Thread Theory

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


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Let’s talk about Thread

Recycled Plastic Fabric from Thread International-3

Today I want to share an inspiring fabric manufacturer with you.

Not too long ago, a thoughtful menswear sewist, Tyrion, emailed me to let me know that he saw a Canadian-made documentary called RiverBlue in honor of World Water Day (March 22nd).  This documentary follows international river conservationist, Mark Angelo as he investigates the fashion industry and it’s devastating effect on rivers.

Thread International recycled plastic fabric

The documentary put Tyrion on to an intriguing fabric company that seems to very successfully be manufacturing textiles within the US using recycled plastic bottles: Thread International.  Unlike many manufacturers that are similarly using recycled plastics, Thread International has aimed to create a transparent circular supply chain.  Their website contains all sorts of accessible information about the impact of their company at each stage of the manufacturing process – from collecting the bottles in Haiti to weaving and knitting the fabric in the US.

Recycled Plastic Fabric from Thread International-9

Their fabrics have been used by big brands like Timberland and Kenneth Cole, but, most intriguingly for me, all of their fabrics are still available directly through their website by the meter with all of the relevant information listed for the home sewist!  Before we go any further and you start to worry that I’m advertising for Thread International, let’s confirm here that I’m not affiliated with them in any way and will not profit from writing this blog post…I was just curious about their fabrics and thought that you might be too!

I am always partial to natural fibers but I do not want to restrict myself and our Thread Theory customers to natural fibres if there are more sustainable and responsible options available. With that in mind, I delved in to the literature available on the Thread website.  Thread International has posted their 2016 impact report in the full.  I was interested to read that a Life Cycle Analysis was done on the canvas that they created in collaboration with Timberland.  This canvas is 50% cotton (new, not reclaimed) and 50% recycled plastic.  Thread International reports that:

It takes approximately 400 gallons of water to produce the
cotton that goes into 1 square yard of 50:50. It takes only 12 gallons of water to
produce the rPET-based thread and the final 1 square yard of 50:50 product.

This means that:

This means that 398 gallons of water are saved for every yard of Ground
to Good™ 50/50 Canvas when compared to the 100% conventional cotton
canvas it is replacing.

Thread International clearly reports that this is the major advantage of their recycled plastic thread.  The emissions emitted during manufacturing the recycled plastic yard is only 6% less than manufacturing cotton yarn.  The main advantages of this recycled polyester yarn is the massive reduction of water use and also the removal of plastic from landfills.

Other factors to consider, in my opinion, are the way that this fabric wears and also, it’s impact on the environment when the consumer/wearer is finished with the fabric.  Thread International mentions in their report that they follow a “circular economy” approach which means that the brands who use their fabric can inform their customers the following: Threads will take back the garment/product when it is worn out and will recycle it to create new fabric.  This is an admirable initiative in my opinion but it includes a lot of points where the chain can easily be broken.  A customer who buys a product may not be very engaged or informed about the product or might not remember, once it has worn out, about the offer to recycle the item by sending it back to Thread headquarters!  If the item were simply thrown out I suspect that the fabric would not degrade readily the way that 100% cotton or other natural fibres would.  The Circular Economy approach is immensely admirable but it will certainly take a lot of work to create that mental shift in consumers!

Recycled Plastic Fabric from Thread International-2

Anyhow, after all of that reading and thinking, I decided to order the Swatch Box of fabric samples to have a look at them myself.  I really love the way that they feel and the textures achieved!  The only fabric that is entirely composed of recycled plastic is their 12.5 oz/sq yard canvas and I am surprised by how nice it feels.  When fingering through all of the samples it does not readily stand out from the blended fabrics.

Recycled Plastic Fabric from Thread International-10

The blended fabrics, on the other hand, mostly consist of recycled plastic and recycled cotton.  Only one of the fabrics (from what I can tell) includes new cotton (not reclaimed).  I have not come across much info on their website about the process of reclaiming cotton…if you notice that section, can you show me where to find it?  I am curious to know more about the efficiency of recycling this fibre.

Recycled Plastic Fabric from Thread International-8

At this point, I do not think it would make financial sense for me to order Thread International fabric for the Thread Theory shop since I would not be able to receive a very large wholesale discount (I order pretty small quantities compared to Timberland lol) and it can be pricey to bring large shipments over the border.  But, seeing as they are located in the United States and send worldwide, many of you can affordably order smaller quantities of fabrics through them directly!

Recycled Plastic Fabric from Thread International-4

I am really lucky that my favourite fabric supplier based out of Vancouver, B.C. carries a lovely line of sustainable natural fibres and also an intriguing selection of recycled plastic fabrics.  I have not yet ordered fabrics with recycled plastic content for our shop because I know many of us sewists have a firm preference for natural fibres!  What do you think, would a recycled plastic micro-fleece, for example, be a useful addition to our shop or are you firm in your devotion to hemp, linen, cotton and bamboo?

My current personal preference when choosing fabrics to sew is to purchase a fabric that falls in to one of these categories:

  1. The most sustainable natural fibres such as hemp and linen.
  2. Not as sustainable but very hard wearing and comfortable natural fibres such as bamboo blends.
  3. Practical and hard wearing technical materials featuring recycled content such as fleece.
  4. And lastly, non-recycled man-made materials that serve a specific function well (and will do so for MANY years) such as waterproof materials like Dintex.

I really hope that you will weigh in on this topic!  Let’s hear your opinions on fabric manufacturing!


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Meet Ben (aka @sewciologist) and his me-made-wardrobe

 

Color-blocked Fairfield Button-up

Let me introduce to you an enthusiastic menswear sewist with an eye for detail and design!  I am in constant awe of the outfits Ben sews for himself and posts on Instagram.  He was posting consistently throughout Me Made May 2017 and I wanted to share every single one of his garments with you!  Ben graciously agreed to answer a few questions and share some photos on the blog so you are in for a treat today!  Make sure to take a careful look at some of Ben’s thoughtful design choices – which is your favourite?

Can you introduce yourself briefly and give a little run down on how you came to be such an accomplished sewist?

Thank you so much for having me! I am thrilled to be featured on your blog as you are one of my favourite menswear pattern designers. My name is Ben and I’m an Austrian living in Birmingham, UK. I’ve always enjoyed creating things of all sorts, but up until two years ago it never dawned on me that making my own clothes was a thing that I – or anyone – could do! My first contact with haberdashery in general was when I learned to crochet in primary school. On a whim, I dug out what was left of those skills a few years ago and started to make pillow cases, and when a friend came over for a ‘crafternoon’ with her sewing machine, I knew that that’s what I needed in my life. Fast forward a few months, past a number of totes and zipper bags and my first ever garment – a Finlayson sweater – saw the light of day.

Fairfield Button-up made by Ben

I don’t know if I’m really all that accomplished with what limited experience I have, but I’m certainly a very ambitious and adventurous sewist. I find myself easily bored and would much rather try out a new pattern than stick to a tried and tested one, as well as trying out new techniques as I go along. By nature, this has meant quite a steep learning curve for me, but I’m proud to say that I’m an entirely self-taught sewist, not least thanks to your sewalongs and the many video tutorials out there. I also owe a lot of my expertise to my part-time job at my local haberdashery Guthrie & Ghani which has encouraged me to push on and explore new skills, as well as the thriving sewing community of Birmingham.

Sewing for Men - Sweater and Lon Sleeve Shirt

It’s very clear, based on your inspiring Instagram account, that you sew many of your own clothes – even now that MMM17 is well past, do you still find yourself wearing your handmade garments on a daily basis?  What type of handmade garment do you tend to wear most often?

I definitely try to wear as many handmade garments as I can every day. Wearing something I’ve made gives me a sense of confidence that I haven’t known before. I feel that it is a skill that is no longer quite so widespread, so it makes me all the more proud to be wearing me-mades. As a matter of fact, I have promised myself that I won’t buy anything that I can make or that I can learn to make. “Quintessential Ben” likes to dress in a smart casual way typically consisting of a pair of chinos and button-up shirts, but I do try to explore different styles and go out of my comfort zone more often. Still, my favourite garment is definitely the Fairfield shirt. I have now made a number of them and it’s one of the few patterns I don’t mind making over and over! I love how different fabrics give it a completely different look. For my next one, I’m planning a looser-fitting denim version with mother-of-pearl snaps – and maybe an added pocket flap and some funky topstitching on the yoke?

Me Made May - Sewciologist

When planning a new garment, where do you find inspiration?

I don’t often find myself influenced by current trends in fashion as I feel that I have a fairly settled and consistent taste. I generally prefer style lines and creative pattern cutting over colourful or intricate prints, so I like to seek out patterns that make a striking impression even when made in a plain or subtly printed fabric.

I also like to be inspired by the fabric itself. For the last few weeks, I’ve been under a self-imposed “fabric ban” as an incentive to work away on my existing stash – even though I have the sinking feeling that it’s still growing rather than shrinking… In a way, that has actually fuelled my creativity as I’m now thinking about what I can make with the more outlandish things I bought or picked up at a swap.

Ben the Sewciologist

What resources would you recommend to a man interested in sewing his own wardrobe?

A lot of help early on in my sewing journey has actually come from indie patterns such as your own, as I’ve found them to be particularly beginner-friendly. I’d always recommend starting on one of those rather than a Big Four one, which would typically presuppose a lot more knowledge of sewing terms and techniques.

Community is incredibly helpful as well. If you don’t know anyone else in your area, I’d say have a look online! The number of menswear sewing bloggers has increased over the last few years and there are some great blogs out there: the fashionable and virtually iconic Male Pattern Boldness, the debonair Male Devon Sewing, or the incredibly talented Mensew, to name just a few, are all treasure troves of tips and inspiration. Instagram, too, has a growing community of menswear sewists which can be found under hashtags like #makemenswear, #menwhosew or #mensewtoo.

Sewing for men - button down shirt

And lastly, I can only recommend turning to womenswear sewists for guidance. Many of the techniques will be the same, and there are so many wonderfully talented women out there who have a wealth of knowledge we can only admire and benefit from. Not to be too political, but I do think that in general men would do well to listen to women more often and with greater humility!

Strathcona T-shirt

Do you have any pattern, fabric, or tool requests that you would like to be made better available to menswear sewists? We’d love to hear your wishlist!

Where do I start?! I would love to find some crisp shirting material like Oxford cloth in more modern colours to make nice workwear, but so far have found it difficult to find in the UK. I’m very keen on buying lots of natural fibres and sustainably sourced fabrics for things like formal trousers, which is also not always easy to come by. Pattern-wise I have been on the lookout for transitional outerwear like a bomber jacket or a trench coat, but in general I’d love to see more adventurous and fashion-forward designs out there. Another thing that’s hard to find is a good book on fitting menswear. Fitting is an art in itself, and getting it right makes all the difference between a good garment and a showstopper.

Men who sew - Ben the Sewciologist

Thanks, Ben, for sharing your inspiring garments, your can-do attitude and some of the things that inspire you!

Did you notice the multi color buttons on the pale pink shirt with contrast trim?  I love how subtle yet completely unique that feature is!  I must remember this idea for my next Fairfield…


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Summer 2017 Fabrics (plus re-stocked best sellers!)

Have you checked our fabric selection lately?  It’s grown quite a bit!  I’ve added an earthy new summer collection and some season-less staple fabrics.  I’ve also restocked three all time bestseller fabrics since many of you let me know that you had missed out when they were last in our store.

Summer fabrics for men-40-2

Remember this gorgeous saturated Hemp and Organic Cotton Cotton knit in Deep Teal?  It was part of our Spring 2017 capsule collection and sold out within a couple of days.  I made my Dad a Strathcona T-shirt featuring the Brown colorway and I am currently making myself a teal Weekender Breton Top (sorry, I just had to use a couple meters for myself!  Don’t worry, I stocked plenty extra for you to use too.).  Since I love this fabric so much I’ve also added a third color to our collection, but more on that in a moment!

Also freshly restocked are two Hemp and Organic Cotton shirtings from our Summer 2016 collection!

Summer fabrics for men-40-3

This was the fabric used for our Fairfield Button-up sample:

Fairfield Buttonup-22

I re-purchased both the striped and solid blue since this was the color that everyone loved most!

Summer fabrics for men-40-5

And now let’s have a look at our new Summer 2017 fabrics:  They feature sustainable fibres and earthy colors inspired by the evergreen forest and wind-whipped lake that Matt and I enjoy each summer at our favourite camping spot.

Let’s begin with the deep blue of the lake…I’ve been dying to show you this gorgeous 100% linen in navy!

Summer fabrics for men-19

It is 5.9 oz/sq yard making it a great medium weight with enough heft and opacity to create a perfect menswear button-up or a gorgeous tunic.

Summer fabrics for men-12

If you guys love this linen as much as I do I hope to increase our color range since I really enjoy carrying such a sustainable fibre in our shop.  Some of the other intriguing colors available include natural, olive, red, and plum.

And now, the pebble grey of the gravel beaches:

Summer fabrics for men-30

One of our fabric suppliers has recently added a new line of 100% cotton jerseys which I am over the moon about…I have looked for heathered 100% cotton jerseys for some time now since this is Matt’s favorite sort of t-shirt fabric.  There is no spandex so it can be dried at high heat without worry of degrading.  I’ve added this beautiful heathered grey to our summer collection and look forward to adding a really nice heathered blue as well as a selection of matching ribbing in the future.

Summer fabrics for men-31

Next up, we have a new color option (reminiscent of salal bushes and ferns) for our hemp and organic cotton trouser canvas:

Summer fabrics for men-33

This canteen green looks a tad more saturated in photos than it does in indoor light so I think it would be perfect treated as a neutral and sewn into Jedediah Pants to pair with brightly colored t-shirts (or perhaps a more sedate heather grey t-shirt from the 100% cotton jersey!).

Summer fabrics for men-37

I wish you could feel this canvas in person but I think the photo above should give you an idea of how gorgeous it is: It is tightly woven with a very slight nubbly texture (due to the hemp).  It will make for excellent hard wearing trousers.

While we are looking at hemp fabrics, here is the new third color option for our Hemp and Organic Cotton Jersey – it is Stone Grey.

Summer fabrics for men-39

This elegant warm grey would look very smart as a t-shirt paired with extra deep indigo denim.

If you like the idea of hemp and organic cotton blends but prefer a bit more stretch, I’ve added two fabrics featuring a new blend of fibres to the shop: 53% Hemp, 44% Organic Cotton and 3% Spandex! It features a finer texture and more elasticity than the version without any spandex but it does not drape or stretch quite as much as the Bamboo, Organic Cotton and Spandex blend that we also have in our collection.  With the Hemp/Cotton blend on one end of the spectrum (lots of texture, loosely knit, not stretchy) and the Bamboo/Cotton/Spandex blend on the other (smooth, tightly knit, very stretchy), these two new fabrics fall right in the middle.

Summer fabrics for men-24

This olive has always been my favorite color.  I think it would make a beautiful Camas Blouse with richly embroidered yokes.

This fabric also comes in the same stone grey color as the Hemp/Cotton blend without spandex.  Compare this photo below to the stone grey fabric above and you can see what I mean about the finer texture of the Hemp/Cotton featuring spandex:

Summer fabrics for men-26

So there you have it, the earthy summer collection!  But there are still more fabrics to show you since I have added a few new color options to the staple fabrics that we stock in our shop (and restock each time they sell out, unlike our seasonal collections):

As I always say, the Bamboo, Organic Cotton and Spandex jersey that we have had in our shop for a number of is hands down my favorite fabric.  We currently carry it in burgundy, charcoal, forest green, almond, olive, navy and white stripe, and navy and grey stripe.  I thought it was time to add some true basics since it is the perfect choice for everything from t-shirts to leggings:

We now have black (a true pure black that is darker than it appears in this photo):

Summer fabrics for men-50

And classic navy:

Summer fabrics for men-46

These two will certainly be my only choice for leggings from now on!

And, to finish on a very colorful note, I’ve added two new paisely acetate linings based on a lovely customer’s request!  Here we have a stunning purple:

Summer fabrics for men-2

And a very elegant navy:

Summer fabrics for men-10

Both these linings would make a gorgeous addition to the inside of a Goldstream Peacoat or the back of a Belvedere Waistcoat!

As always, I love receiving requests!  If you are looking for a particular fabric or would like to see one of our fabrics in a different colour, please let me know by commenting or emailing me at info@threadtheory.ca

Have a look at our new fabrics in detail >