Article

WHAT MY BUSINESS HAS TAUGHT ME THIS YEAR


whats doing vol 7

Hello friends. As the year winds itself down, I’ve been feeling unsurprisingly reflective. The last 12 months have rewired my brain in a lot of ways, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned in my first year as an entrepreneur. It still feels weird to say that; after working for other people my whole life, I still can’t quite believe it’s just me and the cats, day after day.

I’ve had a pretty colourful employment history. When I was in university I worked full time at a Chrysler plant, building mini-vans on a midnight shift before showing up for classes, haggard and smelling like industrial lubricants. After I moved to Montreal, I ran the gamut of the under-employed 20-something before going back to school and working as an interior designer; I’ve been a waitress, bartender, cleaning lady, telemarketer – often a combination of the four. I’ve always been a hard worker, but I never really had a job that made me want to work hard. Until now.​ Working for you guys is the best kind of service; infinitely more satisfying than serving shots to drunk frat boys.​

All the cliches about going into business for yourself are more or less true, at least for me. It is often incredibly stressful and fulfilling, in the exact same moment. It’s hard on your relationships. It can take its toll on you physically if you’re not mindful. It will keep you up at night. It can also give you a sense of purpose and drive that makes the world feel sharp and bright and full of possibility. It’s all of these things simultaneously, creating this weird, wonderful stew of anxiety, happiness, exhaustion and manic energy. I call it Go Sauce.

Here’s what Go Sauce has taught me this year.


Carry a notebook and pen at all times. Otherwise you’ll find yourself on the street, trying to sketch that chic lady’s outfit on a dirty napkin with an old lipstick.

Working with old guy graders is as infuriating as working with boy’s club contractors. They will make you feel small and stupid even when you know they are wrong about that crotch curve. Choking back tears on the phone is not the way things should work. The day you find your soulmate grader is the day the sun starts shining.

You will thank your old boss every day in your head for teaching you how to properly label and organize files. Your brain may be a chaotic mess of zygote ideas, to-do lists and Joni Mitchell lyrics, but your computer looks like an army squad doing a thousand pushups in synchronicity.

Your supportive network of creative makers will make you want to hug your computer and fly around the world to deliver Edible Arrangements in person. Having peers you can count on for a shoulder, a rant, a question, an opinion or a high five is the only way you can work alone all day and not go a little crazy.

You need to go for walks. You need to go for walks. You need to go for walks.

You need to put on real clothes. You need to put on real clothes. You need to put on real clothes and go for a walk.

Inbox Zero takes all of the anxiety out of email. Archive, archive, archive.

The Evernote developers should win a humanitarian award.

Taking a real lunch break every day and sitting at your sunny little kitchen island with a good book and a homemade meal is the key to mental health.

When you feel like procrastinating, clean the house. If you’re going to be a no-good slacker, at least make yourself useful.

Just ask. You never know. Nothing ever got done from staying silent.

When you find yourself talking a little too much to the cats throughout the day, it’s time to meet your girlfriends for a drink.

If you want your friends to actually meet up with you, don’t talk about work the entire time. It’s really not that interesting to anyone but you.

If you want to put your head through a window every time you think about accounting, hire a bookkeeper. You can’t afford him, but your time is more valuable than money. Resist the urge to smother him in a bodycrushing hug when he tells you how simple it is going to be from now on.

You will be shocked at how much you don’t mind being a little broke. Being free is its own weekly wage.

You are horrible at estimating how longs thing will take. Stop kidding yourself and just take whatever wildly optimistic amount of time you have allotted and double it. Triple it, actually. Computers crash, suppliers disappear, you need to sleep. Don’t be cheap with time.

People can occasionally be mean on the internet. Get over it. Shake it off and get back to work.

When you need to hear other human voices, the Gilmore Girls, Buffy and The Good Wife make excellent sewing companions.

Constructive criticism is a gift. Listen, learn, adapt.

This is your chance to make up for all the jerks you ever worked for or with. Strive to be kind and understanding whenever possible. It works.

No one is an expert at anything until they put their head down and do the work, over and over and over again. Do the work. Read, learn, push, ask questions.

Know when to take a step back. Perfectionism is a silent killer. Just ask Axl Rose.

Whenever you’re having a bad day, blare Drunk in Love and dance around your apartment like your limbs have a mind of their own.


 

Go Sauce taught me a lot.

I’ve had some time to sit down and dream list some ideas, and I’m pretty jazzed about what’s to come for Closet Case Files in 2015. Many more patterns to come, one by the end of January if all goes well. I’ve become obsessed with designing perfectly proportioned, beautiful things you will actually wear every single day, and I’ve got some fun ideas in the pipeline.

I’ve also thought a lot about making this space the best it can be. This was a personal sewing blog long before it was anything else; I love writing, I love posting, and I’m so grateful to have this little corner to share what’s going on in my closet, my studio and in my brain.

Thank you so much for reading, and for supporting, teaching and inspiring me this year. I’m a little in awe that I get to engage with such awesome people every day. For you, I wish an exciting year of growth, learning, love, friendship and endless sewjo. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, and Happy New Year!!

  • Hi Heather,

    I must say that this is my most favourite “end of the year” post! You really know how to make readers laugh and I hope you’ll write an awesome spicy book in the future! I had a smile on my face and a voice saying “yes!, yes!, yes!” in my head the whole time I was reading this post!

    I wish you a awesome and successful 2015!

    • Such a lovely comment – thank you so much Ruth! Hope your new year is awesome and successful as well!

  • Go you!

    I’m printing out my ginger jeans pattern today because it’s time and because I realized my lonely pair of jeans is starting to tear along the back pockets. Thanks for being awesome.

  • Mary

    Great post! I look forward to what you have planned for the new year.

    • Thanks Mary! Hope you have a terrific 2015.

  • Yay you! I am totally amazed by your ability to create patterns that the sewing world didn’t know it needed, but suddenly can’t live without. I don’t know how you do it, but it’s awesome! (FYI, I’ll have finished sorta-Gingers by the end of today!) COngratulations on a big year, and lots of luck in 2015!

    • Thanks love. Hope I can keep delivering 😉

  • Wonderful post!!!

    Gemma
    http://www.fadedwindmills.com

  • LLBB

    Love your advice! Happy New Year! 🙂

    • Merci beaucoup! Hope you have a marvelous 2015.

  • This is seriously something of the best – and funniest and most true – that I’ve read all year. Thanks for making the Internet so much better – and once again; the best wishes for your new year!

    • Thank you Stina – means a lot! Happy New Year to you too!

  • christiane

    Invaluable pieces of advice! The one about being a little broke and that it doesn’t hurt that much really..i can relate to that! Happy New Year and all the best for 2015…looking forward to everything from you!

    • Thank you Christiane. Happy New year m’dear!

  • Best roundup I’ve read this year. Love your voice and your humor. And totally bookmarking this for later reference as I jump into the same journey myself!

    • Thanks love. And SOOOO excited to see what 2015 holds for you!

  • “Perfectionism is a silent killer. Just ask Axl Rose.” THIS x 1000.

    • Hahaha. I hope people got the Chinese democrazy reference. Otherwise that is just a weird thing to say.

  • Tell me more about this process involving graders and how that fits into the design process.

    • Commercial graders have a completely different mindframe then someone who has graded for the home sewing market. The first grader I used for Ginger graded the front pockets in 3 sizes only, because companies like Levi’s use cutting machines with fixed dies and that’s just how it’s done. They also don’t understand how demanding and detail oriented the home sewer is – you simply can’t have the small inconsistencies/errors among sizes that I believe are more “acceptable” in cheap, fast fashion. The crotch curve saga was long and arduous, but basically two separate gentlemen made a terrible mess of it. The first guy refused to grade the curve from sizes 2-8, giving me some convoluted theory about how women’s bodies are different now that tampons are used more than maxi-pads. I kid you not. The second guy graded the curve so it changed from a subtle J to a sharp L between the 9 sizes. Arguing with them was futile.

      • lol, wtf?! That sounds awkward as hell. When you work with a grader, are you giving them a single size, and then defining a size range for them to draft to? I’m going to guess it’s more complicated than incrementally adding to the bust and waist measurements, for example, but I’ve never drafted for size ranges, so I don’t have any experience with that process, I just know that people commonly hire graders for things.

      • VMuise

        What the actual fuck?! I hadn’t heard that story, and now I can’t believe I did. Mansplaining graders are the last thing anyone needs.

  • Haha, I love that you named it Go Sauce! I really want to print out your list and put it on my wall, I think it’s a collection of excellent reminders. I was so happy to discover your blog this year and I wish you all the best for 2015!

    • Thanks May! Happy someone else finds this stuff useful 😉

  • I’ve been a micro Internet business owner for 6 years, so I can totally relate to your list! And thank you for persevering with that crotch curve. I was so afraid to sew jeans because of the fit of the crotch curve, and the Gingers fit me perfectly

    • That makes me so happy to hear! I agonized over it – certainly it won’t work for anyone but at least after going through 3 graders I knew it was graded correctly!

  • Samantha Lindgren

    There is nothing like working for yourself, for all the reasons you mention, and more. Congratulations for taking the plunge! Love the Go Sauce….gonna have to borrow some of that. Sincerely hope we get to meet in person, and work together, some time in the not-too-distant future. Ordered fabric for a Bombshell, making my own damn bathing suit for a winter trip to the sun this year! Go Heather Lou, go!

  • You are such an inspiration! I kind of feel like I have to memorize this post. We all are so lucky that you’re doing what you’re doing. You have this crazy ability to make women feel confident and good about themselves in some of the most problematic and insecurity-provoking styles. I really can’t wait to see what comes next for you!

    • Kelly, you totally just made me cry. That is seriously the loveliest compliment ever. Thank you SO much for all your input this year and I hope 2015 is amazing to you! xoxoxo

  • Axel . . . Chinese Democracy forever!

    It’s like you were in my head again. That fast fashion ref . . . someone I know made a comment about the details and how I cut the arm holes on my blazer last fall. Said something about pit wrinkles are something only I see since every ready to wear has them. Yea, well . . blah.

    😉

    • Well, if it was meant constructively than that’s one thing. Sometimes people see things we don’t and we can learn from their eyes. It’s so hard to read tone without a lot of emojis, haha.

  • andrea

    this was actually useful to ME as well as just entertaining! i am so glad you are doing this, and doing it so well! xoxo

  • Amanda Adams

    Oh, Axl! I think that may be the best summation of a work practise I have seen in ages! What an amazing year with so many challenges and triumphs! May 2015 be rewarding and fun and filled with great TV shows to have on in the background as you work 😀

    • Thank you Amanda!! May Axl be a lesson to us all!

  • didyoumakethat

    Fantastically eloquent post. Full of admiration! I look forward to seeing what 2015 brings from you and for you.

    • Thank you my friend! Hope your new year is wonderful as well.

  • Gillian L

    “You need to go for walks. You need to go for walks. You need to go for walks.

    You need to put on real clothes. You need to put on real clothes. You need to put on real clothes and go for a walk.”

    I need this on a poster, or a fridge magnet or something. Quite possibly as the background on my computer.

    I laughed out loud reading your post…you definitely have a gift for writing (as well as designing). Hope you keep going strong in both areas!

    • Thank you Gillian! So excited for the new year. The walking and dressing stuff is a challenge. My new parka makes the walking a little less fraught.

  • Aww, Heather. I heart you. I truly wish more of us lived closer together!

  • Ezmae Watson

    So proud of you! You took a leap of faith & it paid off. I love reading your blog – more posts please! Happy new year!

    • Thank you Ezmae! Happy new year to you too!!

  • Teri Dodds

    This was such a great post– I’m so happy for your success this year and can’t wait to see what your next pattern will be. I am so anxious to sew my first Ginger jeans this Spring when I am no longer pregnant. I have seen so many people look so amazing in them and I so hope that they will make me feel great even if my body is still like a bowl full of jelly.

    • Teri, pockets stay are going to be your new best friends! They will tuck all that baby jelly like you wouldn’t believe. They work on my non-baby jelly just fine 😉

  • Spotted Pardalote

    You are my favourite blogger and I really admire you. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with this year xxx

    • Aw, thank you so much m’dear! Hope you have a lovely 2015.

  • Janet in California

    I love your blog and I really really really enjoyed this thoughtful and hopeful post. I hope the new year brings you lots more of everything good!

    I have been using Evernote to catalog my pattern collection, keep track of ongoing projects and made a stab at a few more intentions. I love using it, and am having a good time figuring out how to use it. Still haven’t totally sorted out when to use Evernote and when to use Ponterest…

    Would you be willing to write some time about how you use Evernote?

    • I definitely could! Using it has saved me so much time. I generally use it for links and text and recipes. Pinterest I find is better for purely visual content since it can be annoying to click through for things like recipes.

  • I enjoy your blog an awful lot Heather and I hope you’re just as happy this year. Cheers!

    • Thank you Sarah! Best wishes for your 2015!

  • I can’t wait to see what you do in 2015, Heather. I miss you and I wish you all the best. XOXO!

    • Thanks Trice! Hope 2015 is awesome for you!

  • KathleenS

    That was lots of fun. I want to know how to get my computer to “look like an army squad doing a thousand pushups in synchronicity”! Also more how you use Evernote.

    • I second that!

    • Well if there is interest I will think about how to write about it without putting everyone to sleep, haha.

  • charlotte

    Happy New Year! I can’t wait to see what wonderfulness you bring us in 2105 🙂

  • I love reading your blog (although this is my first time commenting). May 2015 be all that you hoped for & more. Keep sewing, smiling, making pattern, writing & sharing

    • Hi Anna! Thanks for taking the time to say hello and thank you for the kind encouragement! I hope 2015 is awesome to you.

  • stampy

    do you have a post about how to organize and label computer files?! i really want my computer directory to look like little army guys doing a thing neatly instead of what it currently looks like, which is a buffet that some bears found.

    • Hahahahaha. I could write a post on it for sure. It might not be interesting to everyone but I always like how seeing how people organize their lives.

  • Very inspiring! I also like my computer files to look like an army squad doing a thousand pushups in synchronicity (sadly my colleagues do not seem to share this mentality). Happy new year to you, and I look forward to seeing what 2015 brings to your blog and business 🙂

    • Thanks Laura! And oh how frustrating… Nothing worse than people being on different filing systems. My old boss ran things like a general so at least my former coworkers and I were on the same page.

  • Nettie

    Great wrap up!! Can’t wait to see what you get up to in 2015!! See you in Canada in the spring!

  • Fantastic post, really inspiring. Plus dancing around my flat to Beyonce is exactly how I deal with a bad day too!

    • Can you believe I only herd her first record for the first time 2 months ago?! Needless to say its on constant repeat now.

  • What a thought provoking post – very inspiring. I look forward to your new patterns in 2015 – so far your releases have been well thought out and well drafted. Best wishes.

  • Francesca Amodeo

    Heather Lou, I love you. You crack me up and make me think all at the same time. I love your way with words. In the not so long ago days, you’d have been a scarily popular columnist. Happy new year, and thank you for yet another brill read. Can’t wait for another of your amazing patterns!

    • Thank you Francesca! That is a wonderful thing to hear and is much appreciated. Hope you have a stellar 2015!

  • Gorgeous round up! As a fellow fancy dress addict, I love your icing makes!

  • These are great lessons and are so darn applicable to almost everything in life. Thanks for writing a blog that’s always a true joy to read!

  • David

    Great post! I’ve been self-employed and working from a home office for more than 20 years… and there’s always more to learn. Good luck in 2015!

    • Thanks David! Do you manage to put real clothes on every morning? I’m working on it….

  • Yay for Go Sauce! I always love reading your thoughts here. I love that you strive to be kind, not everyone does but everyone should (I think). Can’t wait to see what you are cooking up!

    • Thanks Kelly! Always a pleasure to read your thoughts as well.

  • IR

    This is one of the best, most engaging blogs I have ever read. I came for the sewing and stayed for the company. Thank you, and all the best for the new year!

    • Thank you so much! What a lovely complement. Thanks for reading!

  • Happy New Year Heather!! I love this post – thanks for sharing everything you’ve learned, and for being so open and honest. Thank you for having the courage to take this giant leap. My wardrobe will be forever grateful! You are an amazing woman! I can hardly wait to see what you come up with in 2015!!

  • devra

    hear hear! well said!

  • Taylor

    I love everything about this post! Im glad I found your blog, i love your weekly posts about your little hidden gems (other people’s makes, funny videos, etc) keep going so I can keep reading! Looking forward to what you have in store for 2015, as I am trying to get more into Indy patterns (if that is an acceptable term!)
    -sewsincity.wordpress.com

  • So loved reading this! You’ve clearly learned a lot, and have produced something so gorgeous and amazing in the process. Plus, you’re helping us be a bit more gorgeous and amazing too. Very excited to see what more you have in store for 2015.

  • Gabriela Lopez

    All best for 2015 my dear Heather!! 🙂

  • Grace

    I can’t wait to see you newest offerings. It would be really nice if your sizes are graded down to an xs size though. I love love love your patterns but they run too large on me and my grading ability is rather limited. I was so so sad that I could’t fit in to the ginger jeans especially, since it looks amazing. A happy new year to you and can’t wait to see you next pattern!

    • Hi Grace. Thank you for the suggestion! I will speak to my grader to see if we can go down to a size 0 without distorting the pieces.

  • Charlotte

    Bit late to the game on this post, but HEARHEAR HEATHERLOU! Especially on the drunk in love + boring pals + perfectionism side. Wishing you a happy and exciting 2015! Here’s a toast to an excellent year ahead, I’ve got a good feeling about it. x

  • Kaoru Marie

    “old guys who think they know everything” exist in every industry. They can be just the worst.

    I may not comment very often, but I’ve really enjoyed following your journey from sewing hobby to sewing/patternmaker/designer entrepreneur. This was such an inspiring post!

    • Manspainers can go jump off a bridge. Thanks for your comment Kaoru! Appreciate the good will.

  • Lauren

    I love your work! Happy New year!!!

    As for someone who works in the “Old Boy’s Club” that is apparel production pattern making, I get what you mean. I’m just some dumb college girl who learned everything out of a book and not on a shop floor. So glad you found your sole mate grader!!! 🙂 Cheers!

  • Girrrrrl. I just got around to catching up on my blogs and THIS IS THE BEST. You are the best, and I love your patterns. Keep doing what you’re doing. I can’t wait to see what you launch in 2015!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve so much enjoyed your patterns, and I look forward to whatever you come up with next! I’m glad to hear that you are loving the self-employed life so much.

  • This past year I also learned being broke but free is SO MUCH better than having money & being miserable.

  • Elena Knits

    This has been a great year for you! Looking forward to what you have to show in 2015!

  • Sarah

    Lots of sound advice and heartening words – thanks!