Thread Theory

Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!


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Under the Tree

 

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Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday!  Here’s another little peek at our new printed patterns.  They are currently on boats and planes shipping to stockists all over the world and will very shortly be available to you!

My family Christmas was excellent – and complete with both a fondu (Christmas eve with my side of the family) and a turkey dinner (Christmas day with Matt’s family).  Soooo much wonderful food and even more wonderful company!  I received a few unusual and very thoughtful sewing related Christmas presents under the tree and thought you might be interested to see what people managed to get for the sewer who [almost] has everything when it comes to the sewing studio!

My brother-in-law and his girlfriend (the talented graphic designer, Sonia Bishop who has designed our packaging!) found this solid piece of sewing gold disguised as your average vintage sewing guide.  Many books claim to be ‘complete guides’ but this REALLY is a complete guide to sewing!  I’m so thrilled with it!  Does anyone else have this book?  I think I might remember a comment several months ago in which it was referenced.

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It is a Reader’s Digest book from 1976.  It has extremely thorough and easy to understand illustrations (which I’m sure will be very useful to refer to whenever I am writing pattern instructions) and it is cleverly organized so that relevant information can be accessed within seconds.  Whenever a subject is also mentioned in a different part of the book, the page number and title of the section are in bold at the top of the page – I have never seen that in a reference book before and think that will prove to be incredibly handy.

Best of all, and much to my surprise, there is a little ‘Men and Boys’ section hidden near the back of the book which was at first a laughing point for Sonia and I when we compared the number of pages to other sections of the book.  I flipped to this section and was shocked to find that it is not an empty bunch of repeated sewing tips that have been shared with the women’s section.  In fact, the short chapter manages to fit in everything from properly and fully tailoring a high end coat (AMAZING!) to constructing shirt collar stays and a classic yoke for a button-up.

I’m really excited about the tailoring techniques that the chapter teaches.  The straight forward instructions and detailed illustrations make pad-stitching and constructing a chest piece seem like challenges that could readily be conquered rather than mysterious techniques better left to old-world tailors. While these high end tailoring techniques won’t be included in the Goldstream Pea Coat instructions (they are written for sewers who are completely new to sewing outerwear), you can certainly expect to see tutorials in the future so that you can apply some of these tailoring techniques to our pea coat pattern!

From my parents I received two very useful sewing tools.  I had coveted the Lee Valley stork-shaped thread snips that a girl used in my fashion design program for quite some time so I was very pleased to receive a set of my own!  Aren’t they lovely?  Coincidentally, I also gave a pair of these to my mother-in-law, I hope she will like them as much as the whole fashion program did (the poor girl who owned them was constantly having to ‘borrow’ them back from other classmates).

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The other tool my parents gave me was was also for Matt.  Matt is constantly (but good-naturedly) complaining about pins on the floor (and in his feet).  While I think Matt is equally as handsome as Ryan Gosling, he somehow doesn’t quite have the patience for pins that the dream man does! lol

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Behold the end of Matt’s worries and pain!  It’s a magnet ‘broom’ that I can quickly run along the sewing room floor (and wherever else I dragged my projects and pins to in the house) after I sew each day.  Easy as that!

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Did you receive any sewing related presents this year?

 


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Merry Christmas! How To Create a Wreath

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It’s snowy here in the Comox Valley and things are starting to look very much like Christmas!  We hope everyone has a safe and merry holiday this coming week filled with family, friends and Christmas spirit.  A couple weeks ago I helped my Mom out in her elementary school class while she taught all the kids to make wreaths.  All the children came ups with such individual and festive wreaths, I was so impressed what they could do in such a small time frame!

My mom sent me the photos she took of the kid’s finished products and the photo presentation she made of our ‘practice’ wreath which we used as a tutorial for the kids.   Even though it isn’t sewing related, I know most people reading sewing blogs enjoy a tutorial, so here is the presentation as a quick wreath making tutorial to help you get into the Christmas spirit!  What results is a natural and rustic wreath that is cheap, smells beautiful and looks nicely home-made!  Enjoy!

Wreath Making Tutorial

Materials Required:

  • Wire (must be stiff enough to hold its shape but flexible enough that you can twist it by hand)
  • Wire clothes hanger
  • Scissors or pruning sheers
  • Wire snips
  • Greenery (we used evergreen branches and holly – you will need more than you think to make a wreath – grab a huge armful!)
  • Christmas decor (ribbons, baubles, tree decorations, bows)

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Step 1: Bend the clothes hanger until it forms a circle to become your wreath form.  Snip branches into various sizes ranging from 1 foot long to small 5″ twigs.

 

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Step 2: Place the wreath form flat on your work surface and lay the branches down on top of the wire to form a rough circle.  For a smooth wreath, lay all the branches in the same direction.  For a more rough and rustic looking wreath, place branches in any direction.

 

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When placing the branches, hid the thick twiggy ends underneath green foliage.

 

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If you would like a medium sized wreath stop placing branches when your wreath looks this full:

 

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Step 3: Add decorative greenery such as holly or pine cones.

 

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Step 4: Cut an arms length of wire to wrap around the greenery and hold it to the wreath form.

 

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Step 5: Secure your wire by twisting as though it were a twist-tie.  It is easiest to secure the wire around the hanger’s hook rather than around the greenery (not pictured…we did it the difficult way!).

 

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Twist the wire tightly around the greenery and metal wreath form. If your run out of wire, add more wire to your length by twisting the ends or a new piece onto the old piece.  Finish wrapping your wire once you meet up with the beginning twist and again twist the end of the wire to the hanger’s hook.

 

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Step 6: Camouflage the wire wraps by pulling out leaves and branches just enough so that the wire is covered (but don’t get too enthusiastic with your pulling or your branches may come loose from their wire wrap!).

 

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Step 6: Decorate your wreath.  We used ribbon to twist around the wreath in the same manner as the wire.

 

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We also used a nice garishly glittery Christmas bow! 😛

 

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Lastly, we used ribbon to tie on some glass ornaments (one of which I promptly broke) and curled the ribbon ends with scissors.

 

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Hold your wreath at arms length to check if there are any bare spots or fly-away branches.  Fill in with extra branches or trim them away accordingly.  And now you have a nice home made wreath to hang on your door for Christmas!  It sure beats buying one from the grocery store for $20!

 

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Below are a couple shots of the kid’s wreaths.  They were so proud of them and the younger kids were in awe.  A couple teachers took their classes on a walk by to have a look at them – there is nothing that creates Christmas spirit more than watching a class full of kindergarteners walking hand in hand by the Christmas wreaths and positively shivering in anticipation for Christmas!

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Have a lovely holiday everyone!  And thanks for inviting me into your class for the Christmas project, Mom!


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Dupioni Ruffles and Plaid Buttons

I’ve managed to sneak in a few sewing projects lately as gifts for friends and family.  Since I don’t think either recipient reads my blog I think I am safe to post about these (and if they do, I hope seeing their gifts will only add to the anticipation of receiving them…I am terrible at surprises!).

The first bit of sewing I did really was just a little wee project – my very first baby dress!  I’ve always oohed and awed at the adorable baby dresses my Mom and Grandmother sewed for my sister and I when we were little but have never had the occasion to sew such sumptuous and girly ruffles and frills myself.  My friend in Halifax had a baby girl named Isla (isn’t that a beautiful name?) last February so I promptly cut a baby quilt for her and of course never got around to sewing it.  Instead, months and months later I started on a project that I found to be much more inspiring and fun – a frilly dupioni silk Christmas dress!  I had a wonderful evening of fabric choosing, ruffle making, button picking and giggling at the obnoxious cuteness of the little dress that I came up with – it is sooooooooo tiny and sooooooooo cute!

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Since I am very used to sewing with reserved and muted colour palettes and paying mind to precisely square corners and the careful construction of lapels while sewing menswear, the contrast of girlish colours, sewing techniques such as creating ruffles and applying lace trim, and just how tiny and quick it was to make made this little dress a nicely refreshing contrast!

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I used this excellent tutorial which included great photos and two sizes of pattern.  I was unsure whether the pattern included seam allowances so I decided to assume that it did since, even if it didn’t, it was sized for a baby several months older than Isla so a slightly smaller dress would not be a problem (I hope) if it really didn’t include seam allowances.  The resulting dress is so tiny and I don’t really have a lot of experience with baby clothing or even babies for that matter so I simply can’t imagine a small enough human being to fit into it!  I really hope Isla will fit it, but if she doesn’t I know her mom will be able to find another more suited recipient since she is a Doula (someone who assists new mothers before, during and after childbirth) and is thus surrounded by a lovely community of new moms!

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My second project is a Newcastle Cardigan for my Grandad for his birthday.  He was very kind to model our sample many months ago and confessed that he would love a similar cardigan for himself (but with shortened arms and cuffs – both of which I shortened for his version).

Here is the Size Medium sample that he modelled for us:

Since then we have moved from Victoria to the Comox Valley so my choice of fabrics has become a bit more limited.  I couldn’t find a loose cotton sweater knit like the one I used for our size medium sample so I instead chose this grey wool blend and some contrast stretch suiting.  I love the buttons that I found but I am worried that the entire cardigan ended up quite different from his taste (maybe the stark contrast of very light and very dark grey is what is worrying me?).  I will be giving it to him when he returns from holiday this weekend so we will see how it looks on him and add more photos at that point!  I hope he likes it!

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DIY Manly Gift Guide

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It always drives me a bit bonkers when I excitedly click on a Pinterest picture or blog link claiming to provide a list of gifts you can sew for men only to find a half-hearted lists of just BARELY unisex gifts such as tissue cases, aprons and mug cozies.  These are nice sewing project ideas and could be lovely stocking stuffers but I am fairly certain Matt’s eyes would not light up in excitement if he were to open up a quilted wallet on Christmas morning – even though he is likely a lot more aware of the love, time and work put into sewing projects than most men are.  In fact, he would probably loyally use it for years to come but secretly wish that I had just purchased him a traditional leather one from the nearest department store.

In fact, just such an incident occurred last year when, a couple days before Christmas, I was struck with the urge to sew Matt slippers to put in his stocking.  I had made slippers for myself in the past with great success and so set about making his confidently.  Unfortunately, since this gift was a surprise, I couldn’t use his foot to measure or determine the angle for the heel or length of the toes etc.  What resulted were two horrible items that [sort of] resembled slippers when off of his feet but when on, they were ALL WRONG – I had made the heel too low and loose while the front of the slippers were too long and snug.  Despite these really clear faults Matt graciously insisted on wearing them Christmas morning until I tore them from his feet and threw them out.

In hopes that none of you will gather such stories of your own, I’ve assembled a list of DIY Manly gifts that I hope are a little more realistic than you might find in your average list and also contain aspects to them that (I hope) make them into something a man would actually choose to put on his Christmas wishlist!

For the Wood Worker:

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  • Instead of buying the latest screw-driver set on sale at your home hardware store and thoughtlessly wrapping it up, buy it and then customize it by creating an oilskin tool roll for screwdrivers, wrenches or any other tool that needs sorting by size and style.  Merchant and Mills makes a very inspiring Tailor’s Tool Roll out of oil cloth and there are also lots of knitting needle roll tutorials out there that could be re-purposed to create a manly project!  (See here for example)

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  •  If there is a speciality saw or other sharp tool on the man in question’s wishlist, combine this gift with a custom leather scabbard or canvas case.  You’d be surprised how easy it is to create leather products using rivets and a few simple tools.  Or you could try hand sewing them with an awl and tough thread.  If you need to learn some leather working techniques, check out Simon Herzog’s videos over at Kollabora.

For the Stylish Man:

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  • Indulge your man’s hipster tendencies and create a very trendy and desirable vintage-inspired shaving kit.  Choose from the hundreds of pouch tutorials spread all over the internet and sew it up using a heavy duty metal zipper, manly canvas (in Hunter Green perhaps?).  Fill the kit with custom pockets or straps to fit your choice of straight razor or safety razor, a shaving brush and a tin of shaving soap.  This custom made case is beautifully photographed and described if you are looking for ideas on how to elevate your kit to perfection.

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  • Grab some of your scraps and practice a rolled hem to create a selection of pocket squares to complete a dapper outfit – especially worth your while if you have some Liberty fabric lying around.  Have you seen how expensive those are????

For the Photographer:

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  • Of course, the camera strap is a classic DIY project if you have a photographer on your gift list.  Since it is difficult to find amazingly beautiful ones with all the right features for less than a pretty penny, why not try making your own complete with secret battery and SD card compartment!  Apartment Therapy has created a list of 20 tutorials that range from classic fabric straps to re-purposed belts to cozy scarf straps.

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  • While it’s a bit difficult to compete with all the amazing, purpose-built camera bags out there, if they are above your price range you could always purchase a readily available vintage camera bag from the thrift store or Etsy and customize it by adding specialized padded compartments to fit the intended camera, creating small soft lens bags, including bits and pieces such as lens cleaner, batteries and filters and personalizing it with an embossed monogram.  There is a perfect example of a customized vintage-style case over on this blog.

For the Sportsman:

  • The Strathcona Henley and T-shirt (were you wondering when I would sneak our own patterns into this list?) is the perfect base to create a customized athletic top.  You could use wicking sports fabric to create a hiking or mountain biking top with a placket and short sleeves or use merino wool or cashmere to sew a cozy long sleeve tee to wear while skiing or boarding (a bit more stylish than long underwear!).  I made my dad a hiking and biking top which he promptly test-drove on a hike to Ripple Rock last summer.

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  • Another neat idea is to sew a slim backpack to suit your man’s personal style and sport with a special compartment to fit a Camelbak water reservoir.  Whether the backpack will be used snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking or skim-boarding, different sizes, fabrics, compartments and styles will be necessary – none of which you can alter if you buy a Camelbak backpack from the outdoor store!  Think straps to carry your bulky coat when the sun comes out during spring skiing, a built in flashing light for late evening bike rides or a slim neoprene design that won’t go moldy when constantly being soaked in salt water.  You can buy the water reservoirs separately to insert into your custom back pack.

For the Tech Savvy:

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  • #1 that comes to mind for this type of man is something that Matt would be embarrassed to admit that he desperately would like – heated gloves!  After hours of working on the computer for Thread Theory, Matt complains of coming down with “keyboard fingers” which are icy cold and very difficult to warm up.  It would be super easy to alter a pair of basic gloves to include a stylish (maybe leather or tartan?) patch on top of the hand.  You could then fill these compartments with tiny remove-able and microwaveable hand warmers.  There are plenty of tutorials for microwaveable neck warmers that you could use as a starting point for this project!

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  • Leather or wool cases are a perfect quick gift that are much nicer than most of the laptop and cell phone cases you might find at your nearest technology store.  Simon Herzog, the afore-mentioned leather worker has a project on Kollabora that you can view for inspiration as well as all the videos on how to join and decorate leather.

I hope these ideas have helped break you out of the Christmas sewing box!  Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that the Newcastle Cardigan can be instantly downloaded and sewn up relatively quickly to create the perfect Christmas sweater!