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! ♥


  1. Hi Caitlin! I really enjoyed reading your year wrap-up blog post, and I'm excited to follow your adventures in 2017. It was so great to meet you at Camp Workroom Social, and I've been really inspired by your self-reflection, drive, and decision to take the path less traveled (quitting a steady job) to pursue your passion. If there is ever anything I can do to help, like sewing test patterns or sharing your work with sewists in my community, let me know. I can't wait to see where your new path leads you.

    1. Thanks Liz!! I'm so glad I met you too - camp was such a great weekend! I'll definitely keep you updated on things. I'm sure I'll need pattern testers at some point, and I'd love your help!

  2. You can do it! The best affirmation someone gave me for this year is. "There is room for you."