Thread Theory

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

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Bag Making with Merchant & Mills – new patterns and kits in our shop!

The team at Merchant & Mills always manage to perfectly pair respect for tradition with modern practicality when they design a tool or a pattern.  Since this is what I look for when choosing a daily bag, I was very excited to add the British haberdashery’s Bag Making collection to our shop.

Have you had a chance to peruse their comprehensive selection of bag making offerings yet? Check out the M&M Bag Station!

In our shop you will find the patterns, kits, notions, and even a couple of fabrics that work very well to create your own waxed backpack, tote or bucket bag.  Let’s have a look:

First, here is Merchant & Mill’s take on the back pack – the Right to Roam Rucksack sewing pattern!

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I love that it includes the option for a cross body handle.  This pattern could be sewn up several times to create a large variety of bag styles depending on your handle choice and the type of fabric that you use (oilcloth, denim or canvas, for instance).

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Since the correct notions can be tricky to source, there is also a complete kit available which includes some impressively high quality hardware and leather.

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Inside the paper sack you will find nickel roller buckles…

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A pack of double cap rivets…Menswear Sewing Tools-3Menswear Sewing Tools-4

A magnetic snap…Menswear Sewing Tools-6

Sturdy nickel eyelets (they are big and seriously tough!)…

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And a roll of thick leather pre-cut to the ideal strap width…

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All you need to do is choose your fabric!  I’ve just listed our burnt orange bag making canvas by the 1/2 m in the shop.

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Pair this cotton canvas with a bar of Otter Wax to achieve this gorgeous lustre!

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The second bag design Merchant & Mills offers is my favourite – the Jack Tar Bucket Bag.

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This bag looks simple on the outside but contains three divided compartments within.  I like the combination of a leather shoulder handle and the short fabric handles that will not bang around or be annoyingly heavy when the shoulder handle is in use.

Of course, there is also a kit available for this pattern:

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The brown sack includes the necessary D-rings…Menswear Sewing Tools-12

A magnetic clasp…

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A few double cap rivets…Menswear Sewing Tools-4

And a pre-cut leather strap…Menswear Sewing Tools-13

If you prefer to head off on a bag making adventure without the full kit, we’ve listed some of the hardware individually in our shop too.  The double cap rivets and eyelets can be found in several finishes.  They are useful for bag making but can also be used for garment sewing too (reinforcing pockets and adding drawstring waists respectively).

The last bag making project you’ll find new in our shop is the Oilskin Bag Kit.

This kit really sets you up for success.  I bet it would be a great gift to initiate a friend into the world of sewing!  The gorgeous oilskin has been pre-cut into all the panels necessary to create the bag design included within the instructions.  One of the panels is even stamped with a Merchant & Mills emblem.

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Also included within the kit are natural leather straps that have their holes pre-punched and all of the necessary hardware.  Simply follow the instructions to sew the bag together!

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While I’m talking bags, I thought I’d let you know that I found an excellent tutorial to make a tote similar to the one that I sewed for my mom a couple of years ago using our burnt orange canvas and Otter Wax.

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We get emails very often requesting that I design a pattern for this tote but I just haven’t got around to that yet (sorry!).  In the meantime, check out this very clear tutorial on the blog Inspired By Wren.  It is lined, just like the tote I constructed but with some different design features.  You could easily add a metal zipper to the front pocket to achieve the same aesthetic and functionality as mine!  Of course, instead of cutting the tote from contrasting fabrics you could cut the panels all from one colour of canvas like I did.  I like the strength of handles that extend onto the bag rather than handles that attach at the top (so the tutorial features an improvement on my design!).

To make the bag, here is what you will need:

  • The tutorial on Inspired By Wren
  • 1 yard/1.1 m of the Burnt Orange Cotton Canvas from our shop
  • 1 regular bar of Otter Wax
  • A zipper for your pocket
  • 1/2 yard/1/2 m of lining (perhaps this navy paisley?)
  • The tutorial doesn’t include it but you might like to interface with fusible fleece or another sturdy interfacing, though it depends how floppy or rigid you would like your bag to be.  I interfaced my bag with medium weight fusible cotton interfacing so it remained quite floppy (which I like for a bag this size).

I hope that helps some of you out!  I think it will get a few waxed canvas tote bag makers headed in the right direction.

Happy sewing!

Check out the Bag Making Collection in our shop >>


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!

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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!

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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!

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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…

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… 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.

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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).

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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 😛

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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. 😛

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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.

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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.

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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?



New: Large Otter Wax! (Plus an examination of Matt’s waxed Jutlands two months later)

Otter-Wax-New-12 Blog  The Otter Wax bars that we carry in the ‘Supplies‘ section of our shop are constantly on the verge of selling out – so, with our most recent order from Portland, Oregon, we decided to branch out and add a new Otter Wax bar to our inventory!  We now stock both the regular size of Otter Wax and the new-to-us large Otter Wax bar.

Otter-Wax-New-13 Blog If you are interested in waxing large projects such as a pair of Ginger Jeans or a Cascade Duffle Coat, the large Otter Wax bar, weighing in at 5 oz, is the bar for you!  To give you an indication of how much you can wax with this new, larger bar, I have thoroughly waxed a pair of Jutland Pants for Matt using two regular Otter Wax bars (and had a little nugget of wax left over ready for touch ups).  Since the large Otter Wax bar weighs just over double the regular bar, you should easily be able to wax a pair of jeans with a single bar!  If you are planning to wax a smaller project (shoes, for instance), the regular size bar will still be your best choice – you will be able to wax two to three pairs of shoes with a single regular bar.

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In case you have been wondering, here is a bit of an update on how Matt’s Otter Waxed Jutland Pants (originally posted here) are faring.  With all the early Spring rains we’ve been having lately, Matt has been getting a lot of wear out of them.  Despite walking our dog, Luki, through many mud puddles, splitting wood, going on a number of hikes, and generally wearing the Jutlands like a second skin, Matt’s pants still look like new.


The dirt that he invariably covers them with on each outing brushes off on it’s own.  Apparently a quick once-over with a stiff bristled brush will remove any stubborn mud from Otter Waxed fabric but, as of yet, we have not needed to do this as the mud sloughs off on its own.  The way it self cleans like this kind of reminds me of a dog’s coat – as the mud dries the fur switches from a muddy/sandy mess to a nice clean coat – though I couldn’t say the same for the floor around the dog!  Because we haven’t needed to hand wash the pants yet, there has been no need to touch them up with a light coat of wax.  I imagine, over time, it might be a good idea to re-coat the hems and possibly the fly area as these are the sections of the pants that receive the most wear.


Matt finds his waxed pants very comfortable to wear because they are heavier and warmer than nylon rain pants and, of course, don’t make an annoying swishing sound as he walks (as rain pants are prone to do).  They also dress up nicely and he has received compliments on his ‘trendy’ and ‘stylish’ waxed pants in more posh atmospheres (which is pretty funny since I am used to thinking of them as his rugged work pants and chide him for refusing to dress up when going out for dinner!).  As he’s worn the pants, the wax has sunk further into the weave of the fabric and so they feel softer than they originally did when I waxed them just over two months ago.


They don’t bead the water quite as much as they did when they were originally waxed but, like I said, the wax is still very effectively protecting the fabric and, despite the lack of beading, Matt reports that they keep him dry quite a bit longer than un-waxed canvas pants or jeans do when he is walking in the rain.


This Spring I have plans to use Otter Wax on a number of new projects – some that involve sewing and some that feature existing clothing.  I’d like to wax a ball cap for my Dad and some Carhartt coveralls for Matt (they were pretty expensive so waxing them should help them last longer).  For myself, I plan to wax the black denim Ginger Jeans that I’ve had in progress for quite some time now!

In the meantime, here is a bit of waxing inspiration:

  • A thorough documentation of Otter Waxing a canvas computer bag.  Two coats of wax are applied – the first with a hair dryer so it sinks into the fabric, the second without heat so that it sits on the surface.  Water is applied after each coat as a ‘beading’ test.
  • A waxed canvas vest that beads water and looks pleasantly ‘worn in’.
  • Are you craving an outdoor adventure?  Here’s a pretty little video featuring an Otter Waxed hat and fly fishing in the rain.


Get to know Otterwax

diy northwester bagEver since launching Otter Wax in our store, we have received a lot of curious emails and comments about the uses of this mysterious product.  Well, here  is your answer!  I have compiled a few different tutorials and links from around the web that feature Otter Wax as a finish for ready made garments and DIY projects.  Hopefully these will leave you inspired to start waxing!


First of all, you might be interested to read a little more about the maker of Otter Wax – Chris Chase.  He is an inspiring entrepreneur based out of Portland, Oregon who is committed to providing natural fabric and leather care products, and, most recently, apothecary products!waxed motercylce jacket

Now that you know a little about Chris, now have a look at what other people have used Otter Wax for: Check out this gorgeous waxed jacket as an alternative to the classic leather motorcycle jacket – complete with wind and water resistant qualities!

waxed shirt

Waxing a heavy button-up shirt turned this garment into the perfect work shirt – ideal for chopping wood on a misty morning and generally just wearing 24/7 until it becomes a soft, wrinkled and pleasantly worn second skin.

waxed skinnies

Otter Wax isn’t only for menswear style garments!  Female style and DIY bloggers have embraced it as the perfect way to create sexy waxed skinnies (which would create a look similar to leather pants but be WAY easier to sew btw…and in my opinion, more flattering and forgiving).

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And, of course, Otter Wax, used as it was originally intended, is the perfect tool to wax canvas or tin cloth jackets and bags.  It instantly creates a worn in and rugged look and gives the fabric water resistant properties.  If you are in doubt about the effectiveness of Otter Wax, have a look at this experiment and tutorial over on The Art of Manliness in which Otter Wax is tested on several types of fabric (even wool!).  Thanks to one of our readers for sending us this article!


The two shaving kits that I made using Otter Wax used about 1/3 of the bar for a medium level of wax coverage…soooo I’ve got 2/3 left to use for another project, yay!  Last weekend there was a garage sale a few houses down from us so I came home with a really old (and worn) wood framed rucksack.  It looks similar to the backpacks used in WWII but the owner said it wasn’t used in the army and that he owned it since it was new.  Needless to say, the canvas needs a little help if it is going to survive a few more seasons.  I think Otter Wax will come nicely to the rescue!  And I’m hoping it will mask the musty smell of old canvas stored in what must have been a very dusty attic :P.

Note: As you can see from these various tutorials, some people simply rub the wax onto the fabric and leave it to cure for 24 hours while others apply heat with a hair dryer either before or after applying the wax.  I’ve found that Otter Wax works just great when applied as instructed on the package (no heat), but if you are applying it to a rough or napped fabric and it isn’t spreading very smoothly, heat might be a good idea!

What projects would you like to wax?  Has anyone tried it on a wool cap yet (I think that would be AWESOME) or on sneakers (a common use for it)?