or is of high-enough quality. I do have an excellent seamstress that sometimes helps me with a lot of the repetitive, non-design stuff, but I still shop for and order all the supplies, find other solutions when the suppliers are out of stock (so often) or have discontinued something we've been working with for a long time (so often), drive around getting everything, pick out all the details for each item, and organize each stage of getting everything made and finished. In this case, I think I'm going to do it all: the cutting, the piecing, the stitching, the pressing, the gluing, the stitching (always more stitching). Then all of the handles and buttons will be hand-stitched on after the rest of the bag is finished. These bags are more complicated than my usual -- I'm definitely heading toward fewer different products in the line, but better, more complicated, more interesting designs. I feel happier with this. I want things to be just right. (Not that I wouldn't love to just design without all the making part, but for now. . . .) Each Posie bag is fawned over until it's released into the world, since I like to think that people care about how things are made, and that it matters to them that each bag is special. If it doesn't matter to them, at least it matters to me -- making handbags isn't going to change the world, but at least I feel like I'm putting something good and beautiful back into it. I try to remember this when I'm tired, or feeling discouraged. I really do believe that life is enhanced when its most prosaic things are filled with specialness and care. I guess this is what guides my work.

Worried Pets

comments: 7

Audreyviolet This is a picture for Andy. Honey, this is a picture of how the pets look when you're gone. 2/3 of them have turned into little old men, anxiously staring out windows, awaiting your return. 1/3 of them (not pictured -- as you said, taking a pic of Bridget is like taking a picture of a fairy) are completely oblivious; in fact, I did see her flutter by this morning so I know she's still here, but I don't think she's pining for you, somehow. Big surprise. Violet (cat) actually hasn't much left this spot (though we've run out of her little foil bags of food and it's freezing here, so I am too lazy to go to the store -- she's eating dry Iams until it warms up), and Audrey (dog) refuses to sleep upstairs. This is also for anyone who might have been wondering why I'm not allowed to have nice pillows. As if that weren't extremely obvious. Good thing she's so damn cute.

We miss you, hon!!! We really miss you!!!


comments: 29

Towels2 Here's me, last Sunday, standing at the cash register at the antique mall, to myself, out loud: "Oh, I don't know what to do! I really want these! But they're $45! But I want them. But I shouldn't have them. They're in perfect condition. I want them! How cute are these! They go with my kitchen! But of course I'd never use them. That's just wrong. I can't have them! But I want them! Oh no what do I do!"

This little performance was accompanied by me sort of marching in place anxiously and flinging my hands to my cheeks dramatically and the salesgirl staring at me with pure loathing and impatience. She betrayed not one hint of advice or encouragement. She was wearing a black corset that actually looked very cool in a not-too-Victorian way. I thought about complimenting her but she didn't like me and I could see that only getting my hiney out of there would change that. Occasionally she looked past me hopefully, to see if anyone else was waiting to check out. They were not. I could not be rushed or intimidated; I stood there for ten solid minutes. Eventually someone else did want to check out and I said, "Okay fine! These too!" and shoved them toward her. My sister gave me a set of day-of-the-week dishtowels once and I got really weird about using the towels only on the day indicated; like, if it was a Tuesday but the only towel in the drawer said "Friday" I would become sort of twitchy and worried that I shouldn't use it, and grab a big handful of paper towels. I have some weird ticks. Another is standing and watching the blinking stoplight four blocks away from my upstairs bathroom window; if I see it blink once, I have to stand there and wait for it to blink three times before I move. It sucks. I love these towels a whole lot; I could save myself the OCD moment and just not use them -- they would get so trashed here. They're all hand done.

Anyhoo, you're sick of me now, too, no doubt. I know. I'm even driving myself crazy lately. Kitchen spaces are not my natural territory, but every couple of months I seem to make a push to reclaim them, somehow, in the hopes that I can figure it out; there is no single exchange that makes me want to scream like "What should we do for dinner?"-"I don't know, what do you want?"-"I don't know" does.  Thank you to everyone who commented on the pantry stuff, and to Meggiecat, who always knows where the good stuff is, including new shelf edging (dare I go to Wal-Mart?), and to Donna for the Martha pantry list, am ambitious array of provisions to be sure! As Donna says, "I would feel triumphant if I had a fourth of the ingredients on hand at any given time." Me too. Here's hoping.

Oh -- and Fred Flare just announced the call for entries for the Next Big Thing 2006, if you can stand the heat in that kitchen. I'm also so loving their interview with MS Kids editor-in-chief Jodi Levine. I love her.

Pantry Lovin'

comments: 20

Cabinet2_2 When I was a child, friends' houses that I played in had things like pantries, butler's pantries (these are the absolute best), sleeping porches, and breezeways. My house didn't have any of these things, but I dreamt of them, and even now there is a charm and nostalgia about the words that comforts me, and suggests plenitude and shelter. The names for these spaces imply a sort of homey abundance that, say, the more-contemporary "great room" just doesn't, somehow. My Loloko stuff I ordered from Laura came a few days ago -- can you spot it in this, my newly reorganized kitchen cabinet? I love it all, though I have to say my favorite is the beret-wearing egg-y creature with the word "FRANCE" stamped across his abdomen (next to the baking soda). I think I have something on back-order, but I can't remember what. Who cares -- I know it will be cute! I reorganized my cabinet just for you, Laura! Really makes me feel like baking something, actually, when it's all neatened like this. I keep crushed peanuts in that teacup for my ice cream sundaes. Oh -- and the answer to yesterday's pink pleated thing? I think it's shelf edging, but it would be cute as cake-plate edging, too. It's actually vintage, and plastic, and printed with this teeny-tiny houndstooth pattern, and there is about 18 feet of it. Might redo this scallop eyelet edging with it, which has been up for six years and is getting a tad grimy. Is there even such a thing as contemporary shelf edging? I like the stuff.

Pantry2 Though our little house doesn't have an official pantry (let alone a butler's pantry, sleeping porch, or breezeway -- I wish), we do have a mud room, a very tiny mud room, which was created when the previous owner built the addition which was his painting studio. They sort of left the original back door and wall of the house and built a little rectangled room off of it, so we have, like, two back doors, and an interior window within a couple of feet of each other. They did kind of a half-assed job of everything. Every time I go to the football-field-of-hell that is Home Depot I see all the things -- tiles, handles, flooring -- we have in our house, picked out by the previous owner (who was leasing the place out as a rental), and it is the cheapest possible crap, installed in every crooked, half-assed way you can think of. It drives me crazy that everything he installed is crooked, including the bathroom sink. We put a big baker's shelf thing in the mud room a couple of years ago and turned it into the pantry, which is why I have (somewhat embarrassingly) room to display cute critters and cupcake papers in my kitchen cabinet (above). I don't want you to think it will really stay looking like that for long or anything. That's why I took a picture of it, because it will only look that way for the length of time the shutter is open. All of the unopened food is in the mud room/pantry. Through the interior window (from inside the bathroom) I took this pic of my apron curtain for Amy K.

Pantry8 The room is so skinny it's impossible to get in there, really, but I love having it. Julie and Julia were making me feel a little bit bad about letting it turn into kind of a jumbled mess in the last few months -- I think I might look for one of those lists of things that you should always have in there, too. I'm sure Martha must have a list like that somewhere? Yesterday morning I went back and re-stacked all those cans and boxes. It's very satisfying work. I was shocked to see how much stuff we really had. Why do I, every time I have to make dinner, think we don't have anything to make? Clearly we have four bags of brown sugar and three bags of powdered sugar!!! What the . . . ? I also found Raviolios and Spaghettios in there. I swear those are not mine!!! The tapioca pudding is mine. Yum.

About Alicia Paulson


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