Thread Theory

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


How to sew on a button (so that it won’t fall off!)

Finished button

When I first started sewing I didn’t own too much in the way of sewing manuals and, anyways, they may not have helped me much even if I had them because I am more of a ‘try and try again’ style learner and probably wouldn’t have referred to them as I bumbled along the learning curve to becoming a proficient sewer!

When I began my first semester of fashion design school after spending several years avidly sewing my own clothing, I was very eager to learn the ‘proper’ way to do things thinking that I likely did them all wrong.  As it turns out, I’ve since come to the opinion that often the ‘proper’ way of doing something when sewing is the way that works best for the circumstance.

In the case of sewing on buttons, for instance, the ‘proper’ way of attaching them is in any manner that results in a fastener that is strong, will not fall off over time, is easy to use and looks very nice.

So I’ll show you the way that I sew on a button and you can give it a try; if it fills all of the above criteria, then it is the ‘proper’ way for you!

merchant and mills boxed

And while I’m at it, I thought I should use some of the Merchant & Mills tools we have in our store so that you can see what is within the beautiful packaging.  To sew on this button I’ll be using the measuring tape, the wide bow scissors, a hand sewing needle, a glass headed pin, and most importantly, tailor’s beeswax.merchant and mills unboxed

And I’m sewing the button to this pair of linen shorts that I just made for Matt.

732X600 image

The linen is courtesy of the Fabrics-store which is an online shop that specializes in the most lovely of linens.  Both linens that I used (for the self fabric and the contrast waistband and fly shield are yarn-dyed.  I think yarn dyed fabric has such beautiful depth to it and is so appealingly rustic.  Check out the Fabrics-store’s gorgeous selection – it was lucky that Matt was around to pick the fabric because I was totally unable to pick a favorite (they’re all favorites!).

button - shorts front

Okay, now lets move on to sewing on the button! First off, I like to determine the perfect button placement.  On trousers, the button should sit directly above the zipper.  On these shorts that was one inch in from the edge of the waistband.  I also measured the halfway point between the top and bottom edge of the waistband so that the button would be centred.button - measure

To prepare my thread, I ran it through the tailor’s beeswax.  To do that, just pinch the thread between the wax and your thumb and run it along the edge of the wax.  Then repeat the process a second time.  Finish the application by quickly rubbing the thread between my fingers to work the wax into it.  It only takes a couple seconds and makes a world of difference!

button - wax thread

I used to hand sew without preparing my thread, which I now know was a silly thing to do!  I was plagued with knots and tangles while carefully sewing hems and my buttons would often (and I mean OFTEN) snap off at the most awkward of times.  Beeswax is quick to apply to the thread and helps to make it stronger.  It also causes the thread to behave in a completely different manner than un-waxed thread – if it becomes tangled while hand sewing, my exasperating initial reaction of tugging at the knot actually works – the knot doesn’t become tighter, it just magically slips away!

Choose a sewing needle with a long eye – that way you can double up your thread and feed both ends through the eye at once.  This may seem an impossible feat (two big fat thread ends through one tiny hole?!) but just give your ends a quick trim and the wax will keep them nice and stiff so you shouldn’t have a problem.

button - clip rough thread ends

Threading the needle in this manner makes sewing on a button twice as fast…my construction teacher taught me this and I send her a telepathic thank you every time I sew on a button!button - double thread needle

Make the thread ends even with the looped end of the thread (so that you will be sewing with four strands of thread) and knot it.
button - tie knot in thread

Now this may seem counter-intuitive (at least it initially did to me!): Start sewing on the button from the FRONT of the garment rather than the back.  That way the knot is hidden underneath the button.button - begin sewing

Once the needle and thread are pulled through to the back, bring the needle through to the front again as close to your original stitch as possible (but not in the same spot or you will simply be undoing your stitch!).button - shorts from back

Instead of pulling the threads super tight, leave a gap between the button and the garment like so:button - room between button and shorts

This will later be filled with a shank made out of twisted thread that holds the button away from the garment making it easier to grab and use.  If you were sewing on a button with a shank, you wouldn’t have to do this because the shank is already provided!

Repeat this process several times but make sure to leave enough free thread on your needle to create a shank (somewhere in the vicinity of 5″-8″ (12 – 20 cm)).

button - sew from back

End with your needle on the right side of the garment and twist the 5-8″ of thread around your stitching (in the space between the button and the garment).  Pull tightly to create a solid shank.
button - wrap to create post

Once your shank has been created, it is time to secure the stitching.  To do this, don’t just begin with a granny knot (that’s what I always did and they never held!).  Instead, push the needle through the thread shank.  It will probably be difficult to do, but you can always push the end of the needle against a hard surface or use a thimble to coax it through.button - go back through post

Now do this again from the opposite direction to lock everything in place.button - go up through post

My teacher said the next step is unnecessary but I can’t help myself – it feels too weird to end a hand-stitching process without tying a knot – so just tie a little knot using the loose ends from when you started stitching and the ends attached to your needle.button - tie threads

Trim off the excess thread and you have a super strong, beautiful and easy to use button!Finished button close up

You can hardly see any thread on the wrong side:

Finished button inside waistband

And it is really easy to grab and use:

Finished Button thread post

Is this the process you use to sew on a button?  If you do something different, what do you do?  I’d love to hear as I imagine there are all sorts of techniques out there with many of them being just as good as what I have come to consider my ‘proper’ way.

Now one more photo of the finished shorts:

side view

I think Matt will be wearing these shorts all summer long (and he reports that the wide legs are perfect for riding his bike to work)!

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This made me smile yesterday!


I couldn’t resist sharing this email with you!  Yesterday afternoon, Mandy emailed me through our Contact Us form to say:

I bought some notions a couple weeks ago, and just wanted to say how much I love the glass head pins.  They glide so smoothly into the fabric and have really made pinning less of a chore!  I usually avoid pinning whenever I can, but I see now that the pins I had been using were to blame for my dislike of pinning.

I’m so glad that I can purchase these from a local supplier and I’m certainly eyeing up the other notions and your fabulous patterns for the future.

Isn’t that lovely?  It’s so encouraging to hear such positive feedback about the products we carry in our store and to know that someone loves our Merchant & Mills notions and tools as much as I do!

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Tutorial Contest Prize Packages

Tutorial-Contest-titleNow that you’ve had a chance to think over submission ideas for our Tutorial Contest, it’s time to show you the prizes!

First off, the prize pack for the winner of the Super Useful Tutorial category:

Very useful tutorial prize

The prize pack includes a Comox Trunk Supplies Kit with the tissue Comox Trunk pattern, a $50 gift certificate to our store (that’s what’s in the folded brown paper with the gold sticker), and some really nice quality pattern drafting or tracing tools (from Goldstar).

These tools have sturdy (and pretty!) wood handles and pointy parts that are actually functionally pointy – it drives me crazy when cheap plastic sewing tools are supposed to contain sharp points only to be dull and quite useless in reality.  The awl is perfect for marking dart points on patterns and of course, creating holes in projects when inserting grommets or rivets, and of course, working with leather.  The needle point tracing wheel will make short work of tracing a pattern onto cardstock or, most importantly, tracing the changes you made on your mock up back on to your pattern.  Are you curious about how this works?  Take it from me and from this blogger, with whom I wholeheartedly agree, it’s accurate, fast and downright awesome!

Second, here is the prize pack for the Very Beautiful Tutorial winner:
Very beautiful tutorial prize

This pack includes two patterns of the winner’s choice (I’ve picked our two most popular patterns here – the Newcastle Cardigan and the Jedediah Pants), a $50 gift certificate to our store, and three useful sewing tools that I selected when I was perusing through the amazing sewing mecca that is Modern Domestic in Portland, Oregon.  The treasures I found include a big tin of glass headed pins (in the manly colors of blue and white), a Merchant & Mills tape measure, and a neat little square of Thread Heaven which is a thread conditioner and protectant.  Modern Domestic carries all sorts of brands which I don’t see in my local chain fabric stores – it was refreshing to pick through such a large selection of products that had all been thoughtfully designed by small enterprising sewing companies!

The last prize pack goes to the winner of the Social Butterfly Tutorial category:

social butterfly tutorial prize

This pack includes a $50 gift certificate to the Thread Theory store, a bar of Otterwax, a box of Merchant & Mills glass headed pins and two half metre pieces of cozy cotton knit hailing all the way from Sunni’s store, A Fashionable Stitch, in Salt Lake City, Utah!

While we were in Salt Lake City in April, we paid Sunni a visit and I was in fabric heaven while perusing her store – she had such a great selection of wools and laces (seriously…I’ve never seen such lovely lace in my entire life!) and she also had a really comprehensive selection of other fabrics.  I was in a Comox Trunk mindset at that time after the success of the Comox Trunks Sew-along so Sunni generously traded some of her gorgeous striped knits for one of our Newcastle Cardigan patterns.  I think both of these knits would make incredibly soft and relaxed Comox Trunks that would receive heavy rotation if they were placed in a man’s underwear drawer.  And they are just unusual enough in appearance to push a conservative man’s color and style boundaries!  Plus…wouldn’t it be fun to play with stripes with this pattern?


It’s been exciting to receive some very enthusiastic emails full of tutorial ideas so far!  I’d love to hear any ideas you might have for tutorials, even if you won’t have time to make them yourself.  I will keep your ideas in mind for when I go to make tutorials in the future…or you could pass your ideas on to someone who might be thinking of entering the contest themselves :).


It’s time for a contest! Make us a tutorial!

Today is my birthday, and as a little present to myself I’ve decided to take some work off of my own plate and ask if you want to do it instead!  Don’t worry, it’s actually work you will WANT to do.  You don’t believe me?  Well let me explain:


We are holding a tutorial contest!  To enter, you will need to make a tutorial to accompany a Thread Theory pattern or kit.  The tutorial can be on absolutely anything related to the pattern/kit of your choice!  There will be an excellent selection of prizes for the winner of each category (more on that later).

The winning tutorials will be chosen by Matt and I based on how relevant and useful they are for the specific pattern and also how nicely presented and clear they are.  All the winning tutorials will be published on our website under the Tutorials heading and on our blog.

Now here are the category details:


Entries for the “Super Useful Tutorial” category will be judged by us based on how informative and clear they are and how relevant they are to our patterns.  For example, if you have noticed that we are really in need of a specific tutorial and have a gap to be filled, we have probably been thinking the same thing (and so we will be thrilled if you fill that gap)!  Tutorials for this category must be submitted by email to by July 21st.  Any format is accepted – get creative- a Word document with photos, a video, an info-graphic…surprise us!

The winner from this category will be given the following prize pack:

  • a $50 (CAD) gift certificate to the Thread Theory store
  • a Comox Trunks supplies kit in the colour of your choice
  • a selection of Goldstar pattern drafting tools (pictures coming in a separate post!)


Entries for the “Very Beautiful Tutorial” category will be judged on how nicely the tutorial is presented (and, of course, the tutorial must be relevant and useful!).  Bust out your paint set, your camera or your graphic design skills and wow us with a beautifully presented tutorial!  Tutorials for this category must be submitted by email to by July 21st.  Any format is accepted – get creative- a Word document with photos, a video, an info-graphic…surprise us!

The winner from this category will be given the following prize pack:

  • a $50 (CAD) gift certificate to the Thread Theory store
  • two tissue Thread Theory patterns of your choice (if you already have all of our patterns you can request to be given future releases)
  • a selection of my favorite sewing tools from our stockist, Modern Domestic (pictures coming in a separate post!)


Entries for the “Social Butterfly Tutorial” category will be chosen from tutorials that have been posted on your blogs or other forms of social media (an infographic on Pinterest or a sew-along on Kollabora for example).  Just because you’re writing a tutorial for us doesn’t mean you can’t use it on your blog as well!  We will judge these tutorials based on how engaged viewers are – have people commented on your blog?  Are they hearting you on Kollabora?  Are people tweeting that they are using your tutorial? Tutorials for this category must be submitted by linking to them in the comments below or by emailing us at with a link by July 21st.  Keep in mind that you will likely want to post your tutorial quite soon for this category so that it has time to gather comments and general sewist enthusiasm before July 21st!  I can’t wait to see what people make using your tutorial!

The winner from this category will be given the following prize pack:

  • a $50 (CAD) gift certificate to the Thread Theory store
  • a bar of Otter Wax and Merchant & Mills glass headed pins
  • a selection of striped knits from our stockist, A Fashionable Stitch (perfect for Comox Trunks!)

I’m so excited about this!  Best birthday present EVER (if I do say so myself).  I’m really looking forward to having the pressure of tutorial creation taken off of me for a while as I am currently in full swing new-pattern-production mode…which is something I am sure you all want to enable :).

Please email us or comment if you have any questions or want to run ideas by us.  Tutorials can be as big or as small as you would like – for example you could teach us how to make the perfect bar tack on the Jedediah Pants or you could take us through an entire Newcastle Cardigan sew-along (just because I’ve mentioned these two specific examples doesn’t mean you need to avoid making these…hint hint!).  If we receive more than one ‘winning’ entry per category we will be choosing runners-up and will be offering you a little prize as well in exchange for the privilege we will have of using your awesome tutorial on our website!

Now get sewing, photographing and writing! 🙂



Looking for Manly Knits?

I am sure you can all relate to how frustrating it is to look for masculine knits when planning to sew an Arrowsmith, Strathcona or Newcastle.  Sometimes I wish Matt would be just a little less picky over which style of stripe or tone of orange he likes (it’s incredibly mysterious and I fail to predict his answer every time I ask his opinion)…but, what would be the point spending loads of time and care to make him a custom garment if I started by asking him to compromise when choosing fabric?

girl charlee website

Way back when Thread Theory was brand new (actually not that long ago :P) I wrote a post called “Tips on Manly Knits” that included a list of online retailers that I thought sounded like promising sources for knits.

Since I am always on the lookout for great knit sources, I had better update this old blog post by letting you know about the latest source for knits that I have tested out and been thoroughly satisfied with: Girl Charlee – an online fabric store that carries only knits!

(Please note that I am not sponsored by or affiliated with Girl Charlee in any way, I am just really pleased with my fabric shopping experience!)

girl charlee purchase

I got a little carried away of late and ordered a whole pile of knits for myself and my sister to make Soma Swimsuits and Pneuma Tanks.  I neglected to add any menswear fabrics to my shopping cart in my fabric buying frenzy, but, once fabric-excited-me had a chance to calm down after my AWESOME box of knits arrived, I went back online and was able to fill a whole design wall with loads of Matt-approved fabrics.

Would you like to see some of my favorites?  Check these out!

Just click on each picture to be taken to the fabric description on the Girl Charlee website.

Let’s start with an ‘on-brand’ fabric choice – I am, after all, attracted to anything featuring the Thread Theory burnt orange! This ponte de roma would work nicely for a  Newcastle or a heavier Strathcona:

Burnt Orange Solid Ponte de Roma


If you are a fan of blended knits, there is no end of colour selection on the Girl Charlee website.  They feature a lovely heathered effect that makes a solid colour so much more interesting.  I find a little bit of poly in a t-shirt knit isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it seems to make for a more weightless knit that comes out of the dryer without the wrinkles cotton t-shirts are prone to.  I’d love to see a classic Strathcona Henley with a placket in this denim coloured tri-blend knit:

Denim Blue Heather Solid Cotton Jersey Tri Blend


This burnout cotton jersey is a really unusual colourway and would make a really ‘designer’ style Strathcona Tee or Arrowsmith Tank.  I think it would look great as the Arrowsmith with solid grey binding and even a solid gray pocket as contrast:

Orange Gray Solid Burnout Cotton Jersey

Even though Matt always steers clear of much colour, I can generally convince him to wear shades of teal.  I think this teal blue cotton jersey featuring navy slubs would look very masculine as a short sleeved Strathcona tee and would bring out green or blue eyes very nicely (always my hidden motive when choosing menswear fabrics :P):
Teal Blue Mira Slub Solid Cotton Jersey

With those important solid basics covered, lets move on to some adventurous prints! This stunning ponte de roma print would make the PERFECT on-trend Newcastle.  I would certainly steal this one from Matt and might even be inclined to stop pretending it was for him and simply make myself an XS version 🙂 :

Navajo Arrow desert Tribal Ponte de Roma

If you’re man isn’t inclined to wear quite so many colours, this hacci sweater knit would be the perfect cozy alternative:

Navajo Indian Blanket Gray Black Hacci Sweater Knit

While we’re on the subject of sweater knits, this hacci sweater knit features my favorite colour (olive green) and would be great as a summery Newcastle because the white flecks lighten up the dark green quite a bit and, to my eyes at least, give this knit a bit of a laid back surfer/beachy vibe…can’t you just imagine your surfer-man putting on his Newcastle when the ocean breeze brings a bit of a chill at the end of a day on the beach? And, of course to complete this picture, the two of you are snuggled up watching the sunset…

Olive Green White Marble Hacci Sweater Knit

Are you inspired to start sewing some knit menswear?  I would recommend ordering fairly large quantities at a time because shipping tends to be a little pricey for smaller orders but becomes slightly less so as the package size increases (at least to Canada, I am not sure how affordable it is within the United States or worldwide).  Even with shipping, I found that I was paying about the same price or maybe just slightly more for the knit fabrics I purchased as I would have if I went to my local fabric store and bought the higher quality knits.  Of course, the selection is tiny locally and features mostly primary colors and feminine prints…so I would be willing to pay quite a bit more to buy knit fabric that is masculine and interesting and high quality!


Summer inspiration: Linen and stylish wrinkles

linen shorts - casual

 (Click on photos to be taken to their source)

Since stylish men’s fashion is often associated with layering, summer can be a tricky time to dress comfortably but also stylishly for men (poor men can’t just throw on a maxi dress to beat the heat in style!).  I’m anticipating the arrival of some beautiful linen fabric in the mail (from Fabrics Store) which is destined to become linen Jedediah Shorts and so have been searching high and low for summer menswear inspiration.  I’ve found two main interpretations of linen menswear for the summer:

sartorialist summer suit

1. Linen as casual and effortless.  The beautiful thing about linen menswear is that it couldn’t be easier to add personality into a classic and easy to wear garment.  Simply soften up the pants with a few washes, live in them a little to create some creases and quickly roll up the hems…voila, instant high style (as seen on the Vivienne Westwood SS14 runway)!

vivianne westwood linen pants

Wrinkles can be intentionally worn as a built in ‘layer’ to add style to a garment instead of piling on another sweater or another tie to create a unique outfit.

Vivienne-Westwood-plaid linen pants

2. Linen as dapper and elegant.  Walking around in wrinkled pants might feel sloppy to some men, and if that’s the case, they need not steer clear of linen as there is an entirely different way of wearing this cool and comfortable fabric in the summer.


Simply take an iron to the very same pants and a whole new dapper look is born!


Of course, linen tends to wrinkle as it is worn throughout the day but, by starting the day crisp and smart, the end-of-the-day worn in garments will simply ease the wearer into the wrinkled stylishness of Interpretion #1!


I’m really looking forward to sewing my linen Jedediah Shorts!  Do you like sewing with linen?  Do you have any tips for me in regards to fabric preparation, seam treatments or styling?


Get to know Otterwax

diy northwester bagEver since launching Otter Wax in our store, we have received a lot of curious emails and comments about the uses of this mysterious product.  Well, here  is your answer!  I have compiled a few different tutorials and links from around the web that feature Otter Wax as a finish for ready made garments and DIY projects.  Hopefully these will leave you inspired to start waxing!


First of all, you might be interested to read a little more about the maker of Otter Wax – Chris Chase.  He is an inspiring entrepreneur based out of Portland, Oregon who is committed to providing natural fabric and leather care products, and, most recently, apothecary products!waxed motercylce jacket

Now that you know a little about Chris, now have a look at what other people have used Otter Wax for: Check out this gorgeous waxed jacket as an alternative to the classic leather motorcycle jacket – complete with wind and water resistant qualities!

waxed shirt

Waxing a heavy button-up shirt turned this garment into the perfect work shirt – ideal for chopping wood on a misty morning and generally just wearing 24/7 until it becomes a soft, wrinkled and pleasantly worn second skin.

waxed skinnies

Otter Wax isn’t only for menswear style garments!  Female style and DIY bloggers have embraced it as the perfect way to create sexy waxed skinnies (which would create a look similar to leather pants but be WAY easier to sew btw…and in my opinion, more flattering and forgiving).

canvas bag


And, of course, Otter Wax, used as it was originally intended, is the perfect tool to wax canvas or tin cloth jackets and bags.  It instantly creates a worn in and rugged look and gives the fabric water resistant properties.  If you are in doubt about the effectiveness of Otter Wax, have a look at this experiment and tutorial over on The Art of Manliness in which Otter Wax is tested on several types of fabric (even wool!).  Thanks to one of our readers for sending us this article!


The two shaving kits that I made using Otter Wax used about 1/3 of the bar for a medium level of wax coverage…soooo I’ve got 2/3 left to use for another project, yay!  Last weekend there was a garage sale a few houses down from us so I came home with a really old (and worn) wood framed rucksack.  It looks similar to the backpacks used in WWII but the owner said it wasn’t used in the army and that he owned it since it was new.  Needless to say, the canvas needs a little help if it is going to survive a few more seasons.  I think Otter Wax will come nicely to the rescue!  And I’m hoping it will mask the musty smell of old canvas stored in what must have been a very dusty attic :P.

Note: As you can see from these various tutorials, some people simply rub the wax onto the fabric and leave it to cure for 24 hours while others apply heat with a hair dryer either before or after applying the wax.  I’ve found that Otter Wax works just great when applied as instructed on the package (no heat), but if you are applying it to a rough or napped fabric and it isn’t spreading very smoothly, heat might be a good idea!

What projects would you like to wax?  Has anyone tried it on a wool cap yet (I think that would be AWESOME) or on sneakers (a common use for it)?