Thread Theory

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


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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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5 Reasons to Repair Your Garment Instead of Replacing It

 

Darning Mushroom and Mending-5

We now stock locally crafted lathe turned darning mushrooms, mini pin cushions and acorn pendants in our shop!

Darning Mushroom and Mending-6

You will probably recognize that these are the work of skilled sewing tool craftsman, Wray Parsons, who lives an hour south of us in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island.  We have devotedly stocked quite a few of his other sewing tools for the last couple of years.

Darning Mushroom and Mending-8

As someone who hopes to create garments that will last indefinitely, I am especially excited to add Wray’s darning mushrooms to our shop.  Aside from the way they align with my values (more on that momentarily), I think these mushrooms are incredibly beautiful!  They are turned from Yew wood that features the most intricate of swirled patterns.

Darning Mushroom and Mending

Wray crafts them with a needle case hidden inside the mushroom stem and a flat base so that the mushrooms can sit on your shelf as they would on a forest floor.

Darning Mushroom and Mending-3

A darning mushroom is a traditional tool that allows you to maintain even tension while mending a hole in a knit garment (such as a sock).  Even if you don’t yet know how to darn, you can use this mushroom as a needle case and a friendly reminder of a skill that you would like to learn one day!

To get you started, you might like to check out these tutorials on darning:

Darning Tutorial (Wool and Chocolate)

Make Do and Mend (Colette Patterns)

How -To: Darning (Zero Waste Home)

In honor of this new addition to our shop, I have a guest blog post to share with you today!

I imagine most of us who sew agree, it is well worth repairing your lovingly sewn garments rather than tossing them to make new ones.  I was recently chatting with Wesley, the founder of iManscape.com about what sewing means to him (as a person who, as far as I know, does not engage in sewing as a pastime/passion/hobby).  Wesley is a devoted menswear and self care enthusiast.  He quickly brought up the practice of mending his wardrobe and offered to write an article for my blog explaining why everyone interested in menswear should possess the skills and mindset to mend.

imanscape

Without further ado, here is Wesley to tell you why menswear should be mended:


 

Wear and tear can take their toll on even the most resilient garments. Despite your best efforts and care, your clothes will fray and rip from time to time. When this happens, the obvious step is to throw it out and buy a new piece of clothing. But what if there were another option?

Thread Theory Studio-9

Learning to repair your own clothing is a valuable skill that used to be commonplace in society. While it may be time consuming the practice has a variety of benefits:

  1. Cost Effective: Depending on the type of repairs it will almost always be less expensive to repair an old garment than to purchase a brand new one.
  2. Prolong the Life of Your Favorite Clothing: Minor rips, tears, and frays that do not render the garment useless are common. Like a chip in a windshield, however, it will continue to spread. Learning how to make minor repairs now, and larger repairs later, will extend the life of that favorite shirt or pair of socks.
  3. Learn a Valuable Skill: Learning how to repair your clothing is a worthwhile talent to develop. Learning basic sewing and mending techniques will also allow you to make alterations to your existing clothes as well.
  4. A Worthy Return On Investment: Purchasing an article of clothing is an investment in time, fashion, and appearance. Whether your clothes rip or fray within one week of ownership or one year, accidents happen. Learning how to repair and extend the life of that garment helps maintain a positive return on the investment of your purchase.
  5. Stay Trendy: If the history of fashion has taught us anything it’s that everything is cyclical. Prolonging the life of your garments helps ensure they’ll last until the next time they come into fashion.

Tools of the Trade

There are a variety of tools to consider, each with specific uses. When starting out, you needn’t have all of them, however some common tools  you may want to consider are:

  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Seam Ripper
  • Thimble
  • Needles and Tread
  • Darning Tools, i.e. mushroom, egg

NewMMProducts-72

Those Darn Darns

Darning is a method used to repair holes and worn areas in fabric. One of the more recognizable tools is the darning mushroom. Darning mushrooms are commonly used to repair socks, stockings, or leggings. The tool is noted for its mushroom-shaped head which the sock is stretched over. The affected area is held tight and is therefore spread out and more easy to work with.

Darning Mushroom and Mending-2

When first learning how to mend clothing, socks and other footwear are a great place to start. This way if you mess up, you can always cover it with your shoe! If you choose to go this route, a darning mushroom is an essential tool of the trade.

Speaking of Trends

The practice of repairing one’s own clothing has experienced a resurgence in recent times. There may be a learning curve involved, but given a little practice and guidance you can be mending your threads in no time.

Author Bio: Wesley is the owner of iManscape.com. A place of manly things such as the best safety razors, beards, and of course manscaping. To see more from Wesley visit iManscape or like them on Facebook.


 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on mending, Wesley!  It is interesting to hear the perspective of someone who doesn’t spend their days sewing and blogging about sewing (a surprisingly rare sort of person in my life!).  I am happy to hear that clothing and the work that went into constructing the fabric, design, and the clothes themselves is valued by someone who hasn’t actually performed the task themselves.

As someone who sews, do you feel inclined to mend garments?  I must admit that, while I am quick to mend clothing and linens that I have sewn, I am prone to letting store bought clothing wear out.  I think I should reconsider this as I will likely always have a few store bought pieces in my wardrobe.

Check out the darning mushrooms in our shop >


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Harris Tweed Man’s Vest

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (25 of 26)

I recently met an inspiring couple who visited the open house that took place at The Spool and Thread Theory studio.  Jackie was eager to use the buttonhole feature on my trusty old Kenmore sewing machine because it creates lovely keyhole buttonholes.  She was almost finished creating a gorgeous classic wool vest for her husband, Malcolm.  I exclaimed over her fabric sourcing abilities and her welt pocket sewing skills after which she let me in on a little secret…

…she didn’t buy the fabric and she didn’t sew the welts!

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (1 of 26)

It turns out, she had found a large Harris Tweed vintage blazer in a local thrift shop and had re-purposed the blazer to create the vest.  Her mission was to create a vest that did not look ‘re-purposed’ or ‘recycled’.  She certainly achieved her goal!

She expressed an interest in spreading the idea of re-purposing garments in this manner and said she would love to connect with the sewing community and those interested in re-purposing menswear.  I eagerly asked her to send me some photos of her vest and a paragraph or two to share with you.  Thank you, Jackie, for sharing your inspiring project with us and for providing such detailed photos!

Without further ado, here’s Jackie:


 

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (2 of 26)

I found this Harris Tweed man’s jacket in a thrift shop for $5.00. I had originally used it as a character in an Oliver Twist musical, and after the event I wanted to use the jacket to make a vest for my husband.

Using a McCall’s vest pattern, which I lengthened by 2” to fit the style I wanted, I deconstructed the jacket.

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (3 of 26)

Once I had pieces of the fabric I could lay them on the pattern so that the pockets were within the pattern piece. I left the interfacing in the front jacket pieces because it gave the tweed the support it needed to hold the shape.

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (12 of 26)

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (6 of 26)

Once the front vest pieces were cut out, remembering to keep the front pockets in line, the rest was a usual construction of a gentleman’s vest.

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (23 of 26)

The biggest investment was my thinking time as I planned how I could make this project work.

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (22 of 26)

I still have the back and sleeves of the jacket as pieces of tweed to use on other projects!


 

Now that we’ve had a chance to see the amazing potential of re-purposed menswear, here is a peek at the attention to detail that Jackie maintained while working on the vest.  The vintage blazer had a small hole near one of the pockets:

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (11 of 26)

She didn’t let this hole stop her from using the beautiful wool!  She trimmed away the interfacing slightly:

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (15 of 26)

And then she proceeded to felt the hole closed!

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (17 of 26)

And you wouldn’t even know it ever existed (the photo below is a touch blurry, but I can attest to the fact that the hole is entirely invisible when the vest is inspected in person):

Harris Tweed Repurposed Vest (18 of 26)

 

Thanks again, Jackie, for sharing your re-purposing project with us!  Seeing your process shots and, of course, the stunning vest itself, has me viewing vintage garments in a whole new way.  I’ve been known to turn a thrift store bedsheet into a button up shirt or two for Matt in the past but have never re-cut an existing menswear garment.

Do any of you re-purpose fabrics or garments?  Have you had much success with re-purposing menswear?

 

 


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My Mother-In-Law’s latest Thread Theory sewing projects

Three Camas Blouses Thread Theory

In case you are a relatively new follower of the Thread Theory blog, let me introduce to you Sue, my mother-in-law!  She is a talented sewist who sewed quite a lot in the past, stopped sewing for many years and then picked up the skill again when we launched our first patterns.  She has since sewn many renditions of our designs and has even contributed to the blog!  You can read her first blog post from Thanksgiving 2013 here.  Above is a photo of Sonia (our graphic designer and my future sister-in-law), Sue and I bedecked in Camas Blouses on Thanksgiving this year.  Apparently the modelling of Thread Theory sewing projects is becoming a Thanksgiving tradition!  Sue sewed both Sonia’s blouse and her own and I sewed the one I’m wearing last winter.

Our photoshoot was complete with a photobomb:Three Camas Blouses Thread Theory-6

This is Charlie – Matt’s grandparent’s very rambunctious and adorable puppy!Three Camas Blouses Thread Theory-4

All three Camas Blouses are really unique – the outer two are sewn using slightly gauzy and light sweater knits and Sue’s features a very drapey and dense viscose knit.  I love how each print suits our personalities:
Three Camas Blouses Thread Theory-8

Recently Sue had another Thread Theory project on her sewing table.  She created a pair of dressy trousers for her husband in time for a cruise holiday.  They are the result of combining both the Jedediah and Jutland Pants patterns.  She did quite a bit of pattern manipulating for this project and took the time to write down some of the thoughts and challenges that occurred as the project progressed.  As I’m sure most sewists will agree, it is always very interesting and also relatable to read about the sewing thought process so I’m very glad that she’s shared hers with us!

Without further ado, here is Sue to explain her project:


I wanted to make a pair of dress pants for my hubby and had found a lovely light to medium weight wool blend material  that I thought would be perfect for the project, but I didn’t have a dress pant pattern. I had already made a semi-casual pair of Jeds for him, that he loved the fit and comfort of, so I had that pattern and the Jutland pattern.

The thought occurred to me that I could combine the two patterns to get what I wanted. My aim was to have front slash pockets like the Jeds, back welt pockets like the Jutlands, and a leg width somewhere between the two. I at first started to try to match the front of the Jeds pattern to the back of the Jutlands, and was struggling with it. Then I talked with Morgan (why I didn’t do that in the first place I don’t know) who reminded me of a previous post by Roni describing how to modify the Jeds pattern to remove the yoke, and add welt back pockets…perfect! So, I followed those instructions, and also widened the legs from above the knees down to the hem. Morgan also suggested that I do a mock-up first to ensure a correct fit, but I was limited by a deadline (wanted to get them done before our cruise), so I forged ahead and hoped for the best.

I wanted to end up with a professional finished look to the pants, so tried my best to do the fine finishing touches suggested in the patterns. So I used bias tape to finish the seams, and french seamed the front pockets.

Trousers 1

Like Roni, I couldn’t figure a way to do a french seam on the rear pockets, so I just used the nicest finishing stitch I could find on my machine that worked with the material.

Trousers 5

I knew I didn’t want flat felled seams on the legs as that was too casual a look for these pants. As well, this material was starting to fray quite a bit, and I had troubles with fraying and getting a good flat felled seam on a previous project. So in the end, I decided to do french seams for the outer leg seams, and then a standard seam and zig zag finish on the inner leg seam. I was really happy with the french seam finish on the outer leg, but not so happy with the zig zag finish on the inner leg, as my material tended to bunch up. In hindsight I think I should have had some kind of stabilizer on the material to do the finishing of the edge.

Trousers 7

Trousers 6
The last modification I did was to use the waistband from the Jutland pattern so that I could sew the belt loops into the upper seam and lower seam when I attached the waistband to the  waist of the pant, for a more finished look. I later hand stitched the bottom of the loop to hold it in place against the upper pant.

Trousers 2
Trousers 3

Both my husband and I are very pleased with the end result, and he has worn his pants with pride while on the cruise and many times since. These are a couple  photos  of the final product.

Trousers 8

All in all a very successful project. What I learned: If you are thinking of modifying a pattern, talk to Morgan before you start, she may have some valuable suggestions that can save you a lot of time and energy! (Note from Morgan: Yes, please do contact me if you are wanting help with a project or just a chance to mull over your ideas with someone!  Email me at info@threadtheory.ca)


 

Thank you for taking the time to write a blog post for us Sue!  The results of your thoughtful sewing are, as always, very professional and very wearable!


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Tips and Tricks: Sewing the Camas Blouse in Thicker Fabric

Meg (who’s blog is Made by Meg) has prepared her second guest blog post for us and it is filled with great tips!  If you are contemplating sewing the Camas Blouse in a thicker knit, this post will be a great chance for you to study up on useful techniques:
Meg Camas Blouse

Hello there, Meg here! We have gotten some questions since the release of the Camas Blouse about whether it can be sewn up in a thicker fabric. I’m a chronic rule-breaker, so my answer is, Of course! Thicker fabrics can be easier to sew, are warmer for those of you still stuck in winter, and give the blouse a whole new look. To demonstrate, I’ve sewn up my blouse in a medium-weight black ponte. Here is what I learned about sewing the Camas with thicker fabric.

Pleats

Pleats: The first thing I did was convert the gathering at the front and back to pleats. Gathering can look bunchy and bulky in thick fabric, so pleats hang much better on this blouse. For my version, I did two pleats on each side of the front and four in the center back.

Back

Yoke: If your fabric is particularly thick and stable, I would consider replacing the double layered yoke with a single layer. A more stable fabric is better able to support the weight of the garment, and reducing the yoke to a single layer will reduce bulk. This is especially true at the neckline, where you sew two layers of the neckband to the yoke, which could add up to four layers in total, plus seam allowances!

Neckband: To further reduce bulk along the neckband, I pressed the seams open instead of serging them together. This distributed the seam allowances on either side of the seam instead of to one side. To further eliminate excess fabric, you might also consider grading the seams so that one is shorter than the other.

Placket

Button Placket: I decided to create a faux opening for my shirt with buttons stitched closed through both layers. My knit was stable enough that I skipped the interfacing and simply sewed the buttons through the overlapping plackets to close the shirt. Because it’s a knit, it still slips on easily over my head without the need for functioning buttons. If you do plan on using real buttonholes, however, I would recommend a lightweight knit fusible interfacing to keep your buttonholes tidy.

Hem

Hems: While the pattern instructs you to turn the hems under twice and stitch down, on this version I only turned the hems under once. Knits do not ravel so the raw edges can be left unfinished, and only turning under the hem once reduced the bulk of the seam. To get a nice clean finish, I turned the hem up the recommended amount, stitched, and cut away the excess. Alternately, you could turn the hem under twice, press, and flatten the hem with a clapper or a wooden kitchen utensil to really press the seam.

 

Have you made one up in thicker fabric? Show us and tell us what tricks you used!


 

PIc ThumbnailHi I’m Meg! Making clothes is my creative outlet, and I started sewing and knitting in school when I realized I couldn’t wear a thesis or embellish my reports. Along the way, my sewing adventures have led me to knit scarves in the Peruvian Andes and refashion traditional dresses in Mexico City. I love to make things up as I go, mixing patterns and making changes on the fly. Professionally, I’m a researcher who loves presenting data visually in formats that are easy to understand. I hope you’ll follow along as I present inspiration and tutorials from Thread Theory patterns! You can also find me at megmadethis.blogspot.com.


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7 Ways to Customize Pants Pockets for Men

In case you do not know her already, I’d like to introduce you to a talented seamstress and one of the very first supportive sewists that Matt and I digitally ‘met’ when we started our big Thread Theory adventure: Meg of the blog Made by Meg!  Meg has been a test sewer for us several times in the past and has sewn up many inspiring versions of our patterns.  Her blog has been one of my favorites for a number of years now.  Combine all of these elements and you can see how thrilled I am to tell you that Meg has written a guest post for our blog today and has plans to write many more in the future!

Now let me pass you over to her – enjoy the post!

PIc ThumbnailHi I’m Meg! Making clothes is my creative outlet, and I started sewing and knitting in school when I realized I couldn’t wear a thesis or embellish my reports. Along the way, my sewing adventures have led me to knit scarves in the Peruvian Andes and refashion traditional dresses in Mexico City. I love to make things up as I go, mixing patterns and making changes on the fly. Professionally, I’m a researcher who loves presenting data visually in formats that are easy to understand. I hope you’ll follow along as I present inspiration and tutorials from Thread Theory patterns! You can also find me at megmadethis.blogspot.com.

Customize Pants Pockets

In men’s clothing, the details are everything. While womenswear tends to plays with dramatic silhouettes and design elements, menswear is all about classic tailoring with special touches. On the Jedediah and Jutland pants, one place to add that special touch is the back pocket. Below is some inspiration for back pocket embroidery to suit a variety of styles.

1. Abstract

Abstract

Source: Diesel Jeans & Boots, Jeans & Leather

These pockets have a fun, modern look, and are easy to sew!

2. Topstitching

Topstitching

Source: Stronghold & Pronto Denim

Sometimes something as simple as a line of topstitching can create an interesting effect. These pockets play with the unique shape of the pocket and elements such as rivets.

3. Nature Inspired

Nature Inspired

Source: Prima Jeans & Two Random Words

For the outdoorsy guy, I love nature-inspired pockets, especially for a rugged pattern like the Jutland Pants. You can allude to nature with an organic shape like waves, or do what fellow blogger Sophie-Lee did and embroider a landscape.

4. Embroidered Shapes

Embroidered Shapes

Source: Vintage Sergio Valente & Japan X Lee

If you are handy with your sewing machine or have an embroidery function, shapes are really fun. Perfect for the playful guy!

5. Embellishments

Embellishments

Source: Phable Jeans & Vintage Jacket

These subtle embellishments prove once again how small details can enhance a design. On the left, scraps from the selvedge edge have been stitched down to the pocket. On the right, small pieces of leather decorate and strengthen the pocket.

6. Fabric

Fabric

Source: Apliiq Jeans & Pinterest

This technique can be either loud or subtle, depending on the fabrics you choose. While I love the flower look on these jeans, more conservative dressers might appreciate the subtle variation of a similarly-colored fabric with a bit of texture.

7. Special Touches (1)

Special Touches

Source: Pinterest & Kings of Indigo

Sometimes plain and simple pockets are the best. But even then you can have some fun with it. Initials in the corner are a simple way to go. Or, do what denim company Kings of Indigo does and embroider a design inside the pocket where only the wearer can see it.


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A New Canadian Fabric Store! Blackbird Fabrics

Blackbird-Fabrics-600x600

In case you haven’t already heard, there is a new online fabric shop based out of Vancouver!  It’s called Blackbird Fabrics and its proprietress is the Caroline, the skilled seamstress with a warm smile  who you will probably recognize as a regular contributor to the Sewaholic blog.

photo-2

Blackbird Fabrics specializes in high quality fabrics for garment making.  The shop carries a gorgeous selection of carefully curated prints and solids as well as an excellent variety of unique textures (check out the quilted knits!).  There is also an ever-growing collection of quality dress-making tools and supplies including really nice high quality interfacing which I find difficult to source locally.

Blackbird-Fabric-Preview1-600x600

When Blackbird Fabrics was launched, I promptly emailed Caroline to introduce myself and congratulate her on her new shop (it was a great excuse to make a new sewing friend in B.C!).  Caroline is super friendly and has kindly taken the time to respond to my long-winded questions about her new shop.  Get ready for a great behind-the-scenes peek at the Blackbird Fabrics Studio!  And…make sure you read to the bottom of the post because Caroline has generously provided a 10% discount to her shop for all Thread Theory readers 🙂

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Caroline!  First off, can you introduce yourself and your new fabric store to our readers?

Of course. My name is Caroline – most people know me as Caroline from Sewaholic! I’ve been lucky enough to work with Tasia over the past few years, but up until a couple of months ago, I was doing it while working a full time job! I recently left my job of 5 years in the fashion textile industry to set up Blackbird, my new online fabric shop. I’m based in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My online shop carries fashion fabrics and my favorite dressmaking supplies and tools.

Blackbird Studio 7

What are your current goals for Blackbird Fabrics (i.e. what fabric types do you plan to emphasize, what tools do you dream of stocking?).

The emphasis will always be on garment fabrics. I’m working hard to find new suppliers so that I can have a diverse selection. Right now I’m focusing on finding more knits and woven prints in natural fibers. I’m also excited to add new fabrics based on customer feedback! The goal to begin with was to fill a hole in the market. So I’m definitely taking requests and suggestions seriously and keeping them in mind when I’m sourcing new fabrics. 

Blackbird Studio 2

I’m SUPER excited about your fabric store as I know that there is a dire need for online garment fabric resources in Canada and I love how local you are for me!  From your experience so far, have Canadians been your main customer or have you been selling your fabric mostly internationally?

I was actually really surprised when I launched, to see that there were lots of international customers ordering! So far it’s primarily Canadians, but I get plenty of US orders and a good chunk of international too. It’s super exciting to see people on the other side of the pond interested in my fabrics!

Blackbird Studio 1

What does a typical day at Blackbird Fabrics include?

I’m lucky that I work from home, and my studio/sewing room/inventory storage is in a separate room within my apartment. I’m not exactly an early riser, and I’ve learned not to fight it as much anymore. I usually wake up at around 8am, make breakfast, and answer e-mails for both my business and Sewaholic. Some days I work on a blog post, other days e-mails and other computer work takes up most of my morning. Lately I’ve been working on finding new suppliers, which can take a lot of digging!

If I don’t have any errands to run, I spend my afternoon/evening in the studio packing orders, and sometimes photographing products for the shop. Some afternoons I’ll focus on Sewaholic, so I’ll cut and sew samples for new patterns we’re developing.

Honestly though, so far, no day has been all that typical! Ask me again in a year I guess, haha. I’m still finding my groove, and trying to balance my business work and contract work. It’s been a lot of late nights! No complaints here though – I’m truly loving every minute of it.

Blackbird Studio 6

You must be very knowledgeable about fabrics after working for Telio!  Can you explain how this career in the fabric industry has aided you in launching your own business?

It’s funny, because when I was in school studying fashion design, I never thought I would have a career focused on fabric. I got an internship at Télio in Montreal right out of school, and over that summer I fell in love with textiles. After that, I worked for a year in the merchandising department, building the line, developing color stories, choosing and recoloring prints. I spent lots of time putting together trend reports for the sales reps, and working on graphics for the website. That year really shifted my focus. I learned so much about fabric resourcing, and what makes a cohesive and sellable collection. Not many wholesalers do it as well as Télio does! Then I heard about an opportunity to open a showroom in Vancouver, and I decided to go for it. That’s what brought me to the west coast! I set up the showroom, and spent the next 4 years developing business out here and working directly with clients. I think my experience in merchandising and then sales really gave me insight into what types of fabrics people truly love to buy and work with. I’ve also bought a lot of fabric over the years, for myself, so I’ve had the chance to test out different qualities and I really have learned what to look for in a great quality fabric.

Blackbird Studio 3

Of course, you have been a big part of Sewaholic over the last year and I hear that you plan to remain so!  You guys are single-handedly making Vancouver into a super sewing destination!  What plans do you have for working together with your businesses?  Have you established a few tricks for juggling two jobs? (I think Matt would love to hear any you might have! :P)

I’m thrilled to continue to work with Tasia! She has been a huge inspiration for me because she is a business superwoman. Personally, I’ll continue to do what I have been doing; sewing samples, customer service, and weekly blogging.

As for our businesses, I think they compliment each other really well. We’ve tossed around the idea of doing a pop-up shop together in Vancouver, and so far the feedback is great so we might try to plan that for the spring.

Right now I think the most exciting thing is that I’m going to work on stocking lots of the fabrics that we feature on the Sewaholic blog. Often we get those fabrics from Télio (a wholesaler that is not open to the public), and we don’t always have a retailer to direct readers to. This way, it will be easier than ever for readers to get their hands on those fabrics, because they’ll be a click away in my shop! 

On juggling two jobs… I think the most important thing is to know when to take a break. Working too hard can only lead to a burnout! So I try to take time during the day to get fresh air, make a nice lunch for myself, or go to a yoga class.  I also find that I get the most done when I compartmentalize. If I need to spend an afternoon focusing on Sewaholic, then I step away from everything else and try not to get distracted by e-mail or instagram or whatever. Oh yes and lists! I’m a list fiend, I write everything down. Recently Tasia and I started using Trello to organize our to-do lists, and it was pretty life changing. I use it for everything now.

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I’m really excited for your store’s blog to start up!  What sort of content do you hope to include?  I see Blackbird Fabrics is on Facebook and Twitter.  Where can customers connect with you the most?

I’m excited about the blog too! I’m going use it to feature new fabrics, show some behind the scenes peeks, and I’ll write about my own sewing projects too! I’d also love to feature customers’ finished projects sewn with Blackbird fabrics. I’m hoping to have the blog set up in the next few weeks, so I’ll definitely announce it on social media when it’s up and running. Speaking of social media! I’ve personally caught the Instagram bug – I just love it – so that’s probably where you’ll see me the most. But I try to stay active on Twitter and Facebook as well. You can also sign up for my newsletter on my homepage, I’ll be sending out shop updates every so often and I’ll give advance notice of any upcoming sales!

Blackbird Studio 4

Thank you, Caroline, for taking the time to chat with me on the Thread Theory blog!  And, of course, thank you for offering Thread Theory readers a discount to your store!  To receive 10% off everything at Blackbird Fabrics, enter the discount code “THREADTHEORY10” upon checkout.  The code is valid until this Sunday, November 9th 2014, midnight PST.  Happy shopping!