Thread Theory

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


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Tutorial for a Fall Picnic Set: Featuring the Bag Making Supplies Kit and the Portside Duffle Bag

As the leaves begin to change color this and Autumn evenings become shorter and more crisp, I have been longing to head out to the local beaches and forests for picnics.  I know many people might think of a picnic as something to enjoy in the heat of summer with lemonade and watermelon, but my favorite sort of picnic is of the fall variety – sitting on a windswept beach or amid crunchy burnt orange leaves at the park with a blanket wrapped cozily around me and a cup of hot apple cider in my hand.
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With that image of an ideal picnic hovering in my mind, I made a Fall picnic set! I made this set as a guest blogger for Britex who provided me with this gorgeous Etro Olive & Pumpkin Plaid Wool!  This Italian wool is a unique mix of colors that are cheery individually (teal blue, bright orange!) while still decidedly autumnal over all.  It is a large weave and it is quite light but strong – perfect for a blanket, and, with interfacing, as a bag!

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I paired the wool with the contents of  our Bag Making Supplies Kit to create a Grainline Studios Portside Duffle Bag and a car blanket.  The kit includes 1 m (1.1 yards) of canvas (the canvas I used was from our old colour/weight choice but as of today we have two new colours in stock to choose from!) along with a separating zipper, Chicago Screws (like rugged rivets that screw together) and a bar of Otter Wax.  The 1 m (1.1 yards) of canvas was enough to make all the lower half of the Portside Duffle and the blanket wrap while 1.8 m (2 yards) of wool created the top of the duffle and a 60″ square picnic blanket.

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First, I will show you some of the bag and blanket set’s details and then, below, I’ve created a tutorial so you can make a picnic blanket and blanket wrap yourself!

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The Portside Duffel is the perfect size duffel bag.  It could easily carry a week’s worth of clothes for a light traveler or act as an exceptionally roomy weekend bag.  I really like how the pattern includes all the details to create a professional looking bag – there is even a tiny pattern piece that you can use to create a leather zipper pull!  I skipped a lot of the hardware and details for this bag because I didn’t have much choice in hardware at my local notions shop.  I even had to use twill tape for the handles instead of webbing because my colour choices were so limited locally!  Next time I sew the bag I will take the time to source all of the hardware and straps but for this picnic version, the lack of metal hardware makes this bag very cozy and it could maybe even work double duty as a back rest while lounging on my picnic blanket!BritexBag-107

The bag can be as slouchy or as structured as you desire.  I added heavy interfacing to all sections of the bag to stabilize the wool and create a more rigid bottom.  I also ended up adding a rectangular cardboard insert between the lining and the canvas to fit the bottom of the bag.  I think thin plastic would be the ideal material for this as the cardboard is a bit weak and sometimes buckles but it was a good experiment and certainly works well enough for my first rendition of this bag!BritexBag-99

I applied OtterWax to the green canvas after sewing the bag.  I love the rugged look it gave the bag!  The waxed canvas is very water resistant so I can place it on damp Fall grass without worry of water soaking through.  The wax also made the canvas stiffer and heavier which added a nice touch of structure to the bottom of the bag.  I left the blanket wrap un-waxed so you can clearly see the huge difference that the wax made to the canvas:

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To continue my earlier story of unavailable notions, the only metal zipper large enough for the duffle bag at my local shop was a separating one. That wasn’t a problem at all though – I just added a folded piece of canvas on top of the opening bottom end of the zipper as I stitched the zipper in place and it functions much as a regular zipper stop would!  The zipper pull stops at the folded fabric rather than continuing to the end of the zipper…and voila, a functional closed-end zipper!BritexBag-100 BritexBag-103

I used a heavy floral cotton for the lining.  The colours pair superbly with all the varied tones that the wool include – only the wool’s cheery orange isn’t represented!BritexBag-86And now, a little bit about the blanket and blanket wrap!  When I saw this wool on the Britex website, I had all sorts of ideas for a funky peacoat or maybe a series of rustic bags…but when I opened up the parcel and it spilled out onto the living room floor, all I wanted to do was wrap myself up in the yardage!  So cozy but also wonderfully light and airy!  If you don’t like the feeling of wool against your skin, obviously you might disagree with me – but wool is my favorite fibre for scarves, sweaters, blankets or, really, just about anything, so a wool blanket suits my idea of cozy perfection.

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The selvedge of this fabric is a lovely scallop that would have been such a shame to cut off.  I pulled and tugged at it to make sure it would remain strong and refrain from unraveling over time.  It passed the test without breaking a sweat and so I used the selvedge to form two sides of my blanket.

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For the other two sides, I created a sumptuous fringe!  It was incredibly easy and only a little bit time consuming to do.

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I stitched from selvedge to selvedge 3″ in from the fabric edge to prevent the fabric unraveling further into the blanket.  If you are nervous about the risk of this occurring, you could stitch this length several times for added security or top-stitch ribbon or some other sort of trim as a ‘bumper’ to prevent fraying.BritexBag-4

Next, I tugged, snipped and teased out all the weft fibres (extending from selvedge to selvedge) leaving only the warp fibres remaining.BritexBag-7

My hands and shoulders were pretty sore by the time I was done but it was a mindless task that I could do while watching a show or just chatting with Matt!BritexBag-95

To create the blanket wrap, I used the remaining canvas from the Bag Making Supplies Kit, the kit’s 12″ seperable zipper, a strip of leather and the kit’s two Chicago Screws.  Once the blanket is rolled up, I use the wrap to keep it compact in the duffle bag which leaves plenty of room for a thermos and as big of a feast as I would like to bring along!  The blanket and wrap could also fit under the front seat of a car so that it is ready if a passenger is chilly or wants a nap.  Or…if you’re like me and get cold way too easily, you could simply keep the blanket in the duffle at all times while travelling so that you’re not rummaging around hotel rooms or extended family’s linen closets looking for an extra layer of blankets in the middle of the night.BritexBag-34

To make the wrap, cut four rectangles of canvas measuring 11 1/2″ X 13″.  If you aren’t using the Bag Making Supplies Kit to first make a Portside Duffle Bag, you will have more fabric at your disposal and you can skip the wrap’s seam by simply cutting two 22″ X 13″ rectangles.BritexBag-9

If the seam is necessary for you, sew two rectangles together along the widest edge using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

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Repeat with the second set of rectangles.

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Press the seams open.BritexBag-15

Pin the two large rectangles with right sides together along their two longest edges (this is where you will start following the instructions if you only had two large rectangles to begin with).
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Stitch using a 1/2″ seam allowance (leave the two narrow ends open).BritexBag-17

Trim the seam allowances if desired to reduce bulk.BritexBag-18

Flip the rectangle so right sides are out and press both seams.BritexBag-20

Top- stitch 3/8″ from the finished edges if desired.BritexBag-22

To finish the narrow edges I applied decorative twill tape (the remainder of the tape from my duffle bag handles).BritexBag-24

Place the twill tape centered over the raw edge and extending 1/2″ to 1″ on either end of the wrap.BritexBag-25

Fold the twill tape over the finished wrap edge and pin in place.BritexBag-27

Stitch along the edge of the twill tape, catching the folded twill tape on the other side of the wrap.BritexBag-28

Fold the ends of wrap over 1″ (plus half the twill tape width which extends over the raw edge of the fabric) and press.BritexBag-29

Stitch along the other long edge of the twill tape to enclose the raw fabric edge completely.  This will now become the right side of your wrap and the twill tape functions not only to finish the raw edge but also as a decoration.BritexBag-31

Add the separating zipper by aligning it with the folded edge of the wrap.BritexBag-32

Fold under the ends of the zipper tape and stitch the zipper in place using a zipper foot.  Make sure to catch the folded zipper tape in your stitching!BritexBag-36

Create a handle for the wrap by cutting a strip of leather.  I used a 1 1/2″ X 13″ strip and cut pointed ends.BritexBag-38

Using an awl or some other pointy device, punch holes in the leather for the male part of the Chicago Screw to poke through.  Punch corresponding holes in the canvas where you would like to place your handle.  Insert the female portion of the screw up through the canvas hole from the wrong side, bring the male screw to meet it and tighten by hand.

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And there you have it, a perfectly Autumnal picnic set!  It was fun stretching out the 1 m of canvas to create so many items!  I ended up with only one little rectangle (maybe 6″ long and 4″ wide) as a scrap!  If you’d like to try your hand at bag making, head on over to our store to check out the new (super manly) canvas colours!

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In the Studio: Friday Night Sewing!

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Last Friday, Nicole and I sewed together for an evening (after both sewing for our jobs all week :P).  We both had big plans for productive sewing but ended up talking more than we sewed :P.  I guess that’s probably pretty common when sewing in a group – I’m so used to intense and quiet focus while sewing!

Blog-1Nicole began sewing a Finlayson Sweater for herself and I finished sewing a Grainline Studio Portside Duffle and began a Papercut Patterns Midsummer Night’s Dream dress – totally not seasonal but I really wanted to work on a super pretty, ‘icing’ style project :).
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I’ll show you the finished projects in a later blog post!  I love how my dress turned out!  You can see Nicole’s Finlayson and a bunch of her other amazingly productive recent sewing projects in her latest blog post.


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A sewing podcast at The Sewing Affair

sewing-affair_logoIf you enjoy following sewing blogs, you likely spend a considerable amount of time reading from a computer screen because there are so many excellent sewing blog posts to read through every single day!  I know, for me at least, that this massive quest to stay up to date with the online sewing world can seem a little daunting.  If you’d like a break from the computer screen and some time at your sewing machine instead, I have a solution for you!  Corinne, a fellow B.C. sewist, has recently begun a podcast on her blog, The Sewing Affair.   Thanks to her,  you can now abandon your computer screen and instead spend some quality time with your sewing machine, all the while listening to your favorite bloggers talk about sewing!

So far, there have been five episodes, all approximately an hour long.  Corinne has enthusiastically interviewed some very interesting bloggers/sewers already – the stellar line-up includes the likes of Sunni, from A Fashionable Stitch, Seamstress Erin, Lauren Dahl, and Heather, from Handmade by Heather B!  And…the fifth episode, you might have already surmised by now, is of course an interview with me.

I was greatly honored when Corinne contacted me requesting an interview (it made me feel like a famous person lol).  She was very warm and friendly and her pleasant chatting really helped calm my nerves.  The interview was held over Skype which always makes me a little quiet and uncomfortable to start with (my family can attest to this since they had to slog through countless Skype talks when Matt and I lived across the country for a year).  Plus, I get really nervous when I know my voice is being recorded because I am not nearly as eloquent when speaking as I try to be when writing.  And, last disclaimer…I have a high voice sadly reminiscent of a mouse squeaking :P.  But, all the same, Corinne was really lovely to talk to and it felt more like I was having coffee with a fellow sewist instead of being interviewed!

If you’d like to hear what we talked about (it’ll be like having a bunch of sewing friends chit chatting in your sewing room while you work on your projects), head on over to Corinne’s blog!

And be sure to follow her on Bloglovin’ so that you can keep up with the episodes!


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In the Wild: May the sewing force be with you!

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Since the Finlayson Sew-Along is done, things will be getting back to normal on the blog again!  Tuesday is once again “In the Wild” day where I feature Thread Theory makes that have been sewn by our talented customers.  Of course, with the Finlayson Contest still in full swing, I will be showing you another batch of excellent fall sweaters today:Finlayson Collage 3

Ann Kin (all three photos, received by email)Finlayson Collage 4

Thornberry | Mr. Fowlie (photo 2 & 3, received by email)Finlayson Collage 5

Mr. Fowlie (received by email) | Jackie (photo 2&3, received by email) | Thornberry

Thank you, everyone, for your submissions to our contest!  I love the different textures of fabric used for this cozy sweater – each of the sweaters are so personalized and unique!

Now, I have one more thing to show you today and I hope that it puts as big of a smile on your face as it put on mine.

I received the photos of Jackie’s Finlayson Sweater which she sewed for her husband along with a lovely email.  Jackie told me that she loved how her husband’s sweater turned out and that, since he is a Star Wars fan, she “couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with the photos…”

I opened up the attached photos and, to my delight, found this:

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AWESOME!  May the force be with you all during your Finlayson sewing endeavors! 😀


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An excellent selection of your Finlayson Sweaters

I have the first selection of your Finlayson Sweaters to parade today!  I have really been enjoying the attention to detail that you have all been applying to your sweater sewing endeavors – such gorgeous neckline facings!  Such lovely cross-over collars!  Such wonderful contrast fabrics!
Finlayson Collage 2Clo’s | Clo’s | I’m Not Tina Wheeze

Finlayson Collage 1I’m Not Tina Wheeze | Ann Kin (submitted by email) | EllenSand | Ms. Laing

I’ll be showing you more sweaters as they are entered by email, comment on the blog, or on Twitter and Instagram (#finlaysonsweater).  Have a lovely weekend!


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Behold: My Finlayson Sweaters and the winner of the Sewtionary!

MorgansFinlaysons-2 Here are the finished Finlayson Sweaters that I made during our sew-along!  I am very pleased with how they turned out and I hope that you are feeling the same way about your sweaters.MorgansFinlaysons-4 I think my favorite one is the gray hoodie because the ponte de roma knit I used is so deliciously soft and smooth.

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The velvet touches make it just that much more sumptuous – I’m not normally a hoodie-wearing person but I think I can approve of this one since it doesn’t leave me feeling the least bit sloppy or slouchy when I wear it!

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My shawl collar version is in my favorite colour of burgundy/purple.MorgansFinlaysons-11

It is made from a poly blend which seems to dry quite quickly and also provides a fair amount of warmth.  It isn’t as soft and cozy but I think it’s hard wearing and quick drying properties will make it very useful for camping.MorgansFinlaysons-10

I have been collecting your Finlayson Sew-Along contest entries and will parade some of my favorites on the blog along with the winners of our Finlayson Competition on Oct. 1st.  So, if you are considering sewing a Finlayson Sweater, this might just be the perfect opportunity to get going on it :).  By submitting a photo of your Finlayson to our our contest, you will have the chance to win a shopping spree at one of four of my favorite online fabric shops!

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As I’ve mentioned over the last few weeks (but it is worth repeating), simply email us (info@threadtheory.ca), comment on the blog, or post on Instagram or Twitter using #finlaysonsweater to be entered to win!

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And, now to finish off this blog post, I have a winner to announce for the Sewtionary give-away!  I am pleased to announce that Rebecca will be receiving a lovely spiral-bound Sewtionary in the mail 🙂  Her comment was randomly chosen using a random number generator.  Here is what she wrote:

An email is waiting in your inbox with all the details, Rebecca!

Thank you to the well over 100 people who commented on my blog post about Tasia’s Sewtionary.  It was lovely to hear how excited you are about her book and there were some very heartwarming comments.  Some people would like the Sewtionary to help them teach their daughters how to sew while others would love to add Tasia’s book to their collection because her patterns have changed their lives and they way they think about clothing.

After reading and learning from it over the last few weeks, I don’t hesitate to tell you that, even though you didn’t win the book this time, it is certainly worth putting it on your Christmas or birthday wishlists – or even better, treating yourselves by buying a signed copy from the Sewaholic store right away!  I hope Tasia’s book will help many of you become more confident with your ability to sew, with the clothing you wear, and with your ability to teach others how to sew!


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Finlayson Sew-Along: The cuffs and hem band

Can you believe it?  It’s already the last day of our Finlayson Sew-along!  Today we’ll be adding our cuffs and hem band…and finishing the day with a cozy sweater to wear!DSC03760

You may have noticed that we included two Cuff pattern pieces – I probably should have mentioned this second cuff piece when we cut our Finlaysons out of fabric early on in the sew-along.  But, alas, I forgot to!  So we’ll discuss it now:  We included the second, larger, cuff piece for you to use based on the extremely helpful advice of our test sewers.  You may have noticed that I am adamant about the versatility of the Finlayson Sweater pattern when it comes to fabric choices.  One of our test sewers noted that fleece fabrics (a great choice for a cozy sweater!) REALLY vary in the amount of stretch they contain.  So that you won’t be constrained in your choice of fleeces (as long as they have a little bit of stretch), we created the Optional Cuff for you to use.  Cut your cuffs from this piece so that you won’t have to ease so drastically when attaching the cuff to the larger sleeve…much easier to sew if you don’t have much stretch to work with!

With that in mind, onward with our sewing of the cuffs!  Whether you use the main Cuff pattern piece of the Optional Cuff piece, the sewing process is essentially the same:

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Fold your cuffs in half to match notches together.  Pin along the notched edge (in the photo above, the fold is on the left hand side).DSC03728

Sew along this notched seam.  I used the reinforced stretch stitch as per with the rest of the sewing process for my Variation One sweater.DSC03729

If using a stitch that allows you to open the seam, press your seam open.   Otherwise, you can simply press the seam to one side.DSC03731

Now fold the cuff in half (so that you are folding the seam that you just sewed in half).  Press along the fold – this will be the very bottom of the sleeve.DSC03733

Stretch the looped cuff over the sleeve end so that all three raw edges line up (I’ve shifted the cuff up the sleeve in this photo so that you can see all the layers clearly).
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Pin the cuff in place – be sure to line up the seams and stretch the cuff evenly around the sleeve.DSC03734

In the photo above you can see how much easing you will need to do!  (Now you can see why it is far easier to use the Optional Cuff piece if your fabric doesn’t stretch much!).DSC03738

I really like to apply clear swimsuit elastic to the cuff seam because I often push my sleeves up my elbow and can’t stand when my sleeves stretch out and slip downwards over and over again throughout the day.  This clear bit of elastic will do wonders to prevent stretching!  I have often read that you shouldn’t allow your needle to punch directly into clear swimsuit elastic as you risk creating a weak point where it will snap.  I have never had this problem yet, but please keep this in mind and consider using a stitch that will capture the elastic by encasing it in stitching (a super wide zig zag or serging, for example).  I just used a narrow zig zag stitch!

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If your fabric is loosely knit (mine isn’t!) you might consider pulling the elastic slightly as you so to give more structure to the seam and fully prevent any fear of stretching out.DSC03742

Once sewn, trim your seam allowances and press them towards the sleeve (away from the cuff).DSC03713

To sew the hem band, simply repeat the process that we used for the cuffs – you won’t have to ease quite so much with this pattern piece though!  Once you’ve formed a loop with the hem band, pressed the seam open and pressed the band in half length-wise, encase the sweater with the hem band and line up all three raw edges.  Line up one of the side seams with the hem band seam.
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I stitched my hem band using a reinforced stretch stitch and finished the seam allowance with a wide zig zag stitch.DSC03724

Trim your seam allowance, if desired…DSC03725

…and press the seam allowances up towards the sweater.DSC03726

And we’re done!  If you were sewing Variation One, you are done your sweater!  Congratulations!!!
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Now, onwards to Variation Two.  As with the previous sew-along post, the sewing process for the cuffs and hem band are the same as with Variation One.  Begin by pinning the cuffs and hem band in half (matching notches).DSC03745

I serged this variation but use your preferred stitching method of choice to finish the notched seams.DSC03747

Press the seam open or to the side (depending on your stitch type) and then fold the cuffs and hems in half width-wise.DSC03750

Press the hems and cuffs to create a crisp fold (which will be the bottom of the sleeves and the bottom of the sweater.DSC03756

Pin the cuffs and hem band over the sleeves and sweater, matching all three raw edges.DSC03757

Sew these seams – I sewed them with my serger.  In case you are interested to know: My serger has trouble cutting through several medium-weight knit layers – especially when I have to cross over the extra layer of the kangaroo pocket or the sleeve and side seams – to combat this issue, I often trim my seam allowances with scissors before sewing so that only 1/4″ of the allowance remains.  That way, I don’t need to cut off any fabric with the serger blade while sewing!  Trimming first works a treat :).DSC03759 And we’re done Variation Two!  WAHOO!

Join me again on Wednesday to see my finished Finlaysons (I’m sure I’ll be wearing them steadily in the meantime!).  And, make sure you submit your lovely Finlaysons to the Finlayson Sew-Along contest for your chance to win a fabric shopping spree!  To enter, comment on any of our Finlayson Sew-Along blog posts with a link to your sweater photos.  You can also email your entries to me (info@threadtheory.ca).  Since I’ve been enjoying seeing many of your Finlaysons on Twitter and Instagram youare now welcome to submit your Finlaysons for the contest on these forms of social media by sharing them as #finlaysonsweater.  It’s been so exciting to see all the entries pouring in!