I was driving up to Williams Bay, WI on the weekends from Chicago to work at Café Calamari, a great family owned restaurant that I have worked at for many years. I was still fairly new to Chicago and this was a familiar and good place to work, not to mention a beautiful area to spend summer weekends. I was at my friend’s coffee and antiques store Tickled Pink grabbing my coffee for the morning and ran into Karen with her daughter Ellen. We chatted for a while and Karen was telling me about going out for dinner at a great restaurant, but it was kind of spoiled by the fact the air conditioning was making the place so cold that she couldn’t enjoy dinner.

Through the years of working in a busy air conditioned restaurant, I have witnessed many women wearing their husband’s shirts or jackets and have had them ask for extra cloth napkins and put them on their shoulders. My personal favorite was a request for a small white tablecloth that acted as a shawl! So obviously I could relate to Karen’s story and the conversation lead to me pulling a small cardigan out of my purse which I kept in there for such moments. The cardigan was kind of ratty looking and a bit dirty from being shoved in my purse, but it did the trick. We started to talk again and I said ‘someone should invent something that you keep in your purse that doesn’t get dirty ‘and call it a ‘pocket sweater’!

We both went away and obviously still thought about this idea and I so when I came back up the next weekend and went to the Goodwill Store in Delavan , WI  ( which really has great finds !) and purchased several cardigan type garments and then thought about putting it in a protective pouch to keep it dry and clean. Hmmm… what fabric would be soft and water repellent?  A shower curtain of course! I found a soft, water repellent shower curtain, purchased a box of safety pins and set to work later that weekend when I got back home.

The first ‘prototype’ was born from a black open drape front cardigan and a shower curtain from the Goodwill store.  Not being much of a sewer, or owning a sewing machine, safety pins were the answer! I cut a square of shower curtain, grabbed a few safety pins and started to figure out how to make the pouch work. Here is a photo of the first ‘prototype’!

prototype2 prototype3 prototype1 pic3

Written by: Karen

Like many of you reading this blog, I found myself at a crossroads in my life. My youngest child, Ellen, would be going off to college in the fall of 2013 and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my time in the ‘empty nest’ years. Then Helen and I had that conversation over coffee about the pocket sweater idea…. Was I willing to give energy to a new career in my fifties? Or was this the time to settle into my home, enjoy gardening, visit my children away at college, and live the ‘good life’? The more I thought about it the more I realized I already had the ‘good life’ and a new challenge would probably be good for me. So by the time I saw Helen again, I was ready to discuss moving ahead with our business idea. 

Helen and I decided to have a meeting at my home to formalize our plans and to form our partnership. As it turned out I was glad that we were not in a public place because we really bared our hearts, hopes, and dreams with each other. Coming to this decision from two very different beginnings, two very different journeys in our younger lives, we had arrived at the same point at the same time. Both of us needed at outlet for creativity, strength and resolve for our current situations, and something great with which to look forward to with anticipation.

I have read many inspiring stories about and by women in their mid-lives starting something new and finding success, not just financially, but emotionally too. It is my wish for H&K The Poppet Company to fill my life and Helen’s life with pride of accomplishment. By the time we had concluded our talk that day, I knew I had, not just a fantastic and dedicated business partner, but a friend, ally, and sister who would join me in a crazy wonderful pursuit. And so it began.