2016 in some words

Thank you for following along with my 2016 blogstravaganza. It feels good to have my projects blogged in the same year they were sewn (and let’s just ignore the projects I made for other people, shall we? and the dress I just sewed from the wreckage of that wool jersey cardigan?) Now I’d like to share some reflections on the outgoing and incoming years.

Like 2015, I’d picked out a theme word for 2016. It was not nearly as whimsical as “joy” in 2015; 2016’s word was “competence”.

For my entire life, I’ve felt uneven in my skills and personality – quick to grasp things and easily interested, but with poor follow-through and my excitement quickly giving way to feelings of dejection and ineptitude. Inconsistent. Making competence my word for 2016 implied the question “what would happen if I solidified some of the basic skills I want and need in my life?”

Here are some of the very quotidian things I worked on:

  • I got more serious about my financial goals and took an honest look at what my husband and I were really spending. We started using an allowance system, which we now affectionately and ruefully refer to as “petty cash”. With only one full-time income for most of the year, we managed to incrementally increase our savings and I contributed to my 401k to get the max employer match.
  • I took an honest look at how I was doing at my job. I was doing adequately and no more. I decided to invest in my skills, both technical and managerial. I look online classes, I asked a ton of questions, I built consensus, I volunteered for projects, I participated. And it worked; I built up my small program and I felt very proud of the work we created.
  • I dared to think about where I wanted my career to go. I started taking stock in what I was loved doing and was really good at, what I could do competently (there’s that word again) and what I’d really prefer not to do.
  • I took good care of myself this year. After focusing on joy in 2015, I was worn out and sick. I made time to go to dance and therapeutic yoga and sought out health care providers that I liked and respected.
  • Sewing-wise, I’ve made a bunch of projects this year that I wear the shit out of. Again, no glamour here, just solid pieces that I wear daily. But it felt good to really sew up patterns I know and love, like McCall’s 6436, my Morgan jeans and trousers, and my self-drafted jumper dresses.

So, lest this post sound like one long brag on my achievements, I’ll add some context – because almost everything was going haywire.

On a personal level, I was inspired to work so much on my own professional development because every week seemed to yield a fresh new sign that my job was in danger, including (but not limited to):

  • a two-month delay in filling open spots on my small team until word finally arrived from unofficial channels that the team was being dissolved
  • another team tried to steal our headcount
  • our director quit
  • our VP was fired
  • our fired VP still managed to trade my larger team to another organization
  • our new director in our new organization told us in vague terms that our team needed restructuring shortly before he got a new job and left
  • his replacement said he wouldn’t make any further changes to the team and then dissolved it less than a month later and laying nearly everybody off

I consider this year to be my education in corporate politics.

Uncertainty, worry and calamity struck a lot of my friends and family, too, and I began to feel lucky that my turmoil was limited to my lost job. Mental and physical health issues that had been in uneasy stasis swung back out of balance for so many people I know, and there was divorce, breakups and housing insecurity in the mix. One of my friends had a spontaneous and undetectable shingles attack on his optical nerve and narrowly avoided losing sight. Another of my friends got hit by a taxi as he was legally crossing the street and narrowly avoided losing his life and his ability to walk.

The backdrop to these more personal cares is the political landscape of the US and the world. I don’t even know where to start to comment on that, except that feelings and pain that have never been resolved are erupting all over the place in very public ways. As some of you know, my Japanese-American family members were removed from their homes in World War II and placed in so-called “relocation camps”. One group’s pain and fears can easily be molded politically to take form as violations against the rights of citizens and humans; it’s only been one generation (albeit a long one) since this happened to my family. For many, it’s happening right now.

So where to take the upheaval of 2016, in as much as we have a choice? Truth be told, I’ve been resting for the last few weeks of this year and taking some time to feel gratitude for what I have. The personal and political tumult has taken it’s toll on me, but I intend this resting period to be temporary. I think next year is going to be very, very important. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it with unreserved joy – this isn’t 2015, after all! – but I am looking for meaningful ways to participate in public life.

On a bit of a housekeeping note, I am planning on taking some time off from sewing. I’m also spending the first few months of 2017 focusing intensively on my career, and I’m really excited. My plan is to enjoy wearing the pieces I’ve sewn this year, and live vicariously through all of your creations. And I think I’ll be doing some more knitting, since it’s better-suited towards little bits of effort at a time.

Since I’ve been focusing on gratitude lately, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank you for being part of my community. Thank you for diving into the details of construction and fit with me. Thank you for listening to my metaphysical sewing rambles. Thank you for sharing your beautiful projects. Love and peace to you all.

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All about ME

Last week, Lisa G of Notes from a Mad Housewife very kindly tagged Melanie and me in the blog hop on writing that’s going around. Being something of a rule-follower, I tried to find the origin of the blog hop. I traced it back, 6 blogs deep – Lisa, Heather, Leila, and three new-to-me blogs – without any mention of the original hopper. This sewing blog land of ours is vast! Without being able to reference the original post, I don’t know what the intent of the hop is, but what swayed me to participate was just how much I enjoyed seeing these posts popping up in my reader.

Why do I write?
I don’t remember why exactly I started a sewing blog. My first few months of consuming sewing content on the internet are hazy. I wanted to make things and I needed a lot of help. I would look up projects on the internet and invariably end up mucking around Burdastyle without understanding how it worked. I joined the now-defunct Wardrobe Refashion because I was just so interested in what people were doing. After a few months of lurking on WR, I shared my first project with great trepidation – a Burda dress made from a thrifted sheet with some of my illustrations screenprinted on it, shot in Photo Booth on my computer – and people were both kind and helpful. I guess eventually I felt the pull to contribute my own content to the online sewing world in a more involved way. I started two other blogs before Crab & Bee – originally a collaboration with my sister – really took shape.

crabandbee.com

I’ve continued blogging because I really enjoy reading about sewing and the creative process, and it’s so heartening to know that other people share those interests. It’s about documenting, too: it’s exciting to have a tangible way to track my progress in and attitude towards sewing over the years.

I write in general because I’ve always written. I started a journal at age 5 and have kept one ever since. I don’t really understand something until I’ve written it down, whether it’s how I’m feeling or my grocery list.

How does my writing process work?
I suppose the writing process starts with the sewing process, when I start narrating to myself. It’s hard to justify my narration habit if I don’t blog, so at this point, I’m committed. Once my project is finished, pictures are next. I take the straightforward approach to photography – I’m most interested in capturing the look, fit and feel of a garment. I make sure to capture the details I want to discuss, and then order my photographs in a way that feels natural. By then, writing feels like a mad lib. I don’t try to control much of what I’ve written.

For someone who frequently shares pictures of themselves on the internet, I tend to be a private person with a tendency towards brevity. I think both of these qualities are fine, even admirable in certain situations, but I realized a couple of years ago that one of the things that makes a sewing blog more meaningful to me is the connection I feel with its writer. In the hopes of creating the kind of blog I’d want to read, I’ve been trying to put more of myself into my posts beyond just how large of a broad back adjustment I need. It’s a work in progress – as is the broad back adjustment.

How does it differ from others of its genre?
One of my fantasy projects would be doing a big affinity diagram of sewing bloggers. There are a lot of overlapping themes and interests in the sewing blog world. My main interests are sustainable sewing (and exploring what that even means), fitting and adapting patterns, durability and the techniques to achieve it, and sewing my entire wardrobe in styles I love, with a little textile art thrown in. This isn’t the ambitious affinity diagram, but I did want to share a few blogs I look to for inspiration around these themes:

Sustainable sewing: So, Zo, YoSaMi, A Handmade Wardrobe, Gloria & Me
Adapting patterns and pattern-making: Heather B, Madalynne
Durability and technique: Notes from a Mad Housewife
Creating a wardrobe: Fabric Tragic, What Katie Sews, Handmade by Carolyn
Styles I love: Sew StylistOh, She Dabbles
Textile art: Rolling in Cloth, Liza Jane Sews, SallieOh

I think what makes any blog unique is the combination of the writer’s personality and interests, their approach to the creative process and what they create.

What am I working on?
Too many things! I’m playing with a couple of Scraptember ideas as well as sewing scrap undies, making a couple of mens’ shirts as gifts, and muslining and planning some early-fall sewing so I’m not as cold as I was last year. That’s plenty, but I’d love to make another pair of jeans and play around with my newly-completed bodice sloper.

crabandbee.com

Nominations
I’d like to nominate Ebony of Sew Stylist and Sarah from Fabric Tragic. I can’t get enough of Ebony’s style these days – I can imagine looking in her closet and seeing a harmonious wardrobe sewn up in a beautiful mix of solids and tasteful prints. I love Sarah’s intense focus on wearable workhorse pieces, with the occasional Sound of Music singalong costume thrown in for good measure. Also, she cracks me up with her choice phrases – “lady garden” comes to mind. (Ebony and Sarah – no pressure to write up your own post!)

What are some of your sewing interests, and which other bloggers share them?