Today is a pinch me day. A day to celebrate a joyful collaboration come to life, to share the collective vision, work, and spirit of two friends a coastline's length apart.
The Rainbow Soup collection is more than four prints - it is the shared efforts of two mamas finding inspiration in the work of their hands and homes, the imaginations of their children, and the beauty of the natural world.
The prints are inspired by my quilt patterns and shades of natural dyes, developed from our collaborative vision, and brought to paper with the precise attention to detail and flawless execution of Megan's hands alone.
The ink colors were based on shades made in my kitchen dye pots from onion skins, avocado, cutch, black beans, osage orange, and indigo. The patterns from quilts I've made or stitches I've placed. Best of all, Megan didn't just translate fabric sketches onto paper but instead imbued each image with the reflection and imperfection of work made by hand. Corners that don't perfectly match, stitches that run closer to the sides in some spots than others. A quilt is something human, after all.
Each of these letterpress prints were pulled by hand at Brown Parcel Press, once through the press for each color. They'll arrive to you wrapped in naturally dyed ribbon and hand printed paper, ready to adorn children's rooms and studios alike.
For the past six months, we've been basking in the truest joy of our new boy, River. Long nights, bright mornings, deep winter snuggles, toes in the spring grass, and the most beautiful season of big-and-little brotherhood.
We've also spent half a year working through long, contradictory conversations with our insurance provider regarding why they won't cover his birth or my prenatal care. Despite being an in-network provider and our paying large monthly premiums for coverage, our midwife was paid less than 10% of her fee by the insurance company. Less than we pay for one month of insurance coverage. We are disappointed with the system and we've worked hard attempting to navigate it in order to alleviate this financial burden and get our midwife the payment she deserves. Still, we are left with a large bill, one that stretches us beyond our carefully budgeted capacity to pay. And so I'm offering a Helping Quilt. A quilt that will help us pay our incredible midwife for her necessary, competent, and loving services, and a quilt for one of you to love and keep warm with and pass on in your own family. But that's not the only prize.
A second winner will be randomly selected to receive a year-long subscription to our Seasonal Silk Club, and THREE more winners will be chosen to receive a naturally dyed, heirloom bunting from our summer collection.
And finally, everyone who contributes to the fundraiser will receive a link to download a printable PDF file of the four seasonal illustrations featured in the Sugar House recipe books, drawn by artist Emily Halbardier, in gratitude for your support and contribution. The illustration can be printed on nice, heavy paper and framed or hung as a special print, as many times as you'd like!
Until 9 am EST on Sunday May 14, you can make a donation in my shop. Five winners will be randomly chosen on May 14, with the winning order numbers announced on this post Sunday evening. Winners will be contacted directly by email.
First Prize (one winner): a custom handmade throw or child-sized quilt - including natural colors and a pattern we design together, made from 100% organic fibers, hand-stitched with a little bit of extra love. The quilt will take approximately 8-10 weeks to complete, and will ship toward the end of summer 2017.
Second Prize (one winner): a year-long subscription to the Seasonal Silk Club, a total of eight naturally dyed play silks delivered seasonally. The spring silks will be mailed the week of May 15 with the remaining seasons to be shipped seasonally in June, September, and December 2017.
Third Prize (three winners): one heirloom-quality, naturally dyed, 100% cotton bunting in summer-inspired, plant-based shades, mailed before the end of June 2017.
Everyone will receive the PDF mentioned above automatically, delivered to your inbox.
Thank you for your support, your help, and your love.
First Prize: Order 00714
Second Prize: Order 00721
Third Prize: Orders 00594, 00739, 00678
The four of us sit as close to the woodstove as we can comfortably maneuver, the morning's popovers long since eaten and second mugs of coffee steaming cooler each moment, brewed just as much to stave off those exhausted morning aches as to warm the cold hands wrapped around them. The air hovers around 50 degrees before we get the stove going and the heat creeps slowly through our small cabin. The baby wears a wool bonnet all the time; sometimes I'm surprised when I take it off and am gently confronted with the soft, silvery brown fluff he has for hair.
There's a relief and ease in the air we haven't felt in days, the sort of quiet morning that can only feel remarkable after two whole weeks’ worth of a mighty winter cold shared amongst us. It marks my first time caring for two sick children, and while I can't say I found it easy, I did feel a specific and real presence of joy in that difficult work of mothering through fevers, first coughs, and long sleepless nights. It was a sort of intensified version of what it's been like to mother two children so far: incredibly demanding of me, and as a result, encouraging of unexpected and remarkable growth.
I have found some of the things I feared before having River to be true-- the dishes aren't always done before I go to bed but they usually are, our day to day rhythms as a family of three were lost to the push and pull of a baby's frequent naps and nursings. The laundry isn't always done on Tuesdays, Wednesday's meandering walks go often unwalked in favor of a short jaunt around the pond and back, and handwork together on Thursday has been frequently replaced with cooing back and forth to the baby on the bed. There's one day in our week that hasn't lost its designation; Mondays, unflinchingly, remain baking day. And now some Tuesdays are Mondays and Wednesdays are too; Fridays have turned Monday and not looked back.
There are two reasons as far as I can tell why Monday and her flour, sugar, and eggs have taken over. The first is practical - my first child loves to bake, and my second child can sleep right through it in a cozy wrap on my chest. Every last one of us wins. River has napped through dozens and dozens of muffins, weekly scones and dutch babies, squash-filled dinner pies and cream biscuits, afternoon cakes, half gallon jars of granola, batch after batch of December’s holiday cookies, and every new recipe inspired by my recent sourdough habit.
The second reason has some to do with struggle, and more to do with love.
I’ve found on bleary-eyed mornings when my feet feel especially heavy on the floor, putting a warm plate of muffins on the table and watching Henry rush for the butter brings clear and needed relief. When my world feels like it is contained within four close walls and I haven’t spoken out loud to another grown up all day, the familiarity of our favorite apple cake recipe reminds me that it’s not in the special days that our memories are made but in the slow afternoons sharing food we made together.
Even more than making hard days a little sweeter, I’ve come to know baking as a way to put on to the table this great love for my children. A way to make something physical that is comforting or nourishing or joyful. It’s an affirmation that I’m doing it - I’m providing my children with a childhood that is secure and healthy. This is my truest work. And in doing that work, I can slowly make amends with the childhood I did not have, I can mother myself, I can believe my best is enough.
And so when the nights are long and the days are sometimes tough and short, I keep on doing my best and I keep the cookies coming. I think of the generations of women before me making bread with their hands and their love and putting it on the table to nourish their families, and I think with thankfulness how different my children's young lives will be from my own. In all of that the way through this season becomes clear: gracefully hopefully, gratefully without a doubt.
We haven't left our mountain in a week. Long days of work for dad mean long days at home for us, and this week the earth treated us to a fine few days of balm and thaw.
There was still snow on the ground on Monday; Tuesday morning the sun crept out and began the work of melting it all away. We set out on our morning walk, baskets in hand, just wool sweaters and no coats at all to keep us warm. We walk every day to a spot Henry calls his Hunting Grounds. It's a nice mossy hill just off the dirt road we live on, marked by a big oak tree and a stretch of crumbling, centuries-old stone wall. About halfway down, we were ambling, talking, crunching through snow, remarking on the pleasant weather, listening to the rushing brook, when the dog stopped in her tracks and approached the embankment next to our path. We looked up and were met by a pack of four coyote, looking right at us not more than 15 feet from our noses. Rosie let out a big bark and they took a step back, clearly disinterested in having it out over this particular patch of woods, but with such an aloof and slow retreat that I wasn't entirely sure they were going to leave. Henry and I joined in the barking and watched in a kind of half-frightened awe as they trotted away. They were really more beautiful than I thought they'd look so close up, though I'm not eager to come face to face again without our sleeps-all-day-but-remains-valiant guard dog.
When went on, not wanting to miss a chance to enjoy such a warm morning in the wood. We spent a while spotting mushrooms, talking about coyotes, and gathering lichen for dyeing from fallen logs. We saw a tiny mole scurry out of a hole under a log and we followed her to her next destination, darting in and out of two or three other holes while she went. We walked home carrying with us a sense of the power of our living, breathing forest, grateful for such an adventurous morning stroll.
Wednesday, another warm sort of day, certainly too warm for February in Vermont. We gathered some green ferns we found by the brook and put them in a jar inside, a beacon of the spring that seemed to be coming fast and sure.
Thursday we walked to the pond to see how the ice was melting. Henry brought a stick he's been using for all manner of important things - poking holes in the ground, smacking thawed, mushy apples under the trees - and he discovered that if he used it to push aside the formerly-frozen leaves from their places in the ice, they left a pristine and beautiful impression. We moved all the leaves we could reach and marveled at the poetry.
That night we came home, ate dinner just us two, and he asked if I would like to dance with him.
Not every day is so downright wonderful, but there's no better word for that day.
Before our bedtime song and last goodnights, a candle is lit and I tell a story. We read books before candle time, but the last story of the night is always invented, usually from something we did that day, always something about the season with a little magic thrown in. Lately all of our stories take place in a land he calls Mossworld, where the fierce animals are still fierce, but never eat their friends. Most recently, I've been telling variations on a particular story idea he likes very much: that a certain animal sees a boy and his mama or dad doing something outside during the day, and wants to try it themselves at night when the people have gone to bed. There were foxes who watched the boy ice skate, then spent hours skating on their paws in the moonlight. Deer who learned what snowmen are and made snowdeer all over the forest. Coyotes who loved to bake and made muffins for all of the creatures of the forest. That night I told a story about the leaf impressions. That there was a little mole watching from the reeds as the boy moved the leaves from their spots on the ice. When the boy went to bed, the mole went out onto the ice and moved all the rest of the leaves across the pond, as she was light enough to scurry across the not-so-sturdy ice the boy couldn't walk out on. She thought to call all her friends out to see these joyful prints, but instead decided to keep it just for herself. A magical little secret.
Come Friday, the thaw was over. We woke up to snow falling, a blustery cold day compared with those we'd had. We walked up to the pond to see if the leaf impressions were still there. We saw they had filled with snow, only adding to the beauty of what we'd seen the day before. Not just that, but when we looked out between the dock and the land's edge, there was one trail of little paw tracks in the snow. Bigger than a mole's to be sure, but magical to us to see and share.
This week I'll dye a play silk and some wool with the lichen we gathered. Henry will have a special reminder of this sweet warm mid-winter week, and the wool we'll use for loom kits, a bit of our forest for other children to weave into their handwork.
Nothing but gratitude these days for the living, thriving, wondrous place we get to call home and share with one another.
I made a little bed. A vintage wooden frame, tiny quilt, teeny knit blanket, itty bitty pillows, a cotton mattress filled with wool. All made by hand, organic, naturally dyed.
This little bed is bound for Henry's doll house, but it stands in for a larger project I'm embarking on. I'm going to make our bed. From top to bottom, I plan to spend time this year working to create each piece of the bed we sleep in.
We need a new bed, and after a bit of research it became clear that the kind of bed we'd like to have- one made from natural materials, without toxic flame retardants- is far out of our budget. I spent time investigating the way people and families in other cultures sleep, the kinds of beds we used to sleep on before modern materials and manufacturing became ubiquitous, and it seemed that the most responsible and affordable option would be to make one from scratch, by hand.
I'll start with the moving pieces, a king-sized quilt and a wool blanket, cotton sheets and pillow cases. The last piece to our bed will be a new mattress - a straw tick, and maybe a wool mattress cover on top. I will source my materials as sustainably and organically as possible, using natural dyes, minimally-processed fibers, and local wool and straw. It will take a long time. Each step will require labor, research, planning, and resources. But to me it seems deeply worthwhile work to make for our family a place to sleep that is non toxic, low waste (each piece of the bed could potentially be repurposed and continually mended or reused) and lovingly handmade.
This project is an incredibly practical one, but I hope to make it a beautiful one too. I'll be keeping a journal here of my progress and each piece as it's finished. You can also follow along on instagram with the tag #sugarhousemakesabed
There's a small, warm set of arms hugging my neck, blurry shades of grey then lavender, rose, pale orange coming up over Mt Equinox outside the window. Stretches, rolls, morning greetings, and we're up for another day.
Wool sweaters pulled on, yogurt and cereal served, kettle set to boil, time to make a fire. Not quite enough kindling and bark a little damp, a slow hour later I'm throwing up my hands at the stove. The fire will have to wait for my coffee.
I stir in a couple big spoonfuls of milk from the last 1/4 of a half gallon jar - which lacks all the cream and joy of the first 1/4 - and I head down the stairs below the kitchen floor for kindling and a piece of wood that signals to me in some tacit way it'll come through. Henry is getting out a board game after two or three more variations on breakfast, and I sit down next to the stove to make us warm once and for all.
Two matches and a bigger pile of sticks and bark than likely anyone ever needed to start a fire, and I can finally walk away from the hearth. A game of collecting loops of smoke to make our space rockets launch, and it's time to head back down the kitchen floor stairs.
I put on an extra sweater, scarf, and the household's wooliest hat and make my way down to the basement workshop, Henry content to stay warm by the fire with an audiobook and the dog curled up beside him. It's cold down there this time of year, but I'm so spent on fire building I don't bother to light the big, hulking, rusty barrel of a woodstove next to my press.
I mix a little pile of ink, lay it on the steel plate, and the cold press creaks to life. 100 or so pulls, at least 20 ways of asking myself if it's worth it, and 45 minutes pass and I'm wiping up the last of the mineral spirits and bringing 100 freshly letterpress-ed cards and 10 very cold fingers back upstairs to join my little one in warmth.
The rest of the morning stretches on in its usual way, there's another snack, another game. Some coloring and chatting, building a marble run, and making lists. Lunch comes and goes, and it's the hour we've looked forward to all day. We're off on a longer-than-usual walk to meet our neighbors and their herd of goats.
We're bundled up again, a batch of kefir banana muffins wrapped in fabric being carried by a sweet bemittened hand. As we walk, Henry notices all the things we haven't passed before and we stop to admire trees covered in lichen, particularly mossy stones, a field full of milkweed, and the way the gravel changes at the bottom of the road (he did most of the admiring of the gravel). Two quick turns and we've arrived for tea, cheese, and a warm chat with the neighbors.
We visit the goats, enjoy ourselves very much, and hatch a plan to take a shortcut home through the woods. The Pruddy Brook is the name of the stream that runs down the mountain, through our backyard, and parallel to our road before it meets the Green River farther down in the valley. It has just rained for a couple of days, and the forest is covered with a thick layer of wet leaves. The Pruddy is loud and fast, and Brad points out a waterfall I dog-ear for the next hike. We walk on all together, looking for a quiet place to cross the water and climb up to the road. We don't spot one, but we're hopeful, and Brad and his dogs part ways with us and turn back to head home. Henry and I and a beautiful, generous wedge of gifted aged goat cheese make our way further along the Pruddy as it starts to near twilight. It's a hard walk. Harder than Henry's probably ever taken, without a trail, over slippery logs and stones, the slightly disorienting roar of the creek alongside us. We never do find a place to cross, but I know if we keep straight along the brook we'll reach a hill that'll bring us up and over to the road not far from our house. That hill, as it happens, is steeper than it looks from the road, covered in thorny berry brambles (the same ones we were so happy to discover when the days were long and the berries were ripe!) and a beast to climb. Alternating between pushing Henry up (careful sweetie, I've got you, you won't fall!) and tossing the wedge of cheese upwards five feet at a time (perfect, delicious, please don't fall!) so I can clamor up myself, we get there.
Our feet hit the road as it starts to get dark, and we stop to hug and laud our big adventure with home in sight. I let go of a big, huge sigh of relief, never having been lost or truly worried, but just stressed enough by the journey to beat the dark that I'm very, awfully grateful to see the warm lights of our house through the trees.
Lo, the fire is out.
Remembering the morning's work, I make my way unbegrudgingly down the kitchen stairs one last time for an armful of kindling and light the stove.
Dad came home with dinner and stories about a Christmas parade he passed on his way. There's another round of rocket game before bedtime, and two long chapters of The Wind in the Willows. We light a candle and Henry asks for a story about goats before he sleeps.
Downstairs by the fire again, I tell Stu about our adventure, the place down the road where I found out we can get good butter from, and how I might get a chance to learn to milk the goats come spring. We each have a bite of cheese before bed.
I go to sleep tired, really tired. Still, and without disappointment, I'm up before dawn, quietly trying to untangle myself from soft little arms, watching the colors rise over the mountain, and sleepily reveling in the opportunity to build a good fire on the first try this morning, and maybe start on that Christmas sweater for Henry with my feet warming alongside it.
This year on thanksgiving, we stayed home. Instead of traveling to visit our folks (which is certainly nice in its own right), we opted to celebrate just the three of us. It was lovely, and the pie ratio was perfectly on point. Two pies for every three people seems like the right way to do it, no?
I've been working on some naturally dyed ribbons for holiday wreaths and gift wrapping, some made their way to the thanksgiving table wrapped around fresh rosemary.
More of that rosemary became little herb evergreens, happily standing in our favorite North Country Folkware buttons. Henry was so smitten with these guys, we ended up with 8 or 9 on the table.
A classic pumpkin (extra ginger) with maple candied pepitas on top, and a spicy apple pie for dessert. But the truth is thanksgiving at home means you can eat your pie for breakfast, and we did just that.
Henry made us a feast, too.
Then just like that, we're warming leftover soup for lunch and gathering greens for wreaths.
Our Henry is four!
We celebrated a whole bunch of times, first with two sets of out of town grandparents, followed by a special space party with friends on his last day of being three, and finally a little family celebration on the day itself.
Henry suggested the space theme for his party (he has been captivated by space, the planets, and the moon since he was teeny tiny), and I did my best to make it special.
Our friend McKenzie illustrated a sweet picture of Henry in space which I had made into a printing block for my letterpress, and Henry and I worked together to watercolor them as invitations and thank you cards.
I made two garlands of wool moons and starts to decorate for the celebration, and wool and naturally dyed silk shooting stars and constellation lacing cards as party favors.
Henry's special birthday cake recipe, a carrot and spelt flour cake with honey cream cheese frosting, is always a favorite!
We all had such a blast celebrating our now-four-year old. He is already such a good friend and helper, and I can't wait to see what the next year brings.
Welcome to the Sugarhouse Workshop journal. I hope to use this space to document the new work, custom projects, dye pot experiments, and daily scenes working, learning, exploring, playing, and cooking with Henry that happen here every week.
This past week, we've been spoiled by warm weather. Late November days in the upper 50's don't happen too often in Vermont and we soaked each one up. Dip dyeing wooden dolls by the stream along with the winter Seasonal Silk Club colors, making soup outside the apple tree fort, and taking long walks up and down the mountain.
These little dolls will be added to our nature table as sweet winter fairies, and a few sets will be available in the shop in December.
Thank you for joining us here, I look forward to sharing more days, projects, and colors with you soon.