Tag Archives: 2020

2020: A Year in Review

31 Dec

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again – the end of it! I think it goes without saying that we are all gonna be breathing a collective sigh of relief when this bad boy finally gets wrapped up and pushed back to our history books.

Considering how infrequently I update my blog, I almost didn’t write this ~2020 Review Post~. But, to be completely honest, it doesn’t feel like the proper year closure if I don’t include a round-up review here. This year, I’d made a real effort to be more intentional with what I do share on the internet. And I love writing these posts, reminiscing about the last 12 months, and reading them in the future. Also, this shit took like 4 days to write so y’all better read it LOL. So, anyway, now let’s talk about meeeee.

I know 2020 has been a very, very difficult year for a lot of people (most people, probably). But I’m just gonna go ahead and say it – my year has actually been pretty awesome. In spite of all the wrecked shit that happened over the last 12 months, I haven’t merely survived – I’ve actually thrived. This year has been therapeutic, eye-opening, and honestly quite empowering.

Some highlights (and also low-lights – can’t have the rainbows without the rain blah blah blah) of my year:

Work + Career Updates:

  • I had a pretty solid kick-off with workshops and taught in New Jersey, Florida, Nashville, and New York. I met some fun people, ate a lot of steak, and of course touched a lot of butts! I was on track for the whole year to be so grand but, as we know, COVID-19 had other plans in store for us. It was a real bummer cancelling those carefully planned dates throughout the year, but – what can you do?
  • Once things started shutting down, I got my butt in gear and offered Virtual Private Lessons via video chat. This was a godsend for me in terms of socialization – living alone can be isolating in itself, but being stuck in forced isolation threatened to make it worse. By giving myself the ability to continue to do my work while also socializing with people, it really helped with my mental health and overall sense of well-being. I taught a LOT of private lessons those first couple of months! That being said, I had to take a break over the summer (more on that below) and narrow down my availability to something that was more manageable. I love teaching and I love chatting about sewing, but I still don’t love sitting in front of a computer LOL. If you are interested in taking a private lesson in 2021, you can sign up here!
  • Luckily, I landed a big gig shooting catalog and e-commerce for Talbots. Tennessee had finally reopened for small gatherings (I know someone is going to say something shitty so here you go – just keep it to yourself. We were safe, legal, and no one got sick in all the months we worked together. Byeeee) which made this possible. It ended up being a huge amount of work, over many days spanning into multiple months of shoots. I tailored a LOT of garments – hundreds and hundreds of garments. It was a blast!!! I worked with some awesome colleagues, met some amazing new people, and got out of the house on a regular basis. Working on this shoot allowed me to remain independent while still earning an income, and again – my mental health really benefitted from regular socialization. Also it’s fun to work with professional photographers, they can set up for some really rad selfies (see above!).
  • Despite the pandemic cancelling so much stuff at the beginning of the year, I was still able to work on a few fun projects for clients with my freelance tailoring gig. A couple worth mentioning – another music video and fitting the most beautiful evening gown I have ever laid eyes on (it was an HONOR to touch it).
  • I ended up getting a part time job – at a tailor shop! I work as an in-house tailor for Oak Hall here in Nashville. I met the head tailor, Loretta, on a shoot earlier this year and we immediately bonded over sewing. I wasn’t planning on doing any part time work this year, but this opportunity came right at a time where I was needing to get out of the house on a regular basis (after shooting for Talbots started to slow down) and it felt like a gift from the universe that I’d be a fucking idiot to turn down. I have learned SO much working with Loretta and all the wonderful tailors who are employed at the shop. Everyone is so generous with their knowledge, and so happy to share it. One thing I learned about myself is that I love to sew – I don’t care what I’m sewing, I just want to sew! So being able to work in a shop with fun machines and tools (y’all, we have an industrial button hole machine!!), and learn new skills regarding fitting, alterations, clothing repair, and a million other things – it’s pretty awesome. It’s like being enrolled in school, except I’m getting paid to be there. It’s a wonderful job in a wonderful environment and I just cannot believe that I get to do this!!
  • I finally got my shit in gear and had business cards made! I feel like a real professional now!

Home Updates:

  • I have loved being in my home so much this year! Being able to watch all the little changes in my yard + neighborhood has been so fun, and I’ve really enjoyed making my house more of a home in 2020. I painted my name on my mailbox (a lifetime goal of mine, ha!), started a small herb + tomato garden (note to self, tomatoes need a LOT more room! Ah, live and learn), dug a fire pit, and bought a hammock!
  • I added a chandelier to my dining room!
  • My studio got a couple small updates as well! I painted a mural on the wall behind my dressform, and replaced the shelves by my ironing station. More room for more plants – yes please!

Other Updates:

  • I was supposed to go to Italy in May – my first vacation since 2017! – and, well, I’m sure you can guess what happened to that LOL.
  • I got stitches for the first (and hopefully only!) time this year. Cut my finger real good using a rotary cutter and went right through the nail. I’m happy to report that my finger is fully healed and you can’t even see the scar. But still – watch those rotary cutters!
  • This year, I really wanted to branch out and explore other creative pursuits that aren’t related to sewing / work – so I am learning how to draw and play piano! Both are activities that I really enjoyed when I was younger – I played piano for about 8 years as a kid, and was really into drawing as a teenager – that just fell off my radar once I started getting older and busier. Both are going really well! I have been drawing every day, and while I’m definitely still an amateur, I can absolutely see improvement and really just enjoy the process. I bought an electric piano over Thanksgiving weekend and have been working my way through a self-teaching guide – let me tell you, as someone who used to be very very good at piano (I look at my old books and think – how??? did I fucking play that??), it is humbling to start back over at the beginning. I had to re-learn how to read the music, how to make my fingers move the correct way. I’m still very much a beginner, but it’s so satisfying to practice and play and slowly hear myself develop my skills and muscle memory. Plus, it’s super super fun. I forgot how much I simply loved playing piano.
  • Another really big thing I learned this year, although not necessarily a highlight (I guess it depends on how you look at it LOL), is a better understanding of my food allergies and intolerances. After allergy testing and extensive elimination diets, I found out that I’m allergic to grains. This includes things like rice, corn, oats, and of course wheat. Yes, I know how bad it sucks. Rice has been a major staple of my diet for years, and learning how to live without it has been… really hard. But after cutting these out from my diet, I feel better than I ever could have imagined. I no longer get headaches or stomachaches, I sleep like an ANGEL, my mental clarity and focus is insane, and the random patches of eczema that I always dealt with have completely disappeared. I won’t lie, eating out is really difficult now – but it’s not so hard to make those substitutions when cooking at home (foods like Japanese glass noodles, cauliflower rice, and cassava flour have been wonderful discoveries this year). And it’s totally worth the effort, because, again, I feel AMAZING now. I did not even realize how poorly I felt in the past until I stopped feeling that way.

Sewing Updates!:

  • Because I was so busy this year with sewing for work, I didn’t sew as much as I tend to do in the past. Which is totally ok – I’ve mentioned before that my wardrobe doesn’t really have any holes, and I’ve tried to be conscious of the things I do add to it. Taking a hard look at why I do/don’t wear certain garments – is it the color? Shape? Fabric? Style? Fit? etc – was the big goal for this year. I actually kept a spreadsheet LIKE A BIG FUCKING NERD for several months while I sorted these thoughts out, and it was super helpful!
  • 2020 was the year I was inspired to dramatically narrow down my color palette! I know a lot of sewists revel in the fact that we can make and wear anything we want – which is awesome! – but I found there were a lot of colors that I did not wear, simply because I did not like the way they looked on me, or they didn’t go with anything else in my closet. By narrowing down my palette to a more limited range (warm autumnal colors are my JAM), I found that my wardrobe coordinates much more effortlessly. Of course, this also limits fabric buying options – I’m pretty surprised at how many shops and fabric lines almost exclusively carry cool colors!
  • Speaking of fabric buying, I worked a lot from my stash this year! In fact, from mid-March until now I’ve only bought fabric a total of 3 times. Considering how frequently I upped my stash last year (nearly every shop I taught at had me leaving with a small purchase), this was a win for me!
  • Finally, while I wasn’t sewing as many garments from scratch this year – I did manage quite a bit of alterations and repairs! I pulled out a stack of existing clothes in my wardrobe that weren’t quite “right” in some way – and I made them right! I know the majority of the sewing world loves to talk about how much they hate making alterations, but honestly it’s one of the most sustainable ways to sew (tell me you’re trying to be sustainable and then in the same breath say you’d rather make a whole ass new pair of jeans than alter the waistband of a pair you just finished… right.). In my experience, most alterations take an hour or less and are rarely as complicated as they might first appear to be. And, as I mentioned before – I just really love sewing. I don’t even care what I’m sewing, as long as I get to sew!
  • On a more personal note, I made a conscious effort to post less and be a little more private with my sewing life this year. I’ve learned that, for me, regular posting (whether it’s here on this blog or via social media) contributes to a sense of urgency to continually publish fresh content, at the expense of my own personal enjoyment. In the past, I’ve felt guilty for not wanting to go into my studio and sew – which is some bullshit, if you ask me! My creative practice is a way to keep me happy and centered, and trying to adhere to a posting schedule or force myself to make something when I’m not feeling the inspiration has the exact opposite effect. By enforcing some personal boundaries in that regard, I’ve re-kindled my love of doing things… just for the sake of doing them, and not necessarily because I want to share the results. It makes the learning process more fun, and makes the inevitable mistakes feel more like an important lesson rather than a big failure. Furthermore, creativity ebbs and flows. Sometimes I want nothing more than to spend all day sewing, and sometimes I would rather focus that energy on something else (I have a lot of other hobbies that are not sewing!). I don’t want to feel like I’m forcing my creativity because I have some weird self-imposed deadline that no one but me cares about.

Favorite Makes of 2020:

The Lightweight Sweater: I knit a few sweaters in 2020, but hands-down my absolute favorite is the Beauty School sweater from Poison Grrls. I wasn’t exactly sure how a short-sleeved wool sweater was going to fit in my wardrobe, but let me tell you – I have worn the SHIT out of this bad boy throughout the entire year. It is the perfect shape, weight, and color for all seasons. I used Brooklyn Tweed Peerie yarn for this one, but I’d love to knit another in something more luxe, like cashmere ❤ (PS – I also altered those pants I am wearing! The legs were originally way too wide, and now they are perfect!)

The Bias Dress: I didn’t make a load of dresses this year, but one that really stood out was the Sicily Slip Dress. This pattern reignited my love for wearing bias-cut garments (form-fitting while still comfortable!) in fun fabrics (this one is from Blackbird Fabrics). Such a fun dress to make and wear, and it always make me feel fancy even if I’ve got on sneakers.

The Push-Up Bra: Lingerie-wise, my new favorite bra pattern is definitely the Lansdowne Bra from Orange Lingerie. The partial band + plunge style isn’t something I normally wear, but I love those cleavage-enhancing effects!

The Backpack Tote: So I love sewing backpacks, and this one was no exception! I made the Maywood Totepack (using a kit) early in the year and it’s been SUCH a great (and stylish!) way to carry all my shit around when I’m on set. I love that the straps convert to either a backpack or tote, I love the water-resistant exterior, and I even love the interior pocket that was responsible for me cutting off the tip of my finger.

The Re-Dyed Sweater: Not a new make, but a successful revamp of an old one! My Martine sweater has been a long time favorite, but I’ve always hated the color (turns out I don’t like the way I look in light grey… who would have guessed). So I dyed it a more appropriate-for-me olive green and am stoked with the outcome!

The Painted Jacket: I thrifted this jacket in June 2019 and finally got around to painting it in 2020! The design is copied from a Patrick Nagel painting and I’m so happy with how it turned out!

The Big Reconstruction: Oh, and here’s a big one – my reconstructed blazer! I had so much fun working on this project and I learned a TON. I actually did this before I got my tailoring job at Oak Hall and the experience was a great introduction to the sort of tailoring I now do on a regular basis!

So what’s in store for next year? Well – back to teaching jeans workshops, I hope! (you can see my ever-hopeful 2021 schedule here!). I’d love to go back to traveling, when it is safe to do so. I’m also hoping that Nashville gets a little bit of a break this upcoming year! From devastating tornados (hi, we still haven’t rebuilt from that!), to the freak Derecho, to protest rioting that burned down part of our downtown, to our epic COVID-19 stats (I always wanted to be #1 but maybe not exactly this way lol) and now to the Christmas Day Bombing… its been a rough year for my city.

Overall, this has been a really, really good year for me. I almost hesitate to say this because I know so many people struggled in 2020. But since I started on my journey of self-improvement and hard introspection at the end of last year, I’ve been in a better mental place than I was for the last 10+ years. Don’t get me wrong – dealing with shut downs, cancellations, isolation, and fear of the unknown was definitely stressful and a little anxiety-inducing. What I found this year was that I was equipped to deal with whatever shit that got thrown at me and take it right in stride. For me, 2020 was a year to be brave and make myself a priority. My personal mantra was “Just try it and see what happens!”

I’m going to wrap this incredibly long (sorry) post with a quote that I recently discovered that has really resonated with me this year:

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes. And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.” And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.” And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Amelia & I wish you all a happy, safe, and emotionally fulfilling 2021!