Me with my grandmother

Sewing friends, I have some exciting news to share with you today.  After 5 long years, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I am now the extremely proud owner of a Harvard PhD.  All went well with my thesis defense earlier this week, which means you may now refer to me as Dr. Carolyn.  🙂

Not surprisingly, earning my degree has proven to be a very emotional experience, and I suspect it would be impossible for me to adequately describe how I feel in words.  Those of you who have gone through this process can relate to the wonderful feelings of accomplishment and relief combined with the strange anti-climactic sense of “that’s it?”  Mostly though, I feel proud and excited for the next step in my career, and I feel a sense of validation that all the years of frustration and sacrifice were worth it in the end.

I received a lot of good feedback during the defense from professors and colleagues, but the following comment from one of my committee members really struck a chord with me.  With a puzzled look on his face, he said:

“Carolyn, this was such a complicated project.  Why did you choose such a complicated project for your PhD??”

Haha, if only I knew what I was getting myself into!  He also referred to my project as an “odyssey.”  I think I would agree.

Anyway, my defense day was wonderful, made even better by the fact that John and my family could be there with me to celebrate, not to mention the absolutely gorgeous (not too hot!) weather.  My new job doesn’t start until October, so after finishing up some paperwork at the university, I’ll have a glorious 6 weeks off.  Can anyone say sewcation???  🙂

Thank you to all of you for your encouragement and support over the years, and especially during the past few months.  As I’ve said before, the sewing community is such a wonderful group of kind and generous people, and each and every one of you has helped me along this journey in one way or another.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and here’s to exciting new adventures ahead!

Five weeks and counting…

Garden 1

As the days get hotter and stickier, preparations for my thesis defense become more and more frantic.  Multiple daily showers are met with multiple daily freak outs.  I’ve given up wearing my nice handmade clothing because it instantly gets soaked with sweat as soon as I walk out the door, and who’s going to see my outfit when I’m holed up in my office all day anyway?

Garden 2

I’m in full production mode, which consists of writing as many pages as possible each day and sticking to a schedule in which there is NO room for any more unexpected disasters… you know, the kind that have plagued my PhD since day one.

Garden 3

It’s a very exciting feeling to see five years of work finally come together, to get closer and closer to achieving a lifelong dream, and to know that I have a fun new adventure waiting for me on the other side.  I just have to stick to the schedule and write, write, write.  No summer vacation for me this year… just plenty of hours chained to my computer and covered in sweat.  🙂

Garden 4This PhD has been a very interesting journey, simultaneously filled with doubt and frustration, excitement and amazement.  I think the dominant feeling these days is anticipation.  Someone once told me that in order to survive a PhD, you have to really want it.  Well folks, I WANT IT.  This degree is so close, I can taste it!

Five weeks to go.  Just have to keep writing…

In the meantime, I took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful summer evening tonight.  Let the record show that these plants are still alive despite my constant presence and notorious kill record.  🙂

Brief update on sewing, work, and life

June sewing updateLife has been quite a wild ride lately!  I haven’t been doing much blogging, but I’ve been sewing, working, worrying, working, stressing out, working… oh, and did I mention working?  As you may recall, I’m finishing up my PhD this summer, and I think I’m entering the infamous end-of-PhD panic mode.  Is that a thing?  I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.  It must be a thing because IT IS TAKING OVER MY LIFE.  Oh the humanity.

Here’s a quick and dirty update from the battlefield:


After all your hilarious and brutally honest comments on my Sarrouel Trousers (aka #diapershorts) muslin, I decided to screw social convention and make a pair for public display.  A beautiful floral rayon pair.  And yes, I displayed them out in public!  My obsession with She Wears the Pants continues, as I’m currently working on a Velour Blouse (check out Stacey’s version) in peach cotton voile with pink rayon accents.  So far so good.  I’m not convinced the style will work for me, but at least my broad shoulders can support the extra wide neckline.

Also, a first for me: I agreed to alter a friend’s bridesmaid dress.  In blue poly chiffon.  (!!!)  Working with the chiffon hasn’t been as tricky as I was expecting, but it hasn’t exactly been easy either.  Plus, since the original dress was several sizes too big, I wound up taking the entire dress apart and putting it back together again.  It was quite a learning experience!  Fun though, and I’m always happy to help a friend.


Post-PhD planning has begun, and what a terrifying prospect this was!  After many months of uncertainty, difficult decisions, disappointment, elation, soul-searching, crying, and endless discussions, I’m happy to report that I can now see the light at the end of this 5-year-long tunnel.

I HAVE A JOB.  (Right here in Boston!)

That’s right folks, an occupation other than “student” is in my future!  Is this really happening??  Honestly, I almost can’t believe it.

For those of you academics out there, I just accepted a postdoctoral position.  For those of you non-academics, a postdoc is basically a glorified graduate student.  Nearly the same job description, nearly the same ridiculously low pay, but hey, you can make people call you “doctor.”  🙂


Every day has been a new adventure lately.  One day I’m exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open long enough to eat dinner and collapse.  One day I’m all smiles and telling everyone how much I love my work and how excited I am for things to come.  One day I’m screaming in frustration at how near-disasters occur and there’s nothing I can do to stop them.  I’m not an overly emotional/dramatic person, and this roller coaster of human experience is a little overwhelming.  I have a feeling things will only ramp up as my defense date approaches, so I’d better learn to hang on.

I’m going to try to take some good blog photos this weekend, so hopefully I’ll be back soon with more sewing and less waxing poetic about the undulations of life.  For now though, I wish you all peace in life and work, and hopefully lots of sewing time this weekend.  🙂

Graduate student in transition

Fabric for Fashion and other sewing books

It’s been a hectic month.  I just got back from a week on the west coast of the US, and while the trip was a great success, there was a ton of work that went into it.  I’m going to hijack my own blog for a bit and talk about what’s been going on in my life outside of sewing.  I hope you don’t mind!  If you do, consider yourself warned and feel free to skip this one.  I promise I won’t be offended.  🙂

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Crafting in a tiny apartment

My tiny apartmentMy apartment is TINY.  It’s a 300-square-foot studio in a super old building.  What can I say?  I’m a poor grad student living in crowded city.  Anyway, with this small space, how do I manage to squeeze in any crafting space without encroaching on my living space?  Well, I don’t!  Everything is multipurpose.  Above you can see my combined desk/sewing table and my combined coffee table/dining table/crafting table, and my ironing station is on the floor (via a mini ironing board) to the left of the desk.  You can also see that my tiny TV rests on a clothes dresser, and my bed is situated right in the middle of all the action.  Craziness!

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Fungi embroidery (aka combining my nerdy passions)

This is either going to make my labmates really jealous or confirm once and for all that I’m juuuust a little crazy.  Any bets?  : )  All I have to say is that if I love embroidery AND I love working with fungi in the lab, why not combine them into one hell of a decoration for my desk?  It’s the logical decision.  As usual with my little embroidery projects, I’m completely in love with this piece.  It’s simple, adorable, and totally me.  : )

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Fungus guts (aka, my day job)

Fungal organelles

I had hoped to post the finished Tree of Life embroidery today, but alas, my day job got in the way.  So instead, you get this blurry-but-still-pretty-cool photo of some fungal cells as seen through a light microscope.  I particularly like the top left portion of this image in which you can see some funky organelles.  I’m not going to attempt to identify them since I’m not a biologist, but they sure are pretty to look at.  : )  My day today was long and frustrating – nothing worked, everything took forever, and I didn’t get nearly as much done as I had wanted to.  Most importantly, I didn’t get any crafting or cooking done… for shame!  It was just one of those days.  I think the phrase “fungus guts” sums it all up pretty well, haha.  Here’s to a better day tomorrow.

When life throws you a lemon, throw it back

It’s been an interesting week.  Not much craftiness has been going on (although I did finish my placemat – post coming tomorrow!), but instead, some unexpected school-related drama has been unfolding.  To make a long story short, my advisor is moving to another university, and I decided not to move with her.  Originally I had planned to follow her, but after visiting the new place this week, I decided that it simply wasn’t for me.  I love my advisor and the work we’re doing, but I have to do what’s best for me.  We’re going to try to make things work from afar, hopefully with the support of both universities.  As of right now, I think we’ll be ok.

I’ve lived enough life at this point to know that I’m completely in charge of the choices I make, even when it seems like there are forces out there beyond my control.  True, things happen that I can’t control, but I can control what I choose to do about them.  In this case, although it makes sense to move with my advisor, I know I wouldn’t be happy there.  I’ve accepted these types of circumstances in the past as things I’ve “had to” do, but I know better now: I don’t “have” to move, I can choose to move or not… and I’ll deal with the consequences either way.

As you can imagine, this situation has been stressful and has been developing over the past several months.  Then again, this happens quite often in academia.  Professors move, and their students may or may not move with them.  It’s a risk you take when committing to work with someone for the duration of a 5-6 year program.  Fortunately, my advisor is awesome and has been incredibly supportive, which just further convinces me to stick with her, even if we’re working in physically separate locations.

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is that I’m proud of myself for doing what’s best for me in this case, for not accepting the lemon and throwing it right back where it came from.  It’s too soon to tell how this will play out in the long-term, but for now, I’m feeling good about my decision.  This is 31 years of wisdom at work… at least I got something in exchange for my budding crow’s feet.  : )

Enjoying life and looking forward

Maggie avoiding the camera

This was my first full work week after my schedule calmed down, and wow did that make a HUGE difference.  Classes are over, my calendar isn’t chopped into 100 little pieces every week, I’m not working until 11 pm anymore, and I finally have time to relax and breathe a bit.  You know, like a normal human being.  : )  It’s about time, geez!  I had missed my life, and I’m very happy to have it back.

Here’s what I’ve been up to now that Robot Carolyn has been unplugged and put into long-term storage:

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