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book giveaway: alicia paulson’s magic garden

I CAN BARELY SEW ON A BUTTON, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling a kinship with Alicia Paulson, whose needle and thread seem as natural an extension of her hands—and more to the point, her spirit—as a pruner or long-handed shovel are to mine. With them, she cultivates a charmed botanical world I love getting lost in (lately, she’s making a real garden in her Oregon back yard, too). Meet a treasured pen pal of mine—and maybe win one of two copies of her delicious new book, “Embroidery Companion,” that I bought to share with you:

From the first time I landed on her popular blog Posie Gets Cozy, I knew there would be a connection—again, though I was the hopeless (and embarrassed) girl who hemmed her junior high school dressmaking project right onto the lap of the skirt she was wearing, and when the bell rang for next period had to go there “wearing” both.

Alicia (self-portrait, left) welcomed me into her sewing circle, anyhow, charming me in the funniest Alicia-style ways. I mean, what’s not to like about a woman you don’t even know who says, “I want to be a gardener. Like Margaret.”

A woman who emails you—though you are still total strangers, really—and asks you about the potato she has planted in a smallish flower pot, and how to care for it? (Answer: Get it out of the confines of that pot, a.k.a., my curriculum of How Not to Grow a Potato 101.)

A woman who sends you links to funny cat trick videos? (And who understands when you send her back jpgs you took of your Jack the Demon Cat’s ultra-pink paws?)

A woman who with counted cross-stitch, traditional embroidery and crewelwork skills created places I want to go and flowers I want to put my nose into, like these:

A woman who writes things like this, about the months following her very serious accident—at 29, Alicia was literally hit by a truck, and almost lost one foot, undergoing many surgeries:

“Embroidery was my best travel agent—and doctor,” she says. “Through almost every moment of almost every day of my recovery, I stitched a wonderland of hearts and flowers. Each morning I set about creating the world I wanted, so different from the world I was in. Every night I fell asleep with a tiny garden in my hand.”

In other words, she gardens within the confines of her embroidery hoop for exactly the reasons I dig and plant and prune inside my deer fence. In order that I may thrive. Sound familiar, anyone? Tell us about it, and win the book.

How to Win ‘Embroidery Companion’

ALICIA PAULSON’S LATEST BOOK includes 30 of her own designs—from an entire alphabet adorned with petals, to a crewelwork Tree of Life wall hanging, and pillows bordered with strawberries or blooming with stylized dahlias. There are fanciful animals in Alicia’s garden, too—the “place” she conjures just teems with color; it lives and breathes.

To enter and have a chance at winning one of the two copies of “Embroidery Companion: Classic Designs for Modern Living” that I bought for this latest book giveway, all you have to do is comment at the end of this post by doing this:

Tell me how you are transported—whether it’s pruning or mowing or maybe something other than gardening altogether—in the way that Alicia describes. (Or if you’re shy or perhaps otherwise feeling speechless, just say hello, and we’ll count your entry anyhow.)

I’ll pick two commenters at random after midnight Friday, September 3, when entries will close. Good luck!

More about Alicia

  • Wander through Alicia’s world at Posie Gets Cozy, her bountiful blog featuring much more than needlecraft.
  • Browse the assortment of craft kits and patterns (free and to buy) in her shop (products are listed down the right column…scroll!).
  • Want a copy of “Embroidery Companion” right away? Buy it here.

(All photos here and in the book by Alicia Paulson.)

  1. Holly says:

    Gardening is my escape from the world. Especially digging and weeding. There’s something so rhythmic about the motion. When I come inside a few hours later, completely oblivious to how much time has passed, I am always amazed to realize how centered and calm I feel. Somehow I only recognize how stressed I was once the stress is finally gone.
    I’ve recently started learning to sew, and it’s become one of my favorite past-times. Sewing on the machine is fast and exciting, but stitching by hand brings about the same feeling of calm that digging does. And embroidery (though I only know how to do simple lines/curves) turns out to be the perfect activity for the daily train commute. Portable peace! Who would have guessed!

  2. Sam says:

    The earliest memories of my love of gardening came from the roses outside my mother’s kitchen window.
    Their warmth and sweet smell always a tonic for quieting the mind and comforting the soul.
    Their colors were happy and soft.
    Petals delicate but strong.
    My mother’s roses grew year ’round.
    She decorated my nightstand and bathroom with a modest vase and bouquet of her roses.
    What a sign of love and caring.
    The fruits of her labor nurtured growing.
    There was so much to do and still time enough to smell the roses.
    I can’t look at a rose without reflecting on the happiness they have brought me in life.
    Of all the beauties in mom’s garden, roses were the one true constant.
    All the senses are alive when one is present in the garden.

    Alicia thank you for your inspiration and notice of the small things in life that matter to so many.

  3. Rae says:

    I garden, for that is my painting, my tapestry, sometimes my photography, and a general way to fill my life in retirement. This year, because of arthritic knees, but mainly a back with degenerative discs that cause severe pain bending over, I feel so hampered. It’s great to take pictures of the wonderful plants that reappear naturally, resurrect my fairy garden and add annuals with somewhat pain tolerance, plus I took on building a raised bed (4×4) because I wanted to eat even more localling. Some harvest has been good and other things have failed.

    However, I have not embroidered much in these years as I did when I had a hope chest and did pillowcases for my forthcoming marriage. This author reminds me it never to late and I still have time to write poetry and get to the oil painting I have promised myself to do while I can. I have set up the easel!

    Thanks for the reminders.

  4. Sherri S. says:

    I spend a LOT of time in front of the computer, so when I can take some time to go outside, into my garden, it’s precious to me. I love to see all of the creatures in the dirt–yesterday I was working on my CRAZY tomato plants, and I encountered several lovely spiders, a ladybug or two, butterflies, and a beautiful tomato hornworm (aren’t they just lovely!). The birds were chirping, a soft breeze was blowing, and that incomparable smell of tomato leaves. Ahh, heaven!

    I just watched the movie Bright Star, about John Keats and Fanny Brawne, and the movie highlighted both gardens AND hand-sewing…lovely lovely lovely.

    P.S. I love this blog! And I love Alicia’s blog, too…

  5. Sue White says:

    Wow, I’d love to win this! But on to transporting…. ahd how I get there.
    I’m a digital artist which means I spend loads of time in front of a computer screen…

    When I reach the end of my day, I love to relax and stretch and bend in my garden. The thing that really does it for me is pruning bushes… I love the sculptural part of it! I become engrossed in the cutting back and forcing the shrub or plant to let light in and to take form and grow!

    Choosing the cuts and learning to strengthen the form of the plant is also a part of the sculptural play. I love the tactile part of it, and it’s another opportunity for visual delight!

  6. Colleen says:

    I container garden where I live as there are no beds to do so but I incorporate flowers into my environment…just finished sewing curtains for my bedroom with huge rust and coral peonies on them….ha! I don’t even know if peonies come in that color…but they are gorgeous! I appreciate you offering Alicia’s book “Emboidery Companion”. I follow her blog and get so much inspiration. Her book looks fantastic and would love winning it.

  7. Lindsay says:

    Transportation…I love this idea. Every time I look at a children’s book that is illustrated by Garth Williams I am transported. I want to live in the world he created. A softness and a curiousity fill the pages! My favorite book from childhood was Charlotte Zolotow’s “Over and Over.” Garth Williams’s imaginings of Zolotow’s words were so wonderful…almost as if they were one. I go to that place when I want to be transported!

  8. Mollie says:

    I,both sew and garden. I’m in my garden at 6am many mornings – I think, plan things as I’m working, I find it very therapuedic toiling in the soil among my flowers wich I have planted from seed or divided. I am facinated by the life cycle.

  9. Nancy Eaton says:

    1. I LOVE Alicia Paulson’s blog! I want to live in her house!
    2. I tried to garden years ago, and failed terribly. But I did have success with Peonies (my favorite), Lilies, Lilacs and Old Roses. That was until I moved to Florida. I’m amazed that people actually garden here.
    3. So, instead of growing flowers, I find that I love to paint flowers! Who knew?

  10. While telling you how much I love to work in my garden, what I really really love is to sit in it. We have seating arrangements at various vantage points and each gives a different view. Plus each is perfect for a particular time of day.

  11. k a t says:

    I moved into a different neighborhood so I could finally have chickens and a garden. It’s been so wonderful I only wish I could have done it sooner! Heading to the backyard on long summer evenings to do a bit of weeding while the chickens run free is a wonderful way to wind down from work and the stresses of commuting. I don’t go in until it’s too dark to see and the chickens have gone in to roost. Then I make my dinner of fresh eggs and herbs from the garden and turn to my knitting.

  12. Catherine says:

    I love the unbearably sweet handfuls of flowers (from our garden and the wild) that my 4 year old brings me, beaming with joy. Thanks!

  13. Kathy says:

    Of all things, it’s weeding that transports me. Bending and pulling and watching the transformation allows the stress to just slip away.

  14. MLE says:

    Well, I’m both a beginning needleworker and a beginning gardener so I’m usually scratching my head too much over the task at hand to be transported (although spending time around the fine handiwork of others can really pull me in). But when I sing a well rehearsed song with the choir I can really start to live in the music.

  15. Carolyne says:

    My deer fence around the garden may be the required eight feet tall, but they still like to nibble anything in the front yard. The racoons just laugh at my attemps to thwart their gleaning and take the tomatoes anyway.

    Doodling and dreaming are both good escapes of the mind to places I wish to create. I imagine handwork was the one thing of beauty in a pioneer woman’s weary day that she could hold and make her own. I think the activity of gentle rhythmic stitching, a bit at a time, is just the ticket for having something useful at the end of a stressful week. It makes the dreams come alive.
    I do so wish you would add my name to your drawing. I need inspiration!
    Thanks for the wonderful words about Alicia.

  16. kathy gill-hopple says:

    Gardening and stitching are labors of love that require time! patience! a creative vision! and alot of magic when things work out well, and some frustration when they don’t. I enjoy crazy quilting and cross stitch, it is like painting a garden with thread!

  17. Nancy O. says:

    Gardening is my healing love as my son died this past spring and I spend many hours weeding, watering and planting the new growth in my flower and vegetable beds to show me that new life goes on with my son’s memories living on. My son, Andrew, and I had shared our love of gardening together so I continue on. I have a great interest in embroidery and reading that brings joy to me also. Thank you so much for the opportunity to receive the wonderful book on embroidery and gardening connected.

  18. Veronica says:

    I’m not a gardener, although I do love plants and flowers. I just suck at keeping them alive. I’m an avid crafter and I especially love to sew and quilt. When I’m stitching away or trying to come up with a new design for a quilting project, it’s pure joy and fun. I love thinking of an idea, creating it and ending up with a lovely finished product. It’s so satisfying. When I’m at work, all I can think about is what project I’ll work on next as soon as I get home from work. I really wish crafting could be my full-time job.

  19. Amy says:

    I am a hobby junkie, so I escape in many different ways. I have a garden, I knit, I scrapbook, I spin, I sew, I read. I have hobbies ADD. lol Thank you for the chance to win this book! It’s so lovely. I saw it at a friend’s house last week, and I immediately had to open it! My pillowcases need some of those hand embroidered monograms! :)

  20. Teah says:

    Flowers make me smile whether real, fabric, paper, embroidered, or drawn. I am also inspired by Alicia. Her blog is amazing. Thank you for your generous contest and please pick me. I promise I’ll stitch you up something! Happy weekend!

    1. Margaret says:

      ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED, and I have picked two winners…but first:

      Welcomes to all the first-timers who joined in to say hello since my last official “hello” 100 comments or so back:

      Hello to Kate, Holly, Jody, Cricket, Amanda, Catherine, Heather, Missy, Cheryl, Jenny, Melanie, Dulce, Dani, Julia, Allison, Kimmer, Sherri, Sam, Melanie, Allison, Bee, Teah, Amy, Veronica, Nancy, Kathy, Carolyne, Jessi, MLE, Kathy, Catherine, Kat, Queen of Fifty Cents, Nancy, Mollie, Lindsay, Colleen, Sue and Allison.

      I’m off now to try to contact the two names I drew at random…more soon.

      UPDATE: Raji and Susan (from Nova Scotia) are the winners; books being shipped! A new contest begins 9/7 with a great new cookbook by NY Times columnist Melissa Clark.

  21. Brenda says:

    I know its too late for your give away but I had to post anyhow, I love your blog, and Alicia’s too!

    I planted my first ever flower garden 3 years ago. It is a little 10X10 fairy garden with a sweet little fountain and stream. As this is my third year, everything matured this year. My succulents bloomed! It was such a transformation and the first time I had ever worked something like that and been patient with it enough to work on it for 3 years. Gardening is amazing. You get your pretty annuals which bloom but fizzle and die but the perennials that take the cake.

    Its kind of like I have discovered in love. Annuals are like the passion of a new love, exciting and showy but that fades. Where it is at is waiting for love to develop over time with nuturing and care. One day you just sit back and realise that before you is something rich and mature and more giving than you ever imagined it could be. I have been rewarded in both love and gardening and I am glad I waited out the young adult stage to get to where it is now and I cannot wait to see where it goes from here.

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