Thread Theory

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


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Thank you!

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Thank you to the over 40 volunteers who offered their bag making expertise to me last week!  The majority of you have sewn far more bags than I have in my repertoire (I’ve always been a garment sewist first and foremost) so I am incredibly excited to work with a select few of you on this upcoming bag pattern.

Those who were selected have been sent an email.  To those who did not hear from me, thank you VERY much for volunteering all of the same!  Here is a discount code for you (and all of the people who take the time to read my posts) to thank you for your support: BAGVOLUNTEER Enter the code upon checkout in our shop to receive $5 CAD off of your order.  There is no expiry!

I can’t wait to make progress in leaps and bounds on this bag.  There is nothing like a public and self imposed deadline to inspire me to work every moment our baby is sleeping (one to two weeks left until I send the testers their pattern!).

Have a lovely weekend!


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Pattern testing idea (call for testers now closed)

The pattern that I am currently developing is a pretty elaborate bag, which, obviously, is a departure from our usual focus on garments! While I have some unique and versatile garments planned for release after the bag pattern, I wanted something a little more straight forward as my first pattern project post baby. Our wallet patterns are always a big hit for birthday gifts and Christmas so I thought a proper unisex bag would complete the set!

As I am prone to do, I’ve allowed the bag to morph from basic to elaborate with variations to suit a wide range of sewists and very detailed instructions…I can’t help myself, I like to be thorough! So I’m now wondering if any of you are bag sewing aficionados who would be interested in helping me out with a test sewing project that is a bit different than normal:

Usually I send garment patterns to testers when the instruction booklet is more or less complete and has already been formatted by our graphic designer. The pattern itself has been made beautiful and branded by Matt. And all illustrations have been created by me. This time, since bag patterns are new to me, I was wondering if two or three sewists who have sewn bag patterns from more than one pattern company would be interested in sewing up the pattern while it is still very much a rough draft.

This would mean that you would work from written instructions with no illustrations. The pattern would include basic markings and labels but would not be ‘prettified.’ There are a LOT of pattern pieces to navigate. So you would need to be quite familiar with the general process of sewing a lined bag with many pockets! The main feedback I would be looking for is your opinion on the order of construction. Do you have a method that you prefer to mine for sewing straps? For inserting a zipper? For adding a lining? Does the level of detail I’ve included in the instructions help or is it overwhelming? Details such as typos and grammar can be left for the next phase of testing (unless you feel like pointing them out to me, which, of course, is welcome!).

After I receive this feedback I can make large alterations to the pattern and instructions without having to re-do illustrations or spend lots of time going back and forth making revisions with our graphic designer (much as I like the chance to chat with my sister in law, she has a baby too and time is precious!).

What do you think? Do you have bag making skills and techniques you would like to compare to the ones I’ve been developing? I’m excited to brainstorm with you!

The pattern will be ready for this stage of testing in two to three weeks (if baby Noah cooperates) so you would be sewing it late July and early to mid-August (with lots of flexibility as there is no especially strict deadline for you to complete the project).

Please comment below if this sounds like a fun project for you! And please mention approximately how many bags you’ve sewn because I’m really hoping to receive feedback from people who already have preferred bag-making techniques. Pattern testers will receive the finished pattern and a credit to our shop as a big thank you for your help!


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My mom sewed clothes for a boat…

My mom just finished a massive sewing project that I need to show off!

She sewed clothes (or chaps) for their new dinghy! My parents live on their large sailboat and have invested huge amounts of love, effort and money into their home over the last 15 or so years. This latest project is an example of the lengths they will go to keep things ship-shape!

Dinghy chaps protect the inflatable pontoons from wearing in the harsh sun. When my parents sailed to Mexico they came back, after a year, with a dinghy that had basically melted from the glare of the sun. The rubber was sticky, mottled and weakened. These chaps will prevent this new dinghy from experiencing the same fate!

My mom did all the patterning for this project herself and photographed the process. She followed a tutorial from Sailrite which is the go-to website and shop for sailors who sew. It’s actually worth checking out as a garment sewist as their video tutorials are amazing and could teach new skills for dealing with heavy fabrics while their shop carries some very interesting tools that you wouldn’t find at your average fabric store.

Whenever my mom creates a canvas structure for the boat (hatch covers, canopies, sail covers, window covers…a boat actually requires a huge amount of textiles!) she begins by shaping clear plastic and using a marker to note the many details.

The plastic pattern then needs seam allowances and hem allowances added just as one would for a garment pattern. The scale of everything is just far bigger…the shape of the dinghy looks just as complicated to fit as a human body!

She has become very skilled at knowing which points will need reinforcement when sewing for the boat. Because her canvas work is exposed to the elements and also to a lot of friction, many areas are beefed up with the addition of leather Or vinyl and heavy bindings.

All of her sewing is done on a special machine designed for sewing sails. It is very heavy duty and only does zig zag. When I sit down to use the machine I feel like a novice. It has a walking foot and the timing is very finicky but, unlike many machines designed for the home sewist, every aspect of the machine is meant to be adjusted as you sew. When the timing goes off while a sailor is fixing their sails miles out at sea, it is necessary to be able to fix it themselves! That used to be a huge procedure for my mom when she first got the machine (complete with snarled bobbins and a snarling sewist) but she’s quite quick at it now.

When my mom isn’t sewing for the boat, she sews for my Dad using our patterns. She tends to sew him some new clothes each time she’s off of work for a stretch (she is a school principal). Her latest makes were a Finlayson Sweater and some Fairfield Button-ups. She shares her Thread Theory makes on the Thread Theory Sewing Community on Facebook. It’s a happening place these days, so be sure to check it out if you are a Facebook user!

Thanks for sharing your progress photos, Mom. I hope the new chaps get plenty of use and hold up well…and, of course, I love the name of the new dinghy (named after our baby, Noah)!


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The workshop of Wray Parsons Pt. 2

We popped by woodworker, Wray Parson’s workshop again to pick up another order and this time Noah and I were able to tag along. Wray showed me his entire catalog of sewing and needlework tools that he makes or has made in the past. I enjoyed hearing the design process stories! He usually works with needlework artists who are looking for specific tools. They explain how they want the tool to function and look and then together they figure out how to create such a tool in wood, specifically on a lathe. He also puts a lot of thought into streamlining production so that the tools can be made in small or large batches as demand from shops and artists worldwide ebbs and flows.

When we first stepped into the shop Wray pointed toward the table where the orders sat and I went over to what I thought was our usual cardboard box. He stopped me and directed me to a very special pile instead…our little bag of wooden tools was sitting atop the most beautiful wooden bench complete with inset blocks spelling out Noah’s name! As soon as we got home Noah set the stool upside down and had great fun playing with the legs and watching as the letter blocks tumbled out for him to grab. I’m sure he will be using this stool, first as a toy and then as a seat, for many years!

While we carry most of Wray’s sewing related tools, there are a few designs that are new or I had forgotten about since I originally viewed his catalog years ago.

This little spool-shaped contraption is a combo pin cushion and beeswax block (used for conditioning thread to prevent tangles and to strengthen it when hand sewing). Wray uses 100% beeswax and, as always, stuffs his pin cushion with sheep’s wool so that the lanolin will protect your pins from rust.

While we carry his lovely acorn tape measures, he also makes these elegant bell shaped ones. To put the tape away, you spin the handle of the bell. When we are at craft fairs it is so fun to see people’s eyes light up in childlike wonder when they start spinning the acorn stem…this tiny bell sized to suit a doll or fairy would certainly have ignited my imagination as a child!

These wooden thimbles are very cute. I have never stocked them as they are decorative rather than functional but I thought you might enjoy looking at this one all the same!

From what I understand, the above tool is a form of bunka brush which is a brush used to set the nap of threads or fabrics all in one direction. It is intended for a very specific needlework but I wanted to photograph it to show you the three tiny wooden rings that float freely as decoration around the handle. So intricate! Wray includes this ring design on several of his long handled needlework tools.

Lastly, I am just so excited to show you this new project Wray has been working on at the request of an embroidery artist. These pin cushions are a take on his usual design but instead of adding velour fabric he’s packed the sheep’s wool in a fine mesh. He’s also altered the way it’s constructed so that the cushion can be removed. Any guesses why these changes have been made?

They are a DIY kit! These little changes mean you can add your own fabric or embroidery to create a custom cushion! What a unique way to feature a very special piece of fabric or an embroidery project! I’m definitely going to include these in our next order and can’t wait to work on some embroidered linen to decorate one for my own studio.

I laughed when Matt came home from his first visit to Wray’s workshop with a camera full of pictures of tools…Wray and his woodworking were nowhere to be found! I took these photos of his work to rectify the situation and Wray shared a favorite action shot of himself with me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed what has turned into a two part meet-the-maker series! I’d love to work with Wray to design a few more sewing tools. So far I am thinking of a magnetic pin dish (much larger than his needle minders since I love the convenience of being able to toss my pins in the general direction of a dish while I’m in a sewing frenzy). I’d also love to figure out some sort of wooden bobbin storage but I haven’t had any great ideas about how to convert this to something that could be turned on a lathe. Do you have any ideas for wooden sewing tool designs?

View Wray Parson’s tools in our shop.


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Homestead in June

It’s time for an update on the garden, our new chicks and Father’s Day sewing!

Our property looks VERY lush compared to when we moved here in March. Above is now and the photo below is from March.

It’s so exciting to see the greenery fill in as we continue to ‘discover’ plants we hadn’t yet noticed and get to know our land.

The veggie garden is giving us a nice daily salad but isn’t even close to providing all the vegetables we need this summer…that will be my goal for next year’s garden and in the meantime we have plenty of wonderful local sources for produce. (I don’t have photos of the various places I talk about in the following paragraphs so I’ve interspersed ones of our property instead!)

We’ve been shopping at the farm stand run by the man who used to own this very property 6 years ago. He operates a larger market garden now that is only a short 5 minute drive away.

We’ve also been loving the farmer’s market. It is more of a mixed market than the one we frequented in the Comox Valley. This one has pottery, sewing, weaving and plants along with produce making it lots of fun to peruse!

Our most recent source for veggies began last week. Noah and I headed to the farmer’s cooperative between naps to volunteer a couple of hours picking peas, carrots and garlic scapes. I’ve been excited to do this because we walk by the farm every day with our dog and the owners are very friendly and mentioned that they have work and volunteer opportunities. What a great way to learn about growing and meet like minded people in the community!

I tried to go without Noah while Matt watched him a couple of weeks ago but, since Noah would have none of that, Isabelle, who is one of the farmers, told me she used to just bring her kids along when she began to farm. So I loaded Noah in the ergo on my back and he enjoyed watching the other people picking and chatting for 1 hour 45 min. It was so nice to hang out with adults (and veggies)! They surprised me by giving me a paper bag of ‘farmer food’ (veggies that weren’t able to sell for one reason or another) as I left and we’ve enjoyed some delicious meals using them since! Matt joked that it’s more cost effective than if I were to get a part time job because he’s able to focus on Thread Theory while I’m gone (rather than childcare) and we have fewer reasons to go to the grocery store and spend money. Plus I won’t be worried if Noah wants to stay home and play and we miss a planned volunteer day! Anyways, I’m wanting to do it more for the sense of community than the produce anyways.

In other news, our chicks arrived! They were hatched by the kindergarten class in the elementary school where my mom is the principle. Thanks, Mom, for setting this up for us and for sending exciting photo updates each time an egg hatched! Unfortunately, something went wrong during fertilization or incubation and only four of the fifteen eggs hatched. These four chicks are so lovely though!

They are amber, black, and classic butter yellow. I love the variety of colours! We ended up buying four more chicks yesterday (Blue Australorps) to keep our first four company.

My last two snippets of news are somewhat linked. A while ago I mentioned my baby sleeping woes on the blog and many of you emailed and commented with commiseration, tips and your own stories. It was such a relief to feel supported by other moms! I sifted through all the advice to try to find something that matched our situation and was thrilled to receive an email from Erin of Tuesday Stitches patterns and Maternity Sewing. She said that the Sleep Lady Shuffle was a life saver for her. I’d already read pretty much every other sleep book out there so I figured, what the heck, may as well read that one too! We began the shuffle last weekend and low and behold, Noah’s sleep has improved for the first time since he was born!!! Until now it had been steadily getting worse so I am over the moon. Even better, the shuffle allows Matt to take the reigns and I suddenly have entire free evenings and only need to wake for a couple feedings. Its really mind boggling how much this has changed my life…I can garden and work all evening, have alone time, and sleep more than 45 min stretches all while knowing my baby is resting better than he has for months and will be happier in the morning. So, THANK YOU, Erin and everyone for your support. I think the result of your tips will be an increase in pattern production rate at last (and a far happier mom and baby)!

Finally, my last related tidbit: I sewed a shirt for my dad thanks to Noah’s newly rested levels of patience! He played with my fabric scraps happily while I cut and played with his dad while I sewed. It’s the Nice & Easy Tee by Hot Patterns (available in our shop) in superfine merino wool. I think it’ll be a nice base layer for him while skiing in the winter and sailing in the summer. It ended up a bit big but my mom says she can bring it in at the side seams and my dad likes the comfort of it being roomy.

Well, I hope you all have a great weekend and a happy Father’s Day! Matt’s requested a sleep in and French toast. Are you sewing anything for your dad for Father’s Day? Our PDF patterns are 25% off until end of day Sunday! You could even let him choose his preferred design on the day-of so you don’t need to marathon sew this weekend.


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Linen Harvest Apron

I am so happy to finally be able to say that I finished a sewing project!  Of all the sewing projects I dream of sewing, I decided to tackle the harvest apron first since it is a simple little project, I already had the fabric, and it would allow me to head out to the garden with Noah in my arms and easily pick a salad for dinner.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!  As I mentioned in my post listing my sewing plans recently, the design is based on an image of the beautiful aprons Four Peas in a Pod makes and sells on Etsy. I went with a different pocket configuration and waistband shaping and set out to make it rectangular but wound up curving the corners last minute due to bulk. It ended up quite similar to the original image but I am certain hers are far better constructed as my baby didn’t allow me the mental space to think through the construction process! On the bright side, I used close to every scrap of the meter of linen that I bought from my friend’s sewing shop in Courtenay, the Spool Sewing Studio.  It is beautiful linen and should be thick and sturdy enough to stand the test of time (and heavy veggies).  Upon testing the apron for a couple of weeks, I think I might need to beef up my stitching to match the strength of the fabric though.  The point where the pouch attaches to the waistband is a weak one and could benefit from some topstitching before it rips.

I felt a bit like a beginner while working on this project since I have sewn so little in the last seven months…I kept making rookie mistake after rookie mistake (or perhaps that is the sleep deprivation to blame?  Or the fact that I was sewing this in rushed 5-10 minute intervals while a baby complained at me?).  Anyhow, I am thankful to Noah that he allowed me the time to make something and I am thankful that my brain is still functioning well enough that it turned out to be usable and more or less how I imagined!

It has a zippered pocket on the back (originally intended to be on the front lol) which I imagine I can use for things I don’t plan to access often – band-aids will perhaps be useful once Noah is toddling around!.  On the front I did a patch pocket for my phone (pictured above) and the large harvest pocket.  This large pocket features pleats along the bottom and a drawstring along the top so that it can be un-knotted at center front and opened into a massive pouch.  Or the drawstring can stay knotted and veggies or eggs can be tucked into either side.

The waistband is shaped to sit over my upper hips.  The long ties are made to circle around the back and tie in the front so they don’t dangle behind me…perhaps this is tmi but I find garments with sashes that tie in the back to be very annoying as I invariably forget to lift the ties out of the way when I sit down at a toilet leading to a disgusting dip in the toilet bowl…ug!  As a toddler I would insist that the ribbon sashes on my fancy dresses were tied at the front so that I could always see the pretty bow.  My reasoning for tying at the front is far less whimsical now!

Well, there you have it, in addition to dreaming about sewing during Me Made May, I managed to actually create one of my day dreams!  I’d call that a step in the right direction!  Maybe I’ll work on those Burnside Bibs next…


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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.