Happy 2021! (My year in review)

What. A. Year! I'm not even going to attempt to sugar-coat things, and any attempt to try and put things into perspective just sounds like a cliché after all this. But for a year where I was essentially under house arrest since March, it's surprisingly not all bad. Above all else, I'm grateful to have spent the time with my husband and that we both were able to continue our office jobs from home at full pay and remarkable support. My sewing was both a welcome distraction and a balm in this year of chaos and uncertainty. I'm going to try to use my usual year-end format again, though this was clearly a year that broke all attempts to contain it so let's do what we can (clearly a motto for the year!)...

What. A. Year! I’m not even going to attempt to sugar-coat things, and any attempt to try and put things into perspective just sounds like a cliché after all this. But for a year where I was essentially under house arrest since March, it’s surprisingly not all bad. Above all else, I’m grateful to have spent the time with my husband and that we both were able to continue our office jobs from home at full pay and remarkable support. My sewing was both a welcome distraction and a balm in this year of chaos and uncertainty.

I’m going to try to use my usual year-end format again, though this was clearly a year that broke all attempts to contain it so let’s do what we can (clearly a motto for the year!)…

(Click here to see a full-sized version)

The Year in Stats

I always like to look at what types of sewing I did in the previous year, since I don’t make any attempt to skew one way or another during the year itself….

Garment types:

  • 17 Bottoms (trousers, skirts, or shorts)
  • 16 Tops
  • 10 Bras or panties
  • 8 Accessories (bags, headbands, pet gifts, etc)
  • 5 Dresses
  • 3 Pairs of Arm Sleeves
  • 3 Home Dec slipcovers
  • 2 Jumpsuits (or onesies!)

In terms of garments, it’s a little surprising to me that I sewed more bottoms than tops, but I think this is partially down to my sewing a bunch of shorts for a casual work-from-home summer, and also reissuing a few leggings patterns which needed new samples.

Pattern company breakdown:

  • 23 FehrTrade
  • 7 Burda
  • 6 Jalie
  • 6 Self-drafted
  • 4 Sophie Hines
  • 4 Seamwork
  • 3 Closet Core Patterns
  • 2 Made It Patterns
  • 2 Named
  • 2 McCalls
  • 1 each of: La Maison Victor, DP Studios, Thrifty Stitcher, GBSB book, ATACAC, Freesewing.org, Measure Twice Cut Once, Patrones

No real change here – for the past few years my own patterns have dominated my lists, and well, what can I say – I practice what I preach! I tend to swing from Burda-heavy to Burda-light years pretty wildly, but it looks like this year was a Burda heavy one (though of course, not all my makes were from this year’s magazine issues).

Big Business Things

  • Pattern updates – This year started off with my Dad being critically ill, then my getting so stressed that I got a chest cold for 6 weeks, leading right into the first lockdown, and then the pandemic stress plus not being able to leave home plus the constant news cycle meant I had ZERO creativity to develop new patterns. I mean, ZERO. Massive respect to the pattern companies that did release this year, because I just had nothing left to give. So instead of doing nothing, I focused instead on updating and improving our existing patterns and bringing them up to our high standards of our latest patterns. For some this was just (“just”! It’s still hours of work!) reorganising them to be layered pdfs, but for others it was a full re-draft of the fit as well (easily as much work as a brand new pattern but for like, none of the revenue boost. You’re welcome.) Specifically, we released the layered Steeplechase Leggings in April, gave the Duathlon Shorts a major revamp in May, shared a (long-requested) a full-zipper tutorial for the Surf to Summit Tops in July, a full revamp and redraft of the PB Jam Leggings in August, then released the layered Tessellate Tee later that same month, and finally, made the men’s Surf to Summit Top layered in October. That leaves only TWO patterns left to be updated to layered files (VNA Top and Threshold Shorts, which are on my list to do in 2021). And I’m pretty proud of this list, even without a new pattern!
  • Compression Fitting Bottom Block – In addition to all of the above, we also released a brand-new block pattern to accompany our “Sew Your Own Activewear” book back in January! This meant that those wanting to replicate the fit of RTW “compression leggings” had an easier shortcut. I’m keen to develop more add-ons for the book in future, whether this is in the form of purchasable “patterns” or free instructions remains to be seen…
  • Online events – Since I couldn’t leave home, there was no way I could do any in-person events or classes, but I was delighted to see so many events move online this year instead, opening up not just to those stuck at home but those who couldn’t have attended in the past for distance or health reasons. In particular I enjoyed contributing to the Sustainable Fashion Collective‘s roundtable panel discussion on activewear as well as my annual favourite Sewing Weekender event’s new online iteration.

Favourite Makes

DP Studios Wink Top – My mom gifted me the DP Studios book in the spring and I fell in love with SO many designs, but only managed to make this one (though obviously I still want to make more!). The fit is just perfect, the design is eye-catching (pun intended!), I love the fabric, and I feel so great wearing it.

Named Ruska Knot birthday dress – I always try to celebrate my birthday by sewing something new, and I’d had my eye on this design from the Named Patterns book ever since it came out. It ended up being that a knit dress in a great colour with pockets was a hit for 2020’s lifestyle, something I couldn’t have predicted when I sewed it in mid-March.

2020 was the year I embraced the elastic-waist trousers, and I fell hard for the Closet Core Patterns’ Pietras! I made my first the black linen trousers in January, wearing them to the office a fair amount but then pretty much every other day once I started WFH (so much so that I’ve had to reinforce the inner thighs already!). They were swiftly followed by a grey wool flannel pair that are basically like wearing a hug in cold weather. But these weren’t enough, because in my summer shorts sewing binge I made a pair of denim shorts that I may have worn endlessly for days on end. My only regret is that the photoshoot doesn’t do them justice – I absolutely adore wearing them.

And what would my favourite makes be without a bit of activewear?? I made a fair amount this year but by far my proudest make is my Tokyo-inspired cycling set I made to ride the virtual Tour de France in July. I absolutely nailed the fabric placement, fit, and function of the entire set, and I’ve worn these three pieces over and over and over again for my home workouts. Maybe in 2021 I’ll be able to show them off on London’s streets, too?

Duds included: the sad, grey Patrones sack dress, the weirdly proportioned purple Burda fleece, and the absolutely-fine-but-not-suited-to-pandemic-living rose Burda jumpsuit (which I like but never wore because IMHO jumpsuits are incompatible with WFH life so what was I thinking?? I also haven’t worn my beloved Zadie jumpsuits at all this year, so my theory stands…).

Athletic Achievements

This year started off with me in the pool doing swimming lessons with my coach, training for the 2 mile Swim Serpentine as my only 2020 goal. I was cycle commuting to work every day and running outside (sometimes run commuting) several times a week and running with my Run dem Crew friends on Tuesday nights.

Fast forward to now and my coach has moved abroad, the pools are closed, I’m stuck inside, spending what was my commuting time on the (now purchased) treadmill or turbo, with the occasional Zoom call to my RDC friends. In fact, the only constant this year has been my lunchtime Pilates classes with my office – the only change there is that instead of meeting in part of the office, we now each dial in to a Zoom call with the instructor at our usual time each week. I am so grateful that this weekly class has been able to continue and give a bit of structure and normality to my week.

It seems seems almost miraculous looking back on it now, but I did actually get to run a real, outdoor race back in early March when I finally (after having to DNS the past two years for being ill) ran The Big Half. Even stranger now is that my cousin actually ran it with me, having a serendipitously-scheduled work trip in London, so we ran/walked it together, having a blast and triggering my slowest-ever half marathon time in the process (his Baltimore-based joy in running through Tower Bridge isn’t something I would trade for anything!!).

But the real star of this year was Zwift. ZWIFT! If you don’t know it, it’s a virtual world for cycling and running, allowing you to ride (or run) through representations of real or imagined worlds and alongside other people and race events as if you were next to them. People often say “oh? like Peloton?” No, no, no – Peloton is like the at-home version of a spin class, whereas Zwift is like the at-home version of road cycling – two totally separate mindsets! For someone stuck at home for months on end, the ability to pretend I was running along a beach or cycling up a famous mountain pass was absolutely priceless. We started lockdown with a hacked turbo trainer (seriously hacked, since the only one we could buy had been already End Of Lifed by the assholes at Garmin) hooked up to Zwift via a series of cables and computers, and I started joining meetups with other Transplant Cyclists around the globe, chatting over headphones while we rode. They even pushed me to complete all 6 of the official Virtual Tour de France rides in July, including the insanity that is Mont Ventoux (and yes, the turbo gets harder to pedal as the gradient increases so it really was like cycling up the real thing!)!!

On the running side of things, it became apparent in late March that in order to run outside when it was safe, I’d have to wait until after 10pm when the Thames Path had cleared out (of the throngs not social distancing or wearing masks – and nothing has changed in that regard over the intervening months) with a belly bouncing full of dinner and feeling so ON EDGE and threatened by other people that it was actually a net negative for my mental health instead of a positive. So I bought the only treadmill I could, a lower-end £400 model from the only company I found with any stock whatsoever. To make a long story shorter, don’t do this – at that price point they’re not designed for regular running, no matter what the marketing materials say. It broke within two months, then another month wait for a replacement, which again broke in the same way within two months, then a two month wait for a refund and a £1000 model from a different company to arrive… and, well, I had a lot of time this year when the turbo was all I had. But my third treadmill is actually wonderful, and I spent a bunch of time running around Zwift, or running with music watching Point-of-View videos of trail running on YouTube, or even just watching films or tv as I walked to try and replicate the usual “walking around London” I used to do without even thinking about it.

Between the turbo and the treadmill, my coach also had me to a series of Duathlons throughout the year – 5km run, then 20km ride, then 5km run. It’s been fun to see how my fitness changed and how I approach the runs (I’m always faster on the second run as I need a good hour to warm up!!). And these have gone a little way towards replacing the “event feel” I used to get from races, but I haven’t gone as far as pinning a number on my shirt yet!

The Year Of…

I like to pick a theme for each year, and this year I really feel was “The Year at Home”. For obvious reasons, really.

Other Major Events

  • I can’t really call this section “Highlights” this year, but considering how large it loomed in my life, I had to include the loss of three family members (my cousin in Spring, my dad in Summer, and my grandfather in the Fall). These hurt a lot, especially considering the funerals were either postponed or livestreamed, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
  • On a brighter note, Loom knitting! The sweater I started in October 2019 continues, and is definitely in the home stretch now, with only the collar to go…
  • Fake travel Being unable to leave home for most of the year meant my only actual travel was in February to sit with my Dad in hospital, so I wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation. For our holidays this year we decided to pretend we were visiting places – we spent a week eating French foods, drinking French spirits and wines and imagining we were in our favourite places in France, plus we had themed days to places like Japan, Brazil, Mexico, and Germany, too.
  • Learning to use my “not commuting time” – I previously used my cycle commuting time to switch off from work and transition into home time, but when working from home you don’t really get that buffer. My morning commuting time was replaced by extra sleep (yay!) but by and large, my evening commute has been replaced by running or cycling for the most part, just in a different format than I used to do. This is a great time to fit exercise into my schedule and give myself that buffer between work and home, too.
  • Boat renovations Earning full salaries but not being able to spend anything on travel, restaurants, or bars meant that we were fortunate enough to save up a good chunk of cash to finally move the boat renovations forward after stalling for the two years since dry dock. Having a completed kitchen, bathroom, utility room (and partially finished saloon, too) has been the real silver lining to this year. And we are so ecstatically happy with the builders we found that we’ve got them booked to hopefully finish up the rest this summer!
  • Video games Before this year I honestly just thought I wasn’t a video game person. They always made me feel anxious or frustrated or both, so I never played them (because who WANTS to feel that way??) But this year I discovered that there are games out there without time pressure (anxiety!) or fiddly controls (frustration!) that can cause a real, beautiful escape and connection. My one true, true love was exploring the forests of Eastshade, a game I loved so much I completed it, then went back to an earlier save point so I can just dip in and out for some beautiful escapism. I loved it so much I year that I physically yearn to visit it as if it was a real place I’d been to. I also loved Mutazione for different reasons, but the story and mix of gardening and music to soothe other characters was something really special indeed. The First Tree was a bit more frustrating than the others in the controls for me, but I still enjoyed the story enough to stick with it til the end.

So that’s it for this year. Plenty of dark, dark days, but I learned to see the joy wherever I could. And maybe that’s a lesson worth taking into the (hopefully) brighter days ahead for all of us.

Previous Roundups

If you’re curious to see how 2019 stacked up to previous years, you can have a look at previous roundups here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.


Add Yours
  1. 1
    Tanya Nuttall

    Thank you for your wonderful new year review. So enjoyed it, and it also gave food for thought. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, very productive new year to come❤️

  2. 3
    Beads and Barnacles

    So glad that you manged to find a running/cycling set up that works for you at the moment.
    I always like looking back on what I have made in the year and seeing what worked and what didn’t, I think I have been getting better at picking things that fit my with lifestyle/style but I have really lost my sewjo lately. Hopefully I might be able to coax it back soon as there are gaps in my wardrobe that I want to fill. Namely more warm bottoms, bring on some more wool Pietras I agree they are wonderful trousers and thank you very much for showing me that earlier in the year. 🙂

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