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Sewing Pattern Review – Toaster Sweater Sew House Seven

I make things in threes, and I’ve sewn three Toaster Sweaters by Sew House Seven and will probably make three (or a dozen) more! This comfortable, slightly cropped banded hem and sleeve sweater is a fun, EASY sew even for beginners.

I bought the fabric (a ribbed velour) from my Local Fabric Shop. My LFS owner is a self professed lover of woven fabrics (but not knits) and as she handed me the pattern and directed me to the black ribbed velour, she said “if you’re brave enough, try this fabric”. Bravery not needed – I knew looking at the pattern and the velour that this would be a super easy sew, and it was.

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Sew it three times

Sew each pattern three times for maximum enjoyment and use out of your sewing patterns.

I’ve begun a new sewing approach that I got from one of the Sew News editors: sew it three times!

Why sew it three times? You’ve invested the time and energy to sew a pattern, you should get the most out of it that you can. Of course, you can make it MORE than that, but making it at LEAST three times ensures that you get the most value out of each pattern. It also forces you to use your pattern stash (we’ll tackle that later!)

Why make sewing patterns three times?

  • You’ll get your best fit with your first to second test and then you’ll have the second two that really fit well
  • You’ll get a chance to sew it “right out of the envelope” as the designer intended, with the recommended fabrics, but also….
  • You’ll get the chance to experiment with a different fabric or views available in the pattern
  • You’ll have the chance to make design or fit alterations that could catapult this into TNT (tried n’ true) pattern status, where you know you can expect consistent, well-fitting results. You’ll shorten the time between “I need this in my wardrobe” and the time that it’s IN your wardrobe.

You’ll make 27 garments in your #MakeNine for the year!

I have (and you do too) a lot of sewing patterns we’ve never sewn. While great for supporting independent sewing pattern designers, these never-sewn garments are opportunities to express your creativity. Further if you don’t like the pattern or it didn’t work for you – wouldn’t it be better to pass it onto someone else?

I have a whole collection of patterns I’ve never sewed, and that’s too bad – for those patterns and for me. Focusing my efforts on fewer patterns that I know I can successfully make (and make them work for my body and my wardrobe) are key. Those that I know I won’t ever make again, these should go.

Some years ago, a friend with a huge pattern stash she inherited from her late mom offered boxes of patterns to me. But I’d already inherited a stash of vintage patterns from both my mom (and friends.) I’ve committed to selecting at least two vintage patterns from my own stash and then deciding whether to keep any of the others that I have in my stash for anything other than just framing and decorating my sewing space with them.  

Some are ‘vintage’ but they’re back in style. My collection of Vogue Elements from the early 1990s is not only timeless but some of the more trendy 1990s styles are very much back in fashion.  I’ve sewn other things like ponchos from the 1970s or even pajamas and nightshirts from the early 1980s.

OK, you’re convinced, you’re going to sew each pattern three times. That’s great for basics like tee shirts and joggers, but what about other patterns?

Unless it’s an evening gown, many patterns can be made more than once to serve more than one purpose. For instance, make a tee shirt dress into a couple of dresses and a nightgown! Or sew a pair of pants into hiking pants or loungewear just with a change of fabric and the addition or omission of pockets. A button up shirt pattern becomes a jacket, or a pajama top just by switching fabrics and sizes.

Most patterns have at least two or three views, sewing all gives you slightly different patterns to weave into your wardrobe. Or they can be sewn in three wildly different fabrics for distinct looks.  If you live in a climate that changes with the seasons, sew with fabric for each season.

What patterns are you going to make three times? Select at least one pattern right now that you’re going to commit to sewing three (or more) times this year.

My three Toaster Sweaters from Sew House Seven. The green on the left was the “muslin” the two on the right in navy and black were my second after I adjusted the pattern for me.

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Sewing pattern review – Hot Patterns 1213 Gatsby Cardigan and Gilet

First off, let’s acknowledge that in great British English, a vest is a Gilet, because it sound so much cooler than vest. A vest is what you wear over your athletic clothes, and it’s great, but a gilet, well, that’s a statement piece! And the HotPatterns Gatsby Cardigan and Gilet sewing pattern is fabulous (and fast!)

This pattern has been out for a while (2017 I think) and I’ve had it CUT for a while too, but I finally sewed it and I have some important tips that you’ll want to follow for a great result.

I first made a muslin in print double knit from the 1960s. You know pastel, paisley stretchy, stuff that would have been made into a leisure suit. It was in my stash for muslin making. I added 1.5” to the sleeve length in a size 10 in the cardigan (at the time this was a perfect size for a little slouch, we’ll get to that later.) If you follow the model drawing, the cardi has a bit of slouch to it. Hot Patterns tends to run on the RTW / larger than sewing pattern size so your usual size in RTW might be perfect. I always make a test garment – sometimes in a real but inexpensive fabric and sometimes in a stash fabric (like that 1960s poly) that I won’t use for anything else but is similar to the garment. I don’t actually use “muslin” but that’s what I’m making.

It has some jacket details though – a cocoon shape, with facings that are shaped (so the cocoon won’t pull inward as is typical with a rectangular band sewn on), a shaped, a two-piece sleeve with faced sleeve hem. They aren’t complicated at all, but add a nice level of jacket polish to an otherwise super comfortable almost bathrobe-comfortable piece.

The pattern comes with a narrow belt or a wide one. I chose the wider one and I applied this at my ribcage level. Maybe it’s all those years watching What Not to Wear, but I know for certain that the narrowest part of ME right now is just below my ribcage! So where I tie it is at my narrowest spot, which is above my waistline. I used thread chain loops on the back of the paneled seams. I might replace this with narrow black ribbon later.

As I said, I cut this in 2017, intending to wear it to Sewing in the Sun. HotPatterns hosted this four day sewing retreat in Sarasota, Florida in January for several years running. But of course, time got the best of me and I never finished it. It languished in my UFO bin until I pulled out this black and white (ALSO doubleknit!) print that I picked up at Haberman Fabrics in Clawson, MI. This stretchy, yet stable knit is perfect for this cardi. The fur is from my stash, probably 15 years old. I’ve made pillow covers and my kids have cut up their own “bedroom rugs” (eep!) from it, pilfering more and more of it for craft projects, LOL. I managed to snag enough for the collar. The lining for the collar is standard poly lining, also from stash.

Tip #1: stabilize the band stretch. I did not interface these but if I sew it again, I will use non-stretch interfacing on the bands to keep them from stretching while sewing. This is in the instructions. I chose to ignore it at my peril.

Tip #2: Stitch the collar down with a running stitch or a slip stitch. I attached elastics as in the instructions, but they are fussy, they don’t want to stay around the buttons. Personally, the fur collar is on during the fall and winter and off during spring. It doesn’t take that long to attach or remove (because I attached and removed it twice.) Also it lays FLAT on top of the jacket, it doesn’t curve to the inside – I did overlap it so the fur sticks out a little over the jacket edge though so you don’t see that while its worn.

The cocoon shape is a favorite detail – I used snaps but they’re optional, and that would make it much more cardi-like than jacket-like. Omit the snaps for a more coccoon cardi look.

They also have you line the pockets. This is brilliant and I will forever more make all patch pockets this way. Why? The pocket is sewn to the lining and the turning point is inside the pocket at the folded over pocket edge, plus it’s way easier to SEW around a corner than it is to PRESS under around one.

Cut your actual size. Between the 2017 cut and the 2020 sew, I put on some pandemic pounds (didn’t we all?) Mine showed up in the fall of 2020 and as such, the cardi, while it fit, wasn’t quite as slouchy. I will sew a size up on this next one and then when I lose the weight (I’ve already lost a few pounds), it’ll be delightfully slouchy.

Styling tips: Wear with wider leg pants!

These are gorgeous with wider leg pants. For an elastic-waist woven fabric wide leg, try the Hot Patterns Deauville pant, for a knit, definitely the Hot Patterns Palazzo pant (although you can make these with woven bottom and knit waistband too.) For a crisp woven pant, try the Mainsail pant, if you’re going back to fixed waist pants. Or go totally slouchy with the Marrakesch Xpress drawstring pant for woven fabric. Of course, you can wear it with boyfriend jeans, too, but the belted cardi over wide leg pants, mmmm, gorgeous.

Wear with a slim tee or turtleneck. I chose a turtleneck from my stash but there are a LOT of tee shirt patterns in the HotPatterns lineup. Nothing too voluminous though, this cardi needs something slim under it.

My next one will be in a sweater knit with fur collar, and I intend to make a gilet with the fur collar too. A gilet would be perfect for the not-quite-enough fabric piece for a cardi that often happens. I buy extra fabric, but it’s often not enough for the length one needs with sleeves. Also, a gilet without the collar for summer in a lightweight knit would be a great top layer – I have a similar sweater that I wear All. The. Time.  Looks fabulous with linen pants and a tank top.

Why make three of them? See my Make Three article here! I wax poetic about the magic of making something three times.

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Pick One Sew Two

A revolutionary way to sew a capsule wardrobe you love – EASILY

Planning a wardrobe is easy. I use the Pick One, Sew Two method that I wrote for Christine Jonson Patterns.

I pick ONE item in my closet and I go into my stash and sew TWO more. Sometimes I do not have stash for both, so I then head over to my LFS (Seams Fabric, y’all, all online too!) and pick something that works for both.

The beauty of the Pick One Sew Two method is that you build your wardrobe with things you already have in your closet. Yeah, I love Make Nine and capsule wardrobes too – I grew up on 5 Easy Pieces from Vogue Patterns, myself. But tackling five or nine pieces in a capsule wardrobe is daunting and most of us do not have time to sew that many things in enough time to make it actually work as a capsule wardrobe.

The other tip is to sew basics – sew the things you will wear every day! If you go into your closet and you see things you don’t wear because you don’t have anything to wear them with, that’s a clear sign you need to sew one or two pieces to make that item a wearable outfit.

It helps to organize your stash AND your closet in a similar way. For me that’s (closet) by color and by type or just by color (stash). I can then quite easily say “I really could use a navy blue cropped mock turtleneck to go with this striped skirt” and go into your stash and FIND navy knit in it that you haven’t sewn.

Recently I decided that I needed a cream, winter-weight midi skirt to wear with boots and gray turtleneck sweaters. Gray and cream are a luxe combo in the winter. I wanted washable and not see through. After I reorganized my stash by color I found a piece of fabric I didn’t know I had and I sewed a great washable stretch crepe A-line midi skirt to go with my cashmere sweater! The skirt took me about an hour and fifteen minutes from cut to finish and I wore it twice in the same week (to my home office, at my desk, and even over leggings and ice skates on my backyard ice rink.)

Pick One Sew Two is invigorating. Along with that cream skirt, I cut out a pair of Tailored Trackpants in a camel snakeskin print stretch knit fabric that had been just hanging out in my stash with almost no purpose! The gray sweater, the camel trackpants, the gray sweater, the cream skirt, my favorite gray booties and a camel coat in my closet all came together easily.

It’s been a while since I’ve sewing-blogged regularly under my own name. I’ve worked for about five years helping other sewing brands. It’s nice to be back! While I still work with sewing brands, most of my work now is in marketing coaching and marketing-tech training. I’d rather coach sewing pattern companies’ brands through developing content, as their authentic voices come through in what they write, photograph and record. A perennial challenge for any brand is maintaining that level of content (I do not have this problem!), but we work on that, too. Think of it as coaching AND motivation.

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Make Nine Sewing Projects 2020

Recapping a #MakeNine for 2020

Maybe more accurately, make 18 or 24! The sewing world and crafting world usually abounds with #MakeNine in the later part of December and early January as sewists, knitters and crocheters, crafters of all kinds make resolutions to make more in the new year. Despite the pandemic, or maybe IN spite of it, I managed to sew more than 18 of them this year!

HotPatterns Tailored Trackpants
Scout Tees by Grainline Studio (2)
Wiksten Haori Jacket
Cambria Dusters (2)
HotPatterns WSG Dragonfly Kimono
Toaster Sweaters (3)
Gypsum Skirt
Emerson shorts & pants (3)
Curved hem midi skirts (Christine Jonson) (2)
HotPatterns FourSquare Tee
Slit front midi sweater skirt (Christine Jonson)
And two kids PJ Pants (Taylor Made book)
I’m also going to count the almost complete Closet Core Pietra Pants which will be done by the time this is published.

Why did I sew so many? In pandemic? First off, I had the time. Pandemic life slowed our personal lives way down. Second, it also amplified the need to change my wardrobe. I’d sewn a lot of unstructured blazers and tops in the past, which were perfect with my preferred jeans-and-flats look almost all year round. But this year, with working from home and the acceleration of my business life to online product sales and online marketing tech coaching meant that I really wasn’t going to need to dress up for any client meetings – the clients I had that had in person meetings with either were sold/bought or retired in 2020. There simply isn’t a need for me to attend a client meeting in person – maybe ever – again. I’ve switched to Zoom and I prefer this.

The next thing is you’ll note I made multiples of things, this is my new goal – to make at least three of any one pattern (usually in succession but not always) as if I’m going to invest in a pattern, I should use it. This is my aim for 2021.

What am I sewing for work from home in 2021? More casual clothes, this time with a nod to being upscale casual. Check out this article here for a few patterns to consider for your 2021 wardrobe.

What I discovered is that I love making things I wear every day. I know some sewists who will buy (poorly fitting) basics like tee shirts, turtlenecks, pants and skirts and sew things they hardly ever wear such as fancy dresses or suits. I prefer to have well-fitting things I wear each day and purchase fancy items (if I ever need them.)

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Creating a Home Office

In your laundry room!

In the spring of 2020, we all locked down. My spouse moved home, he took over his desk in our shared home office, our kids started doing school in the playroom and I moved to my “summer office’ – my laundry room!

Creating a private home office in your laundry room seems crazy, but it actually worked pretty well for me. First off, no one comes back here. Second, I have a good window with southern-facing natural light, there’s a door, and well, when there’s laundry to get done, it gets done!

When we built our house, we installed this countertop and the desk-height cabinets below it. But for most of it’s life, this has been mainly a drop off point for bills, batteries, and junk people didn’t know where else to put. During a house painting project, our painters suggested this bright coral color, which is a fabulous upgrade to a boring beige room. I added a pink rug (soon to be dyed coral) on the dark tile floor, and hung up plants overhead. I also added two plants to the top of the dryer – another dumping ground for the family – and for the washer when it’s not in use. The laundry tub is hidden by a curtain that I can draw across. The upper cabinet storage uses bags and baskets (for a uniform look on Zoom calls in the background.)

I have two filing cabinets, but also added two file crates in black metal mesh for additional storage.

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What do I wear now? Sewing wardrobe planning for a post-pandemic work-from-home-life

What do I wear now? Sewing wardrobe planning for a post-pandemic work-from-home-life

For most of us, the pandemic has caused a permanent shift in worklife.  If your company hasn’t completely shifted to remote work, you may now be offered the chance to work remote part time. And remote workers are all WFH until June at least, until a wide use of vaccines brings people back to offices (part time) safely.

So what do I wear now? What do I sew now? I looked at the things I was wearing, and picked the best, most comfortable patterns that fit my new life.

My bet is fixed waist pants might never return – so there are a lot of options here to help you sew comfy. This is the fall/winter/early spring edition.:

Chic, but still comfortable bottoms:

Track pants/joggers:

I like the Tailored Track Pant from HotPatterns. Released probably 8-9 years ago, in the very early days of chic track pants, these are easy to sew and come with trouser cuffs below a slim track-pant leg silhouette. A classic channeled elastic waist (sewn on) with pockets rounds out this well-fitting track pants. I added a classic jogger cuff, but you can also do elastic channels on the ankles if you’re using woven fabric. People also rave about the Jalie joggers (Jalie runs slim but comes in 27 sizes so it’s versatile). A tip, the HP joggers feature a fit that is perfect for curvy hips (you can see this in the line drawing). But if you’re not curvy, just flatten the waist curve before sewing the waistband for a more straight fit!

Elastic waist woven or knit pants:

My go-to pant is the Christine Jonson Taper & Wide Leg pant. This pant has a wide leg pant with a slight taper at the ankle, perfect for pants that are roomy but not too crazy wide. If you prefer a straight wide cut from hip to hem, just chalk that onto your fabric as you cut. These have no sideseam and take about 20 minutes to sew (perfect if you suddenly find yourself with pandemic weight gain!) I love adding a cargo pocket to the side, there are some stylish options in the September/October 2020 issue of SewNews magazine to try.  This one is for woven OR knit pants (in the wide leg), for the skinny leg one, make these in Ponte with a yoga waistband instead. Like ‘loose leggings’.

Pietra Pants and Shorts are my newest fave for woven fabrics. With a center front seam, angled front pockets, a high front waist with stay and back elastic, these pull on pants come in wide leg, shorts AND skinny leg pants. Seriously, I’m in love. I might never go back to skinny jeans with these.  A similar one for ponte knit is the Christine Jonson Perfect Pant Skinny.

Emerson Pants & Shorts: A cropped wide leg pant, perfect for warm weather or showing off your fancy booties, these pants are a pleated front, elastic back pant that looks like a trouser. If you have to go back to the office, make these. You can also quite easily extend them to full length pants too. Just draw them longer with chalk on your fabric when you cut them out.

Try longer midi skirts instead of pants

I like the Christine Jonson Base Wear Two knit skirts or the Pencil and Tapered skirt. I’ve sewn both in knit fabrics and they are so comfortable. These look great with booties or sneakers.  Knit skirts, in my opinion, are the perfect bridge between casual and workplace. When I travel, I wear these as they are way more comfortable than pants. I love the Christine Jonson Ruched Pencil Skirt in the midi length sewn in a soft rayon/lycra. I made one of these in a fun print, and wore it on an overseas, overnight flight. With my thick plane socks and a warm sweater, I was so comfy. Yet, when I landed, in Dublin, bleary eyed, at 5:30AM, I still managed to look good!

Hot Patterns makes a fun curved-hem drawstring waist skirt, a 2-hour A-line skirt both of which sew up in about an hour (I think the two hours is “check Instagram a bunch of times and go get some coffee” rating!)

Perfect WFH tops & tees to sew:

With the pandemic, I’m a sucker for a cozy sweater or sweatshirt. HotPatterns makes the most stylish tops that look fancy but are comfortable. To that end, the Beatnik Sweatshirt, the Superstar Sweatshirt and Sweater Dress are both great options for stylish, but fancier sweatshirts.  You can wear these to work, no problem. Whether that be the commute down the upstairs hall or to your actual office.

For a base layer, hands down, my favorite base layer tee shirts for well-fitting basics are from Christine Jonson. The Banded Neck Tee, the Raglan Tee and Turtlenecks are my favorite. The Shirred Turtleneck is the nicest looking turtleneck you’ll ever wear solo.

If you want a woven tee shirt, I like the Scout Tee from Grainline Studio. Well-fitting (make the top a smaller size or two than usual, as the neckline will gape, the size lines are close together, so I just use a larger seam allowance of ¾” to alter for this.) I’ve made this in cotton voile and silk noil from my LFS, and it’s divine. Looks great with jeans or any of the pants or skirts listed above. Hot Patterns makes a number of tee shirt style blouses for woven fabrics, too.

And for a cozy sweater option, check out the La Megeve Top and Pants from my new favorite line, Naughty Bobbin Patterns. This top is for faux fur (OMG!) or fleece or other heavy-ish fabrics. PLUS, in the “looks like a classic shirt, but in knit” try the Cookie knit shirt! The pattern company offers both a Hollywood-inspired set of patterns, as well as basics that are exceptionally well drafted and thought out.

Wraps, capes, jackets and coats in a WFH world:

I love a good cape or wrap – blanket style at my WFH desk (slippers on my feet) or draped just so cross my shoulders when I walk the dog, these are perfect for your wools that you’ll never make into business suits again. Go for a ruana cape, or a rectangular cape or even a poncho.  You don’t need a pattern for a ruana or a rectangular poncho, instructions abound on the internet.

For cozy knit fabrics like ponte, French terry and fleece, I like the Hot Patterns Glamour Poncho and the HP Fast & Fabulous poncho. These all look great with track pants.  Some people have made both in woven fabric, and I concur, with the RTW sizing, you can make your sewing pattern size and get by with a drapey woven fabric. In HP I wear my RTW size which is an 8, instead of my sewing pattern size which is a 12-14.  

If I have to wear a jacket, the knit moto jacket from Christine Jonson Patterns is a favorite. I sewed one in navy ponte and left it on a connecting flight in Los Angeles and was so sad. But I got way better navy ponte from my local fabric shop, so I am making another. I also have one in black. This jacket makes everything cooler. Wear it over anything I’ve listed here for an instant style update. But, still feels like a knit cardigan – because it is!

Coat-wise, I’ve sewn the Cambria Duster twice now, which my LFS owner says is a “socially acceptable bathrobe”  – just be sure to use a more coat-like fabric (I used heavyweight linen) or it will look like a robe!  Feels like one at your WFH desk though, so go for it over track pants and a tee.

I’m also going to make a couple of longer cardigans from the HotPatterns Birthday Mini-midi-maxi Cardigan pattern. And I have a coat-weight heavy rib for the Mighty Morphin Cardi Coat also from HotPatterns. Seeing a theme here?

I’d also love to sew a sleeveless Nikko turtleneck (and sleeved turtleneck dress from the same pattern) for 2020, to wear under cardigans.

I work at my desk at home, and I work standing in my basement – my shoe of choice in the winter is a FUgg boot (faux Uggs), and in the summer, sneakers. All of these are chic enough to wear with sneakers or booties for walking the dog, or riding to my LFS, but still comfy enough for WFH.

I will WFH forever more (I used to own a building for my office, but sold after 15 years), but when I do return to my nomadic coffee shop life, these garments will come with me!

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Emerson Pant & Shorts Review

The Emerson Pants and Shorts Sewing Pattern from True/Bias has quickly become one of my go-to patterns. It fit me well right out of the envelope, which is surprising (and it’s not always the case with other reviewers, so do a muslin or test garment, as I did.)

Emerson Pants by True/ Bias in Essex Linen from Seams Fabric in East Lansing, MI
Emerson Shorts by True/Bias sewing patterns in heavyweight Brussels Washer Linen in black from Seams Fabric in East Lansing, MI.

What I like about this pattern:

The style first off. The cropped wide pant, stitched down front pleats and back elastic waist don’t scream “WFH Sweatpants” but they feel like it! I know others who love the cropped pant well into fall and winter with the help of cute booties. I’ll probably do the same.

The construction:

The pockets are really clever. They are a slash pocket on the side, but the interior pocket bag is actually a folded rectangular piece. This means the pocket lays flatter across the front, and it’s deep and roomy.

The waistband:

A flat-front, elastic-back seems tailor made for the pandemic work from home life we live. Who wants to go back to fixed waist pants? I gave up dress pants for jeans years ago, but am happy to find a comfortable, tailored-looking pant that is easy to sew.

The leg length:

Whether in shorts or in pants, the length is perfect. The shorts are not too short, but not too long. The pants are not too cropped but aren’t too long either- and in both cases, these lengths are easy to modify by just adding onto the bottom near the hem.

The speedy construction:

These are some fast pants to sew for all the details in them. I had three successful sewing sessions (test shorts, real shorts and pants.)

How I’ll wear them:

I bought the Cambria Duster pattern (Friday Pattern Company) and the Ogden Cami (also by True/Bias) and I’m sure I’m the LAST person in the sewing universe to make the Ogden cami, I like how these were released together, they go well together.

I also plan to wear a knit moto jacket from Christine Jonson Patterns with these pants. It’s like a great cardigan, only a lot more stylish.

I made ZERO. Yeah. zero alterations. Zero, zilch, nada. This isn’t the case for all sewists, though, and I’ve seen reviews of them where they have had to alter the pants to fit themselves. I didn’t have to do this at all.

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There’s a blazer hanging in my closet

Oh how we miss our lives before. Will they ever be the same again?

There’s a blazer hanging in my closet. I sewed it myself. Fellow blazer friends of it also hang nearby, they were also made by me. I wore a blazer (with jeans or a dress or skirt) every day, for my work-from-home, work-from-coffee-shop, work-from-client-office life. I’ve worked from home for half my professional career, save about 15 years when I owned a building in a “trendy” gentrifying neighborhood. I’m a work-from-home pro. Up until March, I still wore the blazer. But right now, none of us need that blazer hanging in our closets.

What did we lose along with the blazer-wearing meetings? We lost interactions with our “third place” coffee shop staff and regular customers. I wonder how Larry, the elderly single gentleman who frequented my favorite coffee shop, is doing now. Larry and I saw each other three times a week or more, through three owners of one coffee shop, before they closed and we both moved our third place to another coffee shop nearby.

We lost driving to out of town meetings (or flying to conferences) to engage with clients, feel the energy of colleagues and learn.

We lost sending our kids off to school, running to catch up with their friends, before Mrs. Sara walked them across the crosswalk. I lost hearing the bell ring and the delightful cacophony of an elementary school that I can hear from my back deck.

We lost being home when our middle schooler unlocked the door and dropped her backpack in the front hall. We lost racing off to hockey practice, getting home to make dinner at 8pm.

Our future is unknown. But here’s what we gained in the process:

Our kids are safe at home. We have played many games of Monopoly and Clue, checkers, backgammon and Slamwich. We have baked many batches of brownies and cookies. We’ve moved our house around to accommodate two reluctant home learners, and two busy (and equally reluctant) homeschool parents. We bought a WiFi mesh router to extend our network to the far reaches of our house and deck.

We gave up the blazers for Zoom sweaters and Zoom shirts. I even have Zoom hair!

There’s a blazer hanging in my closet. It is waiting for the return of meetings, of parent council meetings, the coffee shop work sessions. The blazer in my closet is waiting for me to put on jeans (fixed waist pants? Haven’t done that in six months.) The blazer in my closet is waiting for normal.

I’m not sure we get to normal in 2020 at all. Maybe not even 2021. And if the blazers sit that long, will I even want to wear them?

The blazer sits, and while it does I change my business. I lean in to product development, so I can sell things online to people anywhere. I lean into marketing tech training, and I work with clients everywhere but here. The blazer might not even need to come out of the closet with my new business. I love my new ideas, forged even before the pandemic, honed by the changes in life and business along the way.

But I still want to visit the coffee shop, it’s noisy mass of mobile humanity. I still want to work to the hum of the espresso machine every now and again. I still want to ride my bicycle around town, the blazer flying out behind me as I cruise to the post office, all those online commerce packages behind me on the rack.

The blazer in my closet represents normal. It represents work, purpose, and fulfillment; something I’ve always defined as a professional career. I spend much of my time with my kids now, where blazers aren’t required. I love my kids. I miss who I was, the woman in the blazer, jetting off to a conference, checking the departures board.

There’s a blazer in my closet. And I miss it.

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Adding a paper bag waistband extension to any skirt or pant pattern

The “paperbag” style elasticated drawstring waistband is super popular right now. And it’s a SUPER easy hack too!

  1. Any elastic waistband skirt or pant pattern.
  2. A ruler
  3. Some tracing or large-format paper (even newspaper will work fine.)
  4. A pencil/pen/marker
  5. Fabric marker

Trace your pant or skirt pattern.

Add a piece of paper under the top of the pattern near the waistband.

Using your ruler, draw up from the sideseam 2″ (this will allow for a 1/2″ ‘paper bag’ at the top, if you want more, add another inch here)

Repeat for the center front seam and the other piece of the front/back of the skirt or pants.

Connect these two new lines with a perpendicular line to create a new, taller waistband.

Sew the pants as directed; when you get to the waistband instructions, follow these instead:

Mark the waistband at 1.25″ from top – this is your fold over line

Fold wrong sides together, and press on this line. This will allow for a casing plus a turn-and-stitch hem for the waistband on the inside.

Follow directions here for making a self-fabric tie plus elastic waistband

Mark and sew a buttonhole on the front of the pants, below the fold line. This is where your drawstring elastic waist will exit. You do not have to do this step if you do not want ties exposed here.

Stitch the folded hem edge of the waistband down, leaving a 1″ gap at center back to insert elastic.

Mark 1/2″ below the top of the folded waistband, and stitch along this line. Do not leave a gap. This is your paperbag part.

Insert elastic into the channel below the paperbag section, try on, adjust and stitch ends of elastic together securely.

Stitch the open section along the center back.

Voila! Trendy paper bag waistband!

Elasticated drawstring is inserted in a paperbag style waistband for a trendy look in a high-waisted pants or shorts pattern!