Sunday, April 9, 2017

the waiting game, continued

So, I posted an impatient update about our house/moving sitch last month. Fortunately time finally feels like it's passing more quickly, and in two (very busy) weeks we'll be up in Portland for good! I am definitely operating at unsustainable levels of stress and sleeplessness at the moment, but I'm so glad the end is in sight. I haven't shared much about my school/work/sewing situation in awhile though, so I thought I'd update everyone on what's going on there.

As you may recall, I quit my job in September to take sewing classes full time. What I didn't mention at the time was that this was prompted by our (at the time still secret) move - it added urgency in the form of a limited timeline to take classes here, but the soon-to-be lower cost of living also made it much more feasible to drop down to a single income for the foreseeable future. (Side note: HUGE thanks to Tim for being so supportive, both emotionally and financially, as I follow my dreams! <3)

It's been about seven months, and I have indeed been taking classes the whole time, with a few much needed weeks off in December. It's been really incredible: I've learned a huge amount about so many aspects of pattern drafting, design, construction, and some of the ins and outs of having a business in the fashion industry. The full program at my school, Apparel Arts, consists of a long patternmaking program (it's estimated at 2.5 years of work, but you can move at your own pace), plus ten elective classes that each run for a couple of months. Each class meets once a week for 3 hours, with varying amounts of homework in between. I won't be able to finish the entire program, but I'm pretty pleased with the dent I've made since starting the patternmaking class while working full time just over a year ago.

While the program has been amazing and so useful, I've been surprised by how much time and energy it takes up. Working at my own pace, and with a hard end date, has made it really hard for me to take weekends off. I end up doing some amount of work every day, sometimes working way longer hours than I ever did at my previous tech job. As we get closer to move date, I've been putting even more pressure on myself to get as much done as I possibly can while I still have my teachers to learn from. When you couple that with buying our first house and then preparing for a cross-state move, it's been exhausting. I'm ready for a change of pace, and even though I'm sad there are some classes I won't have gotten to take, I'm feeling so ready to take it easy for a little bit and then work on starting my own business soon (and of course, to work on getting my work/life balance into a more sustainable place).


Since September, I've taken seven electives in addition to the patternmaking program. It's been really cool exploring so many different areas of apparel design and creation. Here's a bit about what I've learned:

Patternmaking: This is the class that started it all when I first starting taking it after work in March 2016. I've been taking this once a week since then, and I've made it more than halfway through the curriculum. The class teaches flat patternmaking: going from my body's measurements to a set of slopers that act as base patterns for things like skirts, bodices, or sleeves, and then patterning and sewing rough versions (muslins) of tons of variations on those basic components. I've drafted and sewn muslins of dozens of skirts, bodices, collars, and sleeves, and I designed, drafted, and sewed two skirts and two dresses out of actual fabric, including all the finishing touches of a real garment. Soon I'll have completed seven units of the curriculum, and that only leaves two more (pockets and pants) to do on my own.


Fashion Illustration: This was the first elective I started last fall, and it actually started during my last week of work - so much for time off! I learned how to draw the traditional tall, lean fashion illustration model, as well as how to render various types of fabric and garment details. It was really fun and useful, and I feel like I'm in a great place to use what I learned in my own way in the future. Also - I learned that I really like painting with watercolors and would love to take it up as a hobby if I ever find free time again!

Sergers & Knits: One of my favs <3 I love wearing knits (ie. stretchy stuff like t-shirts, cardigans, or leggings). This class went over some of the basics of sewing knits, various types of knit fabric, and then some drafting. I love how simple the drafting and fitting process is compared to wovens, and everything just seems so easy to sew and wear! I enjoy the technical challenges of making a well-fitted woven garment, but knits are such an instant gratification palate cleanser in comparison.


Textiles: This was one of the more "academic" feeling classes, but the things I learned will be useful for years to come. We worked through a huge swatch book, talking about the properties of hundreds of types of fabric, as well as how they are created, dyed, and used. I definitely need to look back through the book several more times, as it was a bit of information overload, but it's fantastic having real sample fabrics to see and touch as I think about what to use for future garments for myself or to sell.

Construction: I sometimes refer to my current situation as taking "sewing classes", but honestly this was the only class that was specifically about sewing. We covered so many aspects of sewing garments. Some things were review, some were easier/better ways to do things I thought I was okay at, and others were totally new concepts that I'm really glad to know now. Since I'm a self-taught sewer and plan to work on my own for at least awhile, I'm really glad to have this solid foundation to help me construct things in clean, smart ways, even when I'm the one making up the instructions.

Corsetry: I almost didn't sign up for this class, as it's outside of the standard certificate program and I don't really have a personal interest in wearing corsets, but it was a really cool class and i learned an incredible amount. This class took up all of my Saturdays and one Sunday in January, as well as lots of homework time in between. We used a commercial corset pattern (no drafting in this class) and dove right into fitting and construction. I learned how to install a busk, grommets, and boning, how to lace and fit a corset, what fabric choices work well, what the different boning options are and which are better for different parts of the corset, and so much more. I'm still on the fence about whether I'll make another (it was a TON of work for one garment I may never wear!), but I'm so glad I have the skills to do so if I decide to. And at the very least, I learned some things that will come in handy for creating lingerie or boned strapless dresses.


Draping: This class is sort of a counterpart to the patternmaking program, and it has seriously been so cool. Basically you take a square of muslin fabric and a dress form, and you create things that might take many hours to draft with flat pattern drafting. It's not a complete replacement for flat patterns, but I've started learning what works best in each medium, and it's just been a lot of fun overall. Since I don't have room for my own dress form, I've had to stay at the school to do all of the homework for this class. Seriously one of the first things I'm going to buy once we move is my own form, so I can play around with draping in the comfort of my own home - I can't wait!


Design Principles: This is one of the classes I was simultaneously the most excited about and the most scared of from the start. I feel really comfortable learning technical skills, but pushing myself creatively has been scary since I was a teenager. This class was a combination of fashion history lessons and exercises in building our personal design aesthetics, complete with a brand and 8-piece collection at the end of the course. I stressed hardcore about my final presentation, but in the end I left the class with a company name and aesthetic that I hope to make a reality and an illustrated clothing collection that I'm pretty pleased with!



I'm spending the next two weeks finishing up my draping class and getting as far in patternmaking as I can, in addition to dealing with moving logistics, packing up the whole house, and taking a quick trip up to Portland to see the house in person! Our move date was scheduled based on when my last elective ends, and the timing ended up working out perfectly with the house renovations we're having done.

After we get to Portland, I'm going to give myself some time to move in and start furnishing the house. I'm also hoping to build myself a drafting and cutting table; this one looks relatively approachable. Once I get settled at home, I plan to take a few weeks to just relax and sew for fun - it's been so hard to do that when I feel like every minute (and flat surface in my home) should be dedicated to schoolwork while I'm here. I can't wait to have a dedicated room to do it in!! After that little break: business time! I want to try creating and fitting a few things for myself and friends as I work out what direction my business will go in, and I need to find a good small business lawyer to help with the logistics. Ideas around all of this have been solidifying for the past few months, but I'll wait to share more when things are more concrete.

So, that's my life right now, in this weird limbo period before things change dramatically. I'm really hoping to start taking photos of the things I've sewn again, once we move and have much better lighting and private outdoor spaces for that sort of thing. In the meantime, things will certainly be quiet here for a little while longer, but you can always follow along on instagram. See you on the other side!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

the waiting game

Back in December Tim and I closed on our very first home, up north in Portland, OR. Holy shit, you all - I've been looking forward to owning a house basically since I graduated college, although I knew it would be awhile before I was ready and able to make that leap. Even in nicer rentals, we've still had an overabundance of awful beige walls and annoying issues that we would love to just pay to get fixed if it were up to us. Finally, we're homeowners! But sadly, we're still living in our very cramped SF rental for a few more months.

In the months since we closed, we've been getting some work done to update the house, and I've been taking one more round of patternmaking and design classes here in SF. I know that it makes the most sense to do it this way: the house is going to be so much more our style, with new hardwood floors throughout, a fresh coat of gray-white paint, and a finished attic space for Tim to play guitar; in the meantime I'm learning draping skills, continuing the pattern drafting curriculum, and pushing myself in the design and branding aspects of clothing design.

But even though I know this is the right path for us, it's still excruciating to wait, especially since we don't have a firm move date yet. We've outgrown our place in SF in many ways, and it feels claustrophobic being cooped up here. I have to take over the unified kitchen/dining/living room area to pattern draft, cut, and sew, and often my finished garments end up smelling like whatever I cooked that night (ew). Tim works from home several days a week and is in that same room with me. Poor Tumbles has been cooped up, not getting as much playtime as as she'd like, and we're all so looking forward to having a yard to play in with her. Storage space is practically nonexistent right now, and it's getting harder and harder to keep some semblance of organization as I amass sewing supplies, coursework, and muslins, as well as juggle several WIPs for classes. And we're just ready for a change of scenery - a new city, more pronounced seasons, quality time with our friends who live in Portland, and time and space from this city that has changed so drastically since we moved here 7 years ago.

However, each of those frustrations feels so intense because there are so many amazing things on the horizon. I'll have a huge, bright kitchen with natural light and lots of storage space, with french doors looking back onto our private deck and backyard. This summer we'll be able to sit outside, watch Tumbles run around, grill and drink wine, and have friends over. I'm going to have a dedicated sewing and drafting space in a spare bedroom, with its very own closet and room for a sewing desk and a cutting table, so I'm not always hunched over on the floor. There will be space and light for full-length mirrors and a dress form, so I can more easily iterate on and photograph my projects. We'll have a small office for computer work, and a separate soundproofed space for Tim's music (the "before" is shown at the top of this post). There's a full unfinished basement for extra storage, larger than our entire apartment is right now. I am so ready to get cozy and make that house our home, after years of not really feeling comfortable where we've lived. I've always been a homebody at heart, but it's hard when the place you live doesn't feel like home. I'm so ready to lean into this next stage of life.

For now, I'm trying to live in the moment as well as I can (to varying degrees of success). I'm working through my classes despite the lack of space, enjoying simple things like cooking or eating at our favorite neighborhood spots, taking walks with Tumbles to nearby parks that we love. I keep hoping that before I know it it'll be moving day, and our lives will change so quickly in so many ways, but so far that "blink and it's here" feeling hasn't happened. In the meantime, we have occasional photo updates from our contractor to keep us excited and remind us that time is passing. Here are a few before and "in progress" comparisons showing all the changes that have happened so far!

The second floor landing, with double doors to the linen closet. The photos are at totally different angles, but you can see that we replaced the beige carpet and paint with nice new hardwood and brighter, more neutral colors, and it already looks like a different house! We are painting over all the brown wood in the house, sorry not sorry!

One of the first progress shots we got of the paint colors we picked out. I am so pleased with the bright white and slightly gray paints we chose. Previously every room was a different color, and all of them made the house feel dark and dated. These paint colors are going throughout the house, and I'm hoping to paint a few bolder accent walls over time as I get to know the space a little more.

A major change - we had a wall knocked out between the kitchen and dining room, and it changes the feel of the downstairs so much! It makes the kitchen feel like a part of the living area and will be so nice for having people over or just chatting while one of us is cooking dinner.

One last paint before/progress comparison, because I am so excited to say goodbye to the stained wood/orange/maroon combo going on in the living and dining rooms. Also - We got rid of the built-in bookcases, but only because they were low quality IKEA and felt cheap. I'd love to have real ones reinstalled someday!

Saturday, January 21, 2017


A funny thing: once I left my job to sew full time, I stopped sewing as much outside of classes. It's definitely not because it's no longer fun, or because I have everything I want and need in my closet. It's more that I'm overwhelmed by everything I could be doing, and I basically freeze up.

Sometimes I have homework or projects that I know I should work on, so I can meet deadlines or make forward progress in the class before I move away. But then I find myself tired after a long day in class or getting caught up in one class, and I don't have the brainpower to spend my night doing more work. So instead of sewing, I sit on the couch staring at my phone or watching dumb TV, even though sewing something simple would be just as relaxing (probably more so).

Other times, I have a project that I promised myself or someone else I would work on, but I find it daunting and avoid it for days or weeks (exhibit A: a self-drafted saddlebag purse for my sister). In the meantime, I don't let myself work on something more fun because I feel guilty. This is ridiculous, especially since the daunting thing usually ends up taking far less time than I spent avoiding it.

And the real big one that's gotten me so many times since I started learning to draft my own patterns: "Well, I could sew this perfectly fine pattern I saw online. OR I could wait a few days/weeks/months until I know how to draft it myself and find the time to do so, and just create exactly what I want precisely for my body". I go on to convince myself that this will actually save time, because the time spent drafting will be made up for when I avoid having to make lots of fit adjustments on a pattern made for another person's measurements. This may or may not be true. But it is certainly much faster to order and/or print off a pattern than to wait until I learn to draft sleeves, or bras, or whatever. EXCUSES.

So. I'm determined to pull myself out of this rut, stop making excuses, and just make some damn things. I'm realizing that the energy I spend sewing someone else's pattern, with thorough instructions and no drafting for me to do whatsoever, is not interchangeable with the energy I use to design, draft, and construct my own creation. And honestly, I really miss sewing things just for fun.

I'm also setting a rule that I have to have a non-school sewing WIP at all times. I have a lot of trouble starting something new, but once I'm in the middle it's so much easier to pick it up in the evening and work on it in spurts. Then, before I know it, it's done.

After far too much procrastination on my Kelly Anorak (and some brief printing and fabric drama in the middle there - ugh), I'm starting that again tonight and am determined to actually finish before the end of January! I also ordered a ton of bra-making supplies from Tailor Made (omg!) and want to at least make another Harriet soon, after my bra-making success at sewing camp in October, and hopefully also some soft cup bras for weekend wear. This is me attempting to hold myself accountable. We'll see how it goes!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016, looking back

Wowowow, what a year 2016 has been. No exaggeration, I think it was the best year I've ever had for my personal life, and it certainly felt like the worst as far as world events go.

I was able to shake off some stagnancy I'd been feeling and make some long awaited changes in my life: I quit my career and started taking lots of patternmaking and sewing classes, I turned 30, Tim and I got officially engaged, and we bought a house in another state! The career change, moving out of California, and homeownership are all things I've been looking forward to for years, and it's so exciting having things all click around the same time (although my impatience has caused some misery over the last few years). I've been enjoying the busyness and I'm not quite ready for things to settle all the way. Fortunately I still have a cross-state move (and discovering the joys of homeownership), an elopement, and a business to start in the coming year (eep!), so things should be anything but boring.

I've also dubbed 2016 "the year of the weekend trip" for me. I went on two very different all women retreats where I knew no one going in (scary but more than worth the anxiety!!), a solo trip to a cottage in rural California with just Tumbles, a trip to Mexico with my BFF Alex, a long weekend in Portland to visit my other friend Liz, two more long weekends in Portland with Tim (one for house research and another for a wedding), plus two single-day Portland trips for house-related things. My longest trip was only about 4.5 days, but I'm hoping 2017 can be the year Tim and I actually take a real vacation together again.

Every December I like to look back at all the photos I took that year and remember the defining moments of each month—it's a reminder of the good things that happened, even amidst stress and anxiety, and it reminds me of how much change can happen in just a year.


January was a chill homebody month. I cooked and baked a lot, did yoga, hung out with Tumbles, and sewed some things that are still among my favorites to wear. It was good, but I was itching for changes, and fortunately it was my last really calm month of the year.


By far the highlight of my month was the Wildbride retreat. I'd been feeling depressed and stuck in a rut in various areas of my life, and it was just what I needed to start moving again. I made some wonderful, supportive friends and got some really cool photos of myself in the process, too. I left feeling inspired to make changes in my life instead of just feeling helpless and stuck forever.

(bottom left and top right photos by Liz Morrow Studios)


Wildbride inspired me to start making time for things I'm excited about, so in March I began leaving work early once a week to take patternmaking classes at Apparel Arts. As you probably know by now, I loved it. March was also the month we began our very long and stressful hunt to buy a home, and we connected with realtors and started searching in San Francisco.


I brought Tumbles along on my own little retreat in April, in order to get away from people, immerse myself in nature, and continue to think through where I want to go in life. It was a wonderful getaway and I really need to do this again soon. 


In May I got my very first intern at work, which kicked off a busy summer at my job. We also started house hunting more aggressively - basically every Sunday was spent going to open houses through the summer. At the end of May, I took a weekend to go to Mexico with my longtime friend Alex, and despite the heat (and massive sunburn), it was a fantastic escape from the stress of life and work.


June was a lot like January, with no real defining events or trips. Tumbles turned 2 and Tim turned 30, I started on my final skirts for patternmaking class, and we went to SF's corgi beach day with hundreds of other corgis. Work was still busy and the house hunt continued, but it was nice to have a relatively low key month in the middle of a crazy year.


In July I spent a long weekend with my friend Liz in Portland, and it was amazing. I had previously convinced myself that I couldn't bear the (relatively) hot summer weather there when I'm so used to SF's fog and July chill, but I embraced the joys of summer and fell in love with Portland (not for the first time).


August didn't have a lot going on on the surface, but there were some major changes starting behind the scenes. We began the process of switching our house hunt from SF to Portland, and I made plans to quit my career to pursue something totally different. At times it was excruciating keeping all this a secret from most people I knew, but we wanted to make sure plans were concrete before being more public about everything. I channeled some of my pent up energy into finishing up my two final skirts for patternmaking and making a tote bag that I've used a ton since.


This month was a huge shift for me. I left my job in tech after 7 years, and I began taking sewing and patternmaking classes full time. I was so incredibly happy to be able to focus my time and energy on something I love, but it was also much busier than I expected! Homework filled most of my weekends, and I had to relearn time management without the more concrete work/life balance I had previously with an office job.


My busiest month for sure! I started and ended the month with short trips to Portland, and in the middle I flew across the country to attend Camp Workroom Social where I made tons of sewing friends and learned to sew my own bras! I also had a full course load (5 classes + homework) and was sick for much of the month, including a nasty bout of strep. We finally found a house we loved enough to make an offer on, and it was accepted! In the midst of all that, I turned 30 and got galaxy hair colors to celebrate.


Things settled a little, and as classes started wrapping up I finally had time to make a dress for a lovely wedding I attended right before Thanksgiving. This month was also heavily colored by the presidential election, and I had a lot of really rough days related to that. A bright spot amidst the stress, I had a gorgeous ring custom made, which pushed my and Tim's eventual elopement plans into "officially engaged" territory.


Ah, December! We finally closed on our new home in Portland after being consumed by the house hunt and then the closing process for most of the year. We flew up to get the keys as a day trip, and there was snow on the ground when I first saw my very own house - it was perfect. The rest of the month was relaxing almost to the point of boredom, which is probably for the best, since things are going to pick up again really soon....


The next few months feel sort of like a holdover from this past year. I'll be taking one more set of classes in the bay area through mid-April, and immediately after that we plan to move, assuming some house renovations all go as expected. At that point I'll be in a new city, in a new house, trying to make it feel like home.

I'm so excited to really put some effort into this house, after so many years of cramped San Francisco rentals with awful beige paint and absurd monthly rent. There's going to be a lot to do—the new place is several times larger than our current one, which means there will be a lot of empty space to start. I'm ridiculously pumped about having ample closets and storage space (!!!). I'm looking forward to eventually buying things that I don't have room for now: a full sized sofa, lots of house plants, storage and tables for my dedicated sewing room, full-length mirrors, and maybe a dress form.

At the same time, once I finish classes it's time to stop procrastinating on figuring out my next career move. I'm hoping to start by making patterns for home sewers, and we'll see what develops from there. While I'm getting a solid technical understanding of drafting and fitting patterns, there is so much about running a business, creating and selling digital or physical goods, and marketing that I just don't know yet. It's going to be a huge learning curve, but one I'm excited to figure out.

In lieu of resolutions this year, I made myself a list of smaller, concrete things I want to accomplish - stuff like finally having a small herb garden and getting strong enough in yoga to do a handstand without the support of a wall. But mostly, I'm excited about the knowns and unknowns of the next year, excited to stay busy, work on my career, and connect with old and new friends (and my little family) up in my new city. As scared as I am about the world in this next year, I think it'll be a good one in so many ways. Happy 2017, friends! ♥