Thread Theory

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


Natural Fabric and Leather Care

Uses for Otterwax (1 of 27)

We have some new supplies in the shop today!  Let me introduce to you three new Otter Wax items (and then I’ll share the details on this waxed bag).

Otter Wax is a line of natural, environmentally low-impact fabric and leather treatments.  They are created in Portland, Oregon. We’ve carried their Fabric Wax in our shop for quite some time now (it was the very first item that we added to our supply shop aside from our own patterns!) and I felt it was time to expand our selection…especially since I was eager to get my hands on a few of these items for my own projects!

New Otterwax Items (4 of 4)

To accompany the fabric wax, our shop now includes Castile Soap Canvas Cleaner.  This is a very gentle cleaner that can be used to wash waxed items (such as jeans or Matt’s waxed Jutland Pants) by hand in cold water without stripping off the wax.  So far, I’ve washed Matt’s waxed Jutlands by hand a few times with just a touch of laundry detergent.  The wax layer has become considerably thinner than when I first applied but it still manages to repel water.   I think I will touch up his pants with a bit more wax for the first time and wash them occasionally with this Castile Soap from now on!

New Otterwax Items (3 of 4)

The next Otter Wax item we now carry is their Heat-Activated Fabric Dressing.  This is a pot of wax that can be melted in a pan of water on the stove.  It performs the same waterproofing task as the rub on bar of wax that we have always carried but with a couple distinct differences.  The extra step of melting the wax before applying it creates a smooth finish that is more “Factory Finish” and less “aged” in appearance than the rub on bar creates.  Also, melting the wax allows you to saturate the fabric more fully.  You might prefer to use this wax over the rub on bar if you want both sides of your fabric waterproofed.

I haven’t tried out this version of Otter Wax yet but I will be sure to report on how the application process differs from the rub on bars when I have!

The next item I want to show you is something a bit different for the Thread Theory shop – leather care!

New Otterwax Items (2 of 4)

This Leather Care Kit includes everything you need to care for, polish and waterproof leather – naturally!  These soaps and salves are void of petroleum byproducts.  They all smell heavenly…

New Otterwax Items (1 of 4)

… and work wonderfully!  I tested them out on Matt’s loafers yesterday afternoon.  He got these leather shoes at Winner’s (the discount brand name store) about 6 years ago and I’ve been hinting they should head to the trash for about 2 years now.  They haven’t been cared for and they are absolutely tatty.

Uses for Otterwax (13 of 27)

I rubbed on the saddle soap with a damp rag first and used a horse hair brush to whisk off the dirt.  It darkens the leather considerably but this is temporary.  Now that the shoes are drying they are becoming lighter again (lighter than you see in these photos which were taken 10 minutes after polishing).

Uses for Otterwax (19 of 27)

I then rubbed the loafer over with Leather Salve and was absolutely shocked at the transformation.  The salve sunk right into the leather and within moments most of the major cracks were completely gone!  You can especially see this along the toes in the photo above.  It also felt really nice on my hands that were dry from gardening yesterday morning 😛

Uses for Otterwax (22 of 27)

To finish off the shoe I added boot wax (this waterproofs the leather using lanolin and beeswax) and then I gave the shoe a quick buff of boot oil to create a gleam.  I didn’t buff for too long because the shoes were a matte finish originally and I wanted to keep them this way.

Anyways, as you can probably tell from these photos and my glowing review – I really love this leather kit (far more than I expected to!).  Here’s to shoes and leather bags that look as fresh and cared for as the home-sewn outfits they accompany!


That’s it for the new products in our shop but now I have a new project to show you that suits the Otter Wax theme of the day:


You’ve likely seen our Bag Making Supplies Kits in our shop before – they have been one of our best sellers ever since we launched them in honor of Father’s Day in 2014.  I’m showing it you again because this winter I made a new project using this kit and I’m so thrilled with how it turned out!

Uses for Otterwax (3 of 27)

This is my Mom’s daily tote.  She’s a principal at an elementary school so she uses this bag to carry huge loads of textbooks, laptops, other electronic apparatuses (she has MANY), and lunch to and from school each day.

Uses for Otterwax (5 of 27)

I made the bag using the Burnt Orange colored canvas and all the notions included in the bag making kit.  I added lining fabric to the inside and the pretty antique brass rectangles (not included in the kit) to the handles to match the kit’s antique brass metal zipper.

Uses for Otterwax (4 of 27)

I sewed the kit’s garment tag to the handle since I know my Mom likes to proudly display the Thread Theory brand on items that I make her. 😛

Uses for Otterwax (7 of 27)

I used the Chicago Screws on the bottom of the bag to hold a cardboard insert to the base and to act as little ‘feet’.  I forgot to take a photo of these and I’ve already returned the bag to my mom for use at school today…sorry!

I waxed the bag with the regular size bar of Otter Wax (also in the kit).  It is a huge bag and used all but a tiny nubbin of wax.  I gave it a VERY thorough waxing.

Uses for Otterwax (11 of 27)

My Mom has been using the bag daily since I gave it to her for her birthday in November and reports that it sits in the (sometimes) dirty trunk of her car, is always on the floor of her office, and is often thrown atop her muddy winter boots beside her desk.  She is impressed by how clean the Otter Wax has kept it!  The dirt brushes off easily and the bag still looks brand new.

Uses for Otterwax (12 of 27)

You can see the original color of the canvas (pre-wax) inside the pocket that I added to the exterior of the bag.  I love the burnished effect that the wax gives!

You might be interested to know that my thick coating of wax and the damp, west coast winter air led to a VERY long cure time for the Otter Wax.  It usually cures in 24-48 hours but this was not the case for this bag – I waited two weeks and it was still tacky!  Also, big chunks of wax were stuck in the zipper teeth and the hair dryer that I normally use to work the wax into the fabric was not enough to melt these chunks.  I ended up putting the bag in the dryer with an old towel so that it would be ready in time for my Mom’s birthday.  It worked wonders!  The wax sunk into the fabric with no effort on my part.  I think I’ll use this method from now on!

I haven’t read any other tutorials where people suggest using the dryer.  The latest tutorial that I’ve come across uses a heat gun to the same effect. I like that there are so many ways to work with this fabric wax – you can combine all sorts of tricks to come up with the system that best suits they way you like to operate (I like to avoid heat guns near fabric since I’ve accidentally browned cotton in the past, for instance).



All the new items in our shop are perfectly suited for the Spring rains that are in our near future here on Vancouver Island.  I hope that they will fit into your climate and project plans as well as they fit into mine!



DIY Manly Gift Guide – Father’s Day Edition

2015 is a special year because Father’s Day, the first day of summer and my birthday all land on the same day – so many reasons to celebrate!  I’ve been brainstorming homemade gifts for my dad this year and have come up with a few intriguing ideas featuring various supplies from our shop.  If you would like to explore more ideas, I made a post for Christmas 2013 with all sorts of neat DIY gift ideas for men – be sure to check this out too!


My dad, our best model, in his Jutland Pants

Here is my collection of ideas sorted into categories based on the supplies they use from our store:

Using Otterwax and/or Canvas:

You could make this ‘DIY’ gift so easy on yourself it might feel like cheating – just buy your dad a new version of his favorite cap (or steal his old one!) and cover it in Otter Wax!  Both the large and regular size bars are in stock in our shop right now.

If you’re feeling more ambitious, make or buy a canvas work apron or jacket and give it a rugged treatment of wax to make it water resistant, windproof and long lasting.  If you’re looking inspiration when it comes to waxing, you need look no further than the Otterwax Facebook page (the source for all the photos below) and Instagram feed!


Using our Patterns:

Embark on a manly sewing project!  If you don’t need your present to be a surprise, a pair of Jutland Shorts might be exactly what your Dad needs as the weather warms up.  If you and your dad are pretty close, why not sew him some new undies or long underwear using our Comox Trunk pattern?  Warning, this will likely bring your father/offspring relationship to the next level – be prepared for your Dad’s regular reports on how comfortable his new underwear are!  My mom made my dad seven pairs not long ago and we received regular reports on how they were wearing in for quite some time!  The Finlayson Sweater is a great choice if you plan to sew in secret – it is loose fitting so all you need to do is compare the garment measurements to your dad’s hoodies or sweaters to choose your size.

Photo sources (clockwise) : 1. Cookin’ & Craftin (Jutland Shorts) 2. The Japanese Pattern Challenge/Mainely Dad (Finlayson Sweater) 3. Par Issy (Comox Trunks)

Using the Bag Making Supplies Kit:

Last Father’s Day we launched our Bag Making Supplies Kit in time for Father’s Day gift giving.  It includes a variety of supplies useful in most bag making pursuits but it is meant to be versatile enough that you can use it for all manner of creative projects!  1 m of beautifully smooth cotton canvas is included as well as a whole bar of Otter Wax.  You could use these supplies to make your Dad one of the waxed aprons photographed above or you could use these materials as part of a Grainline Studio Portside Duffle Bag as I did for a tutorial I made last winter.  There is enough fabric to make a heavy duty tote bag with leather handles which you could fill with your dad’s favorite beer or treats or you could get really fancy and use the material to make a custom laptop bag.  And, of course, the Dopp Kit tutorial that I originally launched with the kit would make a great Father’s Day gift.

Using the FREE Arrowsmith Undershirt Pattern:

Last, but not least, I know that MANY of you have already downloaded our free Arrowsmith Undershirt pattern since it is our most popular PDF pattern.  I have been so eager to see how your undershirts have turned out but can’t seem to find much in the way of photos anywhere!  I would LOVE to see some Dads in Arrowsmith Undershirts this Father’s Day!

Image from Sahellara’s Instagram feed.


What are your plans for Father’s Day?  Have you given your dad a handmade gift in the past – any big successes?  Any hilarious failures?



Tutorial for a Fall Picnic Set: Featuring the Bag Making Supplies Kit and the Portside Duffle Bag

As the leaves begin to change color this and Autumn evenings become shorter and more crisp, I have been longing to head out to the local beaches and forests for picnics.  I know many people might think of a picnic as something to enjoy in the heat of summer with lemonade and watermelon, but my favorite sort of picnic is of the fall variety – sitting on a windswept beach or amid crunchy burnt orange leaves at the park with a blanket wrapped cozily around me and a cup of hot apple cider in my hand.

With that image of an ideal picnic hovering in my mind, I made a Fall picnic set! I made this set as a guest blogger for Britex who provided me with this gorgeous Etro Olive & Pumpkin Plaid Wool!  This Italian wool is a unique mix of colors that are cheery individually (teal blue, bright orange!) while still decidedly autumnal over all.  It is a large weave and it is quite light but strong – perfect for a blanket, and, with interfacing, as a bag!


I paired the wool with the contents of  our Bag Making Supplies Kit to create a Grainline Studios Portside Duffle Bag and a car blanket.  The kit includes 1 m (1.1 yards) of canvas (the canvas I used was from our old colour/weight choice but as of today we have two new colours in stock to choose from!) along with a separating zipper, Chicago Screws (like rugged rivets that screw together) and a bar of Otter Wax.  The 1 m (1.1 yards) of canvas was enough to make all the lower half of the Portside Duffle and the blanket wrap while 1.8 m (2 yards) of wool created the top of the duffle and a 60″ square picnic blanket.


First, I will show you some of the bag and blanket set’s details and then, below, I’ve created a tutorial so you can make a picnic blanket and blanket wrap yourself!


The Portside Duffel is the perfect size duffel bag.  It could easily carry a week’s worth of clothes for a light traveler or act as an exceptionally roomy weekend bag.  I really like how the pattern includes all the details to create a professional looking bag – there is even a tiny pattern piece that you can use to create a leather zipper pull!  I skipped a lot of the hardware and details for this bag because I didn’t have much choice in hardware at my local notions shop.  I even had to use twill tape for the handles instead of webbing because my colour choices were so limited locally!  Next time I sew the bag I will take the time to source all of the hardware and straps but for this picnic version, the lack of metal hardware makes this bag very cozy and it could maybe even work double duty as a back rest while lounging on my picnic blanket!BritexBag-107

The bag can be as slouchy or as structured as you desire.  I added heavy interfacing to all sections of the bag to stabilize the wool and create a more rigid bottom.  I also ended up adding a rectangular cardboard insert between the lining and the canvas to fit the bottom of the bag.  I think thin plastic would be the ideal material for this as the cardboard is a bit weak and sometimes buckles but it was a good experiment and certainly works well enough for my first rendition of this bag!BritexBag-99

I applied OtterWax to the green canvas after sewing the bag.  I love the rugged look it gave the bag!  The waxed canvas is very water resistant so I can place it on damp Fall grass without worry of water soaking through.  The wax also made the canvas stiffer and heavier which added a nice touch of structure to the bottom of the bag.  I left the blanket wrap un-waxed so you can clearly see the huge difference that the wax made to the canvas:


To continue my earlier story of unavailable notions, the only metal zipper large enough for the duffle bag at my local shop was a separating one. That wasn’t a problem at all though – I just added a folded piece of canvas on top of the opening bottom end of the zipper as I stitched the zipper in place and it functions much as a regular zipper stop would!  The zipper pull stops at the folded fabric rather than continuing to the end of the zipper…and voila, a functional closed-end zipper!BritexBag-100 BritexBag-103

I used a heavy floral cotton for the lining.  The colours pair superbly with all the varied tones that the wool include – only the wool’s cheery orange isn’t represented!BritexBag-86And now, a little bit about the blanket and blanket wrap!  When I saw this wool on the Britex website, I had all sorts of ideas for a funky peacoat or maybe a series of rustic bags…but when I opened up the parcel and it spilled out onto the living room floor, all I wanted to do was wrap myself up in the yardage!  So cozy but also wonderfully light and airy!  If you don’t like the feeling of wool against your skin, obviously you might disagree with me – but wool is my favorite fibre for scarves, sweaters, blankets or, really, just about anything, so a wool blanket suits my idea of cozy perfection.


The selvedge of this fabric is a lovely scallop that would have been such a shame to cut off.  I pulled and tugged at it to make sure it would remain strong and refrain from unraveling over time.  It passed the test without breaking a sweat and so I used the selvedge to form two sides of my blanket.


For the other two sides, I created a sumptuous fringe!  It was incredibly easy and only a little bit time consuming to do.


I stitched from selvedge to selvedge 3″ in from the fabric edge to prevent the fabric unraveling further into the blanket.  If you are nervous about the risk of this occurring, you could stitch this length several times for added security or top-stitch ribbon or some other sort of trim as a ‘bumper’ to prevent fraying.BritexBag-4

Next, I tugged, snipped and teased out all the weft fibres (extending from selvedge to selvedge) leaving only the warp fibres remaining.BritexBag-7

My hands and shoulders were pretty sore by the time I was done but it was a mindless task that I could do while watching a show or just chatting with Matt!BritexBag-95

To create the blanket wrap, I used the remaining canvas from the Bag Making Supplies Kit, the kit’s 12″ seperable zipper, a strip of leather and the kit’s two Chicago Screws.  Once the blanket is rolled up, I use the wrap to keep it compact in the duffle bag which leaves plenty of room for a thermos and as big of a feast as I would like to bring along!  The blanket and wrap could also fit under the front seat of a car so that it is ready if a passenger is chilly or wants a nap.  Or…if you’re like me and get cold way too easily, you could simply keep the blanket in the duffle at all times while travelling so that you’re not rummaging around hotel rooms or extended family’s linen closets looking for an extra layer of blankets in the middle of the night.BritexBag-34

To make the wrap, cut four rectangles of canvas measuring 11 1/2″ X 13″.  If you aren’t using the Bag Making Supplies Kit to first make a Portside Duffle Bag, you will have more fabric at your disposal and you can skip the wrap’s seam by simply cutting two 22″ X 13″ rectangles.BritexBag-9

If the seam is necessary for you, sew two rectangles together along the widest edge using a 1/2″ seam allowance.


Repeat with the second set of rectangles.


Press the seams open.BritexBag-15

Pin the two large rectangles with right sides together along their two longest edges (this is where you will start following the instructions if you only had two large rectangles to begin with).

Stitch using a 1/2″ seam allowance (leave the two narrow ends open).BritexBag-17

Trim the seam allowances if desired to reduce bulk.BritexBag-18

Flip the rectangle so right sides are out and press both seams.BritexBag-20

Top- stitch 3/8″ from the finished edges if desired.BritexBag-22

To finish the narrow edges I applied decorative twill tape (the remainder of the tape from my duffle bag handles).BritexBag-24

Place the twill tape centered over the raw edge and extending 1/2″ to 1″ on either end of the wrap.BritexBag-25

Fold the twill tape over the finished wrap edge and pin in place.BritexBag-27

Stitch along the edge of the twill tape, catching the folded twill tape on the other side of the wrap.BritexBag-28

Fold the ends of wrap over 1″ (plus half the twill tape width which extends over the raw edge of the fabric) and press.BritexBag-29

Stitch along the other long edge of the twill tape to enclose the raw fabric edge completely.  This will now become the right side of your wrap and the twill tape functions not only to finish the raw edge but also as a decoration.BritexBag-31

Add the separating zipper by aligning it with the folded edge of the wrap.BritexBag-32

Fold under the ends of the zipper tape and stitch the zipper in place using a zipper foot.  Make sure to catch the folded zipper tape in your stitching!BritexBag-36

Create a handle for the wrap by cutting a strip of leather.  I used a 1 1/2″ X 13″ strip and cut pointed ends.BritexBag-38

Using an awl or some other pointy device, punch holes in the leather for the male part of the Chicago Screw to poke through.  Punch corresponding holes in the canvas where you would like to place your handle.  Insert the female portion of the screw up through the canvas hole from the wrong side, bring the male screw to meet it and tighten by hand.


And there you have it, a perfectly Autumnal picnic set!  It was fun stretching out the 1 m of canvas to create so many items!  I ended up with only one little rectangle (maybe 6″ long and 4″ wide) as a scrap!  If you’d like to try your hand at bag making, head on over to our store to check out the new (super manly) canvas colours!