Sigh. For the second year in a row I’m left thinking “ugh, good riddance to a rubbish year!”. And for the second year in a row I’m facing an unknown future of post-viral fatigue stretching out before me, then months and months of rebuilding my body (and my life) once that finally ends. And life feels unbearably bleak.
But hey, part of the reason I write these posts at the start of every year is so I can look back and at least appreciate the good things that happened – and there are always at least a few things! It’s human nature to remember the negative more clearly than the positive I think, and this reflection and reset helps me remember things in a more holistic way.
Even if I did only have 7.5 months in my year when all the rest of you got 12 to accomplish everything… (yes, I tallied it up and I was sick and bedridden for 4.5 months of 2023.)
The Year in Stats
- 12 Tops
- 11 Bras or panties
- 11 Bottoms (trousers, leggings, or shorts)
- 4 Trisuits
- 2 Accessories (balaclava and mittens!)
- 2 Swimsuits
- 1 Dress
- 1 Cape
Plus 2.5 pairs of loom knitted socks, too!
The tallies above don’t surprise me too much, to be honest. With spending the entire year trying to lose the weight I gained from shielding and being ill, and not really going out much, it makes sense that I’d fall back on sewing separates rather than dresses. Sewing lingerie is always a good mood-booster for me, and the New Craft House kits accounted for 6 of the 11 items, which doesn’t surprise me much, either – especially considering I have a few more kits ready to be sewn!
Pattern company breakdown:
- 22 FehrTrade
- 5 Burda magazine
- 3 Named
- 3 StyleArc
- 2 New Craft House
- 2 MadeIt
- 2 Closet Core Patterns
- 2 Do It Yourself Better
- 1 each of: Self-drafted, Edgewater Ave, Paradise Patterns
These counts do surprise me, however! I honestly had no idea I’d made so many of my own patterns this year (apart from the obvious 4 Triumph Suits). But I sewed up a lot of teeshirts (4 Versatili-Tees and 1 Loose Fitting Top Block), 6 pairs of the runderwear thong from our Threshold Shorts pattern (my TNT panty pattern), and a Versatili-Tank, too. Then there were 2 pairs of Tenacity Leggings for me, 3 pairs of Duathlon Shorts for my mom, and, well, they all add up!
I knew I was sewing more from Burda magazines this year, too, but I hadn’t realised I’d sewn more of them than Named – I think in my head I sew a lot of Named because I wear a lot of Named, but I guess this year I was mostly re-wearing older makes. Seeing as how I have items in my wardrobe made over 15 years ago that I still wear, I consider this a Win! It’s also one of the reasons why I’ve made a conscious effort to slow down my sewing in recent years, as I find I don’t often “need” new clothes in my wardrobe.
Big Business Things
Triumph Suit pattern – The biggest highlight of the business year for me was finally releasing our tri-suit pattern after literally years in development and an absolute insane amount of work. Just drawing all the technical illustrations alone took months and months and months of hard graft. I’m really proud of myself for sticking to it, even though I knew it would never be a bestseller, because it was a pattern and design I believed in, and I’m still so proud of it.
I’m also proud of our tenth anniversary in December 2023! It’s really hard to start up a business with nothing, keep at it for years, fight against the tide of social media, and wear ALL the different hats as a one woman business. Still, ten years on, the only part I outsource is the pattern grading. The only portion of this anniversary I’m not proud of is that I was too sick in December to do even half the promotion I had planned! Maybe I just need to pause the celebration until some random point next year when I’m well enough to write a bunch of retrospective posts and actually market it…
Claudia Tribute Cape Set – This set took so much work, especially at a time when I was so ill, but I’m beyond proud of it. I really love all three finished pieces, and I’m super chuffed with all the little details and thought I put into it – which I attribute to having time to lie down and think in between my sewing bursts!
IWTV Tribute Shirt – I actually made 3 (plus 1 unblogged) tribute shirts to my all-time favourite show this year, but this one is my favourite. It’s an original design of mine rather than vectorising something existing, and is by far my most complicated heat set vinyl I’ve ever had to cut (or weed!).
Black Jungle Triumph Suit – It was difficult to pick my favourite of the four Triumph Suit samples, but this one narrowly won because the fabrics were just so special! The perforated black lycra is functional for airflow AND stylish, and I just adore the midnight jungle print lycra I had my mom import in her suitcase for me. Together they just made me feel like SUCH a badass whenever I was on my training runs in Richmond Park.
I really only had one dud this year, and that was a Blomma Tank that I made in some great 2×2 rib knit from New Craft House. I’m not entirely certain whether it was the pattern’s fault or mine (maybe I overstretched it as I applied the bands?) but I’m glad I used the less-precious black rib rather than the sage green I’d also bought. I’m not adverse to trying again with the pattern, which is why I never blogged about this one.
I’m also going to give a special mention to my asymmetric swimsuit as the pattern there was SUCH A DUD but it was only through redrafting it and changing the construction completely that I was able to save it.
- London ultra Duathlon – I really wanted to do another marathon this year, but I couldn’t find a suitable race that didn’t involve flying and was before our Berlin trip in September, so I signed up to the ultra distance London Duathlon in early September instead as my “Big race” of the year. Last year’s standard distance was my first ever multisport race but the ultra was twice as far – 20km run + 77km cycle + 10km run, and I completed it in 6hr 15! It was hot and the last few bike laps and that final run were TOUGH but I really enjoyed the challenge. And I loved the training for this more than any other training I’ve ever done, and far more than I expected to. Turns out my happy place is cycling out to Richmond Park, riding a few laps around, then locking up the bike for an hour trail run, and cycling home. Even if I don’t do another duathlon, I know I’ll be repeating these workouts in future just for me.
- Running a 5km race with my mom – This was such a special race for me and my mom! She’d never run before in her life before starting in December 2021, and I wanted to run a race with her so badly after she’s flown all over the world to cheer me on in my races. So we scoped out a local race and she flew over to London to complete it with me. It was originally going to be her first 10km race, but she was awaiting knee surgery and decided the 5km would be more enjoyable. And it was! Maybe we’ll get to do the 10km in 2024 after her second knee is replaced?
- Wimbledon half – After having to bow out of the London virtual marathon and any chance at a Good for Age qualification, I still had my eye on the qualifying half marathon time (1hr46 for my age). I thought I could use this half as a benchmark of my fitness, even though it was a trail race and wouldn’t officially count anyway. This was my first race of the year with our trisuit athlete mode, An (the second being the London Duathlon), and even though my pacing was all over the place and the course was definitely not flat, I was pleased to finish in 1hr50, which wasn’t too far off the target time. I’ve still got my sights on that GFA time again, but it all depends on when I can start rebuilding again… Until then, I can’t even sign up for any events.
Other Major Events
- BBC London News & BBC Radio London interviews – The week leading up to the London Duathlon was kinda wild. First I got news that BBC London Radio wanted to interview me, live, on their sports show, and then, after that went well, I got further news that BBC London News (watched by millions of people) wanted to come film me and do a story on my journey! The finished piece was really nicely done, and I managed to get our Triumph Suit on tv!
- Trips to Cornwall and Berlin – Flying still isn’t safe for me for Covid risk (sigh), so we made the best of our car by driving down to Cornwall at Easter and Halloween to stay with good friends, and we took advantage of Eurostar and a new sleeper train to go to Berlin in September. We utterly love Berlin and have several friends there plus there was a creative conference we wanted to go to AND celebrate our anniversary… Covid utterly ruined the end of the trip (and my next 3+ months) but at least we got a blissful week of cycling around in the sunshine and eating al fresco before it all turned to shit.
- Enduring severe post-viral fatigue. Twice. – I am built for enduring. Next year, please, let me not be someone’s “inspiration”. I’d rather just not suffer in the first place.
- Two bouts of “minor surgery” – Minor only really because it was local anaesthetic instead of general, but they both absolutely took me out for several weeks unexpectedly, and one involved a trip to A&E after seeing the most blood ever in my life (and I’m a haematology patient).
- Meeting so many new online vampire friends – Falling back into the Anne Rice fandom after lapsing for 20 years meant I’ve met SO many new friends this year! Besides all the friends I’ve made on social media and numerous Discords and AO3 comment sections, I also got to meet people in real life in London, and live vicariously through their trips to the sets in Prague and Paris. Even though season 2 of Interview with the Vampire is going to destroy us all this year, it’ll still be better than the past year of having no new episodes at all.
- Meditation streak – As of today, I have meditated for the past 819 days straight. That’s like, several years of never missing a day!! For a constant thinker, planner, anxiety-prone introvert like me, meditation is such a positive force in my life and how I see the world. And I think it’s even better for never, ever thinking I would be a “meditation person”!
- Patrick Wolf’s monthly livestream gigs – In a world where it’s still not safe for me to eat indoors at a restaurant or bar, take public transport, get on a plane, or go to the theatre or cinema, you can imagine that a crowded, sweaty gig might as well be a trip to the moon as far as possibilities go. So I’m beyond grateful that one of my all-time favourite musicians has been putting on livestreamed gigs from his garden studio every month for the past 2 years. For the princely sum of £10 a month! I’ve definitely felt FOMO at having to pass up his actual gigs this year, but knowing I can at least hear him play the new songs online has eased the pain.
Top 5 media
Even though I’ve tallied up by favourite albums and songs for over twenty years, I only started sharing them in this roundup last year. I’d include films, but to be honest, we didn’t watch very many new films, instead spending our viewing time on the bounty of incredible tv.
Top 5 Albums:
- Caroline Polacheck “Desire I Want to Turn Into You”
- Chappell Roan “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess”
- Ava Max “Diamonds and Dancefloors”
- Ellie Goulding “Higher Than Heaven”
- Florence + the Machine “Under Heaven Over Hell”*
* I would normally never include a Best Of compilation but this was absolutely the year I discovered F+TM and this compilation was instrumental in my exploring her back catalogue
Top 5 Songs:
- Paris Paloma “Labour”
- Florence + the Machine “Mermaids”
- Tove Lo “Borderline”
- Ellie Goulding “Let it Die”
- Patrick Wolf “Enter the Day”
Top 5 TV:
- I’m a Virgo (Amazon Prime)
- The Newsreader (BBC iPlayer)
- Schmiggadoon! (Apple+)
- The Last of Us (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
- Our Flag Means Death (BBC iPlayer)
The Year Of…
Every year I like to pick a theme that sums up my year, and this year the word that kept coming to mind was “disappointment”. Mostly for all the things I wanted to do and experience and achieve, but that my body wouldn’t let me do. But before you go on thinking that it’s an exceptionally bleak theme to pick, I want to leave you with my favourite quote of the year, which spoke to me so deeply that I copied it out of a newsletter months ago and saved it ever since…
“Disappointment is a gift disguised as defeat, failure is an empty space, not a monolith, that from the rubble comes eden.” – Patrick Wolf
If you’re curious to see how 2023 stacked up to previous years, you can have a look at previous roundups here: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.