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Plans for a Menswear Capsule Wardrobe

The other day I was doing a bit of painting on the exterior of our workshop and needed to sacrifice an old shirt to become my new painting shirt. None of mine were worn out enough to warrant ruining in this way so I seized the opportunity to grab Matt’s oldest t-shirt. It is a grey t-shirt, one of those ones that are handed out for free at events complete with advertising all over the back. He’s had it for 10 years and worn it every week as it is, by far, his favourite t-shirt.

I have always agreed with him that the fit is excellent, the blue-grey colour flatters him and the quality of the material is surprisingly rugged…it looked smart on him…or at least it did 5 years ago! Since then it has gathered holes, lost all but hardened speckles of the former screen printing, and achieved this strange fluid drape that hangs off his body heavily in a very rag-like way.

Matt doesn’t see the wear and tear though and has remained certain that it is still his best t-shirt. I’ve sewn him about a dozen t-shirts over the years in hopes he will get rid of his oldest when the newest arrives. We’ve also gone online and researched the brand and style of shirt to try to order several of the exact t-shirt, only to be disappointed that the fit and quality of fabric has changed for the worse over 10 years. Long story short, the shirt has done its duty admirably but, since Matt insisted on wearing it, armpit holes and all, into town, I really was thrilled to commandeer it as a painting shirt (it’s very comfortable…now that I’ve been wearing it I can see the appeal!).

Despite feeling like I was doing Matt a favour by putting the poor shirt out of its misery, I also definitely need to apologize for taking such a drastic actions. And what better way than by sewing him something fresh!

Matt’s birthday is coming up in September so I’m going to use that as an excuse to freshen up his entire wardrobe. Luckily for me, no one does a tiny capsule wardrobe better than Matt! He loves minimalism and rotates through the same few pieces on a weekly basis. Aside from this daily wear he keeps a few nice Fairfield Button-ups, a couple of special Belvedere Waistcoats and a pair of dress pants for holidays and weddings. He also likes to have a Goldstream Peacoat and a sporty daily wear coat (currently his Hemingway Windcheater) as outerwear. I have a partially completed Goldstream that I’ll be finishing this September at long last (stay tuned for a fresh sew-along on our website!).

I pulled out his current daily wear items (aside from the shorts, Finlayson Sweater and T-shirt that he was wearing) to assess how worn out they were. Of course, the garments here are his summer go-to items which differ slightly from his winter ones (which consist of flannel pjs, the same t-shirts and jeans and heavier sweaters).

Ok, so let’s start analyzing how each garment has fared and what I’ll need to sew: His linen Eastwood Pajamas are in excellent condition since they are only just over a year old. The linen is softening beautifully and they look very nicely fitted on him.

His Comox Trunks (the only underwear Matt wears) are quite worn out. I sewed him seven pair three Christmases ago as stocking stuffers and added a few fresh pairs the following Christmas. The oldest ones (a few of which are shown here) have stretched out elastic. The fabric is still in great condition though so I might take off the elastic and add new. If I have knit scraps from other sewing projects I will sew two or three fresh pairs.

Matt’s one pair of jeans are store bought as I didn’t make him a Quadra or Fulford sample when developing those patterns. He loves the fit of his jeans but the fabric has not worn very well. He got them perhaps 2 to 3 years ago and within several months the fabric was thinning at the knees and at the pockets where he stores his car keys and wallet. I think I’ll try to do some visible mending like I did on his last pair but will also sew him a fresh pair of Quadra Jeans so he can have his ‘dressy’ pair and his work pair.

While I have sewn Matt many Fairfield Button-ups out of beautiful quality shirtings, the one he wears all seasons, all the time, is the cheap flannel one that I made as an early sample of the pattern! He receives compliments on it all the time and, despite the constant wear over several years, it still looks quite nice (comfortably worn in).

I’d like to sew another flannel shirt for Matt since it is so gratifying seeing a garment I’ve made worn and loved so thoroughly. I won’t make that project a priority though as I have white linen set aside to make into a Fairfield and should really do that first (realistically, I probably won’t sew that one this year either as my sewing time is still quite limited, I hate sewing with white fabric due to the risk of staining it before the garment is even finished, and I’d rather have the jeans as my big, involved project for this wardrobe update since I love sewing pants).

Pictured above are Matt’s two most worn t-shirts aside from the one I commandeered. They are threadbare. I was surprised, when looking through his t-shirts that most of the ones I sewed a few years ago have since become rags due to holes or stains. I better make a couple more and will have to ask Matt if he would prefer the Strathcona Henley or the Sayward Raglan.

The one handmade t-shirt that Matt frequently wears still is this Strathcona Henley. In the winter he switches out this white cotton knit one for a green and grey wool one that I sewed many years ago. The winter one has accidentally been shrunk in the dryer a couple of times but is still wearable (albeit quite tight) with the sleeves pushed up to hide how short they are! This white one is in good condition but I’ve never loved how my placket turned out. I think, if I find time to add a fresh Henley to Matt’s wardrobe, a wool winter one would be most worthwhile. He will likely wear it a lot while working on our property and in his chilly uninsulated shop.

Aside from Matt’s trusty Finlayson (complete with fraying cuffs), this store bought quarter-zip light sweater receives heavy wear. Both the heavier Finlayson and light quarter-zip are looking a bit saggy and worn but are still functional at this point. I have fabric set aside for a new Finlayson to sew in time for his birthday and will sew him a new quarter-zip in no big hurry once this one has more signs of wear. Fortunately, one of our upcoming patterns is for a top quite similar to the sweater above!

A while ago I posted about my sewing dreams since I could accomplish little to no sewing while my baby had sleep issues. Those issues are thankfully resolved (hallelujah!) and I’ve been working away at my machine every few days in the evening or during a nap. Of course, I’ve already changed my sewing plans (as I am prone to do) and have allowed the new Estuary Skirt by Sew Liberated to jump the cue. I love wearing skirts like this but find fitted waistbands to be uncomfortable since giving birth…this pattern features elastic at the back so I think it will be a perfect daily wear garment!

I’ll start with this navy and white stripe cotton fabric that I bought from my friends shop, The Spool, and will probably sew a floral tencel one and solid green or rust coloured linen one in the future if I find myself wearing this one a lot.

I have the blush pink shirt cut out and the blue one mostly sewn. I hope these two knit shirts will pair nicely with the Estuary Skirt. The pattern is an interesting take on a raglan from Burda Style magazine (issue 4/2009). There is a seam along the top of the shoulder so that the sleeve is a two pieces and very fitted. I love the long cuffs!

While this dress wasn’t in my post on sewing plans, it really should have been. I was daydreaming about sewing a new nursing friendly dress needlessly as I’ve had three completely finished dresses sitting amidst my sewing things since last August. They were made with the Sew Over It Penny Dress pattern and Liberty of London florals that were so generously given to me by my aunt who lives in England. I made them while heavily pregnant but did not account for my increased chest size. The delicate tana lawn ripped at the underarm within minutes of wearing one of the dresses due to the strain. Recently I tried wearing a second thinking I was back to my old chest dimensions but it also ripped. Instead of sewing entirely new dresses I buckled down and made some repairs and alterations to these ones. I ended up adding a gusset at each underarm and now they are the most light, comfortable and (I think) flattering dresses in my closet! The busy prints hide Noah’s food stains really well too (any garment in my closet needs to pass that test these days). I feel quite pleased that I didn’t just cut these up to become bias binding (which a very tired and overwhelmed shadow of myself had considered while packing for our move with a newborn last winter!).

When I next sew this pattern (I can’t wait to make some fall and winter versions!) I’ll just adjust the pattern pieces to flare out at the underarm instead of sewing a separate gusset.

I think, between this dress design, the Estuary Skirt, some knit tops, my existing button-up Archer shirts, my go to Lazo pants and my trusty pair of Gap Curve jeans, I’ve unintentionally stumbled on my own perfect capsule wardrobe for my new lifestyle (being a mom, nursing, working around our property). I’ll just add wool tights to the skirt and dress outfits in cold weather.

I’m quite thrilled with these outfits as it was an awkward adjustment after giving birth. I was so excited to get back to wearing my lovingly sewn non-maternity clothes only to find that my go to outfits of fitted t-shirts and jeans or tunic and leggings were either uncomfortable (fitted t-shirts with light colours and low necklines are entirely impractical for me these days due to Noah’s grubby and grabby hands) or not nursing friendly. It’s nice to wear these dresses, in particular, and feel like myself again!

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