Thread Theory

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Reflecting About Thread Theory: Where we are headed

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It’s been a while since I wrote a quarterly report – I haven’t for two quarters in fact.  You can see my last quarterly report from June 4th, 2o14 here. While it isn’t the end of this quarter (which ends February 28th) I’ve been feeling the need to think reflectively about Thread Theory and, for me, there is no better way to reflect than to write about what I’m thinking!

(All photos in this post are from our Instagram account.  Follow us on Instagram to see behind the scenes updates like these!)

 

What we’ve done:

The last few months of working on Thread Theory have basically gone like this (with lots of exceptions but for most part this routine is what we do):  Any weekday you can find me checking updates within the online sewing community with my morning coffee and breakfast.  On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Matt and I both work on Thread Theory from home.  We launch into responding to customer service emails for the morning and pack orders.  We walk the orders to the mail box to exercise our dog, Luki – usually in the mid morning or early afternoon.  In recent months, Nicole, our Thread Theory Extrovert (i.e. customer service representative), comes over once or twice a week to help respond to emails and to assemble Bag Making Supplies Kits, Comox Trunk Kits and Jeans & Pants Essential Notions packages.  She helps assemble patterns when she has time at home.

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In the afternoons, Matt usually ends up working on more computer related Thread Theory business which varies greatly – you might find him responding to potential stockists, updating our website, troubleshooting shipping problems, or splitting upcoming PDF patterns into pages.  Meanwhile, I usually spend my afternoons working on patterns and samples or working on the blog and our other avenues of communicating with you guys (such as Facebook, Mailchimp newsletters, Instagram and Twitter).

While a theme from our early quarterly reports was long work hours and trouble tearing ourselves away from the act of constantly refreshing our email program in the evening, we have managed to strike a far better balance with this.  I still find myself sewing Thread Theory samples in the evening quite often and if we are doing something that involves sitting still you will invariably find me assembling pattern envelopes – all the same though, we have a very clear ‘end’ to our workday and it feels great!

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Matt works at the Comox Fire Hall two days a week – Thursday and Friday.  On those days, I work with a more flexible schedule.  If I simply can’t bear the thought of answering one more email, I sometimes close myself up in the sewing room for the morning and listen to podcasts while I enjoy the more creative tasks involved in running the business – be it sample sewing or drawing instruction diagrams.  Sometimes I spend the whole day planning for the future.  This might seem a little unproductive since there are almost always emails waiting to be answered and orders waiting to be packed, but I find, when the mood strikes me to brainstorm I should go with it.  It’s pretty easy to start feeling uninspired and worn down if I don’t give myself time to brainstorm (I guess that’s the point I’m at right now…hence this blog post!).

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When Matt and I feel extra busy or we’ve taken Luki for some luxuriously long lunch time walks throughout the week (which is such a nice thing to do since it’s so dark and cold in the evenings), we often pick up the slack a bit on weekends.  We tend to spend a couple hours emailing and packing orders on Saturday morning if this is the case – we’ve been trying to avoid this as much as possible though because I find if we let ourselves stretch our work hours into evenings and weekends even moderately, it becomes an avalanche and we are quickly deeply immersed in our ‘all work and no play’ schedule!

This basic routine that we’ve worked out for ourselves has been quite successful since my last quarterly report.  We’ve released three patterns – the Finlayson Sweater, the Jutland Pants and, most recently, the women’s Camas Blouse.  We’ve run two sew-alongs – the Finlayson Sew-Along (complete with a contest) and the Jutland Pants Sew-Along.  We’ve held a couple of sales, including our overwhelmingly successful New Years Sale that just ended on Jan. 7th.  The blog has been pretty consistently updated…though I’ve been struggling with a bit of writer’s block lately so I’m not sure how inspiring or varied my posts have been over the last two or three months.

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Of course, the above list featured the largest events our company has experience recently.  To achieve these, it was necessary to have long term goals and to ‘chug away’ through the dull bits in order to get to the satisfying parts (launching a pattern!  Enjoying your feedback on our sew alongs! Seeing your lovingly sewn Thread Theory garments!).  I’ve enjoyed punctuating these larger goals with some smaller projects recently for a change of pace and some instant gratification – for example, I hugely enjoyed writing a magazine article this winter that I will tell you more about once it has been published.  I’ve also really found our recent practice of carrying sewing supplies and tools in our Thread Theory store to be a great way to boost my excitement over Thread Theory.  Sometimes, I hate to admit, the daily admin tasks involved in owning Thread Theory start to feel like an endless race that resets itself at the beginning each morning – for example, we struggle (valiantly!) to empty the email inbox each day and wake up each morning to find it more full than before.  Or, I photograph, write, edit photos, and compile a Friday blog post one week and, of course, the next week I am back at ground zero needing to do the same thing once again (I’m sure all of you bloggers can relate to the perseverance necessary to maintain an interesting blog).  But, just to be clear, I don’t want to sound negative about this…I would rather do these things than almost anything else in the world!!!  All the same, it is important to recognize when things start to feel like a chore.  That is when I give myself a little time to research inspiring sewing products and daydream about what I would like to add to my sewing studio.  When I’ve found those things, we purchase them, package them, and place them in our store to share with you!

Where we’re going:

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Now that I’ve summed up what Thread Theory has looked like in the very recent past, I’ll show you how we plan for Thread Theory to grow and change in the future (of course, plans change so these aren’t promises, they are just loose goals!).

We currently have three more patterns in the works.  One will be coming out quite soon and the rest will be launched in the spring or further into the future.  Our next pattern, as I have hinted quite often, is a women’s pattern (did you notice the pants that were featured in our Camas Blouse photo shoot?  Many of you have emailed us about them!).  The Camas Blouse and our upcoming Lazo Pants are a temporary step away from our company’s original niche – menswear sewing.  These two patterns were created for the fashion line I was required to make while in design school.  When I showed them to blog readers back in June 2013 many of you begged for them to be made into patterns.  I just couldn’t resist the temptation to comply!  Some of you menswear enthusiasts might be worried that we will forget to focus on menswear in the next year – please don’t worry!  Menswear will remain a very prominent aspect of Thread Theory.  In fact, two of the three upcoming patterns are some really awesome (in my opinion) menswear staples!

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Although we are firm on the point that one of our company’s main focuses will always be menswear, we were in awe of your enthusiastic response when we released our first women’s pattern.  With this in mind (plus the factor that I love the excuse to sew something for myself when ‘working’) we have begun research on adding niche women’s patterns to our business over the next year.  We have a certain theme in mind that we feel doesn’t compete directly with any of our favorite existing indie companies.  So many of these companies have generously given us advice and encouragement as we developed our menswear patterns and so I don’t feel right about directly competing with any of them by creating women’s garments featuring similar styles to those already existing…this might be a little silly on my part as the indie sewing community can, in no way, be described as competitive!

While it is tempting to speed up the pace of pattern releases so we can get all these ideas rolling, I plan to avoid this temptation because I have been learning that things actually slow down for a while when I try to speed things up.  That sounds like a bit of a riddle but it actually makes sense…let me explain:  For instance, in order to speed up pattern production, I need to spend more of my time working with our patterns and less time working on admin.  This means hiring someone to help with customer service (such as Nicole).  Hiring someone means spending many hours training, setting up new systems, and re-learning our business.  Each time I teach Nicole something, I see errors or weak points in the processes we’ve created since I am suddenly seeing them from her perspective.  Next thing I know, Matt is required to spend a whole week working on the technical aspects of the improvements I desire and I have to be trained in the new, improved system before I can teach it to Nicole!

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Aside from keeping a consistent pattern release schedule, I would like to continue stocking sewing supplies that compliment upcoming patterns.  I’ve got some really exciting ideas for a new menswear and corresponding kits!

Matt and I also plan to streamline our wholesale system and our shipping system (both to individual customers and to retailers).  Selling to sewing stores has been a big learning curve for us and I’m pretty sure we’ve made every mistake possible (though, now that I’ve said that, I am also sure we’ll make many more mistakes in the future!).  I would love to find some sort of training or manual on how to set up a wholesale approach (for a small online business).  Any ideas?  I really don’t want our stockists to feel confused by our system any longer and Matt and I NEED to find a way to stop our website’s shipping app from constantly breaking down if we would like to maintain our sanity.

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Over the next year I dream of hiring someone to create sew-alongs for all of our patterns and I would also like to employ a very precise and knowledgeable sample sewer.  We plan to expand to a larger studio as soon as we are able to as we are currently bursting at the seams in this little house!  Aside from all of this, we have a million tiny little goals and details that we will be working towards in the next few months.  I won’t bore you with the mundane details of these financial, customer service, and admin specifics but keep in mind that if we are quiet on the blog or website, these things are probably what we are devoting all of our attention to!

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If you made it through this reflective post filled with all of my dreams, I heartily congratulate you!  If you have any advice from a small business perspective or any goals you would like to add to our list, we are always happy to hear from you in the comments or by email (I know I complain about answering endless lists of emails but really I love receiving each individual message!  Having connections with sewists around the world is, of course, what running this business is all about!).

 

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33 thoughts on “Reflecting About Thread Theory: Where we are headed

  1. Just remember you are not alone when feeling a little overwhelmed…it’s the internet age. There is no “down” anymore., and constant learning is a given. I am so thankful to be retired, but I hear it from the kids routinely. Working 6-7 days a week is the norm now. Who has a life anymore?? At least you are doing what you love, and doing it well. My Camas almost done… Finlayson lying on the table awaiting the rotary. Need I say more?? Happy 2015.

    • Thanks so much for your encouragement Ellen! I hope your Camas and Finlayson are turning out nicely. Yes, I would rather be completely overwhelmed doing what I love than bored and uninspired doing something that doesn’t challenge me!

  2. Thank you for this great post. I am a very new sewist, and am just beginning to dip my toes (and fingers) into the world of garment sewing. As I started looking around for good men’s patterns, I found a mountain of 1970s and 1980s designs, but almost nothing that’s trim, well fitting, current (while still timeless), classy, and masculine (without being sloppy).

    And then I stumbled across Thread Theory. Wow! What a breath of fresh air!

    I’ll admit that I haven’t purchased your patterns — yet. Every one of them is bookmarked and a reminder is stored in my Evernote app. Right now my sewing budget is mostly going toward classes, but as soon as I learn the techniques, I plan to place a number of orders.

    It’s also great to know that I’m not late to the party, and that menswear will remain a focus of your company in the near future. Lucky me!

    • Best of luck in your sewing adventure! I hope you are enjoying your classes and feel confident enough to start on some menswear projects soon :). I always recommend just jumping in and beginning a dream project before you are overwhelmed by the technicalities of all the information you have learned. Even if the project becomes a huge disaster, it will be a great learning experience and worth the wasted fabric (as long as you chose cheap fabric to begin with :P). Best of luck!

      • You couldn’t be more right. Diving in, without thinking “I can’t do that!” is why I was able to successfully knit (and give to happy recipients) several pairs of socks, a sweater and a couple of complicated lace berets (among many other items), before I’ve even been knitting for a full year.

        So I’m in. I just went online and purchased the PDF patterns for the Jutland and Jedediah pants, the Strathcona henley and the Comox briefs. I’m looking forward to tackling them all!

      • That’s wonderful! I wish I could knit successfully! I’m trying to learn right now and need to take my own advice…it’s scary breaking past dishcloths and scarves to head on to knitting sweaters! Have fun with your sewing 🙂

  3. It’s always nice to hear how things are doing behind the scenes, and I guess at least if it’s crazy it’s because you’re busy…? Good to hear you’re getting a bit more time to yourselves though.

    Looking forward to what you bring us this year 😀

  4. You guys are doing great, but maybe you should hire someone to help to pack and ship patterns for a few hours each week. Sounds like you need a breather.

    • That’s probably a good idea! We’re in the process of researching a few options to help us streamline our shipping process. We’re really happy about where we are at right now as being busy and continuing to get busier is the best scenario for a business owner. I am trying really hard to anticipate future problems though – I think it’s best to find a solution and hire help before the level of busy-ness becomes unmanageable! Thanks for reading the blog and for your encouragement :).

  5. Great post! I think most people drawn to indie patterns appreciate the background and knowing about the real people who put their heart and soul into their work. I only recently discovered you (on instagram) and I’m happy to learn you’re semi-local to me (I’m in the Fraser Valley). I haven’t tried my hand at clothes yet, but maybe soon. I mostly make bags and love that you sell kits for your patterns. I look forward to seeing your next release!

  6. I’m four months pregnant but still dying for the Lazo pants! They’re giving me something to look forward to when I can wear real clothes again 🙂 I’m also hoping against hope that you’ll be stocking the closures that are on the ones the model is wearing. I love that you guys sell notions and kits and I wish more companies would do that!

    • I love the idea of carrying the closures in our store! Thank you for the suggestion! Matt and I are looking into making this idea into a reality – I hope it will be possible :).

  7. I really appreciated this post–and there are many things about it that gave me food for thought, but I won’t address them all and leave you with a comment as long as the original post itself! 🙂

    But one of your points that I really appreciated was how you want to relate to the rest of the indie design community. That collaborative spirit is one really important key to being successful. You could decide to go the “lone ranger” route, but in the end, you need others to help you, just as you want to be there to help them. Knowing that about you makes me think twice about buying someone else’s patterns! 🙂

    And, after all, it’s great to hear about the “theory” in Thread Theory!!!

    Wishing you all the best,
    Krista

    • Thanks Krista (and thank you for making it to the end of the post…my family keeps giving me a hard time about the length they have to scroll to read my posts lol)! Matt and I are constantly amazed by the collaborative nature of the indie pattern community. I can’t think of a single other industry that includes such cooperation and support. I am certainly not the cutthroat business type and so I feel really lucky to be working with other indie companies instead of competing against them…Matt and I have learned so much from everyone’s eager assistance! I hope that, as new companies continue to develop, we will be able to help these people out just as indie pattern companies who are a couple years older than us have jumped to help us. Thank you for your comment and encouragement!

  8. What I’d like to see are more patterns for women’s work clothes, not office clothes, but durable and practical things for those of us who work hard outdoors. I use my dad’s ancient Carhartt bomber style jacket every day in cold weather – it’s tough canvas, lined with wool flannel, has an industrial-strength brass zip and corduroy collar. You get the idea. I just bought the Jutland pant pattern – for me. Most women’s patterns are designed for lighter weight and softer fabrics with fairly flimsy “fixings and fittings”, even when they are styled as work clothes. I’d like some things designed for a womanly figure but with the indisputable fact in mind that many of us do a man’s job and need the same features in our work clothes.

    I really enjoy the blog. I thought at first, oh well, not for me since my 6’4″ husband lives in one brand of jeans and the never-ending supply of T-shirts his high tech company hands out. He wouldn’t appreciate tailor-made and I don’t want to waste my precious sewing time. But, y’know, I’ve really come to enjoy it. Thanks for writing it.

    >

    • Thanks very much for your suggestions! I really love your idea and am very glad you’ve reminded me of it. Do you happen to know of any ready to wear clothing companies that sell women’s work clothing that suits your preference? I’d love to see some examples for inspiration. Thanks! And thank you for reading our blog!

    • That is SUCH a good idea for womens work clothes – I can’t think of any other patterns that would fit that niche.

      And, if it helps, my husband is 6’2″ and basically lives in work pants or jeans, and an endless supply of t-shirts up to 10 year old, AND the clothes I’ve made him (almost all Thread Theory stuff). I started off thinking it was taking away from MY sewing time, but I’m most proud of the stuff I’ve made him

  9. A beautiful classic men’s shirt pattern (non-fitted) with stand collar would be much appreciated from you guys! Your attention to detail and general aesthetic makes me feel instantly creative and I love seeing your blog in my inbox.

    • Thank you for such an encouraging comment! That is interesting to hear that you are looking for a non-fitted shirt pattern as most of the requests I have received are looking for a fitted pattern. The shirt that we have planned for the future has been designed include a single small back pleat (no darts, so not a euro-fit). We hope it will look very modern and more slim fit than some shirts (due to a very slightly narrower sleeves and one pleat rather than two on the back) but still be classic enough to create a very professional shirt for business. There are so many styles of the men’s button-up, I’m sure we will be releasing several versions of this staple garment in the future!

  10. You both guys are doing an awesome job!!!don’t worry, you will accomplish every single goal you have in your list and you will be great!! PS I know Prestashop being quite a trustfully CMS for selling items through a web site.maybe you can check it :D! Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Nicoletta! I love your enthusiasm :). We’re very happy with Shopify for the near future, we are mostly just searching for a shipping app within Shopify that will help streamline and reduce the cost for customers when shipping from Canada. If we ever need to switch website providers though, I will keep Prestashop in mind…I hadn’t heard of that platform before and upon first inspection it looks really intriguing! Thanks for the tip 🙂

  11. Great update. Loved the first photo in the woods with the pooch. Am hoping in those new patterns is going to be a nice slim fit men’s shirt with a collar stand….. Well, my husband hopes anyway! 😜

    • Your husband’s hopes will be fulfilled within the next year! Our two upcoming menswear patterns don’t include a button up but we have already worked out the design for a shirt pattern and that is high priority on the list after these patterns are released :).

  12. I love these posts! It’s always great to get little hints about what’s coming up 🙂 I love Thread Theory’s style, and if you ever decide to release a puffer-style vest (outerwear) pattern for guys or gals, that would be totally ok with me 🙂

    • Hint taken! I’m not sure if it was you or someone else who requested a puffer vest in the past but I love the idea and have been keeping it on our big ‘future patterns’ list!

  13. Sounds like exciting plans up ahead! I guess being busy is good, hope you figure out a system to streamline the process. As much as I love your menswear focus, I am glad you’re getting the women’s designs from your line out in patterns! Love the Camas blouse… just need a chance to photograph and blog mine! Best wishes for the year ahead!

  14. are you guys using Shopify? I’ve got a system on there that seems to work alright and doesn’t break. I’m still trying to work out a better way to process shipping that doesn’t require paying for three services on top of shipping. If you’re on shopify and wanna talk checkout business send me an email! Also sounds like an exciting year coming up!

  15. Hang in there, and keep up the great work! I can’t even imagine how busy you and Matt must be on a daily basis, but hopefully all your success has been worth it. Your readers and customers are behind you! 🙂

    • Thanks, Carolyn, for your support! I am very happy to be busy – we are living our dream and we are thankful to be doing! All the same, it is so nice to know that our customers/readers have our backs :).

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