Thread Theory

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


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Embracing Change

I shed a few grateful tears the other day when I first opened up the early results of our survey. Hundreds of you have not only taken the time to answer the basic survey questions, but you’ve also written beautiful paragraphs of encouragement and support. When I made up the survey I was only hoping to receive some concrete opinions and perhaps a little enthusiasm to help launch me into the initial design phase for our next batch of patterns. Instead, I received that plus so much more. Even though I thought I was keeping my insecurities and concerns to myself, so many of you are perpceptive or have perhaps walked a similar path before. You took a big nebulous cloud of unexamined fears and anxiety, named it all for me and then showed me how to move on. Thank you!

Here are a few of the comments that I am just so grateful for:

“I really value the work you’re doing. I know balancing work & family needs is a real challenge. The challenges don’t go away – they change as everyone gets older – kids, parents, & you. But so do the rewards ( or maybe out standards drop 😉). Hang in there. Trust your gut. You got this.”

“Thank you for some lovely patterns, superb instructions, helpful sew alongs and tutorials. I sew these patterns again and again because they produce well fitting, beautiful and hardwearing garments. I love the details and finishes, the henley placket and the cuffs of the Strathcona, the hood lining of the Finlayson being smaller than the hood which gives a lovely fold back finish. The welt pockets excellent instructions of the Belvedere waistcoat and all the tips in the online sew along.”

“Keep up the amazing work! As a male sewist there isn’t much out there that I get to make for myself, and finding your site years ago was what made me brave enough to try making clothes for myself.”

“I also live in BC and have a small acreage, so I really love the updates to your blog about your property, even though they have nothing to with sewing!”

 

Some of you were concerned that I plan to depart from menswear design entirely. Don’t worry, menswear patterns will remain the main focus for Thread Theory. I only seek to refresh and envigorate myself by approaching things from a slightly different direction for a while.

The survey results are still streaming in steadily and I have a lot of thinking yet to do so it is far too early to say what my plans will be for this shift of focus. In the meantime, your outpouring of understanding has made me feel so much more connected to the sewing community and, as a result, I am newly eager to get designing!

 

Another unanticipated outcome from the survey results is that I am now clear that many of you have been enjoying my homesteading blog posts. In the “Any other comments?” answer box at the end of the survey, person after person wrote that they have been enjoying these posts and hope I keep writing them. Wow! I had considered stopping them as I suspected they were tolerated at best…I’m glad to hear that isn’t the case! I really enjoy writing about our new lifestyle and will continue with much more confidence now. With that in mind, here is a little peek into our long post-Christmas winter days:

While driving Noah into the little town nearest us earlier this week (we attend an action packed toddler group at the local community hall) he fell asleep when only minutes away from home. He’s usually only napping in the afternoon now but has had at least four teeth coming in over the last few days so that wore him out enough to fall asleep as early as 9:30 in the morning. Rather than wake him I decided to just keep on driving and head 45 minutes south to a big menswear retail chain to do a little RTW research for Thread Theory. Once Noah woke we headed into the shop and he pushed a buggy (he just won’t sit in it lately!) while I looked at pocket details, fabric choices, fit differences between brands and all of the other details that serve as inspiration when I am beginning new designs. I plan to draw up some techical illustrations and start a mood board while Matt and Noah are at their swimming lesson this Sunday. After that, I’ll mull over the construction process in an attempt to create a garment that is a pleasure to sew. This will invariably lead to a number of design changes after which the pattern can be drafted…and onwards the process will go!

These late winter days are an excellent time of year to dig into design work as, although my seed starting station is partially set up, only peppers and celeriac have been sown and the rest must wait until closer to the last frost date. Outdoors the landscape has been covered with frost, snow, or, for the majority of the time, puddles and mud. We have been working at pruning (Matt has taken on the dwarf fruit trees while I’m working on ornamentals and blueberries) but the soil itself is still far too wet to do all that much. This is changing quickly though! This weekend I’m going to do some weeding during nap time as I’ve noticed the weeds have suddenly taken off in the herb bed. That way I’ll be ready to order a big load of mulch to unload over the freshly tidied beds when my parents visit next weekend.

In the meantime though, the evenings are still dark and long so I can work away indoors on pattern development once Noah has been put to bed (ahem…on the nights I have energy to work, that is!).

Another wintery sort of project we have taken on of late is a general shift and tidy of some of our living spaces. We spent two evenings last week as ‘date’ nights. We headed out to our workshop to put on music and tidy and hang tools and create storage systems. After that little bit of effort the workshop is so much more useable! Our house has received the same treatment. We moved all of my sewing equipment and office station to the main floor of our house. Now we have lived here for almost a year (as of this coming March), our daily rythym has taken shape and it has become clear that our lovely second floor studio with windows overlooking the property and a balcony to off one side will just not be used! The nursury is directly across from this room…and I only work when Noah is sleeping! Sewing, typing, and creaking floor boards interfere too much with his sleep.

Thus, the studio will now become our inventory and shipping station. This is just as well because we have another restock of 3000 tissue patterns arriving next week! Matt and his dad are spending the weekend building some sturdy wooden shelving to hold the inventory. Up until this point, our tissue pattern boxes have been piled high in our second floor landing which I would really like to clear up to make into a craft and play room.

My sewing station is now in our sunroom (the very furthest possible point from Noah’s room) and it is a great little corner in which to work. It needs some major work setting it up but it is functional for now and I love that I don’t feel too secluded but it isn’t in anyone’s way (though I have to pack my things up each time I sew so that the power cord and ironing board are not a hazard). I like that Noah can see my work station constantly so he will grow up very aware of what I do for work. Earlier this week we sewed together for the very first time. He plays with my sewing machine knobs quite regularly but, until now, I had never plugged the machine in to show him how it works. He sat in my lap with wide eyes while I sewed him a big pillow for his room. He had a blast stuffing it with me and ran to the sewing machine the next day when I mentioned I had more pillows that I wanted to make.

Outside of studio projects, we have a number of other developments going on this winter on our homestead. Since my Fall post, Matt and my dad have felled, limbed, bucked, and split all of the trees I had intended to hire an arborist to deal with! My dad bought a tractor and has made a new road through one section of the property.

The two of them also re-roofed the chicken coop to combat a frustrating rat problem due to the poor design of the original roof. With the rats long gone, our chickens are happy and have been laying eggs daily all winter long! Our two roosters get along famously and I’ve never once seen them fight. We definitely need at least two more hens though (more likely, three or four!) as Noah eats a lot of eggs and our rooster to hen ratio is still way off.

As winter draws to a close we will be tackling a large rainwater collection and irrigation project. I only had a small veggie garden last year and even then our well was more or less dry mid-summner. I have big garden plans for this summer so a huge rainwater cistern will be essential to irrigate the vegetable bed and orchard. We will be purchasing a 3000 gallon water tank shortly to install by the workshop that we roofed with metal last summer. Once we add gutters to the shop it will collect the rain and a drip system will run from the tank to both garden areas. My past gardens have always suffered mid-summer as I become more and more stingy with water. I hope a timer system and efficient drip tape will lead to happy and healthy plants, all while using the rainwater that is readily available to us throughout a West Coast spring!

To finish up this update with a touch more Thread Theory news: Our next pattern is inching closer and closer to the test sewing stage. Now that the initial sample is sewn, instructions are written and all design details are finalized, it is currently being graded. Next, Matt will format the PDF pattern while I get started on illustrations. I think I will leave the bulk of the illustrations until after I receive the test sewer feedback. We did this for the first time with our Qualicum Bag pattern and it worked very well. Since test sewers only had my written instructions to go by (no images), it really put the clarity of my writing to the test. It was also easier to change construction order and methods as per the tester feedback because I did not have to redo all of the diagrams to reflect the changes.

Anyways, thank you, once again, for the unexpected support and encouragement that you gave me through the survey. You’ve shown me how to embrace this phase of life that I am in and have made it clear that changes of pace and lifestyle should be embraced rather than resisted. I’ll be back with another post when the giveaway winner is announced on February 15th! In the meantime, head here to enter the giveaway, and head here to complete the survey.

 


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It’s now a giveaway!

[Edited Feb 17th: Giveaway closed! Thank you to all who participated!]

 

Oops! When I made the survey last night I neglected to add a contact info form at the end of the series of questions…and overnight I received an overwhelming number of survey responses! So first, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, and second, I need to change the survey gift certificate draw into an open giveaway!

Since I cannot contact a winner through our survey (because no contact form was provided), you will now need to enter the giveaway by commenting on this blog post. Please do so even if you already completed the survey! Simply tell me what your current (or next) sewing project is for a chance to win. Ensure the email you use for writing WordPress comments is correct so I can email the winner on Feb. 15th. The winner of the giveaway will receive $50 CAD to spend in our shop!

If you haven’t yet filled out our survey, feel free to do so here. Thank you!


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Future of Thread Theory – please take our survey

[Edited Jan 31st to add: I neglected to add a contact info form to the survey so I’ve changed the $50 gift card draw into a general giveaway. To enter, comment on today’s blog post. Thank you for the overwhelming response to our survey! I’m just thrilled with your thoughtful answers!]

For years now I’ve received requests to design ‘menswear inspired’ women’s patterns, women’s workwear patterns and boys/teen patterns. These ideas all intrigue me greatly but I’ve more or less refrained as I wanted to make sure that justice was done to our primary focus of menswear first. Sewists have been waiting too long for contemporary menswear pattern designs so I’m glad that we’ve filled that niche with a good solid base of West Coast casual garments!

The very first photo we ever took of a Thread Theory Design! Taken in early spring, 2013.

Now that we have 14 menswear garment patterns in our shop that we are very proud of in addition to two special release women’s designs (launched on past Thread Theory anniversaries to thank our predominantly female customer base), and two gender neutral accessory patterns, I feel ready to consider branching out. After all, we have stayed on a fairly focused trajectory since we first registered our business in Dec. 2012 – we had only one burning dream: Make it possible for sewists to make the same sort of menswear they would buy from a shop!

Our website as a newborn when it first launched in 2013.

At first we focused completely on designing our own patterns, we then started carrying kits and tools to make menswear projects more enjoyable to sew. We next forayed into menswear fabrics for a couple of years. We then scaled back on tools and cut out fabric completely (our new homestead doesn’t have the studio space necessary for fabric sales and I don’t have the toddler-free time necessary for frequent product photoshoots!) and shifted our focus back to patterns – this time adding many other amazing indie menswear designers to our shop. While I’ve greatly enjoyed this menswear focused journey, it’s just really starting to feel time to refresh. I don’t know what that will mean yet but perhaps you do!

I am just about to begin the design process for a new batch of patterns – I tend to design in batches of 4 – so I thought this could be a neat opportunity to hear from you on the matter! Should I make this next batch all menswear? Should I shift my focus elsewhere? Or perhaps the next batch should be a bit of menswear and a bit of something else? Tell me your opinion using our very short survey. It’ll probably take all of 5 minutes and will give you a chance to win a $50 CAD gift certificate to our shop! The draw for the gift certificate will take place February 15th.

Fill out the survey now >


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Sweater Weather

Here’s a sneak peek at our upcoming pattern! The first full sample of the garment came hot off the machine last night and Matt has been snuggled up in it to combat the snowy weather ever since!

I know these pictures aren’t all that sneaky but I’ll at least refrain from posting full shots of the garment until the pattern release.

Right now I am focussed on walking the fine line between ‘fun to sew’ and ‘high end finishes’. This sample was sewn using a lot of twill tape to finish the interior of the garment. The next sample will use a lining to accomplish the same effect. There are many advantages and disadvantages of each approach (indeed, listing them has been keeping me up at night more than my baby currently is!).

What camp are you in? Linings or seam finishes?


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Round-up of inspiring menswear patterns

 

I just finished adding a selection of five menswear patterns to our shop this week that are the creation of Danish pattern company, Wardrobe By Me. While typing up the descriptions and admiring the designs I found myself mulling over the amazing selection of indie menswear that has developed since we first launched Thread Theory way back in 2012.

While Thread Theory is still the only menswear focussed pattern line (that I know of), there are so many good menswear designs out there that have been developed as special releases by women’s or children’s pattern companies – much the way we have launched our women’s Camas Blouse and Lazo Trousers in the past.

Below you’ll find a few of the patterns that are really inspiring me to sew menswear right now. Some of them are currently available in our shop while others are only sold directly through the designer’s website.  Maybe some of these will be new to you and will fill a void in the menswear pattern world for you!

Although Twig & Tale pattern company is based all the way across the world in New Zealand, every one of their whimsical children’s clothes, beautiful women’s garments, and practical menswear designs would fit perfectly into our west coast lifestyle! Above you can see the vest pattern, shirt, jacket, fishing vest, and baby-wearing add on (available for each of the outerwear patterns) that really strike my fancy but there are other menswear and unisex patterns too so be sure to check out their website! I’ve sewn the animal booties for Noah in the past but look forward to sewing many of the other adorable themed garments for him in the future.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I just added a small selection of Wardrobe By Me patterns to our shop but there are many more menswear designs that I would like to add in time! They just launched their Overshirt pattern which is a style we have received a lot of requests for in the past. This design really seems to check a lot of boxes including some very useful slanted welt pockets that will keep your hands warm on a chilly winter walk. All the mainseams are topstitched for durability. Their Tropical Shirt, fleece jacket, and cargo shorts are all designs I could see my dad loving!

Many of you who have emailed me with a request for a specific pattern will now be familiar with the website FreeSewing. I love to recommend this unique resource when people are looking for a block they can manipulate into their own design, a size that is outside of our current range, or a nice modern blazer or trousers. FreeSewing is quite different from your usual pattern company – first of all, the patterns are free, second, they are digitally drafted to your unique measurements using some very involved coding. This site has been created through a labor of love by the designer, Joost. You can see that he tests many of his designs himself and I love the fit he has acheived on his trousers in particular (photo above)!

Next, fellow Canadian pattern companie, Jalie, is always a good seller in our shop since their garments feature such an enormous size range (many of the men’s patterns extend down to children’s sizing!) and realistically wearable designs. One of their newer patterns is the underwear design photographed above. I like that it has some different features than our Comox Trunks including an encased waistband, seamless or horizontal fly pouch, and various length options. Those full length ones would make excellent performance longjohns due to the close fit and gusset. With winter on the mind, their puffer coat and insulated overalls also appeal to me right now!

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Lastly, Friday Pattern Company has recently begun a pre-sale for their first unisex pattern, the Ilford Jacket, and I love the versatility of this design! There are two very different sleeve and body options along with a number of pocket styles so you can ‘choose your own adventure’.

Are any of these companies new to you? Do you have any unisex or men’s patterns to recommend? I’m always on the look out for new PDF or tissue patterns that we can stock in our shop so that we can compile these wonderful resources into one easy to find catalogue!


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The Qualicum Bag – The Backstory

As those of you who follow our newsletter will already know, we launched our newest sewing pattern yesterday! Meet the Qualicum Bag:

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While I introduced the pattern and it’s variations in our newsletter (and the info can also be read in our shop), I haven’t talked about the design process yet. So, today I want to talk about how I use my Qualicum Bag and tell the story of how this design came to be.

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The concept of adding a bag pattern to our shop began three years ago when I set out to make my Mom a really handy and handsomely proportioned tote to carry her laptop and many binders and textbooks to and from work each day (she is a principal and carts around a LOT of technology and reading material on a regular basis!). I did a preliminary search for a pattern that suited the bag I had in mind; it had to have a very large exterior zipper pocket, it had to be especially wide, and it had to have the stripped down aesthetic of a simple canvas tote. I couldn’t find a pattern that suited me.

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In the end, I just made my own design on the fly by cutting out rectangles to suit the proportions I had in mind.  The end result was a bit messy (as I was figuring out the construction details as I went) but I really loved the aesthetic and so did many of you when I posted the bag on this blog!

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My mom still uses that tote daily and the wax has worn in beautifully.

A couple of years later I set out to make a diaper bag for my brother-in-law who was expecting a baby. This time, I continued my search for an existing pattern to suit my criteria and found one which I used. In the end, though, I was unsatisfied with the construction order, the lack of finishing details, and the overall proportions which seemed neither wide nor deep enough to be as functional as I wanted. (Sorry, I forgot to take any photos of this bag before I gave it to them!)

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Well, then I found out I was expecting a baby and thought, “What better time to fine tune the bag pattern of my dreams than just prior to a time in my life when I will be using a large bag constantly?” I combined the aesthetic of my mom’s original bag (the large zipper pocket being center stage) and the opinions I had developed about diaper bag functionality specifically and large bag proportions generally to create the very first prototype of the Qualicum Bag.

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I wanted the bag to be multifunctional and have a life long past it’s couple year use as a diaper bag. For this prototype I sewed a removable insert to store all the diapering paraphenalia and kept the interior pockets of bag itself quite simple. [Note that our final pattern does not have an insert (which I ended up removing from the bag when my baby was born because it had TOO many pockets in which I lost everything lol) and instead, the final pattern has a more detailed bag interior.]

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I added a recessed zippered top closure as per my sister-in-law’s request.

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Her and her husband love the bag I made for them but have had the contents spill out in the back of the car once or twice.

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I also listened to their feedback and added two side pockets to our Qualicum Bag perfectly sized for water bottles…essential when you’re nursing and feeling constantly dehydrated!

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They also tend to be where I stash Noah’s toy of choice for the day:

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The prototype that I made for myself featured the perfect proportions everywhere except the straps. On our final design I increased the strap width from 1″ to 1.5″ to better match the size of the bag and to be more comfortable on the shoulder when carrying a heavy load.

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I love that my bag design includes a removable cross body strap and sewn in shoulder straps.

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Other bag patterns that I have viewed with similar dimensions to mine feature removable shoulder straps…it is always the cross body strap that I like to remove and tuck inside the bag for when I need it. That way it doesn’t swing low and catch on things.

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After using my Qualicum Bag prototype for a few months (once Noah was born), I added larger seam allowances to the pattern to increase the strength of the seams and also increase the variety of fabric styles that can be used for the bag. Many bag patterns feature 1/4″ seam allowances but I found these to be too small when working with loosely woven upholstery fabrics. The final pattern includes 3/8″ seam allowances so you needn’t worry about fraying.

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Before finalizing the pattern I also added a number of variations to the bag so that it can function as a padded laptop case, a quick-to-sew market tote or a carry-all (which is what I use as a diaper bag). Pictured above is the quick market tote – while the other two variations are involved projects, this bag utilizes far fewer pattern pieces and layers but still produces a similar aesthetic with very little time invested! It can be made in light weight fabrics to become your go-to fabric grocery bag that can be stuffed into your car or a larger bag. I also imagine it sewn up in holiday-themed quilting cotton to become reusable wrapping paper or batch sewn as a Christmas gift.

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It was important to me that sewists who usually focus their making efforts on garments feel at home when they work on our bag pattern. Many bag patterns come with a list of dimensions that the sewist must transfer to their fabric and cut out. We have included this (since most pieces are rectangular in shape) but we’ve also included full pattern pieces that can be cut out and laid on your fabric as you would expect from a garment pattern.

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Also, as a garment sewist I found the sheer number of little pieces needed to construct a bag to be a bit intimidating. While I find the actual construction process of making a bag to be more straight forward than many garments, preparing and keeping track of all the pieces prior to and during sewing is a bit of a project! To make this less overwhelming, I’ve made labels that can be pinned to each stack of fabric so none of the similar sized rectangles will be confused during the sewing process.

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When I’ve made the odd bag in the past, I’ve been frustrated that my finished product has not wound up as rigid and professional looking as I had envisioned. I did a lot of experimenting with different stabilizer and fabric combos when working on Qualicum samples and included all my findings in the instruction booklet. This way you can fully stabilize the bag with a padded stabilizer or you can simply add a little interfacing to high wear points depending on whether you would like your bag to be hefty and padded (think ‘luggage’) or packable and light (think ‘fabric grocery bag’) and everything in between.

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So, there we have it, the development story of the Qualicum Bag! The end result is, I think, a very functional and handsome gender-neutral bag that can serve as anything from carry-on luggage to a packable grocery tote.

Head to the shop to view the pattern, snag your hardware kit, or shop leather and metal bag labels!


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Orange Leaves, Orange Pumpkins, Orange-haired Baby

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As it turns out, Fall is an excellent season for our new property. Our land is covered in many maple trees and the decorative plantings around our house feature showy decidous trees as well. Once the weather cooled and the leaves turned, even the rainiest of days was made brighter by the Fall display.

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The fire pit has really come into its own in the last couple of months. Matt had a lovely fire going all afternoon and evening when we hosted a big family Thanksgiving potluck several weekends ago.

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I was thrilled that everyone managed to make themselves comfortable around the fire on all manner of scavenged dining chairs and stumps. We brought out the appetizers and drinks and people passed a lovely couple of hours before dinner enjoying the warmth from both the fire and the October sunshine.

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Noah turned one this October (already!?) so the Thanksgiving feast also served as a bit of a birthday party for him and the other October babies in the family. As a birthday gift, my sister and her partner spent some time setting up a classic tire swing and she took this gorgeous photo of him enjoying it.

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Our chickens are fully grown now but, unfortunately, six of the eight turned out to be roosters. As a result, four of the roosters are now in the freezer which was a tough introduction to homesteading but necessary for the health and happiness of the two little hens. Now that the days are so short, I don’t think the hens will be inclined to lay their first eggs until the spring.

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Next year I hope to either buy two more hens or perhaps let one of our hens hatch her own eggs if she goes broody in the spring. Matt and I have to decide whether we are willing to face culling more roosters should the hatched chicks turn out to be male…at this point it seems that it would be more enjoyable to find some grown hens but I worry they won’t integrate happily with an existing flock. Does anyone have experience with integrating mature hens? I’d love some tips!

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As the weather becomes wetter and colder I am trying to keep a routine in place that has Noah playing and me working on the property daily. His new rain suit really helps with this but I think the biggest factor that will allow me to prep garden beds this winter will be his ability to walk.  I expect he’ll be walking (and running!) very soon! Right now he loves to walk outside while holding my hands but, understandably, is not interested in crawling around and exploring on his own like he does when indoors. The ground is wet and cold on his hands (and he whips gloves off within seconds of me wrestling them onto him). Once he’s walking he’ll have more independence and we can both play and work in the same area of the property. Am I way too optimistic in imagining this? Maybe I’ll just be busy chasing him at that point!

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As winter approaches we are fine tuning the operation of our big wood furnace and are thrilled that it can heat the house overnight. It is very cosy! We will be having an arborist over to fall a dead tree near the workshop. When he’s here I’ll ask him to limb a couple of the big cedar trees to give the trees below them a bit of space. I look forward to decorating the porch with boughs! I think the house will look so pretty bedecked with cedar in the snow!

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As per usual, I’ll finish this seasonal homestead update with a bit of Thread Theory news. We have a pattern launching soon (VERY soon!)! It really is any day now! Be the first to know and receive the special launch day discount by signing up for our newsletter.

I will be working on the next pattern instructions over the winter. The pattern is already mostly finished! I hope to launch this next one in early Spring 2020.

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Well, that’s it for now! Happy Halloween everyone! I hope yesterday included and perhaps this weekend includes pumpkins, Fall leaves and fireworks!