End of the year recap

2014 has been a pretty incredible and crazy year. I thought I should follow suit and post a sort of 'Year in Review' with all the cool things that happened this year. I'm a little bit behind, after visiting family in Denver and going on some excellent brewery tours. It's kind of like getting a present the week after Christmas (if you're into blog-reading, that is).


Fairyland Caverns at Rock City, a stop on our epic holiday road trip.

Fairyland Caverns at Rock City, a stop on our epic holiday road trip.

After going on a holiday road trip with J last year, we began preparing to move on from the apartment I'd lived in for 10 years in Jamaica Plain, A super cool neighborhood in Boston, in search of greener pastures (literally). We'd started looking for a new place to live after J received a promotion at work and we were hoping to reduce his lengthy commute. At this time, I had started working on a little pattern named Cabin, making prototypes and working with many ideas. I had planned to launch with a few different patterns, but decided to go strong with Cabin and save the others for future releases.


My old studio room, looking tidy and pretty for buyers...usually the most chaotic room in the house!

My old studio room, looking tidy and pretty for buyers...usually the most chaotic room in the house!

In February, we put our house on the market. After putting a certain amount of work into it to get it to 'look good' for buyers, I was having second thoughts (not really, but sort of). The whole thing felt a little funny, like living in a hotel with all of our stuff. We're both tidy people, but having our apartment free of many personal things and our daily evidence was certainly strange.

A mini collage capsule collection I created as students in my class worked on their own.

A mini collage capsule collection I created as students in my class worked on their own.

In February, I also started teaching clothing design at The Eliot School, an applied arts and crafts school around since the late 1600's. I have continued to teach classes there to this day. I have found all of my students there to be absolutely incredible and have grown a great deal as a teacher just in the last year of teaching them. Admittedly, I was on the fence about teaching when I started there, having been teaching sewing for the past few years at different venues with mixed results. I always LOVED doing it, but I hadn't quite cultivated the rhythm or the attitude (confidence?  demeanor? approachability? chill?) that I was reaching for. This is something I think I achieved this year and I think it gave me the courage to make Blueprints a reality.

Also in February, the knitting collective I worked with finally published the book we had been working on for a few years! The final book turned out to be just what we needed and totally different than what we dreamed up originally. We were also included in LIVING AS FORM (THE NOMADIC VERSION) at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University.


Our old apartment, on the 2nd floor.

Our old apartment, on the 2nd floor.

Our new home-to-be

Our new home-to-be

In March, we sold our house and bought a new one. We fell in love with a sweet little turn of the century cape in Norfolk MA. At the time we didn't know much about the town, but the house, land, 2 story barn, beautiful surroundings, and commuter rail line were enough to sell us on the property. Buying and selling a house simultaneously is incredibly stressful. Fortunately we had good people helping us navigate.

In March I tried my best to prepare to launch Blueprints, but the timing wasn't right. It had to wait.



In April we started packing. With our house closing in May, I had 10 years of stuff to go through. That's 19 roommates, 4 partners, 6 pets, 5 'jobs', 2 bands, and 1 degree worth of life. If I've learned anything about living in one place for that long with all those people: a lot of random stuff gets left behind...absorbed, really. I'm a bit of a "collector," though in my relationship with J I've happily become more of a minimalist. This doesn't change the fact that I spent most of my post college adult life with a penchant for thrifting.

Our garage was like the Bermuda Triangle. We kept pulling out bizarre things, often with no idea of where they came from, including: a variety of mystery shoes, a 6x8 foot canvas, a partially disassembled couch, a color photo processor, and more.

Getting rid of all that stuff felt good. 



We closed on our new house in May. The weekend of the 10th, we packed up all our belongings plus a cat and dog and headed 45 minutes southwest to our new home. 

The house was/is gorgeous, but we had to do a little work to make it ours, including a kitchen facelift and an (unexpected) full bathroom remodel. 

I immediately felt at home in our new house, even without running water in our kitchen. We went into overdrive unpacking and decorating...I didn't want to have boxes sitting around 5 weeks later. 


Part of what sold us on the house was the beautiful 2 story former horse barn; the 2nd floor would be my studio. In May and June I started unpacking my studio things upstairs. The space was raw and unfinished, but had electricity. Though it felt good to have a more suitable (and sizable) home for my practice, it didn't feel quite ready to work in...a little rough around the edges and with lots of bugs and evidence of mice. Everything stayed in plastic containers. The former owners had, however, left us a large ping pong table, so the room got a lot of mixed use over the summer.



In June, we did our best to settle in and get the most of summer in the country. We bought a BBQ and a lawnmower. We watched the previous owners' perennials bloom.

We continued to work on the house, including planting a large vegetable garden with the help of my mother in law. We were up to our ears in zucchini from July until September. Sheryl (MIL) and I also discovered an amazing antiques auction. Not the Christie's red-carpet kind, but a fun, family run public auction where they serve homemade pies and stuffed peppers and auction off weird glass figurines, antique bedroom sets, and baseball card collections.

One of the amazing things about where we live is that in the summer, there are 3-4 farm stands within a 10 minute drive. There are also great local farmers markets almost every day of the week. This magical time goes from June until October-ish. You get hooked on farm fresh produce, trust me. I don't think I bought a single produce item from a grocery story during those 5 months.


In July we spend the 1st two weeks with J's family at Disney World. Now, I know what you're thinking..."You, Disney World?" Let me explain...

J's dad is a Disney-file (I'm not sure what the appropriate term for this is...mousekateer?) and encourages family trips to Disney whenever possible. Now, I studied critical theory in college. I am no stranger to the idea of the hyper-real that Disneyland so clearly embodies. But I had a blast and I believe that's because I am at critical thinking stage 3.

Stage 1: You're a kid and you gladly suspend disbelief. Disneyland is a magical place and can do no wrong.

Stage 2: You've grown up, gone to school, and Disney is no longer cool. You move on to appropriately teenage or adult means of entertainment. Perhaps you've even read Baudrillard or have simply become disillusioned with 'pixie dust' as you try to eek out a living in our crappy economy and unstable geopolitical situation.

Now, many of you may think that Adults who love Disneyland are perpetually stuck in stage 1. I have a different theory, which brings me to stage 3.

Stage 3: You loved Disneyland (or magic shows, or children's museums, or the natural history museum, or playing) as a child. Then as you grew older, your mind was opened up to the analytical world and you fine-tuned your critical lens. Nothing was safe from critique, from childhood cartoons to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to moms and dads, taking a vacation at all, and even the media at large. As things become more and more deconstructed a kind of joy began to evolve from the sport. You watch reruns of 'Jersey Shore' to try to make sense of the reality tv machine. You go to waffle house for breakfast to try and understand what it means to be American. You ruminate on the experience of getting married in Las Vegas. And then it happens...

You can go to Disneyland. You can have fun at Disneyland AND be critical of Disneyland. And enjoy it. In both ways.


In August, I prototyped a lot of Cabins as my pattern testers did the same. We grew a lot of tomatoes, had friends over for dinner and generally enjoyed the last month of summer.


In September, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I had figured out an optimal running path that took me along a country road, by the Charles River, past two ponds, and through an abandoned airfield for about 4.5 miles. Running is an important part of my life (for both physical and mental health reasons) and it's been so amazing to run in such a beautiful place without eating car exhaust & cigarettes and waiting at traffic lights.

I also went into overdrive with Cabin, preparing to launch in October. I had prototypes made, fine tuned instructions and patterns and built a new website.


In October, Blueprints For Sewing was launched with its inaugural pattern, Cabin! A lot of hard work went into making this happen and I was astounded that I was able to actually make it a reality.

The patterns came in 14 boxes including pattern sheets, instructions and envelopes and were all assembled by yours truly. A bit of an ordeal, but necessary to make the patterns exactly the way I wanted them to be for you all!

The patterns came in 14 boxes including pattern sheets, instructions and envelopes and were all assembled by yours truly. A bit of an ordeal, but necessary to make the patterns exactly the way I wanted them to be for you all!

I received a lot of awesome positive and critical feedback, and I'm already thinking about some tweaks for the next pattern. I feel like there should be paragraphs and paragraphs of things to say but I'm honestly sort of speechless (or, write-less?) about it. I think I poured so much into this project that all I've been able to do is sit back and watch (though "sit back" is a bit of a stretch...I've been working on Blueprints stuff non-stop since the launch).

We also went to work insulating the barn for use in the winter which was a huge project. Though we were able to complete this in time, the barn is still freezing and I have not been able to use it much since it's been so cold. Hopefully this month we'll be installing a pellet stove so it'll be nice and toasty.


In November, we traveled to Los Angeles for a memorial service for my grandfather, who passed away in August. He had spent the last 8 years or so wrestling with the effects of Dementia and things had not been going well for the last year. In the end, he died peacefully, surrounded by family, which is probably the best possible way to go. Normally, I avoid returning to LA for any reason, but this event and the opportunity to be surrounded by family and friends was much needed. Ironically, it was one of the nicest trips I've made back home in a long time.


We also managed to host a family Thanksgiving once we were back home in Mass! We had such a lovely time with everyone and the food was excellent. It reinforced the feeling that I have family behind me...regardless of how far away they live or how busy we all can be at times.

I taught many classes and worked with a lot of lovely students. I started selling Cabin at a few shops both locally and abroad and hope to continue to build this network. My customer base continues to grow and I was able to put together some nice tutorials. The knitting collective I work with, NCAA, had an awesome show at Boston University.


December is always eclipsed by holidays, regardless of your religious or cultural identity. For us, it was work work work before the break. I held my Cabin release party at my 'home away from home' JP Knit & Stitch, which was a lot of fun! We spent a quiet, snowy, comfy and contemplative (+ video games, movies and beer) December. For Christmas, we bought each other a new, super high efficiency wood stove. Here's to a cozy new year!


What is the new year without a resolution, right?

I have a few:

1. This year I want to teach a college class. I've done workshops and intensives on fiber arts, sewing, fashion, activism and art at Boston University, Harvard, Wellesley College, and my Alma Mater, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I enjoy academia, believe it or not. I LOVE my sewing and design students, but I yearn a bit for a more critical dialogue about clothing and making. I may aim for community college first. We'll see what happens.

2. This year I made a lot of effort to be active. Exercise was a dirty word for the first 25 years of my life. Now that I'm nearing 30, I've got to commit big time if I want to be a happy and comfortable person much later in life. The biggest part is making time and getting motivated. I'm not motivated by 'looking good' though 'being healthy' and 'feeling good' are starting to become priorities. My resolution in this regard is simply to keep it up.

3. I want to continue to grow Blueprints for sewing. My goal is to release 2-4 patterns a year. I also plan to develop some special edition fabric and notions. I also hope to hone this blog to a finely pointed tool of critical discourse, tutorials and teaching, and personal anecdotes and photographs. I would also like to make more things that are others' designs and talk about sewing and wardrobe planning in general.

Some people may find resolutions cheesy...I relish in the opportunity for obligatory reflection and goal setting! How about you?


Taylor McVayComment