Thread Theory

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


The workshop of Wray Parsons

Matt recently went to visit local woodworker, Wray Parsons, and picked up our latest order of beautiful lathe-turned sewing tools.

With our recent move we live even closer to Wray so it seemed like a great opportunity to forgo mailing the order and instead have a tour of his workspace and a chat.

Wray kindly agreed to me sharing photos of his workshop on the blog as I thought you might like to take a peek as well!

It is amazing to see the large size of the tools used to make Wray’s remarkably small and precise wooden tools. In the background of the photo above you can see his lathe used for turning the wood into it’s final shape, below you can see the jointer and planer used to create his blanks (the rectangles of wood ready to be turned).

He also has a bandsaw (below) to process material and cut intricate shapes. Beside the saw you can see an example of one the the burls that he works with.

All of these tools and a lot of skill and time go into making his precisely crafted wooden tools.

He uses a set of specialty chisels imported from England to create the smoothly functioning threads on his acorn thimble case.

His wood storage appeals to me:

His projects are so miniature and his woods is so precious that even the tiniest piece (what most woodworking shops would view as scrap) is carefully stored for a future project.

Wray’s wife has a long history of needle work so he consulted her for his original line of tools and frequently consults the shops who stock his tools when designing a new tools.

He’s also greatly inspired by historical needlework tools, his acorn tape measure (pictured above) and thimble case are modeled after the silver acorn thimble cases found in Victorian sewing boxes. The stem on the acorn twists to roll the tape back up! His soldier’s friends (pictured below) are modeled after wartime sewing kits that soldiers kept handy to mend their uniforms.

Whenever he sources blades, scissors or stuffing to complete his tools, he finds the best quality: His seam ripper blades are very hard and sharp Japanese steel, his thread snips are Italian, and the pin cushions are stuffed with local sheep’s wool to coat your pins in rust preventing lanolin.

Wray also showed Matt the heated greenhouse that he built for himself.

It has a coal fired stove inside the timber and glass structure which allows Wray to grow tomatoes well into the winter.

The raised beds are very substantial and you can see that his heating and watering set up is finely tuned. The greenhouse is so large he even grows fruit trees within it!

What an inspiration for our future greenhouse! We are a long ways off from having something so substantial but I can certainly dream!

Anyhow, back to his woodworking: In our latest order we added some darning mushrooms which we have not stocked for some time. I’m trying to focus on sewing related tools (and used to include these mushrooms in the knitting section of our shop) but they are too beautiful, useful and aligned with the growing movement of mending instead of buying new…they simply make sense to have in one’s sewing kit!

Well, I hope you found this peek at Wray’s workshop and tour of Wray’s tools intriguing! Noah and I plan to pick up our next delivery so I can have a closer look at that garden and greenhouse! Wray kindly sends us photos and updates by email quite often but it will be much nicer to chat in person regularly now we live so close.

View our selection of Wray’s sewing tools.


Thoughts of sewing

Me Made May (a social media phenomenon where people pledge to wear their sewing projects and photograph their outfits throughout the month) has been inspiring as always this year. It’s also been frustrating. Since Noah was born I have sewn a fresh set of knit pants for him each time he grows out of them and a little bit for work (only in the last few weeks)…and that’s it! I really wish I could squeeze in more time for sewing, but of all my creative pursuits it is the hardest for me to fit in. Noah tolerates gardening when he’s in the carrier or on a picnic blanket. I can also garden when he’s napping in the stroller. He likes to join in while I bake. And he plays happily while I draw. As soon as I try to sew, though, he will have none of it! I think it’s because my movement back and forth from the tall ironing table to my tall sewing machine distracts him from his play and is also happening all above his head and tantalizingly out of reach and sight. I don’t have evenings free due to his sleep routine which is when I gather most new moms sew.

Anyways, I am enjoying the chance to garden and bake and will simply need to continue my love for sewing by daydreaming about it until the time comes when I can sew again! Babies grow so quickly so I don’t really wish for more time to sew as that would mean I was wishing Noah’s infancy away!

This Me Made May I’ve thought about sewing projects each day instead of creating or wearing them (aside from the sample sewing that is chugging along for work). Here is what I’d love to sew to suit our new lifestyle if I had the time:

Overalls! These would be very useful for gardening and chopping wood. There are so many amazing indie overall patterns to choose from but I’ve narrowed it down to these two.

I would sew these Jenny Overalls by Closet Case Patterns in a sturdy canvas for cooler weather (though the shorts version is tempting too!).

And these Sew House 7 Burnside Bibs would be great in linen or hemp for the summer.

Matt could still use some new Fairfield Button-up shirts. I bought him white linen last summer but never got around to sewing it as I was really only interested in sewing baby things while I was pregnant lol (I’m glad I did, though, as it is a joy to see Noah wearing his handmade overalls!).

Matt wears his original flannel Fairfield constantly so I’ll likely sew him another while working on the white linen one as batch sewing is so efficient.

I just bought the linen to make myself a harvest apron like this beautiful one I found on Etsy. I managed to cut it out while sitting next to Noah on the floor the other day. The linen I chose is periwinkle and quite heavy. I bought it from my friend’s shop, The Spool, in the Comox Valley. She just expanded into an enormous space and so her fabric selection is suddenly quite large. We went to visit recently and tour her beautiful new space so I picked out the linen for myself as a treat.

I can imagine wearing this apron somewhat like a hip bag or fanny pack. It will carry my phone, be used to collect veggies, and will keep eggs safe while I am also carrying Noah around the farm. Our chicks arrive in three weeks so I still have lots of time to create this apron before they begin to lay in mid to late August.

It would be nice to sew both Matt and myself a cozy Finlayson Sweater for evenings around the camp fire later on this summer. I have fabric set aside for this from one of the collections that we used to stock in the shop. If ever I could sneak away from my sleeping baby in the evening, this would be a realistic project to tackle as I can sew a Finlayson in just two short evenings (takes 2-4 hours depending on the speed I work and how distracted I am by Netflix or a podcast!).

It would be lovely to sew a summer dress for myself that is nursing friendly. I generally find myself sewing a fresh dress for myself each spring but, even if I don’t have time this year, my dresses from past years are still in good shape…they just aren’t nursing friendly which is inconvenient. The Southport Dress by True Bias would be a nice option. I think I’d make it tea length in linen or cotton. It looks comfortable, pretty, and nursing compatible.

Lastly, it would be so much fun to tuck into some sewing projects for Noah! I’d love to make him a set of fabric food, some bigger overalls, and a little apron that would cover him while eating much more effectively than a bib.

What sewing thoughts occupy your mind? Any tips on sewing while raising a baby who won’t sleep indoors unless I’m right beside him? Or any tips on helping him to sleep on his own (I’ve been reading and trying everything with very little success).


Next pattern progress

Progress on the second sample and first rough draft of the written instructions for our next pattern is coming along very well! I’m not working at a pre-baby pace but I have been able to get three 1.5 hour stretches of fully focussed time here and there over the last week. I’m making headway!

Last weekend we had two days with no trips farther than the grocery store and no visitors so we tucked in to some fun homesteading projects.

Matt spent Saturday cleaning out a little addition on the back of our house which was a room for the last owner’s dog. We are turning it into a cold storage room and Matt has begun to build shelving to suit our needs. The first shelf he is putting in is more like a work bench and will fit two demijohns for winemaking beneath it. The rest of the shelves will be sized to fit two rows of mason jars. It will be an excellent storage room for the produce we dream of growing!

I didn’t get much done on Saturday as I played with Noah all day but on Sunday morning I canned two different rhubarb jams while Matt took Noah for a long nap walk. Later that day we set Noah up on a blanket in the orchard and gave him the first home grown radish to play with and taste.

The radish, paired with some snuggle breaks and his basket of toys bought us enough time to lay out some beds and plant them with six blueberry bushes!

Eventually I’d love the orchard area to consist of long narrow beds filled with plants that coexist nicely with the fruit trees and wood chip paths between. This is a great start! On the sunny slope in the far left in the photo above I can imagine a small Mediterranean garden filled with sage, the fig tree that Matt’s mom just gave me, autumn olives and the grape vine that we just planted. It’ll be a very pretty and productive use of this very hot area!

This weekend I look forward to a picnic with friends in our yard and hopefully a trip to visit family on nearby Saltspring Island. Poor Matt has the flu right now (it began yesterday) so I hope he can get enough rest that he will be well enough for the Sunday trip! If he isn’t, the backup plan for my first Mother’s Day will be just as lovely – Noah and I will head to the opening day of the local farmer’s market.

This coming week I hope to finish the pattern sample and rough instructions. After that I will transfer the scrawled notes to Adobe Illustrator and begin the long process of expanding on my brief notes and then illustrating each step.

Happy Mother’s Day weekend!

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Fabric painting fun

I thought I would share Noah’s first art project…and of course it involves fabric!

I set him up in the bathtub with an ‘artist’s smock’ (a very stained and ugly onesie) and two blank canvases (blank cotton canvas tote bags). I put three blobs of non toxic acrylic paint on the fabric and let him smear his hands around.

I was ready to be extremely fast at blocking his attempts to put his hands to his mouth but was surprised to find that he didn’t move them in that direction. In fact, once he stuck one hand into the yellow paint I had to encourage him to move it around at all. He just wanted to keep it still and seemed to find the paint texture unpleasant. Darn! If given flour or food to play with, it’s a different story! Maybe we should have painted with sweet potato and beets haha! He got into the swing of it for a minute or two though and managed to spread all three colours and then he had enough!

For the next bag we tried feet which he seemed to enjoy more. It was less creative play this way though because I was basically manipulating his feet for him. When he’s older and able to crawl we will try painting again with his hands and a big sheet of paper on the floor.

After both bags were finished we ran the bath and played with some bath toys while he rinsed off…all in all, not quite as messy and fun as I anticipated but I’m still very proud of his first art! I think my mom and mother-in-law (who always read my blog) might be able to guess what is coming their way this Mother’s Day! I won’t spoil the surprise of the goodies they will find inside the bag though.

Have a great weekend! Maybe you’ll get up to some creative play with fabric too?