Thread Theory

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


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Waterproof Anorak Sewing Project

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I have a whopper of a sewing project to show you today!  I sewed Matt a waterproof, windproof and breathable anorak jacket and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!

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I used the Hot Patterns Hemmingway Windcheater pattern that we stock in our shop and modified it to be unlined as per Matt’s request.  He really wanted a light shell with lots of room for bulky sweaters underneath.  He chose the Pumpkin Dintex waterproof/windproof/breathable fabric from our shop because he wanted a jacket that would be very visible while hiking and hunting in the forest (safety first!).  Plus…he looks awesome in orange :D.  This fabric is comprised of three layers – a soft shell exterior, a waterproof film, and a mesh interior.

I was so thrilled with how easy the Dintex material was to work with.  I just used a regular old needle (probably quite dull) and I even did a bunch of stitch ripping with no bad results.  I just rubbed my finger over the needle holes and they disappeared completely.  The fabric is quite thin and very stable so it was basically like sewing quilting cotton…no stretching or slipping while I sewed.  It doesn’t fray at all so I could have left all of the seams unfinished if I had wanted to without the need for a serger or even pinking shears.

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Matt went out into a rainstorm last night for the sole purpose of testing out the waterproof nature of this fabric.  We haven’t sprayed it with any waterproofing spray and I didn’t wash it before I sewed the jacket.  He stood in torrential rain for several minutes and then shook vigorously before coming back inside.  The majority of the raindrops shook right off of him leaving him with a few drops on his shoulders and the rest of the coat completely dry.  We noticed that the drops left on his shoulders slowly started to sink into the outer layer of fabric but they did not penetrate the middle layer (which is supposed to be the main waterproof layer within this material anyways).  I think a quick spray with something like Kiwi Protect-All would fully waterproof the outer soft-shell layer of fabric.

Based on my experience with the fabric after this project (and how pro the results look…if I do say so myself!), I plan to stock a few more colors when we order our winter collection of fabrics.  There is a gorgeous teal color called Ocean and a great muted blue called Storm that are high on my list.  I’ve received a request for the color Plum.  Do you have any specific colors in mind?

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I have been steadily working on this jacket for a few weeks now with Matt eagerly awaiting it!  He has been drenched in several Fall rainstorms so far with no waterproof jacket in his closet.  He spends lots of time outdoors rain or shine while hiking with Luki, foraging for mushrooms or hunting so this garment is really an essential item for him.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one who things sewing an anorak is a great idea this Fall!  Heather Lou from Closet Case Files just launched her spectacular Kelly Anorak on October 5th.  She basically read my mind with this pattern – it is unlined with all sorts of beautiful seam finishes.  Like I said before, I didn’t use the lining pattern pieces for Matt’s anorak and instead drafted facings and improvised seam finishes.  Now that the Kelly pattern is available it would be easy to sew a menswear anorak using the Hot Pattern pieces/menswear sizes and the instructions from the Kelly!  Maybe I’ll sew a matching Kelly for myself using our Navy Dintex now that I have all the details worked out.

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Now, let’s talk a bit more about the Hemmingway Windcheater pattern.  I sewed the size Medium for Matt even though he usually wears a Small.  We chose to move up a size to ensure there was room for lots of layering.  I made a very quick and dirty mock up of the pattern to make sure that the shoulders were not too oversized (they weren’t) and, when I tried it on him, we decided to taper the side seams since Matt’s hips are very narrow and he is used to a slim fit.  I made no other fit adjustments.  Usually I would lengthen sleeves about 1-2″ when sewing for Matt but this was unnecessary because we went up a size.

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I had fun working out all the details for this jacket.  The instructions are quite brief and I didn’t follow them very often because I was not constructing the lining.  This left me with lots of creative room to add cozy jersey facings:

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…tonnes of flat felled seams and a facing on the hood:

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…as well as a waistband casing:

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I struggled finding hardware that I liked because Matt tends to like rustic or even old fashioned fastenings.  We also wanted everything to be heavy duty and hard wearing.  I bought brass snaps from Prym which I was very pleased with.  They come with a tool set that includes a plastic holder into which you place the hole punch and various applicators.

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This was very nice to work with because it kept my fingers away from the hammer and lined the top and bottom applicators up for me.  Usually I feel as though I am all thumbs when working with the tiny tools that come with snaps…but not this time!

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I like that these snaps are smaller in diameter than the ones that I usually see in fabric stores.  These little guys are 12mm in diameter.  I think this makes the jacket look more professional.

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I’m considering stocking these sets in the shop.  Would you be interested in using them for your outerwear projects?

I did not find toggles or draw string stops that I liked…but these will be easy to find when I make an anorak for myself!  Closet Case Files released a kit yesterday that includes all of the (high quality) hardware that you need to sew an anorak.  Everything would be suited to menswear except for the draw string stops (which are a beautiful scalloped design).

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For Matt’s drawstring toggles, I created circular leather disks from an old belt.  I traced a circle, cut it out, and then smoothed the edges with rough sand paper.  I used the punch from my snap kit to create two holes in the disk and then threaded the cord through them.  Hot Patterns suggested this as a solution for toggles and I love the vintage look!  They slide along the cord nicely too.  To finish the cord ends until I find a better solution, I just knotted the cord and melted the ends.

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One of the things I really like about the design of this garment is the internal drawstring along the waist.  I think this results in a more masculine and streamline look than the usual drawstring that exits near center front through an exterior grommet.

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I also find the pockets with box pleats to be very practical.  Matt can fit Luki’s leash in one of them no problem and they are more than large enough to keep his hands warm.  I lined Matt’s pockets with leftover ripstop fabric for a pop of hidden color.

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I also really love the cuff design!  It includes a tab that cinches over a sleeve gusset.  The pattern suggests to apply two snaps so that the cuff can be cinched tight against the wind.

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You can’t see the gusset well in these photos unfortunately but there is a handy close up illustration on the front of the pattern envelope.  The illustration really helped to make things clear while I sewed.  It’s basically a diamond shaped wedge of fabric that gets folded in half and sewn to the cuff and sleeve to create a flared sleeve.  The tab then cinches the cuff tight so that the sleeve, when done up, is no longer flared.  The flare will allow Matt to put on his jacket while wearing a sweater with bulky sleeves and even while he is wearing gloves.

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The hem length is perfect.  There is nice coverage over the bum!

 

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And the tall neckline is super cozy without being excessive.  Matt doesn’t have to push fabric away from his face but, if he wants to hide from the wind, he can sink behind the collar a bit like a turtle lol.

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The shape of the neckline where the hood meets the yoke is very unique:

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It provides an interesting seamline to decorate with all sorts of topstitching.  I fell a bit short here as, while I was constructing the jacket I thought this seam would usually be hidden by the hood and collar – it turns out Matt mostly wears the jacket zipped to the top leaving my one area of iffy topstitching fully exposed!  Woops!

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The last design element that really makes this anorak seem like a high end store bought coat from Patagonia or Arc’teryx is the flap that snaps over the zipper to protect the wearer fully from the wind.  This was an essential design feature for us because I couldn’t source any of those fancy waterproof and windproof zippers that I see on expensive waterproof activewear (such as this).

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Well, there you have it!  Matt’s Hemmingway Windcheater that will have him ready for anything this wet West Coast winter!


Before I sign off for today, I have a couple more things to add to this already super long post!

  • Have you seen the awesomely colorful Strath that Duncan Carter (a contestant on last season’s The Great British Sewing Bee) shared on the Minerva Crafts blog?
  • The tissue version of the Fairfield Button-up launches next Monday, Oct. 17th!  Make sure you are signed up for our newsletter because I will be sending out a special discount for newsletter recipients on Monday morning.

Have a lovely weekend!

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The Perfect Menswear Sewing Pattern for Beginners

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I sewed my dad a t-shirt made from woven fabric!  He was a bit skeptical of the idea at first but once he tried it on and got used to the feeling of cool, light hemp and no stretch, he realised it was very comfortable.

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The pattern is designed by Merchant & Mills and is called The Tee.  It is available in our shop!

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The fabric is a hemp and organic cotton blend from the summer collection (also in our shop).  It is the only colorway remaining from the three colors that I used to have in stock.  I must say, I was surprised that this one didn’t sell out first (the pale blue was the most popular) since this charcoal grey is such a versatile color!

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I find the idea of a woven tee to be very appealing because I receive many emails from beginner sewers who are looking for an easy menswear project.  A woven tee combines two elements that make it the perfect candidate for a beginner sewer: 1. It contains only four pattern pieces and 2. You can sew it up in a very stable fabric that does not stretch as you work with it.

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Of course, because this pattern is designed for woven fabrics, it features a fairly roomy, loose fit.  The actual shape of the t-shirt is somewhat boxy (especially compared to our Strathcona Tee which includes curved side seams).  I like that The Tee fits as closely as possible though – for instance, the shoulder seams end at the shoulder bone as you can see in the photo below.  They are not ‘dropped’ shoulders as is often the case in loose, baggy t-shirts – these can easily look sloppy.  I think this nicely fitted sleeve cap gives the shirt a vintage vibe and an overall polished appearance.  The close fitting crew neck also adds to the vintage feel of this garment.  It is the only part of the t-shirt made in a knit (a ribbing in fact).  The instructions for applying the ribbing are excellent (the best I’ve come across in a t-shirt pattern) so, even though this could be a tricky step for a beginner sewer, you will be guided through it thoroughly.

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As you can see in the next photo, the width across the shoulder blades is the perfect amount to allow for a full range of (mostly) unrestricted movement.  My dad commented that the sleeves felt a bit snug when he extended his arms in front of him but we both agreed that my Mom’s work blazers (for instance) are far more restricting.  He is just very used to a t-shirt stretching to suit any movement.

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If I were to sew this t-shirt for my dad again I would likely lengthen the hem by 1″ to 2″ since it is currently a touch too short to tuck in without it pulling out of his waistband when he moves.  I would also play around with the fit at the waist and hips since my dad has a broad shoulder width and a narrow waist and hip circumference.  I would likely taper the side seams from the armpit to the hem by 1″ on each seam.  While this would be a proportionate adjustment for my Dad, I think many men would suit the straight side seams very well.  In fact, my Dad mentioned that he thought the combo of woven fabric and straight side seams would be very comfortable and flattering if he had a beer belly to hide.

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My Dad just got home from an almost 3 month long sailing journey to Hawaii and back!  He lost quite a bit of weight in this time period (since the crew mostly survived on lentil soup and a horrifying lack of cookies).  I sewed the shirt using measurements I took before he left and thus did not account for his slim waist.  I might still take the side seams in if I can borrow the shirt from him in the future!

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My dad’s new dashboard decor for his Ford F-100 ’53 (his only souvenir from Hawaii!).

Thanks, as always, for being such a cooperative model Dad!


Let’s finish off this post with a quick update on how the wedding dress turned out!  I blogged some progress photos a few weeks ago and wrote about how enjoyable the sewing process had been (and how nervous I was for the final fitting!).  Needless to say, the final fitting went so smoothly.  I hardly had to make any changes!

Mika looked absolutely stunning and the wedding was very romantic.  It was in the couple’s home and was wonderfully casual (as you can tell by the groom’s attire).  I felt very proud to see Mika excitedly try on the dress and comfortably wear it the entire evening.  Thanks for such a wonderful opportunity, Mika!  (The photos above were taken by Bayoush Mengesha.)  Congratulations Mika and Mitch!


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Menswear Knitting Projects

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I completed my very first knit sweater (and two hats)!!!  I had given up on knitting a couple of years ago after falling down a miserable rabbit hole of snarled yard, hours wasted watching YouTube tutorials, and many attempts at ambitious projects that were eventually simplified until they became yet another poorly knit scarf.  My lack of improvement was demoralizing compared to how steadily I was adding to my arsenal of sewing skills.  I finally decided that knitting just wasn’t for me.

That was until a very talented knitter and patient teacher became my sister-in-law (thanks Sonia!)!  And also, that was until I stumbled upon British yarn and pattern designer Erika Knight’s book for knit menswear projects, Men’s Knits: A New Direction!  I loved all of the classic and minimalist designs and the photographs were so inspiring.  When we decided to launch our menswear supply shop in November, I added knitting as a category within the Thread Theory shop – that way I could stock Erika Knight’s awesome menswear designs and beautiful yarns!

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As soon as I saw the Funnel Neck Sweater, I knew it would suit Matt perfectly.  I wanted to use Erika Knight’s Maxi Wool in Storm rather than the chunky-weight Rowan yarn that the pattern recommends.  The Maxi Wool is thicker than the recommended yarn so Sonia helped me to choose a smaller needle size and knit a test swatch.  We knew it would be a bit of a gamble for fit but, fortunately, I have the complete size range of men in my family so I could knit it for whoever it happened to fit!

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The project was actually a perfect one for a new knitter who is set on knitting a big sweater rather than a nice manageable hat or scarf (everyone thought I was crazy for taking on such a big item!).  I was prepared for the scale of the project and was relieved by it’s simplicity.  The ribbed chest was actually really easy and Sonia wasn’t even around to help me with that part!  I actually found sewing together the sweater to be the most difficult part – sewing with wrong sides together and with the stitches on the right side of the garment blew my mind a little :P.

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In the end, the sweater was too large for Matt which was quite a shame because the tall neckline suited his long neck perfectly!  The shoulders are meant to be dropped and the sleeves are meant to be fairly wide but not to the extent that they were when Matt tried it on!

As soon as Matt tried it on I realized that it would be the perfect size for my Dad!  The only element that doesn’t perfectly fit him is the area that fit Matt well – the neckline.  As you can see above, it buckles a little bit because my dad has a short to regular length neck (and the beard also tends to push the neckline down a little I imagine).

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I really love the rest of the sweater on my dad though!  It’s the perfect length for him and I think the “V” at center front looks really smart.

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The yarn has more than enough body to create the funnel neck but perhaps isn’t as stiff as the Rowan yarn used for the photographed sample.  The Maxi wool is deliciously soft and squishy so it creates a softer shape at the neckline:

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The sleeves are the ideal length and I love how the rib section looks with the bulky yarn.

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Below you can see the hem – the ribbing causes it to be quite a bit thicker than the stockinette stitch used for the main sweater which, I think, looks immensely cozy!

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My Mom has decided to roll the collar over and hand stitch it down at the shoulder seams for my Dad.

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It doesn’t really want to roll over at the shoulder seam due to the funnel shaping of the neckline but I think rolling it will work great for the majority of the neckline and will serve double duty as a sort of shoulder stabilization – rolling the neckline over pulls the shoulders inwards so that they will be less likely to stretch out and become to wide/saggy over time.

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This project ended up using exactly 11 skeins of Maxi Wool in Storm.  I used size 6mm and 6.5mm needles rather than size 6.5mm and 7mm that the pattern calls for.  I chose the smallest size (which would normally fit Matt).

While this sweater didn’t end up fitting its intended recipient due to the fact that I used a different yarn than the pattern calls for, I’d still consider it to be a huge success!  It was my first project knit using a pattern (aside from one dishcloth several years ago) and it looks so nice on my Dad.

He won’t get much of a chance to wear it this year since the weather is warming so quickly but now it will be sitting ready in his closet to keep him warm next winter and for many winters to come!


 

Aside from my big winter project, I also knit a couple of quick toques when I needed a break from the sweater.  They were just enough ‘instant’ gratification to encourage me to keep working on the sweater.Erika Knight Yarn (4 of 21)

Matt’s toque was knit using the pattern from the Erika Knight “Knit for the Boys” pattern poster that we stock in our shop.  I used a selection of Vintage wool yarns.

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My toque was knit using some of the yarn scraps from Matt’s toque as well as some Rowan yarn that I impulse purchased (oh dear, now that I’ve gotten into knitting I have to worry about restricting my yarn stash as well as my fabric stash!).  I used the Erika Knight toque pattern as a base for sizing but then just got creative and made up my own pattern by mashing together the decreasing technique from a free baby toque pattern (sorry, I can’t find it now so I’m unable to link to it!) and my desire for a very wide fold over ribbed band.  I finished off my one-of-a-kind hat with a really big pompom made from the Rowan yarn scraps.


 

 

Now that I’ve enthusiastically shown you my first successful knitting projects, please don’t look at the photos too closely lol!  I know they are all riddled with mistakes.  I imagine I will one day feel as embarrassed looking at these photos as I do looking at sewing projects that I completed 8 years ago.  Right now though, looking through the rose colored glasses that I’ve worn since I jubilantly finished the last stitch on my dad’s sweater, these projects look pretty darn good to me and I’m really proud of overcoming my initial struggle with knitting.

 

Here are the links to the patterns and yarns that I used for these three garments:

Men’s Knits: A New Direction by Erika Knight

Maxi Wool (used for my Dad’s sweater)

Knit for the Boys pattern poster by Erika Knight

Vintage Wool (used for the toques)

 

 


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A Nettie for Sewing Indie Month

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Sewing Indie Month has officially started (as of September 1st) and there is a second pattern bundle on offer!  I joined in the festivities once again (see my last post explaining SIM here) by sewing one of the pattern’s included in the second bundle – the Nettie Bodysuit by Closet Case Files!

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I’ve been meaning to sew several of these for quite some time (this pattern made an appearance in the Spring Wardrobe Plans that I made last winter) but always put it to the bottom of my list because I planned for my Netties to be quite basic so they could be paired with more exciting garments in my wardrobe.  Sewing basics can sometimes be a touch dull!  I’m glad that Sewing Indie Month has got me started on Netties at last because this one only took an hour to sew and now I finally have a basic navy long sleeve to pair with my printed Lazo Pants (the women’s pattern that we have been working on for the last several months)!

Aside from the Nettie, the second SIM pattern bundle includes some great pieces that will work well with Fall sewing plans.  They are largely knit projects which are quick and easy to accomplish during the busy month of September!  Here are the designs included:

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There are quite a few patterns that pique my interest in this bundle (since I love wearing knits).  The highest priority for me is the Jasper Sweater by Paprika Patterns which I will be sewing this winter.  I think it would suit my sister and her mountain climbing/camping adventures very well and so it would make a great Christmas present!

This pattern bundle will be on sale until this Thursday September 10th.  This time, 20% of the proceeds will be donated to the organization Women for Women which helps women dealing with violence, marginalization and poverty due to war and conflict.  Head on over to the Sewing Indie Month headquarters to check out the pricing for this bundle.  It is organized in such a way that you can pay anywhere from $25 to $38 depending on how many of the patterns you would like.


 

Now, time to talk a bit more about my Nettie and my Lazo Trousers:

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The Nettie is sewn out of a very stretchy and very soft bamboo knit which I purchased from my local Fabricland.  I decided to sew the scoop neck and high back variations with long sleeves and I chose to make it as a top rather than a dress or a bodysuit.  I simply cut the pattern a couple of inches below the “Attach skirt” line (for the dress variation) to give myself lots of length.  I avoided bindings by cutting out two fronts and two backs to create a shirt lining.  This way I would have a bit more coverage than a single layer of the thin fabric provided and the neckline finish would be very clean (which is my favorite look for scoop neck t-shirts).  To assemble the shirt I sewed the shoulder seams on each set of Nettie bodies and then I placed the two shirts with right sides together so that the neckline formed a “O”.  I stitched all the way around this, under-stitched around the neckline and then pulled the lining through to the inside.  From this point onwards I treated the two layers as one shirt and sewed the rest of the garment as per normal.

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I chose the size 2 when cutting out the Nettie pattern and I like the tight sleeves and close fitting bodice but I think the shoulders ended up being way too narrow for me.  I expected this based on how wide and straight my shoulders are compared to my chest measurement – they have always given me problems when purchasing store bought t-shirts!  I wanted to see how the size 2 fit for this shirt though and for my next variations I plan to go up to a size 4 and maybe even increase the shoulder width further.Thread Theory Sewing Indie Month (7 of 7)

The Lazo Pants that I paired my new Nettie with are made from a crazily printed Tencel which is my favorite fabric choice for this pattern.  It has such a nice weight to it while still retaining a floaty and casual feel.  I like that these pants make me feel as though I am wearing a skirt – my legs are completely unrestricted.  For this pair of Lazos I added a tie belt in self fabric.  I figured, if I am going to make statement pants, I may as well pull out all the stops by placing a big fabric bow front and center!

Sorry to tease you by showing you the Lazos while the pattern still languishes unfinished!  We are still working away on it and promise to release it one day :P.

 

I hope you are able to join in the Sewing Indie Month celebrations!  Be sure to check out the other bloggers who are posting their SIM projects while the pattern bundle is on sale:

Links to participating Bundle 2 bloggers:


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Spring Wardrobe – End Result!

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Spring Wardrobe - pants, underwear, shirts

With the first day of summer (and my birthday!) arriving on Sunday, now is the time for me to wrap up my spring wardrobe project.  I first posted about my spring sewing plans on January 1st when I was dreaming of warmer weather.  I included some patterns I hoped to sew and a couple of different color themes that I planned to choose from:

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I ended up sticking with the blue and off-white color scheme and added in black and grey as neutral colors.  I’m glad I used this color scheme rather than the green and pink one I had been considering because until I sewed up these garments my closet contained only earthy browns and olive greens.  It feels much fresher and brighter now with bold blues and clean blacks smattered here and there!

I didn’t get all of my sewing plans finished this spring but I came pretty close.  Here were the key pieces I hoped to create for this wardrobe along with which patterns and fabrics I ended up using for them:

Two blouses: Complete

Two sweaters: Halfway done

  • The Coppelia Cardigan: Sewn in an off-white linen knit (so dreamy to wear!!!) using Variation 1 which is a wrap sweater.  Fabric sourced locally.  Blogged with my Ginger Jeans here!
  • The Coppelia Cardigan: I also sewed version two in a beautiful forest green wool knit but it ended up not fitting me very nicely and all my adjustments to try to fix this sadly led to a sweater that is considerably too small.  I’ll have to try again!

Two to three basic tops: Incomplete

  • The Nettie Bodysuit: Despite the fact that basic tops are what I most lack in my wardrobe, I never got around to making a few Netties because I haven’t found the perfect fabric yet.  I would like something with a bit of body that won’t stretch out throughout the day.  I have my eye on a really interesting compression fabric from the fabric wholesaler that we get our Comox Trunk kit fabric and Bag Making Supplies kit canvas from.  I’ll be working on these tops fairly soon!

Two trousers: Complete (but not fully photographed)

  • The Ginger Jeans:  Sewn in a thick and soft black denim that I purchased during a winter trip to Vancouver.  These have been a big success and I have plans to make a second pair soon.  Blogged here!
  • The Lazo Trousers:  I’ve sewn a couple samples of our upcoming Lazo Trousers pattern but all our photographs of them are featuring our model rather than me.  I’ll probably blog about these when the pattern is finally ready to release :).

Two skirts (one dressy and one casual): Complete

  • The Cascade Skirt: Sewn in a rich purple faux suede with a brass button.  Fabric sourced locally.  I wore this occasionally in late winter and early spring but it is quite fancy (and warm) so I’ll be bringing it back out in the Fall.  Blogged here!
  • The Brumby Skirt: I had originally planned to sew a second Cascade Skirt in a more casual fabric but then Megan Nielsen switched up my plans by releasing her Brumby Skirt pattern.  I’m glad I ended up sewing this skirt since the wide, shaped waistband is incredibly comfortable I love the pockets and top stitching!  Tencel Denim from Blackbird Fabrics.  Scroll down for more photos of this!

Two bras and six underwear: Complete

  • The Watson Set: Sewn using kits from Blackbird Fabrics (there are new kits in the shop today!!!).  I went a bit nuts in January and February sewing loads of bras and underwear.  I’ve shown my favorite ones in the collage above.  Blogged here!

Two sundresses: Complete

Scroll down for more photos of these!

  • The Kim Dress: Sewn using a limited edition floral print from By Hand London.  The stiff cotton paired with the full skirt and pin tucks really makes this into the perfect sundress for wandering through meadows of wild flowers…I just needed a big straw hat to complete the picture!  I love the shaping of the bodice on this pattern.  The straps are set quite far apart and so they fit my wide shoulders far more nicely than most sleeveless dress patterns do.  I look forward to sewing up the second variation of this pattern (with a slim petal-like skirt) this winter…maybe in velvet?
  • The “Have it your way” Dress: This is a dress from Lauren Guthrie’s book (Learn to Sew with Lauren) but I found this pattern in the first issue of Simply Sewing and it was called “Two Ways Dress” within this magazine.  This style, with its high neckline and peter pan collar, is something I have never worn before.  I have always admired this look (it seems very sophisticated and French to me) but was nervous it would make me look like a toddler with a round face!  In the end, I really love it and am not sure why I’ve avoided high necklines for so long.  I was able to skip the back zipper completely since the dress has quite a loose fit at the waist.  Next time (there will be a next time!) I will be cutting the back skirt and bodice on the fold to eliminate the center back seam.  This dress was sewn in a very soft rayon from Blackbird Fabrics.

 

Matt did a really nice photoshoot of my latest unblogged outfits on Wednesday.  We were walking Luki at a park called “Wildwood Forest” that was completely filled with beautiful tall grasses and daisies.  It made an excellent backdrop and Luki enjoyed exploring while we ignored him for half an hour :P.  It was a quiet enough location that changing into new outfits wasn’t too nerve wracking!

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Well…I must say, that feels pretty satisfying to have most of my personal sewing projects from the last 6 months gathered into one place to examine!  It hasn’t really felt like I’ve been doing much sewing lately since I’ve been so focused on computer work for Thread Theory, on packing boxes for moving (in one week!) and on gardening.  Here is an example of how going slow and steady can pretty much winn the race (or at least mostly complete the race).  A few of these projects haven’t had much wear throughout the Spring seeing as I only finished them a week or two ago but at least they were completed while it is still technically Spring.  I never had more than one personal project on my sewing table at a time and sometimes went up to half a month without working on my wardrobe items.  I like this style of sewing – there was no rushing or stress involved and I got to enjoy some new items in my closet as the weather warmed up.  Now I’ll have a complete capsule wardrobe waiting for me next Spring (though, reality is, in our temperate climate I will be wearing these garments most of the year!).

Now it is time to welcome the Summer – it is going to be a long and wonderful one!


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Silk Tie Sewing Tutorial

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Would you like to try your hand at tie-making this Father’s Day?  It isn’t difficult to make your Dad a tie since the internet abounds with beautiful tutorials and even free patterns for all skill levels!  Since a quick search for “tie tutorials” can lead to fairly overwhelming results, I decided to compile the fruits of my research into one handy blog post and a tutorial that brings together all of my favorite elements from the instructions already available on the web!  Britex has a wealth of tie making supplies that can be very difficult to find elsewhere.  For my tie I used this sunshine yellow Italian silk faille featuring nothing less than hot pink embroidered crabs!  Since ties are cut on the bias, this silk was ideal for my purposes – the crabs run 45 degrees to the selvage!  The silk is from Britex Fabrics and is currently sold out – there are all sorts of other gorgeous silks in their online shop though!

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I consulted Matt (the prospective wearer) on the direction of the crabs – he elected to point them downwards so they wouldn’t be aggressively pinching at his neck.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 3

While you will find my tutorial below, first (or afterwards) you might like to read all of the tutorials and other resources that I found so that you can truly immerse yourself in the world of tie-making.  Here are all ofthe links sorted into the various categories that I researched:

The Anatomy of a Tie:

Tutorials geared towards the average home sewer:

Tutorials geared towards the advanced home sewer/menswear enthusiast:

Videos on Tie-making:

Particular Tie-Making Techniques:

Pattern Options:

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Now that we’re prepped, let’s move on to my tutorial!  For this project you will need:

  • 1 yard silk of medium weight.  This may seem like a lot of fabric but remember that your tie must be cut on the bias!  You may be able to squeeze a tie out of less if you are careful.
  • 1 yard interlining (described below).  This will also be cut on the bias.

Most ties are created with a sewn in (rather than fusible) interlining comprised of wool or a wool/nylon blend.  This interlining gives the tie body (a good tie shouldn’t be flat, it should be lightly pressed so it maintains a three dimensional quality) and also a bit of rigidity.  It is important to match the interlining with the fabric otherwise you run the risk of making your tie too stiff and negating the point of cutting your tie on the bias!  You want your tie to look fluid and smooth…achieving this is probably the trickiest aspect of tie-making.
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Since this silk faille was quite stiff I decided to use a loose wool interlining.  In retrospect, I wish I had chosen an option with a touch more rigidity such as this classic wool interlining.  Aside from the lack of rigidity, the color black was not the best pairing with the yellow silk – it shows through ever so slightly on the finished tie.  All the same, the amount of body this wool gives the tie is ideal and I am happy that the tie ended up fluid enough to allow it to hang nicely (though I worry it might become misshapen over time).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 9

Since there is quite a bit of hand sewing involved in tie-making, it’s a good idea to use fine silk thread to avoid knots.

Once you’ve gathered your materials, establish the exact bias on both your silk and interlining.  Some tie patterns represent the entire tie so they must be cut on one layer of fabric while other tie patterns require that you cut them out on the fold (making it easy to fold your fabric on a 45 degree angle).

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A tie shell is comprised of three main pieces (pictured below from left to right): The blade (the wide front), the neck (the middle), and the tail (the narrower back).  The interlining is usually cut from one piece but I joined two pieces of fabric for mine by abutting the seams and zig-zagging them together so as to avoid adding extra bulk.  On the right hand side of the photo below you can see my two “tipping” pieces – the tie I have made is “self-tipped” rather than “decorative-tipped” because I used the same silk rather than a contrast material as the lining.  I also added a garment tag and a little strip of fabric to create a keeper loop.  A man can choose to feed his tie tail through it if he desires (though some fashion blogs say this is not currently fashionable…who knew?!).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 11

I chose to start making my tie by sewing the tips.  Some people like to join the three main tie segments together before embarking on the tip but I wanted to avoid handling the tie as a long strip too much since the weight of the tips could cause the bias cut fabric to stretch out of shape.  Here is an example (of a store bought tie) so you can see what we are aiming for when sewing a tie tip:
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It is not easy to achieve something this precise (as you will soon see!).  While all the sewing involved in tie-making is basic, the precision and skill employed is key to a high-end tie.  I think I have a long ways to go before I could consider calling my version a ‘luxury’ tie!

If your tie pattern came with two pattern pieces for the tips, they will likely be the same size as the blade and tail tips.  Trim them down 1/4″ on all four sides (not along the top).

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Starting at the top edge, sew the tie and tie tip together with right sides together and a 1/4″ seam allowance (you can see my stitching on the right hand side of the photo below).  Stop sewing 1/4″ from the end of the tie tip.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 15

Here is a detailed photo showing you where to stop sewing:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 16

Pull the tie tip over to the other side of the tie so raw edges meet and sew the other side of the tie tip in the same manner.  You should sew up to but not over the previous stitching to form a precise point.  Be careful to push the excess tie blade fabric out of the way (it will form a bubble).
Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 17Here is a close up of the tie tip with the bubbled tie blade below:
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And here is a photo of the bubble from the wrong side of the tie blade:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 19

And a close up of this bubble:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 20

Finish the tie point by folding the blade in half and stitching across the point from the center of the blade to the raw edge.  This stitching will be perpendicular to your stitched point and within the seam allowance  it should not cross your previous stitching.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 21

When you turn the tip right side out, try pinching the point seam allowance to stop it from crunching up and becoming misshapen as you fold.  The goal is to have your point seam allowance fold neatly within the tie.  I wouldn’t advise trimming the point when you are working with silks since the danger of fraying drastically is very great!Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 22

My point did not turn out perfectly but stitch ripping was only an option once due to the amount of fraying I was experiencing!  The point is not 100% angular but it is certainly passable from the distance most will be viewing it.  From the underside you can see why it did not end up appearing precise:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 23

Practice will hopefully make perfect!

 

Now it is time to sew the three tie segments together.  Carefully press open the seam allowances (don’t push the iron along the fabric as this will cause your bias cut fabric to stretch out of shape, instead, just lift the iron up and move it to the next position).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 24

Now that the points are assembled and the tie segments are joined, it is time to insert the interlining and prepare to hand stitch the final seam!Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 25

Turn under the seam allowances 1/4″ along the entire length of the tie (again, make sure to press instead of iron!).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 26

Press the tie edges inwards to meet in the middle.  As you can see in the store-bought tie below, sometimes this seam can be slightly overlapped – depending on how you like to slip stitch, you can either abut the seam or overlap!  You can also see how the keeper loop is inserted into this seam prior to stitching it down.  We will do this now:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 27

Create your keeper loop using a scrap of the silk.  Ideally you would create a tube and turn it right side out.  You could also avoid the frustration by simply creating binding and top stitching the open edge closed (keep in mind this makes the keeper loop a little stiff).

 

Stitch the loop to the seam allowance on the tie blade:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 28

You can see the positioning of the keeper loop below:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 29

Pin the entire seam together and prepare your thread for hand stitching!  It is a good idea to run your thread through beeswax because you will likely be working with a very long piece of thread if you are trying to stitch the entire seam in one go.  While it is possible to stitch the seam using several shorter lengths of thread, this is not ideal due to the nature of the slip stitch you are about to sew.  Adding too many anchored points will cause the thread to restrict the natural fluidity of the tie (you will see what I mean in a moment!).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 30

Begin stitching by anchoring the thread at one end of the tie:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 31

Create a large and loose slip stitch all the way along the seam (I allowed the thread to travel up the silk 1/2″ between each stitch).  See the list of tutorials above to learn how to slip stitch.  Be very careful when stitching to avoid stitching into the front of the tie!Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 32

To end your stitching you will be creating another anchor/tack – but this time, the first loop of the anchor will not be pulled tight.  Leave a loop of thread (as pictured below but about half the size) that you can tuck into the tie.  This loop will allow your slip stitch to adjust in tension as the tie is worn and rolled over time – it will seem strange to leave your hand stitching so loose and seemingly fragile, but it is very necessary when trying to achieve a fluid tie.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 33

Now it is just the finishing touches left!  Press the keeper loop flat and tack each side to the back of the tie.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 34

Bring your thread and needle down through the inside of the tie to stitch on the garment tag.  Make tiny stitches along either short edge of the tag.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 35

Your tie is complete!  Give it a final gentle press and examine your work:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 36 Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 37

Before giving it to the wearer, fold the tie in half and roll it gently – this will allow the bias cut fabric to settle smoothly so that it is not stretched in any off-kilter sort of way.  Your loose stitching and anchored loop of thread will have a chance to work while you do this!
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I hope this tutorial saves you a lot of time researching before you embark on tie-making!  Have you tried making a tie in the past?  What resource or tutorial did you find most helpful?  Did I miss any key resources during my research?


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Online Fabric Shopping

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Have you heard of Style Maker Fabrics yet?  They are a fairly new online fabric shop featuring a large selection of fabrics carefully curated by current trends, garment type, color and fabric type.  There is also a nice selection of trims in the shop (including jersey bias tape!) and a few excellent sewing tools.  The fabric enthusiast behind this new shop is Michelle who I have found to be very friendly and helpful – when I placed a recent order of fabrics for my own sewing projects she included a selection of fabric samples that would be excellent matches for some of our Thread Theory patterns!

I decided to do a post about Michelle’s shop after receiving my fabrics and finding myself pleased with the entire order (that’s a rare thing for me not to find one dud in an online purchase!).  This post isn’t sponsored in any way, I just thought you might be happy to find a new source for quality fabric (with lots of menswear options!).  And it’s always nice to justify my fabric purchases as ‘research for the blog’. 😀

I asked Michelle to send along a few ‘behind the scenes’ shots so you could get to know her shop a little:

Click on the photos to see full size versions of each – you can see her fabric storage is chock full of gorgeous Breton stripes, the Robert Kaufman line, and beautiful whimsical border prints.

Here is what arrived at my door last week (happy mail!):untitled-31

I pared my big wishlist down to four fabrics that work with the largely blue color scheme I have been using for my wardrobe update. untitled-33

My first choice was this gorgeous plaid shirting to make a spring Archer button up.  This shirting is densely woven and crisp.untitled-35

I most commonly see plaid designs that I like offered only as brushed cottons and flannels so this smooth shirting is a nice fresh way to wear a plaid like this in the spring and summer. untitled-36

My next choice is a soft rayon jersey featuring a Breton stripe.  It is a really nice thickness for a Coco or maybe a Hemlock Tee.  It has great recovery so it could even make a Nettie (I really can’t decide what to make with it, there are too many possibilities!).  Michelle includes the stripe widths on her site which I found really helpful.  The width of these stripes are: Blue – 1/2″ and White – 1/4″.  There are also a few other breton stripe choices including a cute black and white version with 3/4″ black stripes and thin white stripes.  Maybe I’ll get that next time!

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Next up I chose a really beautifully handcrafted double borderprint cotton.  The main background colour is really rich and full of depth because it is slightly mottled.  I think it’s going to make an excellent By Hand London dress!  I’m thinking it would be nice for the Kim Dress but I might still change my mind and go for the Flora.
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The last fabric I chose ended up being my favorite.  It is a double gauze cotton featuring a greyish blue background and metallic gold print.untitled-46

I’ve often read about how nice double gauze is on blogs but I hadn’t really looked at this type of fabric closely in person until now.  Before washing this fabric it was pretty crisp and the two layers were not immediately apparent.  After washing and drying, the top layer has remained crisp and quite sophisticated looking but the wrong side of the fabric is really soft and feels very slightly like light flannel.  It’s going to make the most comfortable dress! untitled-43As a nice gesture along with the fabrics I purchased, Michelle sent a whole envelope of swatches featuring some of her bottom weight fabrics.  There are a number which will perfectly suit our upcoming Lazo Trousers (I will feature these fabrics at a later point) and many of them would also be excellent matches for the Jedediah and Jutland Pants.
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Imagine the Jedediah Pants in a snazzy Glen Plaid or Shepherd’s Check?!  They would be so dapper!untitled-53

My favorite bottom weight fabric that Michelle included was a new brushed twill that she will be carrying in seven colorways perfectly suited for spring and summer.  I see lots of twills at various local fabric shops but I often find them to be too heavy for Matt’s preferences when it comes to pants that he would like to wear daily.  And it isn’t often that I come across a brushed twill.  I love brushed twill for pants because it maintains the crisp and very slightly dressy appearance that twill provides while being extremely soft, cozy and comfortable.  Brushed twill creates pants that feel as though they have already been lovingly worn in!

* Update 11/05/15: The twills have been added to the Style Maker website!  Here is a link to my favorite colorway.

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The colors available at Style Maker are quite unique – I especially like the green which I think I’ve managed to photograph fairly accurately.  The brown is really interesting too – it’s more muted than Carhartt orange but more unusual than just a regular brown pant.  I think it would be a good choice for a conservative dresser who wants something a little different than his regular black, grey, navy and dark brown color scheme.untitled-58

 

Well, thanks for listening to me wax on about fabric shopping :P.  And to reiterate – this post wasn’t sponsored by Michelle/Style Maker – I was just really pleased with the quality of the fabrics I bought and with how accurately they were portrayed on the Style Maker website.  For the first time in quite a while, I didn’t have any online fabric purchase surprises!