Men’s Pocket Square in Liberty of London Lawn

As I near completion of the men’s sport coat I started six years ago, I am sprinkling in small projects that I can easily complete. It’s not really a deliberate move to make me more “productive,” although I’d love to give myself credit for that. It’s more like, that coat makes me feel a little underwater sometimes, where I’ve painstakingly hand-stitched the sleeve lining to the armholes only to realize that the facings aren’t straight and it all has to come back out…and turning to another project so I can step back from that one for a minute feels like a good thing.

In this case: it’s a companion project. My husband and I were at a men’s store that he loves about two months ago, looking at ties and pocket squares. The pocket square, I suspect, is making a comeback after seeming to be overlooked in men’s fashion for a long time? Back me up on that, someone.

The ones we liked were very, very expensive. Like, $75 for a 16″ square of cotton, expensive. And as we browsed the selection, I realized that while some of them were clearly exotic and imported, a lot of them were Liberty lawns. I have an impressive array of Liberty lawns in my studio, which I kinda famously bought one evening when I was enjoying a glass of wine and unwisely in front of my computer with my wallet nearby and a discount code burning a hole in my self-control.

I figured, why not? Let’s give it a shot to sew our own pocket squares. Worst case: they’re only OK. Best case: we discover limitless possibility.

I started by considering the hem. I wanted to do a tiny machine-rolled hem at first, I think because after all that hand sewing that needed to be ripped out of the sport coats lining where it was falling crookedly, I didn’t feel up to attempting a hand-rolled hem. But the corners really eluded me, they were just so teensy tiny I didn’t feel satisfied with the quality of the work. Since a pocket square is so small but also highly visible along the hemline, I figured the hem really needed to be excellent.

In the end, I made these identically to my fancy napkins tutorial, but used a scant 1/4″ hem along the edges, and mitered the corners. They look lovely, and I don’t think the slightly wider hem adds too much weight–if these were heavier fabrics, I’d be concerned that the thicker hem would drag the corners down when it’s worn in the sport coat pocket, but that hasn’t been the case so far.

I love a simple project. I love when sewing saves money by allowing us to feel “fancy” but without the price tag. It feels like winning. And even more than that, maybe most of all, I love the feeling when my husband comes into the kitchen in a suit and he’s fussing with the pocket square I sewed for him, excited to wear it for his digital conference that day, all dressed up to work remotely. Sewing, even small things, gives me such giant rewards when it makes our today better.

Deliberate Transitions

There was an article in the LA Times in the past week about getting dressed to stay home, and the author is experiencing this HUGE backlash where people (mostly on Twitter) are saying that the idea of “enough with the sweatpants” is (1) insulting to people who are really struggling right now, and (2) shouldn’t be advice accepted from someone who looks like [insert insulting description of the journalist here]. There is certainly a conversation to be had here about privilege, and how that relates to the whole idea of “getting dressed.” Sheltering in place, but even just working from home BEFORE quarantine, required a certain level of privilege just to happen, and that feels overlooked right now. Some folks don’t have an option about what they wear, because their work demands a uniform or clothes that can take a beating. Others are in a financial situation where the mere idea of thinking about their wardrobe seems laughable, and “getting dressed” means making do.

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Get Dressed On Purpose and With Purpose

This is the fifth post in a series about how getting dressed, even when you’re only going from your bedroom to the living room and back again, can have an enormous impact on your mood, your sense of self, and how well you handle stress and change.  I know very well the temptation to wear only stretchy pants and sweatshirts when working from (or just staying) home; I also know the insidious ways in which giving in to that temptation ate away at my ability to fight through mental fog and maintain a healthy headspace.

I learned through trial and error, by working from home over the past ten+ years–and then, as the result of some dark days, actively altering what I wear over the past two years–that there are some basic guidelines I can employ when getting dressed each day that give me the tools and the margin to intentionally improve my outlook and mental health.  I’m sharing them here in hopes they’ll create a framework where we can have a bigger conversation about how sewing our own clothes allows us a window through which we can feed our hearts and minds.

For the introduction to the series, visit this post, and for a deeper dive, join us at the League of Dressmakers, where we’re developing this topic in greater depth, complete with silhouette guides, sewing pattern suggestions, video discussions and live chats!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my debt of gratitude to Elaine, a League of Dressmakers member who pointed me toward Stasia’s Style School–I confess that I completed only the first two lessons of Style School, but the impact of Stasia’s message from just that little taste was so huge for me.  Her newsletters are a delight to read, and her TEDx Talk will change the way you think about fashion.

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Pants Are For Every OTHER Day

This is the fourth post in a series about how getting dressed, even when you’re only going from your bedroom to the living room and back again, can have an enormous impact on your mood, your sense of self, and how well you handle stress and change.  I know very well the temptation to wear only stretchy pants and sweatshirts when working from (or just staying) home; I also know the insidious ways in which giving in to that temptation ate away at my ability to fight through mental fog and maintain a healthy headspace.

I learned through trial and error, by working from home over the past ten+ years–and then, as the result of some dark days, actively altering what I wear over the past two years–that there are some basic guidelines I can employ when getting dressed each day that give me the tools and the margin to intentionally improve my outlook and mental health.  I’m sharing them here in hopes they’ll create a framework where we can have a bigger conversation about how sewing our own clothes allows us a window through which we can feed our hearts and minds.

For the introduction to the series, visit this post, and for a deeper dive, join us at the League of Dressmakers, where we’re developing this topic in greater depth, complete with silhouette guides, sewing pattern suggestions, video discussions and live chats!

3.  Never wear pants two days in a row

Once I moved jeans out of my every day rotation, I found it a challenge to avoid the trap of simply replacing jeans with a different fabric, and still basically wearing the same uniform every day: cords or khakis plus a tee and a cardigan might be a step up, but not way up.  The temptation to lean into resistance, to avoid change or to simply revert to old habits, was strong–and it would have been so simple to swap out non-jeans-pants and check that box.

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Stop With The Jeans Every Day. Stop.

This is the third post in a series about how getting dressed, even when you’re only going from your bedroom to the living room and back again, can have an enormous impact on your mood, your sense of self, and how well you handle stress and change.  I know very well the temptation to wear only stretchy pants and sweatshirts when working from (or just staying) home; I also know the insidious ways in which giving in to that temptation ate away at my ability to fight through mental fog and maintain a healthy headspace.

I learned through trial and error, by working from home over the past ten+ years–and then, as the result of some dark days, actively altering what I wear over the past two years–that there are some basic guidelines I can employ when getting dressed each day that give me the tools and the margin to intentionally improve my outlook and mental health.  I’m sharing them here in hopes they’ll create a framework where we can have a bigger conversation about how sewing our own clothes allows us a window through which we can feed our hearts and minds.

For the introduction to the series, visit this post, and for a deeper dive, join us at the League of Dressmakers, where we’re developing this topic in greater depth, complete with silhouette guides, sewing pattern suggestions, video discussions and live chats!

2.  Jeans are no more than once a week, including weekends

I wore jeans every single day for…five years? Maybe?  Seriously. EVERY DAY. Outside of date nights or special occasions, I pretty much grabbed my jeans from the bench at the foot of our bed each morning, threw on a clean tee shirt and my favorite cardigan, and that was “dressed.”  I had a closet FILLED with dresses and skirts, but I never, ever wore them, and when I did, I thought I looked weird.

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Wear ALL the Things!

This is the second post in a series about how getting dressed, even when you’re only going from your bedroom to the living room and back again, can have an enormous impact on your mood, your sense of self, and how well you handle stress and change.  I know very well the temptation to wear only stretchy pants and sweatshirts when working from (or just staying) home; I also know the insidious ways in which giving in to that temptation ate away at my ability to fight through mental fog and maintain a healthy headspace.

I learned through trial and error, by working from home over the past ten+ years–and then, as the result of some dark days, actively altering what I wear over the past two years–that there are some basic guidelines I can employ when getting dressed each day that give me the tools and the margin to intentionally improve my outlook and mental health.  I’m sharing them here in hopes they’ll create a framework where we can have a bigger conversation about how sewing our own clothes allows us a window through which we can feed our hearts and minds.

For the introduction to the series, visit this post, and for a deeper dive, join us at the League of Dressmakers, where we’re developing this topic in greater depth, complete with silhouette guides, sewing pattern suggestions, video discussions and live chats!

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For almost two years, I’ve been challenging myself to wear MORE of the clothing I already own, to wear what I have in new ways, and to dress each day as if I’m going to be SEEN.  I had fallen into a rut that functioned in many ways as hiding: if I didn’t TRY to look “my best,” then I couldn’t be hurt if people didn’t respond to me positively.  There’s an element of vulnerability in putting effort into our clothing each day, where our garments serve as a reflection of how we see ourselves.  Rather than allowing my self-image to be dictated by what I throw on mindlessly, I learned that setting intention and asking my clothes to SERVE MY NEEDS turned my wardrobe, both handmade and store-bought, into a TOOL rather than a hoard.

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Get Dressed To Stay Home

text image describing the author's journey to dressing better

A little over a year ago, I was inspired by a review of my own handsewn wardrobe–following months and months (and months) in a sewing rut–to GET DRESSED TO STAY HOME.  I have worked from home for more than a decade, and had begun to think of getting dressed as an unnecessary waste of time, something I could skip in favor of More Important (or more enjoyable) tasks.  It took a huge toll on me, y’all, in a quiet, sneaky way–breaking free from that has been work, but it’s been JOYOUS work.  I’ve actually been cataloging the outfits I put together each day and taking photos of them, and am developing the whole series into a project I’m sharing with the League of Dressmakers, where I’m pairing sewing pattern suggestions and video guides with the four concepts I’ve developed to formalize what’s worked for me.

Given the Current Situation, where nearly the entire globe are now finding ourselves sheltering in place and unexpectedly, indefinitely staying or working from home, I want to share these ideas in a five-part series here with all of you.  These posts are about getting dressed, but they’re also about taking active steps to keep ourselves mentally well when we don’t “have to” go anywhere–and are tempted to stay in pajamas all day, every day.

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Toaster Sweater #2

This is easily the most aggressive sweater I own.

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I bought this fleece when Hancock Fabrics was shutting down (RIP, messiest fabric stores evar, but let’s be honest: in the face of social distancing we would take that messy shop with the sticky floors in a HEARTBEAT), because they were basically paying you to carry fleece away at that point.  I love All The Yellows, all the time–and this one seemed like just the right half-neon/half-borderline-green-ish color that I could work it into my wardrobe. Read More

Christmas Pajamas: the Ultimate in Deadline Sewing

I wasn’t going to sew Christmas pajamas two years ago.  Until my children heard about it.  They were actually speechless.  Aghast.  Appalled.  Couldn’t IMAGINE a world in which they didn’t launch into bed on Christmas Eve wearing new handmade pajamas.

We work hard not to go (too far) overboard for Christmas, to the point that we only get our children two gifts each.  We stuff their stockings full, though, and I personally love the tradition of wrapping new pajamas and opening them on Christmas Eve.  It makes for a nice preview, and for snappier Christmas-morning photographs.  Side benefit: since we have grown even more fond recently of giving gifts that are experiences over items–our children have gotten tickets for family trips the past three years, and will again this December 25–they can take their jammies with them when we travel, and have a little home comfort while we’re away.

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Solve Crime in the Ancient Pyramids in 2020!

Quilting club heads to Egypt

When I dreamed up the Murder Mystery Quilt, I never imagined even for an instant all the places it would take me.  Around the world, it turns out.

The short origin story of the Murder Mystery Quilt, when I tell it at cocktail parties to people who don’t sew and who think quilts are something they dig out of Gramma’s closet or see in a museum display, goes more or less like this: there’s a product in the world of quilting where portions of the quilt are sewn without ever seeing the finished design, like making a puzzle without the box top lid, but the word “mystery” always made me think, “If I’m going to make a quilt and not know how it’ll turn out, I should at least be solving a MURDER mystery!”  And thus I developed the idea of sewing a quilt to solve a crime.

Murder Mystery Quilt 2020

 

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