2016 Year In Review


Ah, 2016.  Perhaps not the greatest year, but certainly not the worst.  I think it would be easy to write this entire year off as a bad dream that we will all (hopefully) wake up from at some point in the unforeseeable future.  However, when I look back at all the things I did this year while the world seemed to implode around me, I realize that a whole lot of good stuff happened.  In fact, some really great stuff happened.  If you’d like, join me as I recall the good, the bad, and the truly ugly that went down in 2016.

2016 In A Nutshell

For me, 2016 was completely and overwhelmingly consumed by two long and painful sagas:

(1) My job completely took over my life, and everything else suffered because of it.  This includes my sewing and this blog, but also much more important stuff like my relationships and my physical and mental health.  The process of launching my scientific career completely steamrolled my life into a pulsating mass of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion.

(2) The U.S. presidential election dominated the news here in Boston for the entire year, getting ever more disturbing and, quite frankly, disgusting, and ultimately ending with what I would classify as a complete and utter disaster.  The election affected me on a very personal level, as it seemed to have done for a lot of people, no matter which side of the aisle you stood on.

The good news is that I survived both of these things.  The fact that I am still here, writing this post, living and breathing, is something to celebrate.  Seriously.  🙂

Work Highlights

Carolyn at PhD commencement

Harvard Commencement 2016, complete with goofy robe

Yes, my job kicked my butt big time this year, but I came out of it stronger and wiser.  A few noteworthy revelations:

  • I firmly established that I have very strong career ambitions.  I spent a lot of time working this year, and I don’t regret it.  My work is a huge part of how I define myself, and this year I cemented in my mind how important it is to me.  I don’t think this was clear to me before this year, so it was a significant (and exciting!) discovery.
  • I stepped much more into a leadership role this year, and although it has been the most challenging and stressful work I have ever done it my life, it has also been the most rewarding.  A big part of this has been mentoring students.  I read management books and learned a lot about myself, how to succeed through others, and how to help others succeed on their own.
  • Although I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to this year, I did accomplish some things, and I’m proud of them.  I made a lot of progress in my research, learned a bunch of new technical and management skills, expanded my network, won a handful of awards, and (thank goodness) published a paper.  Here’s to more success in 2017!

Sewing Highlights

It feels like I spent a decent amount of time sewing this year, but I don’t have much to show for myself!  The only garments I finished were two sets of Carolyn Pajamas and a few t-shirts.  Not even enough for a top 5 list!

Flannel Carolyn Pajama shorts - finished project

Carolyn Pajamas in railroad denim - finished project

Three t-shirts from jersey scraps



Which, by the way, is STILL not done.  It’s so close though!  Only buttons and buttonholes left, and tacking down the lining hems.  Right now it’s sitting in the corner after aggravating the hell out of me, but I’ll muster up the motivation to finish off this project eventually.

I had no idea when I started this project in January that it would drag out over the entire year.  I had no idea how much work I was taking on, how much this project would both challenge and frustrate me, and also how proud I would be of it when it was finally (almost) done.

2016 was the year of the Floral Robson Trench, hands down.  Shall we take a stroll down trench coat memory lane?  Last January I spent a week muslining the coat and ultimately threw out my back, which put the entire project on hold for several months.  In the spring I spent hours upon hours just cutting out all the pieces for all 3 layers.  The summer and fall consisted of some fairly consistent work on the coat, using up miles of black bias binding and assembling the three separate coats that make up the trench.  Now I have the winter to put on the finishing touches, with (hopefully) a finished trench to wear in the upcoming spring.

The total cost for this coat is about $250 and counting.  If it’s not the most fabulous thing I’ve ever sewn in my life, I’m going to be pissed!  Haha.  🙂


One of the most fun parts of 2016 for me was joining the Cambridge Modern Quilt Guild.  This has been such an enriching experience on both technical and social levels.  The guild is a wonderful, diverse, and welcoming group of sewists, and the meetings are always welcome oases in my increasingly stressful life.  I’ve signed up for the upcoming retreat in March and am really looking forward to it!

Of course, participating in the guild encouraged me to do a bit of quilting this year.  I completed my Aqueduct Quilt (my own design) and finished a raspberry kiss quilt top, in addition to a bunch of smaller projects.  This was a fun change of pace from garment sewing and allowed me to be a bit more creative with colors and prints.

Aqueduct Quilt - finished project

Rainbow raspberry kiss quilt top in progress

The quilt top still needs to be quilted, and I suspect this will be a good project for the retreat.  🙂


After laughing at the idea of adults coloring in coloring books for several years, this year I enthusiastically jumped on the adult coloring bandwagon.  No one was more surprised about this than I was!  It’s incredibly relaxing and creative, and it’s more portable and easier on my back than sewing.  It’s also very tactile and analog, which I think are what many of us enjoy about sewing as well.

While my natural artistic talent is basically zero, I’ve been enjoying learning about colored pencil techniques and practicing different blending methods.  You can check out all my finished coloring pages in my Finished Projects Gallery, and some of my favorites are below.

Secret Garden Johanna Basford - Garden of Fire by Allspice Abounds

Johanna Basford Secret Garden - Fantastical Fern full

Cluster of leaves with shadows

I’ve also been working on a few others recently that haven’t made it to the blog yet, including a new color-by-number animal book and some leafy vines.



If you want to see some serious colorists in action (who are way, WAY better than I am), check out the YouTube channels of Chris Cheng and Peta Hewitt.

Final Thoughts

While I’m happy to see 2016 behind me, there was certainly a lot of productivity and creativity in my life amidst the whirlwind of work and world events.  I’m happy and proud of that, and I look forward to more in the upcoming year.

I won’t set any personal/sewing goals for myself in 2017 because I have little faith that I’d be able to keep them, but the one big thing I’d like to work on is a better work/life balance.  Specifically, although I doubt I’ll be able to work fewer hours, I want to get better at shutting down my work brain when I’m home and really focusing on enjoying my personal time.  Any ideas on how to do this are very much welcome.  I think I’ll need something more potent than meditation or yoga and have made a mental note that marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts.  Kidding!  Sort of…  🙂

I wish you all a healthy, happy, and successful year ahead.  Here’s to a great 2017!

16 thoughts on “2016 Year In Review

  1. Carolyn, congratulations on all your achivements of the past years, wish you a happy new year and looking forward to read what you decide to share during 2017!


  2. I’ve missed your posts! I’m glad work is going well, if horribly exhausting. Same with the trench 😉
    Can’t wait to see the final effort! North east winter will have nothing on you in your floral coat!!


  3. Thanks for the roundup! I don’t know that my advice for work/life balance would be helpful for someone with such a demanding job, but I make sure my personal life is rich and fulfilling – so that when work ends, I have something to fully devote my attention to, making it easy to forget work.

    But it sounds like your personal life is rich and fulfilling, so maybe it’s more of an issue of allowing yourself to focus on it fully? It’s good to be career driven, but work can’t be more important than personal time if you want to live a balanced life. Hope this helps.

    Anyway, I totally feel your coat pain :-p I’ve been working on the same Lekala coat since November 2015 – and it’s lined & interlined just like yours, so I really get the amount of work you’re doing! Can’t wait to see it whenever you get around to finishing it – you definitely have a few more months before we’ll have the right weather around here for it. Is the $250 price tag for materials, or are you including your skill and labor?


    • Thanks for the support and advice, Ebi! I think you’re exactly right: work shouldn’t be more important than personal time. Easier said than done though! Another challenge is that, between working longer hours and a longer commute, my personal time during the week has essentially evaporated. So, I find it hard to shut off my work brain when all I do is work and sleep. I really can’t complain though – I love my job, and I choose to do it of my own free will. If only I could sew on the train… 🙂

      The $250 for the coat is materials only. I don’t want to know the cost of my labor on this thing! I’m looking forward to seeing your finished coat too – hang in there!


  4. So … why can’t you sew on the train? There are a lot of wonderful hand sewing things that could be done – hexagons, embroidery, quilt as you go, and lots of other ideas. I’ll bet you can at least plan on the train. Doodle some quilt designs, color in some quilt block plans, something that will move the process along a bit. Even just read quilt magazines for inspiration! Best of luck and congratulations on your Harvard work.


    • Thanks, and my apologies for such a late reply to your comment! I travel on the subway during rush hour, when there is standing room only, and I need one hand to hold on to the rail. So, train activities are limited to things that only require 1 hand and less than about 6 inches of space. I’ve found that reading is about the only thing I can do… although reading sewing magazines is a great idea!


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