A Tender Year: March

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Cover beauty blog

I designed this piece a few weeks ago, when the daffodils were just starting to emerge and the threat of war against Ukraine was not yet a reality. As the days have unfolded in more and more fear, sorrow, and destruction, my heart is breaking for the people of Ukraine and their children. A Tender Year: March PDF pattern is now available and all proceeds from the sales of this pattern through the month of March will be donated to the Ukrainian Bible Church here in Fairview, Oregon, where my Ukrainian friends go to church and which is collecting funds to help Ukrainians who have been hurt and displaced by Putin's invasion. I pray for peace for these devastated families and wish you all peace and thank you sincerely for your help.

Quilt Back Details

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I loved reading all the comments on the Fluff Pouf post. Thank you! A few people did have questions about how to do the back and finish the quilt so I took some pictures last week of the green and pink quilt and thought I'd walk you through the process with me. It was really dark the day I took these photos so they're a bit dark and grainy (and I know, the hot tub in the background really adds to the effect) but hopefully you can see the things I'll be pointing out. Above is the big pile of scraps I start with when making the quilt top. I put the pile next to my sewing machine and just paw through it while looking for the next piece I want to sew.

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Here is the finished quilt top, waiting for its back.

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Here's an adorable child who loves to iron her own little pile of scraps. <3 <3 <3

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I measure the top of the quilt and then piece together a back that's just a few inches bigger on every side than the top. You don't have to go crazy and make it extra, extra big. I have been putting a strip of scraps from the same fabrics as the front and which includes a little cross-stitched patch (done on cross-stitch linen) that has my initials and the year. When I have that all together, I lay the Ikea comforter down first, lining up one of the corners with the corner of my table and letting the rest of it hang over the back. Then I put the backing down, right side up, lining up a long edge very close to one of the long edges of the comforter. We'll get to why in a minute.

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Here is the comforter and the back hanging over the back edge of the table.

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Now I lay the quilt top right-side-down on top of the back.

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If you want to have it oriented a certain way relative to the back -- if you have a definite top edge and bottom edge to your quilt top that you want to have oriented to the label patch on the back, or the patched strip, for instance -- you need to think this part through a bit, and make sure it's turned in the right direction. What's going to happen is that you will sew around all four sides through all three layers, leaving an 8"-10" opening through which you will "turn" the quilt. You want this opening to be on one of the edges of the quilt (not at a corner). I usually situate it toward the bottom (if there is one), on a "long" patch where I won't encounter any seams. See my red line above for where I plan to leave the opening on this one.

Now, this applies specifically to using the Myskgras comforter as batting: When you cut this batting, you will see that it is literally just fluff between two layers of very thin polyester webbing that they've "quilted" with straight lines in a grid maybe a foot apart. You do not really want to cut this "batting" to trim it before you've sewn around all of the edges to secure all of those layers together. Because I will have to leave an opening to turn the quilt, I situate the opening very close to a finished edge of the comforter, and you'll see -- I won't cut off the serging at that edge just where the opening is, because once I turn the quilt right-side out, I'm going to fold that edge in, along with the backing and the top, and then machine-stitch (through all three layers) that opening closed. Keep that serging intact right there so that the fluff doesn't just plouf out all over the place. We'll talk about this more in a minute. . . .

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Because first you're going to pin all the way around the edges of the top. I use straight pins, and I pin every couple of inches.

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When the first half is pinned, I let it hang over the table and do the other side. Then I drag the whole thing over to my machine. Straight pins can be a bit tricky when you're doing this, I will admit. But they are easier for me to manage than safety pins. And when I stitch all of this together, the batting is so poufy that the pins kind of sink into it, and honestly, it works for me to stitch right over the pins and take them out afterward. That may not work for you. I mean, generally, you really don't want to sew over pins with your machine -- it can be super dangerous to do that. But when there's so much bulk as there is here with this batting, the pins just sink right in. I use a walking foot on my machine and I have no problem with the fabric shifting. Leave the opening open and backstitch on either side of it.

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After everything but the opening is stitched, I trim the extra batting off. I usually leave a bit of extra backing and batting in the seam allowance -- I probably trim those with about a 1/2" extra all the way around, just for insurance. I trim the batting at the opening as you can see in the photo -- leave the serging intact at that opening edge. Once you turn the quilt, you're going to tuck all of that in and stitch the opening closed through all layers.

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Here's the quilt, mid-turning. You're going to pull everything through the opening and then get it all smoothed out. Poke your corners out gently. I do not trim the triangles off of the corners. Don't trim them. It's fine. Just turn everything right-side out.

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And here it is, just waiting for the opening to be stitched, which apparently I didn't take a picture of. But you get the gist, I think! I guess I should do a tying tutorial now, eh?

Fluff Pouf One

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Quite pleased with my fluff pouf!!! I decided to keep it! :) It fits right in here and is warm and soft and cozy and wrinkled and creamy and cushy and sweet. I used an Ikea Myskgras to fill it and tied it quite minimally with some Anchor perle cotton #8 that I had.

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I got a question in Instagram when I posted a picture of the top about how I did this, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about it because maybe it will encourage someone else to make a quilt who might otherwise be intimidated.

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I came from a sewing family but not a quilting family. I learned to sew at home with my mom, but she sewed clothes and not quilts. Sometime in the early 1980s we had a pattern and we were going to make a biscuit quilt out of mint green calicos and I think we even got as far as to cut everything out but then . . . I'm not sure what happened. It didn't get made. How I wish I had those squares now! The biscuit quilt is getting popular again. I saw a bunch of them on Pinterest and they are so cute.

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When I was a junior in college I lived with my two best friends off-campus in a little white house on 8 1/2 Avenue. One night an older friend came over with a patchwork quilt she had been making for her sister for Christmas. She had cut a bunch 8-inch squares of all different kinds of fabrics (cottons but also corduroys and silky stuff) and had sewn them together and had put a border on it all and it was just gorgeous. (She was an artist so her color sense was awesome.) My friends and I were all inspired and I think all three of us decided to make quilts immediately. We didn't have a rotary cutter or self-healing mat and I'm sure we wouldn't have even known that those existed. But we did have a sewing machine and scissors, and we took a piece of cardboard and cut out a big square and traced it onto the backside of fabrics with a ballpoint pen and cut out all the squares with the scissors. We didn't have money so we went to the fabric store and bought bargain fabrics and calicos from JoAnn's or whatever fabric store we had back then in the Quad Cities; I don't remember what it was called but it wasn't fancy. At some point with a school field trip for religion class I went to a fabric store in a barn (I think?) outside of Kalona, Iowa, that was owned by Amish women. It was the best fabric store I've ever been to. They had Liberty Tana Lawn, and that was the first time I'd ever seen that fabric. They had so many beautiful fabrics. They had no electricity so it was really hard to see what you were getting. One time I bought fabric (I'm pretty sure now it was Lodden) that I thought was green and when I got it outside it was dark gray. I told my roommates about it and we went back several times over the next couple of years. So our quilts had bargain-table calicos and then pieces of exquisite Liberty lawn and that just makes me smile. Isn't life funny? I never dreamed I would be doing basically the same thing, thirty years later. (I've written about this Amish fabric store — I have no idea what it was called — before and someone mentioned that it went out of business long ago.)

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Anyway, cut to thirty years later. . . .

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My scrap basket overflows. I've made many things since I moved into this house in 2000. I've made clothes for myself and my daughter and quilts and I've made bags and aprons and other random stuff to sell and I've sold kits and, I don't know . . . I've made a lot of stuff out of fabric. I have a lot of yardage, still. But I have A LOT of scraps. I have a giant basket in my office and it is filled almost to the brim. I also had three big plastic bins into which we dumped out the giant basket a few times. The plastic boxes were in the attic but Andy brought them down for me a couple of weekends ago. I hadn’t thought about them in a long time but suddenly I wanted them. It was like opening a time capsule. I borrowed my neighbor's tabletop ironing board and put it on the sofa and ironed a bunch of scraps while watching TV in the living room.

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That’s how these quilts (I've made two this week and have started a third, but these photos are of only the first one) started. I reached into the plastic box and I pulled out a scrap and I ironed it flat. Then I did it again (and again) and started building a stack. The scraps are pretty random — some of them are cray shapes that got leftover after cutting out pieces for making clothes. Some of them are strips that have one straight edge and one raw, crooked edge, and are the last, wonky cuts from the hundreds of 4.5" strips we have cut for Calicozy kits. Some are strips of other sizes. Some are just random rectangles or squares from I-don't-know-what — old projects, old quilts, stuff I've found on eBay and at estate sales, stuff someone found in their mom’s basement and sent to me. It doesn't matter what they are. I ironed them flat if they weren’t  already and just put them in a stack. I don't arrange them by size or color because I literally don't have room to store anything in a fancy way like that. It's all going back into the plastic box, ultimately — well, it's going back into the plastic box if it doesn't get "chosen" for the quilt that's about to get made.

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When I'm about to actually make a quilt, I pull out part of a stack. I start going through it, piece by piece, and picking out the fabrics that I want. Sometimes I have a color-scheme in mind (the quilt pictured here was pretty random, but one I made after it was "purples, light blues, and creams"). The one I worked on today was pinks and greens (no blues). Inevitably, they all have pink, they don't have red or most primary colors (I just don't use a lot of those colors in what I sew), they usually have a few dark patches that ground them and just . . . I don't know . . . tie them into the stuff of the rest of the house. The doorknobs, the TV screen, the fireplace. Just a little bit of dark to hold them in place and give them some depth and dimension.

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Then I will take that edited stack — and I just kind of eyeball how much I think I'll need for a quilt top (lately they've been a generous throw size, about 58" square) — and only then will I start trimming those pieces into the largest kind of rectangle or square I can get out of each piece. If it's a strip and it looks pretty even, I'll trim off the selvedges. Then I'll take that stack and throw it on the table next to my sewing machine, literally throw it, just all in a big, messy pile. To start sewing (I use cream-colored thread, or whatever's generally close to the color scheme, and I wind up a few bobbins because you need three or four to get through the whole thing), I just start looking for two smallish pieces that each have an edge that is roughly the same length. I sew those two edges together with a 1/4" seam. I'll finger-press the seam open and then look for another piece that has an edge that might work if it goes perpendicular to those two pieces. If it's a little bit bigger that's good, but if it's a little smaller I can always trim that first pair. When I get three or maybe four pieces put together this way, I'll take them over to the ironing board and press them all flat. I usually just press the seams to one side or the other, however they most want to fall.

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Do you know how to make a log cabin quilt block? I do it the way my friend Susan taught me because you do it with strips, not fussy-cut pieces. I basically put "blocks" together using the same method. That is, I sew a few pieces together, and then just keep adding strips along the side. Sew on a strip, trim it (with scissors, if it's easy enough), press it. As the block (and, just to be clear, it's not really a block in that it's not going to be square — it's just going to be a piece that gets bigger and bigger) get bigger you can trim it with your rotary cutter so that it has nice straight sides and right angles. As the piece gets bigger (maybe a third of my "target" total width, or somewhere around there), I hang it up on my wall (which is in front of my sliding-glass door — that's the only empty wall I have in my studio) and let it rest there and start another one. When I get a few pieces, I measure them and see how wide they are together.

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Once the pieces start getting bigger, you can shift them around and see how they work together. Think about whether you need a color, or a color value (dark/light) to go somewhere. Add strips or small collections of blocks to start building pieces that will be the same length, always keeping your target quilt length and width in mind. It gets a bit fussy as you get near these target measurements. You'll start doing more trimming (and your edges will get longer, so it's a bit tricky) and measuring. But before you know it, you'll have a quilt top. And you'll have very little wasted effort or fabric. Piece some stuff together from your pile and add a label in there (I cross-stitched mine, on gingham evenwweave fabric) to get a backing piece.

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After I stuff and turn and tie it, I wash it in warm water and dry it in the dryer. I like it to get all wrinkled and smooshy and soft. It gets softer as it gets older. A few people over the years have asked me about the Myskgras and whether it can go in the dryer. I have dried mine many times and it comes out perfectly fine. It is polyester, so it's not a natural material, and if that's important to you I've found that wool batting can have a similar loft and be really wonderful and warm and awesome, though you'll probably have to tie it a lot more so that it doesn't come apart inside (the label on the batting will tell you how far apart you can quilt or tie). I use comforters as batting because I'm basically making a duvet with a non-removable cover — I don't like duvet covers shifting around everywhere and I do like the simplicity of comforters.

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These are not the best pictures because I took most of them on my phone and the light has been pretty dim here lately. But you get the general idea. I'm making more and I'll have more pictures of them. If you have questions about this process just let me know and I will answer them.

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I think this is a pretty good way to use up scraps, and I also think it's a good beginning project (though, obviously the way I do it does involve already having a lot of scraps, and if you're a beginner you might not have those yet). And if you're a beginner and you want to make a different kind of quilt, or one with an actual pattern, just don't be intimidated by quilting blogs. You will see they have a lot of advice and a lot of rules and might make you feel as if you can't take a piece of cardboard and trace around it and cut out some squares with scissors and sew them together if you want to. But you can. Don’t even worry. You really can.

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Me, Martha, and Ann on 8 1/2 Avenue in Rock Island, Illinois. Taken by our friend Kurt, May of 1990.

Tattered Hearts

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Tattered Hearts blog

I made some Tattered Hearts on little wire hangers out of my cutter quilt. They are $32 each and, even though the USPS for some inexplicable reason took away my neighborhood mailbox that I use every. other. day. (I did a double-take when I arrived — where did it . . . go?) I am shipping stat! XOXO

*** SOLD OUT! Thank you so much. I will make more from this quilt. Stay tuned!

A Tender Year: February

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Cover Beauty 2 blog

A Tender Year: February embroidery pattern is now available!

I ordered a cutter quilt from Etsy the other day and it's supposed to be here today. I'm really excited. It's better than the one I lost. When it gets here I'm going to cut it up and make some hearts! I've been wanting to do this for many years! I don't know what's taken me so long. It's a big quilt so I think I'll be able to make some to sell here, but I'd better hurry — tomorrow is February already. Here is A Tender Year: February and I can't wait for you to embroider this little strawberry chiboust. It's so much fun to do these tiny little treats!

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This design is, as January's was, stitched on Kona cotton (this time in colorway Petunia) and wrapped around an inexpensive 5" x 7" (13cm x 18cm) stretched canvas. It uses DMC floss and one color of Appletons crewel wool, and there is a DMC substitution color listed if you don't happen to have Appletons lying around (obviously you could also use any tapestry or crewel wool, or even laceweight yarn). I still need to do a canvas-wrapping tutorial, I'm sorry — that really is on my list, I swear. I made a quilt over the weekend and decided to KEEP it for myself, so that was bonkers. I made a little cross-stitched label for it with the date on it and I actually put "2/2022" because I thought there would be no way I would finish it in January, and I actually finished it on Saturday, January 29. Ha. I swear, I get an idea in my head and I don't stop. I'll take pictures of that for you, too.

But, for now, here is the next design for A Tender Year. If you'd like to see January, it is in this post. Please let me know if you have any questions, and thank you! XO

Very Impulsive Lately

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A sunbreak! Aw, sunshine. It's very cold outside. I'm scrambling to get caught up. Last week got away from me. I'm working to get my February pattern finished and I owe you a tutorial on wrapping canvas. Those are coming. I have a cross-stitch kit coming, too. Very impulsive lately. Today, it's clean the house, do school, wrangle homework, go to ballet, get dinner, get to bed on time. Amelia's been going to bed too late and getting up too late. It was a lazy weekend and I could've used a few more days of it. I started crocheting a blanket for myself. And then I became obsessed with finding this old pink cutter quilt we have had for twenty years but now cannot find. Andy and I both looked absolutely everywhere for it. It's gone. I wouldn't have thrown it away but it's disappeared. I wanted to cut it up and make some Valentine's hearts for Amelia with it. When I couldn't find it I laid in bed in my nightgown under a heating pad and a cup of coffee and surfed eBay for cutter quilts in the early morning hours. All way too expensive. I got nothing. I pulled some old quilt blocks I made at the beginning of lockdown out of my cabinet. I was stunned to see them, as I had absolutely no memory of making them. There were two sets of Sawtooth Stars in two different sizes. I tried to figure out what quilt pattern I had used that wanted two different sizes of these stars. I couldn't figure it out. Eventually I realized that although they looked similar, the big ones were for a Little Miss Sawtooth Star quilt that I never finished (and don't intend to). The little stars were for a quilt I was going to make for the king-size bed. I decided to re-think it. I made a schematic on graph paper where I set them all on-point and planned to make sort of a checkerboard with stars and solid square blocks, alternating. But on point. Then I dug through my scrap basket, and my scrap tower, and my boxes of fabric. I cut 88 squares out of scraps and stash. Then I thought about the mountains of fabric I still have. I have a lot of fabric. So much of it is just so pretty. It just all looked so pretty together. Then I thought, in all my free time, I would make some quilts to sell. They would be toddler and throw and twin sizes. I would stuff them with Ikea comforters and tie them as I do, so they are puffy and light and squishy and warm. I started looking at quilts on Pinterest. I started thinking about how I don't like flat quilts that use cotton batting and have binding and are just generally over-quilted. I mean, this is just my opinion. But so many quilts are over-quilted to the point where they're sort of turned into . . . cardstock. So flat, so much stitching. So much stitching! I don't like that. I want a "quilt" that's a cream puff. A pouf-ball. A blob. A squishbag. A pavlova. A meringue. A cloud cake. I want them stuffed with fluff and turned (no binding) and tied. So I think I'm gonna do that. In all my spare time. I want to. Comforters for comfort.

Oh! And I wanted to show you these two ice dancing videos if you haven't seen them. Michael Parsons and Caroline Green at Four Continents and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue at Nationals. So incredibly creative and inspiring and moving. I've watched the Hubbell and Donohue vid four times (the first time I saw it it was live) and I cried every single time. Excited for the Olympics.

January Morning

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Cold and rainy this morning. Dark. Sloppy muddy outside. Most of the kiddos are having trouble with Zoom this morning. I feel sorry for the teacher. He is trying hard to suss out the problems (we're suddenly having problems, too) and the kids are totally helping and agh, you know there are other skills being learned right now: patience, perseverance, cooperation, listening. The teacher methodically asks each one whether making the copy is working for them, and what kind of computer they have. School-issued Chromebooks like ours aren't working. And then: A kid just figured out how to get the copy to work on Chromebook and explained it to everyone, and then it worked for Amelia. My god, I secretly feel like crying! Success! Success! This moment was successful, and they all got there together. Over and over and over again. January. We can do this.

Thank you for all of your comments on my last post. I so appreciate them.

Meanwhile, Agatha does what Agatha wants. Agatha sits on the table. Agatha sneaks onto the counter. Agatha methodically drags every loose ball of yarn up the stairs overnight, meowing like a lunatic. In the morning we wake to a dozen skeins tossed around the upstairs hallway; she works hard. She has her own sweater (it's this one) and it is so disgusting, felted and stained and full of holes, a mere rag now, when, in its day, it was so beautiful. She drags it around, too, and every half a day it's in a different room, crumpled up on the floor. Agatha, since her spaying, now that her belly fur has just started to grow back, has reverted to type. She won't let you pet her, won't sit on your lap, will only really let Amelia pick her up consistently while she moans resignedly, plaintively (fifty times a day, until I have to say stop because I just can't take it anymore). We finally filled our neglected bird feeders and she spent two days perched with her front paws on the windowsill and her back paws on the chair, staring with wild eyes at all the squirrel, sparrow, and chickadee action, her pupils down to paper-thin shards. Mesmerized. Mostly what she likes to do is eat, and the vet says she's at the top end of her recommended weight at 8.5 pounds. If she has no food in her bowl, she will come down and try to beat up Clover. You'd think all the dragging-of-things-upstairs would burn a few calories for her. Apparently not enough.

I do love her so, though. My goofy little kitters.

Amelia has joined the chess club after school. Isn't that cool? I am so proud of her. Her teacher runs it, every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 until 4:30. They play on a digital board that looks fun, and she really likes it. She plays with her dad on a regular board in real life occasionally. I've never learned to play. Andy is good at games and so is Mimi and they play stuff a lot. I was never that good at them, even as a child, though I remember I really liked Mastermind and Battleship. I don't think we even have those right now. We should get them. Maybe she's too old for them now. We probably have thirty games we should go through and pass on. I know I should be reorganizing my kitchen cabinets right now, too. Cliched but true. They're a mess. I've got teetering towers of baking pans stuffed into every shelf, forty-five little bottles of desiccated cake sprinkles stuck to the bottoms of their jars, bags of Andy-chips and popcorn falling off of piles of cookbooks on the top of the freestanding cabinet. It's not terribly terrible, but neither is it nice or helpful.

My next-door neighbor, Gretchen, gave me this delightful book and I finished it in one day (probably the fastest I've ever read a book in my life). When I was done I wanted more like it and remembered I had this book which I'd never finished, so now I'm reading that. I sat in the cold car waiting for Amelia to do ballet class (they don't let parents inside anymore, and although it's only five minutes from the house it doesn't seem worth it to go all the way home just to come back in an hour) reading it yesterday after going to four coffee shops to get a chai to keep me warm (luckily it was this brand, my favorite) before I found one in the neighborhood that was open. Life. At night, I watch documentaries about the Windsors or mountain climbers or gardening. Just when I thought I'd watched everything ever made!

I'm not sure why but in some strange burst of energy I designed the first of a new series of embroidery patterns, even though I literally, in December, said to myself that I was done doing seasonal stuff (the deadlines!) for a while. Classic. So now I'm going to do one not only every season but every month. I'm not kitting it — it's only available as an instant PDF download. It uses Kona cotton in Fog and DMC 6-strand cotton floss (and one Appletons crewel wool, but you could easily substitute DMC floss for it).

The series is called A Tender Year, and this is January:

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It wraps around a 5" x 7" (13cm x 18cm) stretched canvas and is tacked on the back. I should do a tutorial on that for you, but I haven't yet. (It's easy, but let me know if you'd like to watch me do it.) You can get canvases pretty cheaply. Here's a pack of five for $5.99 but there are lots of places you can pick them up. It's kind of a cute way to finish a piece without a frame or without putting it in a hoop.

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The pattern costs $6 to download and there will be a new one every month. I have February's stitched and I will be better about launching the next ones on the first of the month. (I got this idea pretty late, so I apologize that it's already the second week of January, but it goes quick. You can probably finish it in a couple of days.) The product page has a list of supplies needed and details what is included in the pattern. I really enjoyed doing this and I hope you like it. If this isn't in your budget just shoot me an email and let me know and I will send it to you, on me. I want everyone who wants to be able to do this to do it. XO, a

Edited: I think Shopify is having some problems right now so the web site might not be working properly. Their status report says they're investigating, so I'll update when it's solved. Thank you! Update, 4:30 p.m.: Looks like they fixed it! Sorry about that!

New Year's Eve

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A Christmas wish came true when we got snow last week in the days after Christmas. It was just the perfect snow: big, fat flakes that swirled and stuck, no wind at all, temps not even that cold. We walked all over the neighborhood and then down to the bakery. It reminded me of the hundreds of times I walked there with Amelia in her stroller, warm under her Sunshine Day and in her little knitted boots. The sun came out and make everything sparkle. It was a wonderful present.

I know it's been a hard year for everyone, and it has been harder for me than I can even say. I pray that you have found blessings in the challenges and I pray that I can focus on the blessings, and appreciate them and cherish them, and even grow stronger from the challenges. I'm so grateful for every one of you who has been here this past year (and before that) with your kind words and your generous advice and your stories and your orders and your recipes and your pictures of crafts that you've made. Every single one of the ways you've shared support with me has been important to me, and I sincerely thank you for being here with me when so often I feel that I've lost myself, sifting through the days, looking for things to help and hold on to. I'm going to try to be here more on a regular basis to help me remember and honor the little things. I have every hope for a brighter year and I wish each of you good health and every happiness in 2022. Love always, Alicia, and Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and Agatha Raisin Paulson

We and the Trees

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Ugh, this last one would've made such a cute Christmas card! Alas, in an uncharacteristic burst of organization and wherewithal, I've already had mine printed. But they're not as "Amelia" as this photo. This photo is just so her.

T H A N K   Y O U   G U YSSSS! Thank you so much for the orders. XOXOXO I appreciate them so much. Every order that came in before 10 a.m. yesterday morning has now been shipped. Because of all of the reissues we worked on this year we still have tons of stuff in the shop for Christmas and for the new year, and that makes me so happy. Usually we end the year with absolutely nothing. I have a few new design ideas brewing, including that nursery-rhyme design (that I did a few years ago and never stitched — or rather, I tried to stitch it but I was making so many major mistakes I literally gave up) that I want to get into a shape to release. Not sure if it will be a kit or just a pattern. I also want to do some hand-embroidery patterns for you to frame in little grapevine wreaths (we'll probably make a kit for it that doesn't include the wreaths, but you can get those easily at any craft store these days — it's really hard to get large quantities of stuff like this in a timely way these days, and it would probably go sideways if I tried). I'm also going to think about whether we want to start packaging our soap in little boxes so that they can be shipped in eco-envelopes instead of boxes. That was the trickiest thing about selling soap and embroidery kits together and gave me complete fits when shipping: Soap wants to go in a box so that it doesn't get smashed, kits obviously can be shipped for much less cost in envelopes. If we boxed the soap itself, we could put it in envelopes with the kits. I don't know. Still thinking about whether we even want to make soap to sell. Andy wants to! 

Anyway! Here we are with a lot of trees. We went to the Christmas-tree farm and to the woods. We've had some really nice weather, actually, and it makes hiking really nice. That said, I won't lie, I'm getting sick of going to the woods. Amelia gets her second vaccine tomorrow and then I think life will open up for us a bit more. Planning Christmas stuff outside is a little tricky. There are some things to do outside that we do like to do every year, including seeing the lights at The Grotto and going to Zoo Lights at the zoo, but now you have to have reservations and buy your tickets ahead of time — and what if it's pouring? Or freezing? Or like, no one (probably me) feels like going that night? Agh. I'm really not good at planning stuff in advance, I have to admit. As soon as I have something on the books I feel anxious, especially if I've spent money on it. Maybe this is an introvert thing! Anyway, I find it hard to commit to outdoor stuff at night in the middle of winter. What can I say.

Clover Meadow had two teeth pulled on Tuesday without incident and Agatha Kitters was spayed the Tuesday before that. She gets her silly cone off TOMORROW (she won't believe how happy she'll be) and we all rejoice that our pets are alive and well and good lord, December is an expensive month. . . . Agatha's personality seems to have completely changed, and she has become either freezing or incredibly sweet, as all she wants to do now is snuggle with someone. I was just upstairs brushing my hair and she was meowing and meowing at me and I swear she was telling me to get back into bed. She likes to be completely under my legs under all of the covers and blankets. She would stay there all day. I would, too, if only. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Amelia has made me her Christmas list and it is filled with such sweet, homely things I had to swallow hard when I saw it. A new sweatshirt. A velvet jacket (red or blue or pink or cyan). "Carmal" candy. Oh how I love her! Next week is the last week of school before break and I am ready for it. School's going really well but it's a lot, and I . . . just want to bake cookies and make ornaments and watch movies and reflect and recharge and quit the hustle of trying to keep her on task a lot of the time. Online school has been an awesome experience so far, for the most part. It’s actually kind of a combination Zoom-with-the-teacher-and-classmates and then independently doing computer modules, which, surprisingly, Amelia loves — but I mean, our lives at home pretty much revolve entirely around school. Within the first few days of school this year she made it clear she intended to navigate it all all by herself, for better or worse, and Andy and I actually have very little to do with teaching the actual content of her assignments other than making sure she is staying on track with the work every day. That she wanted to do everything herself really surprised us — this was not at all how things were last year — but we have totally supported it, and her independence and self-direction has been an unexpected and delightful consequence. And she needed that! We had definitely gotten into a pattern of Andy and I providing any and all direction and that never was what I wanted for her. The teacher is awesome. The new curriculum is pretty challenging. She gets a bit tangled up in language arts for sure but it’s seriously beyond. At our conference, the teacher told us that he and the other third-grade teacher think the language-arts curriculum is at more of a sixth-grade level, and I believe that — they're already trying to write opinion essays with a hook, a controlling idea, three paragraphs for supporting details, and a conclusion, and it's like, whoa, I swear she was literally just learning to read, let alone write! I think it's a bit too much. My neighbor, who is an elementary school librarian, told me at the beginning of the year that in first and second grade they “learn to read.” And in third they “read to learn.” That was really helpful to me, just to understand, yes, there’s a leap in third. It’s still been a big leap but she is so far very game, so we obviously protect that. Anyway, school things sort of fell apart for us last year at this time, so I am watchful. But I mean, wow, so far, so very good, and I am just so proud of my girl.

I have literally no idea what to cook anymore. No idea. I'm so over it. I make chicken verde in the Instant Pot every week, and I've developed an addiction to this not-diet-friendly but delicious version of bang-bang shrimp, and I guess I regularly make my childhood favorite, "pizza spaghetti": Cook a pound of spaghetti, mix it with 2 cups of milk and 4 eggs, dump it in a 9"x13" baking dish, top with Ragu spaghetti sauce (my mother only ever used Ragu in this and that’s what I use, too, or it doesn’t taste like childhood) and shredded Mozzarella and bake at 350F until custard is formed and top is golden and bubbling; I think it's probably 30 minutes.  But otherwise, I got nuthin. Please advise.

*** I hated Madam and didn’t finish it and do not recommend. I tried to watch Only Foals and Horses on either BritBox or Acorn but it was too intense so I went back to Gardener’s World and Escape to the Country. I want to plant all wildflowers in my raised beds this year and once again will try to keep them alive. Dang, that location is rough. I watched The Biggest Little Farm. I am knitting the Sirius sweater in Nature Spun sport and the color scheme I’m copying is way out of my usual wardrobe palette and didn’t really come out how I wanted, but hopefully I will like it.

***Darling nine-year-old Hannah suggested adding something for Hanukkah to Winter Rabbit so I made this Hunukkiah that you can substitute for the Christmas tree on the hill, or add elsewhere. Thank you, Hannah!!!

Hunukkiah

* Winter Rabbit Now Available *

comments: 5

New Cover blog

Oh, I got so lucky with this design! It just hopped out of my fingers into the design program. Like, I drew the rabbit the way I wanted to on the first try. That literally never happens for me. I just really love this little guy. He scampers happily through the first snow of my imagination.

This embroidery is done on 32-count Natural Brown linen from Wichelt with 2 plies of DMC floss. The stitching area at this fabric count is 6" x 8" (15cm x 20cm), and that's 96 stitches wide by 128 stitches high. You can fit this in a ready-made 8" x 10" frame. All of the floss is included in the kit, along with the fabric, and the printed full-color pattern (if you prefer a black-and-white chart, as always just email me and I will send you the PDF for your use).

To order the Winter Rabbit KIT, please click here.

To order the Winter Rabbit PDF pattern only, please click here.

Cross stitch is done with #24 tapestry needles, so don't forget those if you need them. Our beautiful Hardwicke Manor hoops and Bohin heart scissors are back in stock, too.

And if you need any of the other kits in this series so far, we still have them all in stock. Click on the image to take you to the "Embroidery Kits" page where they all live.

Natural Series

Thus ends the "natural" series, as we called it around here, never having come up with a better name. I was inspired by old-fashioned seasonal woodcuts for this series, and I really haven't exhausted that inspiration so it might come back. Gosh I love how they all look together. I don't know. 2021. The work of 2021 was rough. It makes me feel so many things to look at these, and to see beauty in them after all. I can't stop looking at them all together. How strange. I feel like crying. Why am I crying!

WinterwoodsBlog

Here! This is the Winterwoods ABCs Sampler Kit, now back in stock. It might have been the first cross-stitch kit I had ever designed. It is stitched on 28-count Cashel linen in Smokey Pearl with Weeks Dye Works hand-dyed floss.  I will design more kits with hand-dyed floss in 2022, I think. I love it but it's very expensive and it's nice to have kits, I think.

CoverBeautyBlog

We also have First Snow kits restocked. This was the first in a series from a few years ago. It's done on 32-count linen with DMC floss and fits in an 8"x10" frame.

Cover blog

And Things of Winter is also now back in the shop!

Cover blog

And we also still have Winter Wreath kits in the shop (along with the other designs from the hoop series). These are so quick to stitch up and make such nice little gifts.

LoveAndJoyBlog2

Last year we reissued one of my very favorites, Love and Joy. We still have them in the shop. It's done on 28-count linen with DMC and fits in an 8"x10" frame. Easy to change that year to 2021.

PeppermintCream

And Anna has made a new batch of lotion bars so all of them are in the shop right now (but they go fast, so don't wait on them). They make perfect stocking stuffers! This one is Peppermint Cream.

Postcards1

I also still have packages of pretty winter postcards available. Eight postcards with eight white envelopes.

Ornaments

And ornament patterns (just one kind of kit left of these, Sweet Home).

Flowret for Blog

And don't forget this free pattern for A Flow'ret Bright crown for Santa Lucia Day. Just look at that sweet girl. Gosh. Four whole years ago this was, now.

I hope these early winter days are warm and cozy for you. Thank you again as always for your orders and your interest in my work. I'm more grateful that I can say. I wish you the simple joys of stitching this season. I will be back with more of what I'm up to next week and show you how we decorated our house this year. Our tree is up, our mantle is fancy, and want to bake some gingerbread cake right away. Love you guys. XOX, a

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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