My Sewing Story Pt 4: Pandemic to Present

(If you are new to this series, start with Pt 1: Academics. Otherwise…)

It’s THE END of this Sewiversary series! My previous post “Entrepreneur” left off in October 2019, when two of my custom brides walked down (different) aisles in the same weekend. I was working in my dream studio while teaching couture sewing to beginners online.

In this post, I’ll take you all the way to present day! It’s been full of ups and downs, starting with…


In November 2019, I was contacted by Craftsy! The senior manager and I had several excellent conversations, asking each other questions and spitballing ideas for a new class (or two) for me to teach on their popular online learning service. Seemed like it might be a great gig! 

But in January 2020, Craftsy fully merged with NBC’s Bluprint before quickly closing permanently- laying off all of their employees, including those who were wooing me.

Learn it. Make it. vs. Watch + Learn

In November 2019, I also started working with a beautiful bride-to-be named Claire (the daughter of my former frame workshop employer) on a gorgeous dress for her upcoming June 2020 wedding.

At Claire's Design Consultation
Claire's wedding dress sketch + some of our inspirations

Simultaneously, in November 2019, I was finishing up an article for Threads Magazine! Earlier in the year, editor Carol Fresia had come across my blog post “How to Choose and Use a Thimble” and asked if I’d be interested in revamping it for their publication. 

I sent the rewritten piece, some sample photos, and lots of my thimbles off to the production team…

…and the issue landed in my mailbox in February 2020!

If you have a Threads Insider account, the full article is available online.


On March 14, 2020, Charles and I went out for anniversary drinks at our favorite bar, not knowing it would close the next day and never open again.

That week, the fabrics for Claire’s wedding dress had just arrived and we had a second mockup fitting scheduled.

Finishing Claire's mockup, while inspecting and rolling her fabrics

We postponed the mockup fitting due to the lockdown, and kept postponing, until eventually Claire got married without a wedding and I never started the dress. It’s definitely the prettiest dress I never made! 

The mockup of Claire's wedding dress (that never got made) ready for a fitting in March 2020.

Though I’m someone who loves and thrives while working alone, the added isolation of lockdown paired with the elder care then eventual passing of my beloved 15 year old coonhound (and a myriad of other factors) found me withdrawing more and more.

My husband and I were also outgrowing our little town and the little 800sf mill house we had purchased 15 years prior. For several years, we’d been exploring all kinds of new options, without finding “the one”. We spent a lot of our lockdown days searching for a new property, hoping to find something that would allow us to live happily (ever after?) and have on-site studios.

Our home for 15+ years (and my studio for most of them)

In July 2020, we eventually found a property we loved and started the purchasing process! Then, we sadly had to pull the contract in August…

There seemed to be a lot of “out with the old”, and not a lot of “in with the new”.

And, I don’t know if you remember, everything was pretty much upside down in 2020.

Weddings and bridalwear were no longer a thing…

I haven't made a wedding dress since...

But online learning was up!

My online course business had really taken off, just as I was outgrowing the systems I used to create and manage them. In 2020, I retired my “blog style” eCourses and launched a new “online sewing school” custom designed by Linda. During lockdown, all of my websites got completely overhauled, and all of my courses got completely overhauled. In addition to working with my students online, my days very often included a whole lot of course creation, revision, and tedious behind-the-scenes computery stuff. 

In August 2020, I ran the first session of the 2nd edition of Skirt Skills, which I had been revising, rewriting, and reshooting since January. The 2014 videos were replaced with shiny new ones that included an upgraded look and answers to lots of frequently asked questions within the lessons. I’d learned so much during the previous 6 years of teaching this course! It has been such a pleasure to learn and evolve with my students.

Sadly, Camp Workroom Social, which would have happened in October, was cancelled in 2020. 

But, that month, I got an email from Elisalex of By Hand London asking if I’d be interested in creating a Guest Post on how to pad a custom dress form for her Creators’ Collaborative blog series. Sounded like a fun challenge!

That same month, Charles and I were able to get the aforementioned property back under contract. Very long very stressful story short: We closed in December 2020.

Lockdown had it’s ups and downs, and things were starting to look up!

Moving to the Country (Slowly)

Charles and I were finally the owners of a fixer-upper to call home, with potential for on-site workshops, out in the country, on 20+ acres of mostly woods. Charles is a carpenter, so the 70s ranch got mostly immediately gutted. Then he began to build the most beautiful spaces inside. Though there’s plenty more work to do on the house, we moved in early-April 2021. We’ve been blazing hiking trails out back ever since.

The day we closed on our new properrty

Meanwhile, I was spending the final days of my studio’s lease padding a dress form as my body double, while creating the blog post for Elisalex and my ebook. The guest blog post published in March 2021.

…followed by the full ebook (which includes lots more examples, uses, and how to make an adjustable cover), about a month and a half later. 

And, seven years after moving out of my home studio and into my dream studio,… 

Brooks Ann Camper Bridal Couture
Shane Snider Photography 2014
While working on Smarty Pants beta in 2020

I moved out of my dream studio in April 2021…

Moving out! Fun Fact: I handcrafted this mirror frame during my "two-weeks notice "at the frame workshop next door.

… and moved my studio temporarily back into the mill house, which was formerly our home. 

Full-circle, I’m currently working in the same room Charles built to make my very first wedding dress, when his sister Katie got engaged in 2005. I worked here from 2005-2014. And now I’m back, for a while…

My home studio in 2005 and in 2023

We’ll eventually turn the former home/current studio into a rental home, but right now, we are money-poor and house-rich. 

Awkwardly attempting a new headshot in my temporary studio in 2023.

On the new property, there’s also an old house: My future sewing studio.

Before demo began

To make meaningful progress on an epic DIY project like this future Sew House, it takes a unique combo of time, health, weather, and money- all at the same time. 

Progress has been slow and (somewhat) steady. Good things take time.

In couture, we practice patience and choose quality over quickness. This’ll be a couture house for sure…


I’ve been in this temporary studio for two years now, most days commuting between my current home and my former home. So far, I’ve spent most of that time fully revising my pants course, after 6 years of beta testing. I hope you’ll watch this Smarty Pants intro video (which starts in 2015 and ends in 2021!) to learn a little about its dramatic development:

Writing and creating the epic course in my temporary space was a challenge.  I’m a one-woman DIY production team and a very thorough teacher. For almost a full year, I put all my focus into course creation and, as a result, really secluded myself. 

Often my only company while making Smarty Pants videos was a visit from our new pup Nimbus while recording voiceovers in a closet.

After a break, I decided it was time to start reintroducing myself.

In September 2022, I published the first post of this series! Camp was back on, which always reminds me how much I am a social person, even though often convince myself I’m an introvert. It was a post-isolation revelation to realize I could be both.

Camp Workroom Social 2021 Gala's theme was "Super Heroes". (I'm Space Ghost.)

And as soon as I started sharing and “putting myself out there” again, opportunities for more conversations and more connections started naturally happening all around me!

In October (while in the airport on my way to Camp 2022), I scheduled a future interview on Bernina’s podcast “Sew & So…” podcast despite being super nervous. It had been a long time since I’d talked much to anyone (much less talking at length to someone I’ve never met- while being recorded and shared with the world), but I’ve learned to follow interesting opportunities that present themselves to me. I’ve learned that good things happen just outside of your comfort zone.

Then, a few weeks before recording, I unexpectedly got an inquiry from Tina VanDenburg inviting me to record an interview on her brand new podcast. I guess I was destined to get back on the air!

When I accepted Tina’s kind invitation, I admitted to her that I had moved out into the woods and mostly not talked to anyone during the pandemic. I shared how nervous I was feeling about talking on the Bernina podcast, even though it was something I really wanted to do.

Right away, Tina suggested I do her interview first- as practice for the bigger named podcast. How nice is that?!

So I recorded the “In Kinship” interview first, …

(Since the interview, Tina and have become great friends.)

…even though the release date was after the Bernina Sew & So interview

(This is why I was taking new headshots.)

And, as luck would have it, before either of those episodes aired, as I continued to produce this Sewiversary series, I got another inquiry to be interviewed on another podcast! And this time it was a little different…

A friend from my high school, who I had not seen in 30 years, was starting a new podcast called “Finding My Own Weird” where she interviews people who are outside of the ordinary as a way to discover her own true authentic weird self.  

Christine and I both grew up in the same tiny Texas town, where apparently I stood out:

"When I was putting this podcast together, and thinking about the variety of people I wanted to have here, I thought about the really extreme weird. But I also thought about people who stood out in my mind, people who are creative and interesting and didn’t fit into that box of what people think of as normal. And you were one of the first people that came to mind- from high school.”

This was also a video interview, which felt really outside my comfort zone, until I had an amazing time catching up with Christine and chatting about all the weird stuff that has happened to me over the years!

At this point, I was feeling ready to wrap up this Sewiversary blog series! The interview with Christine was kind of an audio/video recap of what I’ve been sharing with you through stories and photos here on the blog (for much longer than I expected). 

But before I could get too far into wrapping up this final post,… 

I received another inquiry to be on another podcast! When it rains, it pours, I guess!

I recorded this interview with “Punk Frockers” Jenny Hassler and Beverly Baptiste on April 8- and it aired 2.5 days later.

This year, rather quietly, Learn with Brooks Ann became Brooks Ann’s Prep School for Custom Sewing. I’ve been slowly making this transition in the classrooms and videos, but it only recently made its way out in the public. Teaching and running a business means being in a constant state of evolving. Good thing custom sewing offers me practice!

I also recently started mixing up the style of my free email newsletters by introducing “Custom Sewing Love Letters”. To get your own, sign up here.

As you may know from my eCourses and my blog, I almost always share the slow detailed creation process of my makes, but I’ve recently challenged myself to make some things only for me.

In the past few months, contrary to my nature, I’ve completed several custom garments for myself that I didn’t photograph!

Ok. Maybe I took a few photos...

2023 is looking like a new beginning for me!

The Future...

So what’s next? I’ve been hesitantly planning to close this series by sharing a list of all the interesting projects that are currently in the works and lots of exciting plans I’m eager to start. I’ve got so much more to share! There’s a list as big as Texas…

But I think I’m going to take my own advice to practice staying in the moment and not getting ahead of myself.

I’ve had an unexpectedly informative personal experience sorting through all of my old photos and folders and portfolios and emails and calendars while sharing this story with you. Understanding and revisiting my foundations has helped me feel confident and reenergized for the future. 

And it’s hard to wrap up a series that doesn’t have a big bow at the end like a wedding day. My story keeps going. I won’t know my next chapter or even my next step, until I get there.

Which is exactly how I teach my students to sew. 

Life rarely hands you an envelope full of instructions with a picture of how it’s going to look. Custom sewing is about creating something when you don’t know the ending- where you are constantly evolving and, often, working by feel. I’ve learned that when you stay in the moment, something leads you to the next moment. I’ve learned that when you explore your options and evolve as you advance, something opens up ahead of you. 

I’m wholeheartedly grateful for this embarrassingly fortunate story I’m living, and wholeheartedly grateful for all the mentors, professors, classmates, co-workers, employers, clients, peers, students, campers, Campers, family, followers, friends, future friends and experiences that inspire me to continually reinvent the way we sew and to share my findings with you.

There are still plenty of trails to be blazed in sewing- and in my backyard. Thanks for following along…

NEXT POST: I may share the “behind the seams” story of a dress I’m planning to make for myself, or I may start sharing a retrospective bridal series following the story of Andy’s 2019 custom wedding dress. Either way: Yay!

I’m sharing lots of additional photos in this Instagram Stories Highlight.

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2 Responses

  1. Can you recommend a the highest quality dress form to purchase. I contacted Wolf Forms and it seems like the production time is lengthy. Would you go with a custom form or standard form and pad it. Your opinion is greatly appreciated. I am not limited with a budget.
    Thank you much,
    Sissy Wood

    1. Great question! And one I haven’t really pondered before!

      I guess if your budget was truly unlimited, you could have custom forms made. As your body changes over time, you can retire your original custom form(s) and have new custom form(s) made. There will still be significant production time, but Beatrice makes custom forms. Check them out!

      I’ve never had that kind of budget, so I’ve always padded standard professional dress forms that are smaller than the body. This makes the form adjustable and reusable over time, which makes the original investment last a lot longer. In my ebook, I share my favorite base forms- and teach you how to pad it to match your shape and make an adjustable cover.

      Wolf is (or at least was) known as the top-of-the-line brand. I have (child sized) vintage one from the 80s that’s still in pretty good shape. Other higher-end brands are Alvanon, Superior, and The Shop Company.

      All of my non-vintage professional forms are on the low-end, by PGM or Roxy.That said, they’ve worked for me all these years, so maybe they will work for you too!

      I will also note that I don’t use dress forms with legs. (I don’t use Draping to create pants patterns.) If you really want bifurcation, a custom form may be the only way to go (unless the girth measurement of the form is spot-on- or much shorter than yours. Not sure…)

      Hope this helps answer your question. I think you’ll love having a body double form, no matter how you achieve it.

      Brooks Ann

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Hi there! I'm Brooks Ann.

I’m a former professional costumer and couture dressmaker for one-of-a-kind bridalwear located in Hillsborough, North Carolina, who teaches custom garment sewing too the sew-curious online.

My blog mostly follows along with the couture process of how each heirloom-quality custom wedding dress was made from idea to wedding day, as well as other interesting tidbits related to sewing, weddings, and body positivity.

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