I am one of those people (and I’m almost certain that a lot of you are too) that goes into reflective mode as the year draws to a close. I often wish I had the foresight and the hindsight that I have at the end of the year on a more regular basis (maybe monthly? Even quarterly would be nice!), but it seems that there is just something about the end of one year and the start of the other that makes us see things through a different lens.
Both 2017 and 2018 ended in somewhat similar ways. I barely took a break during the year and ended up feeling completely depleted of energy, inspiration and willpower by the time November rolled around. But then I did something that I felt I just had to do and these things gave me more energy and inspiration than I could imagine and got me through the final bit of the year.
In 2017 it was launching a Kickstarter campaign, and this year it was Finders Keepers (a design market that took place in Sydney). Both these events were a much needed reminder that people see value in what I am doing and making and want to be a part of my vision. It can be easy to get totally lost behind the computer and all that we do day to day, but getting out from the studio and talking to people face-to-face always does me the world of good. I am always thrilled to see how excited people get and that they are will to show ip and be a part of it. These events were a reminder that I am part of a tribe - a tribe of incredible people that see the importance of making their own clothes, as well as a community of people who want me to succeed (thank you to the friends and family who are always jumping in to help!)
I am relieved that being part of Finders Keepers gave me the energy I needed to finish out this year, but it also made me think about how I’m doing things. I cannot rely on these external things to get me over the line and I have realised that I need to start thinking about the systems I use to get things done, so that I can work on avoiding these big highs and lows, as it is just too exhausting. Feeling as exhausted and burnt out as I did a month ago is not the reason I went into business and there is nothing glamorous about working to the point of complete exhaustion.
I had big plans for 2018 in both my business and personal life, and looking back, I achieved very few of them. There are a few things I am very proud of and have to acknowledge as highlights of the year / goals I achieved: I helped my partner make a drastic career change, which involved supporting him as he went to college and found a new job, I learned to run 5km (for anyone who knows me personally you know that was no small feat) and I got my sewing patterns into print and into the hands of stockists. I had an awesome launch party to officially bring my new printed sewing patterns into the world, and I packed up about 300 Kickstarter rewards and sent them out to the awesome people who backed my campaign. These were all big goals that I had to break down and work towards over a period of time and I am proud to say I got there with each one.
But the thing I have been feeling a little down about is that I didn’t produce any new work (besides the patterns I released each quarter in collaboration with Peppermint magazine). Although just thinking about the patterns I made for Peppermint (photos below) makes me feel very proud and a little less defeated.
When I first realised that I would see out the end of the year without releasing a new pattern, it was a difficult pill to swallow. I felt defeated and couldn’t imagine how a new year would fix this. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that hitting this low about the nature of my output and my creative work is an important place to be. I needed to sit there in that horrible feeling for a while and let it wash over me. I needed to be there so that I can work on systems so this does not happen again. I don’t know if I would have gotten into this headspace without first realising how horrible I was feeling about where I was at. I am the first to say that creative work is not just about output and I do not believe that churning out patterns at the speed of light is what I should be aiming to do, but I do see the importance of producing patterns in a more consistent and regular way. I want to do this for my customers, but I also want to do this because it is the only way I can manage to create a sustainable income for myself in this line of work. And although I do love what I do, I do need to start thinking more about the numbers as I try to create a life that is a little more financially comfortable and stable.
As those of you who have been following along for a while would know, I tested three new patterns in 2018. That feels good to say. But for one reason or another, each of those patterns is not quite ready to be released. And instead of me facing what needed to be done on each pattern and getting it out into the world like I should have, I was tempted by the next shiny object (i.e. a new pattern) and would start on that. That’s the thing about running a small business, there is a million little things that you could spend your time doing each day and often it is difficult to work out what your priority should be - which thing is the most important. I often find myself just picking up the first thing that comes to my mind or is right in front of me - which generally is not the most important work.
I recently made a hard decision. I decided that instead of pushing to get these three patterns out in a single release (which would hopefully generate more income, get them off my mind, excite the people who have been waiting for them) I will release each pattern separately, three months apart. Although this does extend how long these patterns have taken me to produce, the thought of getting ahead and seeing this as an opportunity rather than a failure has made me excited for 2019. It has given me hope that in 2019 I will do better than 2018, and I think that is what this whole small business thing is about. Learning new things, trying new things and growing both as an individual and a business. This choice has made me sit down and work on my processes and also get serious about what I can actually accomplish in a given hour, day, month or year. When I laid out all that I want to get done in a three month period, I suddenly realised that the expectations I have been putting on myself are far too high. I will do better in 2019, by being more realistic about my time and the expectations I put on myself. By seeing it all in front of me like this, I can also see that there will be times that I will need to ask for help, just to get projects over the line, and that’s okay. So now, instead of feeling like I hadn’t achieved some of the big goals I had set for myself for 2018, I am forgiving myself and feeling proud that although I didn’t release all the patterns I wanted to, I learned a great deal, nutted out my processes more and got myself prepared to do better next year. And most importantly, so many of you sewed my patterns this year, and just scrolling through the hashtags of the patterns I have released makes me eternally grateful to be part of this wonderful community.
Happy holidays everyone! I hope you have a relaxing break and can spend some time with with those you love and care about.
I’ll be taking two weeks off to relax, recoup and go camping! Any orders placed between now and January 8th will be shipped out when I’m back at work on January 9th, 2019. I appreciate your understanding.
Happy sewing everyone and thank you so much for supporting In the Folds this year. Seeing all your beautiful makes from my patterns has been an absolute highlight.