The year 2020 was something alright

January 10, 2021
by joost
A photo by <a href=''>Paulo Silva</a> shows an empty Times Square in New York during the COVID pandemic
A photo by Paulo Silva shows an empty Times Square in New York during the COVID pandemic

Aren’t we all glad 2020 is over?

Realistically, at least some of you, or your loved ones, got caught in the absolute gut-punch that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Either indirectly through lost income or other practical concerns, or directly by battling the virus itself.

I can only offer my sympathy, and the belief that things will get better. So hang in there, and let me briefly take your mind of things by sharing some good news against the bleak backdrop of the annus horribilis that 2020 turned out to be.

The face mask tsunami

FreeSewing found itself — absolutely unexpected I might add — under the glaring spotlight of international media this year. A tidal wave of attention rolled over us, and while the peak lasted only a good month, the repercussions and long tail of these events have shaped our entire year.

It all started in February when COVID-19 was starting to rear its ugly head in Europe and the supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) started dwindling. It seemed that face masks were going to be a big factor in trying to slow down the spread of this disease, but they were getting harder to come by every day.

So on February 28th, after some design and experimentation, we published our face mask pattern on Three weeks later, we followed up with a one-page PDF that people could share and adapt.

We did not really want to be in the center of this, we just wanted to help people make masks. But when Forbes ran an editorial calling on people to help out with the healthcare workers PPE shortage, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a gigantic spotlight. The article prominently featured FreeSewing, and linked to our blog post.

At that time, there were few patterns available for face masks, and soon enough a long list of other publications started running links to our pattern and website. When I found the instruction video that I made for the pattern staring back at me on the website of the New York Times, it was a veritable oh-crap moment. Sure enough, in the month following the Forbes publication, a million people descended on

The sudden jump in visitors and users (not to mention patrons) made it clear that I am a bottleneck of the project, and so in the latter half of the year we’ve set out to try and remedy that with some community building. On one hand it’s slow going, but on the other hand if I look at how vibrant the FreeSewing community is today, it almost beggars belief that we did all of this throughout 2020. We now have regular contributor calls, and our chat rooms are never empty.

I hope to continue to fade into the background and let other people carry some of the torches. Not because I don’t want to work on this anymore, but because I want to grow FreeSewing beyond what I can do on my own.

Black Lives Matter

Since this is a look at 2020, I also want to pause and acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing problem of systemic racism. It is an area where my background and genetic material makes me ill-equipped to take a leading role, so here too I rely on our community for guidance.

We are also expanding our efforts to provide patterns that work for all body types, and I am particularly proud of how many of our users come to us because our patterns help them project the gender of their choice.

We helped more people than ever this year

On the practical side of things, I have extended our book year with a couple of weeks so that going forward, we will just follow the calendar years. With a couple of hours left in this year, FreeSewing’s revenue for 2020 clocks in at 10.736,82 euro. That makes 2020 and absolute bumper year, and it’s more than all previous years combined (2015: € 256.65, 2016: € 473.50, 2017: € 673.14, 2018: € 3162.14, 2019: € 4109.38).

As always, all of FreeSewing’s revenue — the entire 10.736,82 euro — goes to Doctors Without Borders.

I am truly grateful for your continued support and contributions. I feel like in a very small way, we are able to apply some balm to the hurt that seems at times omnipresent in the world.

Thank you so much, and stay safe