Happy fresh and new baby year, everyone! I always like to celebrate the first of the year with a look back at the year that’s just completed – this gives me a chance to reflect at the things I’ve accomplished, the garments I’ve made, and challenges conquered. As is traditional, I find myself starting 2018 with lots of great stuff on the horizon but unable to talk about it (this time last year my two big secrets were my Threads article and my book deal, so you’d better believe 2018’s secret project is a good’un!) so you’ll just have to trust me that the outlook for 2018 is rosy indeed!
The Year in Stats
First, let’s take a look back at the garments I’ve made. This one is particularly tricky this year because of all the samples I’ve made for my book, so it’s going to really skew the pattern company numbers as well as be a bit boring because I’ve not got any blog posts about them to refer to you (these are coming over the next few months!). I usually rely on old blog posts to remember what I’ve actually made, so I’m certain I’ll have missed out on quite a few garments this year, oops! So I’m going to try something different and separate out the book garments…
Garments made from “Sew Your Own Activewear” (including those for the athlete models):
- 4 basic top blocks
- 2 basic bottom blocks
- 2 tops, a pair of shorts, a belt, and a pair of bikini bottoms for Emily
- 2 tops, a pair of shorts, a pair of leggings, and a jacket for Sanchia
- 4 tops, and 3 bottoms for Jade
- 4 pairs of Active Leggings, 2 pairs of Cycling Shorts, 1 pair of Warmup Bottoms, a Crop Top, 3 Raglan Tees, 2 pairs of Split Shorts, a Hoodie, and an Active Jacket (so far) for me!
- Countless muslins for the Alvanon and half-scale dummies that got covered in marker pen during the development process!
- 10 Tops
- 6 Bottoms
- 4 Dresses
- 1 Accessory (a cycling garter)
- 1 pair of Shoes
- 1 piece of Lingerie
Pattern company breakdown (excluding book samples):
- 10 FehrTrade/Self-drafted
- 5 Seamwork/Colette
- 2 McCalls
- 1 Named
- 1 StyleArc
- 1 KnipMode
- 1 Burda
- 1 Capital Chic
Big Business Things
I’ll be honest – I’ve been beating myself up that I haven’t quite managed to release any sewing patterns this year. It’s purely been a function of time, as creating 13 brand new designs for the book within four months really took its toll and left me a bit burnt out til the summer, by which point I’d started a new office job and finally started to get excited about my book designs again. I’ve got a free pattern I’ve been working on in small snippets of time over the entire year, but it’s still only about 60% ready so I wasn’t able to release it this year as I’d hoped.
With this weighing heavy on my mind, I’ve been trying to focus on the big things I did accomplish this year with my business, and the highlights are so bright you may want to put on some sunglasses:
- I wrote a freaking book – I spent the first four months of the year working full-time on my book. Not only did I write the whole thing, but I also developed all the patterns and designs, spent a huge chunk of time developing and perfecting my blocks, drew all the technical illustrations, adapted my patterns for my athlete models, sourced the fabric to coordinate into cohesive “looks” for the photoshoot, and sewed up all their samples, too. I absolutely loved the process, and I’m so grateful to my publishers for the opportunity, but it’s a very good thing I’m so organised, because there was so much to get done every single day! It goes without saying that this was a highlight of my year, and I cannot wait to share it with you over the coming weeks.
- I bought, designed, and ran my first ever stall at an event – this sounds like No Big Deal, but omg, running my first-ever stall at the Great British Sewing Bee Live show was months of work in the making. No exaggeration – I put a comparable amount of work into this one event that would’ve gone into a new pattern release. Not only had I never exhibited before, but I’d never sold anything in person before, nor sold any physical products, so I had to do a lot of behind the scenes work on my shop to make it ready for card readers, plus all the paperwork and insurance that comes with an expo like this. Then there was the matter of filling the space – renting furniture, decorating the walls, arranging the loan of a sewing machine and dressforms, and hiring staff to help me out over four days, too. I filled an entire Trello board JUST with jobs to be done in the leadup to this. I’m really proud of how I challenged myself with this, and I even made a small profit, but on reflection, I’m not sure it’s something that I’d repeat in its same guise, just for the amount of stress and financial risk involved. And it might be more fun to release a new pattern instead and either share a stall with someone or just attend as a punter!
- I had my first speaking gig – growing up in America means I’ve done public speaking from a very early age, but I’ve never quite managed to speak at a sewing event before this summer, when I attended the Sewing Weekender, sharing my newly-developed “Sewing for Movement” talk. It’s something I really, really enjoyed and I hope to do more of this in the future – book signing and speaking event, anyone?? (seriously, get in touch if you’ve got a shop and you’d like to host me!)
- My feature article appeared in Threads magazine – this is carefully worded because technically I wrote the article and sewed all the model samples at the end of 2016, but I couldn’t talk about it at all (or show it off in last year’s roundup) until it was published. I have a feeling that when I look back over my sewing career, having an expert article published in Threads is going to be pretty high up my list.
- Harkiran Khalsi Print Club kit – I may not have managed to release a pattern, but I did pull together a second Print Club fabric collaboration! These don’t have quite as long of a lead time as a pattern, but the work involved in getting the fabric printed wholesale, assembling the kits, and schlepping to the post office over and over is definitely not nothing. I’m really pleased that I got to work with another illustrator I really admire, and seeing her face when I showed her the early sample fabric and then again when I delivered her finished XYT Workout Top made it all totally worth it.
This is kinda tricky as some of my favourites don’t have blog posts yet, so just bear with me!
This version of the Hoodie from my book that I made from some gorgeous Stoff & Stil quilted jersey (to be blogged about & properly photoshooted in the new year).
My third pair of cycling jeans. I can’t even stress how life-changing cycling jeans are to my wardrobe and streamlining my life. I love wearing these and cycle commuting to work in these, too. The few times I’ve tried to ride in non-cycle-adapted skinnies were just a total fail from the start.
The kitty Active Leggings (in my book, to be blogged in the new year) I made myself were about the only ones I managed to squeeze in while I was writing the book itself (all the rest of the versions for myself were made later in the year). It meant I wore these to the book photoshoot, to the Sewing Weekender, and to run the mini marathon in a freezing Scottish monsoon at the British Transplant Games, too.
I’m really pleased with how my Gabrielle cityscape dress turned out – it happened by pure chance that I came across the perfect cityscape border-print scuba soon after the fabric came out, and I took my time when cutting it all out, and it shows in the finished dress.
Two big ones stand out for me this year. First up was running London marathon for the 3rd time, the day before my big book deadline (the day I had to turn in all the writing, illustrations, sewn samples, the lot). Even from the first proposals, the deadline was always going to be the day after the marathon, which was absolutely perfect in my eyes! It meant that I got to run London knowing that everything was done, to run it in modified designs from my book, and to have an extra boost because OMG I JUST WROTE A BOOK! I wrote a big race report over on my running blog, but the short version here is that this was a really hard race for me with lots of muscle cramping which I’d never experienced before. So my take-home lessons learnt are that pre-race massages are not optional, and I need to take magnesium supplements during marathon training as I’m a very salty sweater.
The second big accomplishment this year was representing Great Britain at the World Transplant Games for the second time, and winning six gold medals and one bronze, which actually upped my tally from the previous Games in Argentina, despite the incredibly inhospitable weather conditions and much stiffer competition. I still really dislike the training for track distances as well as the competition itself (even now, just writing about this, I feel my stomach drop away and my heart rate start to climb, merely thinking about the stress dreams), but I managed to pull together an intense but perfect two weeks of training leading up to the games, which coincided with the only heatwave to happen in London all year. I’m still not quite sure how I pulled off a few of those gold medal performances (including my first ever genuine photo finish), but I’m sure that heatwave training was responsible.
I ran a handful of other races throughout the year, including the Cambridge and Surrey Badger half marathons, the Douro Ultra Tail 25km race in Portugal, the British Transplant Games, and a few 5km and 10km races, but I feel like I spent the second half of the year still mentally recovering from the track! It’s probably a good thing that I got to ride so much this year, as my little trips around London and then my 20km round trip cycle commute really helped me to cross train and recover from my runs, too. I also starting doing regular Pilates for the first time in 2017, too, after my office arranged to have an instructor come in for weekly lunchtime sessions in a meeting room. My coach and the Team GB physios have been nagging me for yeeeeeeears to do more yoga or Pilates, so I’m glad I’ve finally found a way to work it into my busy schedule!
The Year Of…
I like to pick a theme for each year, and I think I’ll think back on 2017 as The Year I Stepped Up. So many big business opportunities presented themselves this year, and I worked hard to make them a success. It’s not easy running a business on your own, especially not when you’re already working a day job, but I feel really proud of how I grew the business and my own skillset this year. But there’s certainly also things I need to work on, like saying No more often, not allowing myself to become overloaded, and also working further on improving how I receive feedback and criticism (which was my main personal project for the year, thanks to this incredibly helpful book!!).
- It was so nice to meet so many people in person at the GBSB Live show, both long-time readers, online friends, and so many of the contestants who had to put up with the evil sewing challenges I’d helped develop (sorry, Ryan!). I’m naturally an introvert, but even so I think this was the best bit of the whole show!
- Travel! This year we ended up doing lots of little city breaks rather than any big holidays. In May we travelled to Copenhagen to visit friends, then Kas in Turkey for a wedding, Malaga in June for the World Transplant Games, where I got to see my family as well, Scotland in August for the British Transplant Games, the Loire Valley in September for a week of downtime, Porto in October to run down a mountain with two friends, Oslo in November for a girlie weekend, and finally Berlin in December to celebrate James’s 40th birthday.
- Learning to knit (kinda). I’ve never had any desire to learn to knit because I’ve never had any desire to make a scarf or hats. But socks, ooh, yes, I’d love to make socks. So when I found out that sock looms exist and they’re dead easy to learn, I jumped at the chance, especially as it was something different to the activewear samples I was sewing 24/7 at the time. Then I realised I really liked the knitting loom, and that it was a great activity for the many flights I was on this year, and I think I ended up making 6(?) pairs in total this year. So now I actually got into yarn shops when I travel as well as seeking out fabric shops!
- My office job. I really only took it because I needed a mental break after being 100% non stop into activewear sewing for four months straight, and because the job was so crazily suited to my skills that I couldn’t pass it up. It has turned out to be the best place I’ve ever worked, with fantastic people, a supportive culture, a great office, and an opportunity to cycle commute every day. The only downside to it is that it only leaves me Fridays, weekends, evenings, and lunchtimes to work on FehrTrade!
- Chatting with Sandi for her Crafty Planner podcast was definitely a highlight for me. She’s so easy to talk to and asked such great questions that it really was like chatting to an old friend.
- I love that everyone looks me up when they’re in town, whether it’s taking Gertie out for cocktails, taking Ann round the V&A’s Balenciaga exhibit, or showing Heather Lou the sights of London from a riverboat, it’s been really nice to play host to really wonderful people this year.
- Seeing my face on the front page of BBC News. I’d volunteered to help out a prescription heath app I use and love by doing a few video interviews with them, and I’d heard the vague rumour that the BBC was interested in it, but I really didn’t think anything would come of it. And then I woke up one morning to find myself on the front page of BBC News! File under Things I Never Thought Would Happen.
So when you take a minute (or, umm, several hours) going through what you’ve done and what’s happened in the past year, then the things you didn’t do seem to pale in comparison!