Thread Theory

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


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And now it is Summer at the farm!

Wow, Summer is certainly our busy season this year! Since the pandemic began Thread Theory has become exceptionally active so we are actually thankful that Matt’s usual work is at a stand still so he can join in to pack orders, do runs to the post office, and keep up on emails. I have been helping with this and also chugging along at pattern development. One pattern is completely done and just waiting for our graphic designer (my sister-in-law) to come back from maternity leave and add in our test sewer feedback. The next pattern is well under way! I’ve got most of the instructions roughed in. This has been more time consuming than our past couple of patterns because it is a very involved design full of all manner of construction details – topstitching, a full lining, zippered pockets, elasticated cuffs and much more. Perhaps you can guess what it is?

Outside of Thread Theory, homestead life is, predictably, at it’s most busy time too! We’ve finally settled on a name for our property – Forgotten Pond Farm – after setting out to put a small tadpole pond in our fern garden only to discover a huge concrete-lined pond is already there! It had simply been filled in with stones and dirt at some point. We have been excitedly digging and cleaning it out. After one last chance to dry in the sun we will build some rock ledges for plants and then fill it with water! I can’t wait for the frogs to take up residence!

Our garden is pumping out zucchini, kale, collards, garlic, potatoes, beans and more. The only disappointing harvest has been tomatoes so far as they have a very dismal case of late blight. We have built a bit of a cold room off our kitchen (it used to be an unused entry way that we’ve closed in and put up shelving and added ventilation). I can’t believe how quickly it is filling up with food! So far most of my preserving efforts have involved dehydrating, curing, and freezing but I plan to launch into canning once blackberries and tomatoes are fully ripe in a week or two.

You may have noticed I have been silent on social media. I must say, I don’t miss it! Personally, I was finding Instagram, in particular, to be a huge drain on my positivity and confidence. Professionally, Matt and I felt we had to clear the airwaves to leave these platforms free for those who need them for social change rather than marketing right now. We purposely didn’t make any statement on the pandemic or on racial equality since we have the perspective that any such statement would not be truly genuine – as a business, any post we make is a form of marketing (whether we intend it to be or not) and thus we don’t feel an important social statement would come across as genuine on the social media account of any business. Personally, I am more than happy to talk with you about the subject! Our business will not though.

Now that we’ve stepped off of social media and given ourselves some time to digest how we feel about using such platforms as a business, I am feeling quite happy with my decision. I feel like I can connect with other sewists most genuinely by blogging and reading blogs so I am reverting to that format of engaging with the sewing community online regardless on the impact this might have on Thread Theory financially.

Please feel free to continue using various Thread Theory hashtags if they are helpful to you… but please never feel obligated to do so when you post about our patterns! If you prefer to keep your sewing projects private or shared just amidst your friends and family, there is absolutely no obligation on your part to promote our patterns using hashtags. We have always been a little mystified by the sense of obligation I have read many people express when they sew with indie sewing patterns. Despite being a small family run company and despite the fact that we love how a community of menswear sewists has developed through use of our patterns (I can’t believe how active the Facebook group is) I have never felt comfortable with the role many of our customers set themselves. You have purchased our patterns and we thank you for that! You do not need to spend your precious creative time reviewing them, sharing them and otherwise marketing them unless this is also something that enriches your life!

All that being said, the Thread Theory social media accounts will remain active for now as I have committed many years of work on them and I know many of you enjoy engaging with them. I’ll just refrain from engaging myself and may make a more permanent decision later. For now it seems to me there is no reason to actually close them.

Now, I’ll get back to my sewing machine and pattern development (and hanging out with little Noah!), as that is really why you all check in with Thread Theory, after all… you are waiting for more sewing patterns so you can get busy at your machines too! Happy sewing to all of you and thank you ever so much for reading about my life and my current perspective on social media. Please don’t hesitate to share your opinions in the comments as I know many of you differ in how you expect small businesses to act on social media. I look forward to hearing the diverse array of perspectives.


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Spring at the Farm

It’s time for a seasonal update about life at our homestead. This spring has been an unusual one, to say the least, but since it is only just our second Spring on the property (we moved here March 2019) life hasn’t been that abnormal for us as it has been for most…we have very little with which to compare this confinement at home! Matt is out of work right now as one would expect so we are trying to make the most of his extra time by ticking off as many projects as possible.

The vegetable garden and irrigation system have been our main focus. This last winter the garden was only a patch of layered cardboard, leaves, compost and straw. The chickens enjoyed many months of scratching though the debris for bugs until we were ready to plant.

I am attempting to use the No Dig method (by Charles Dowding) which I have used successfully on past gardens. This year though, we did not have a thick enough layer of quality compost to recreate past year’s flourishing spring gardens. The garden area was a market vegetable plot about 7 years ago but since then had been converted to pasture for small livestock. The soil is deep and dark but infested with wireworms which ate basically every seed I put in the soil and most of my early spring starts. Once the soil warmed up the wireworms moved deeper so my main season veggies seem to be chugging along nicely. According to some colleagues at the farm where I volunteer, the wireworm problem should become less over time since they thrive on grasses. I’ve hedged my bets and put cut up potato pieces in the garden as traps (I take out the pieces every few days and feed the wireworms to our chickens) and I’ve also applied beneficial nematodes. Between volunteering at the farm down the street and battling with this new-to-me pest, I have learned a lot about growing vegetables this spring!

While I’ve been battling wireworms Matt has been puzzling through the design and installation of a rainwater collection system. It has been a big cost in time and money but is necessary on this property because our well is not equipped to irrigate more than a single household. The larger our garden area becomes the more pressure this will put on our well and pump so we need to supplement with rainwater. We now have a 3000g tank installed by the shop and gravity fed drip tape spread throughout the orchard, berry hedgerow and vegetable garden. We hit a bit of a snag when the timer that Matt purchased would not work with the low pressure system he designed but we’ve set the idea of an automatic system aside for this year at least and are now just happy that the gravity fed system works with the turn of a few nozzles! The last piece to the puzzle will be extending the irrigation from Matt’s shop gutters (new last week) to the tank using PVC. That will happen in the next week or two…just in time for the summer dry spell. I hope there will be enough rain to fill the tank but I don’t really expect that to be the case! We will probably have to truck in one fill of water at least.

Aside from these large projects, we’ve been enjoying lots of smaller homestead tasks. This Spring has really marked the beginning of a new era on this property. Since moving in we have mostly been removing things: Junk, smelly flooring, accumulated wood scraps, overgrown brambles, overgrown trees, decrepit buildings. Around May we began to notice that some of our projects were actually centered around adding something new to the property…and then as May came to a close they transitioned one step further to include some projects that aesthetically as well as functionally improved the property. How exciting! Here are a few photos of the smaller tasks that we’ve tackled:

My parents (and their tractor) helped us to build this play area for Noah over the winter. This spring Matt planted the back levelled portion with clover seed and has been babying it with watering and mowing. I don’t have a current picture of the lush clover but you’ll have to believe me when I say it is the perfect spot for a picnic table!

The gorgeous fernery/grotto next to our sun room just keeps getting prettier! We’ve added a wood chip path through it and cleared out a lot of the overgrown ground cover so that I could add to the diversity of the garden by adding a variety of new ground covers. My grandparents just gave me a tadpole pond form for my birthday. I’m really looking forward to installing it in the middle of this garden. I think Noah will be the perfect age to investigate the tadpoles as they turn into frogs next spring!

Much of my May gardening time was spent watering by hand since the irrigation wasn’t ready yet. It was such a hot May and a very rainy and cool June.

Matt built a Lil’ Chick Cottage (as we’ve named it) using the only remaining decrepit building on the farm – a very sturdily built dog house. Noah enjoyed ‘helping’.

My dad built me these beautiful herb planters for our back patio and my mom filled them with soil and herbs. I’m just thrilled with them! They make the steps quite a bit safer feeling and are very convenient to access from the kitchen.

I’ve begun to paint the inside of the house at long last – the kitchen is now done and is much brighter (it used to be dark green and this picture is after one coat of slightly cream coloured white). I’ll continue the big job room by room and will tackle the easiest ones first as they can mostly be done in evenings and nap times. For the main living areas we will need to bring in painting or childcare help I think!

Matt’s dad built us a really handy TV bench to contain some of Noah’s toys. These sorts of projects really make our home feel ours…just ignore that dark burgundy wall (complete with many, many scratches and outright holes) for now, I can just picture how nice and fresh it will look white!

Lastly, we have some adorable Spring chicks in residence. We bought six chicks in hopes that most would be female since the vast majority of the chicks we raised last year turned out to be roosters. It turns out, we have three roosters this time. So in total, we will have a flock of five laying hens after purchasing fourteen chicks in two years. I don’t think those are especially good results but we are happy to have met and supported local farmers by purchasing chicks through them rather than buying sexed chicks from a farm and feed at least.

To close, a small tidbit of Thread Theory news: We just completed a photo shoot and our latest pattern is with testers right now! If all goes well I plan to launch it in August since it would make a nice Fall sewing project. If there are some more involved changes due to feedback we will, of course, adjust the timeline. Fingers crossed!


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Embracing Change

I shed a few grateful tears the other day when I first opened up the early results of our survey. Hundreds of you have not only taken the time to answer the basic survey questions, but you’ve also written beautiful paragraphs of encouragement and support. When I made up the survey I was only hoping to receive some concrete opinions and perhaps a little enthusiasm to help launch me into the initial design phase for our next batch of patterns. Instead, I received that plus so much more. Even though I thought I was keeping my insecurities and concerns to myself, so many of you are perpceptive or have perhaps walked a similar path before. You took a big nebulous cloud of unexamined fears and anxiety, named it all for me and then showed me how to move on. Thank you!

Here are a few of the comments that I am just so grateful for:

“I really value the work you’re doing. I know balancing work & family needs is a real challenge. The challenges don’t go away – they change as everyone gets older – kids, parents, & you. But so do the rewards ( or maybe out standards drop 😉). Hang in there. Trust your gut. You got this.”

“Thank you for some lovely patterns, superb instructions, helpful sew alongs and tutorials. I sew these patterns again and again because they produce well fitting, beautiful and hardwearing garments. I love the details and finishes, the henley placket and the cuffs of the Strathcona, the hood lining of the Finlayson being smaller than the hood which gives a lovely fold back finish. The welt pockets excellent instructions of the Belvedere waistcoat and all the tips in the online sew along.”

“Keep up the amazing work! As a male sewist there isn’t much out there that I get to make for myself, and finding your site years ago was what made me brave enough to try making clothes for myself.”

“I also live in BC and have a small acreage, so I really love the updates to your blog about your property, even though they have nothing to with sewing!”

 

Some of you were concerned that I plan to depart from menswear design entirely. Don’t worry, menswear patterns will remain the main focus for Thread Theory. I only seek to refresh and envigorate myself by approaching things from a slightly different direction for a while.

The survey results are still streaming in steadily and I have a lot of thinking yet to do so it is far too early to say what my plans will be for this shift of focus. In the meantime, your outpouring of understanding has made me feel so much more connected to the sewing community and, as a result, I am newly eager to get designing!

 

Another unanticipated outcome from the survey results is that I am now clear that many of you have been enjoying my homesteading blog posts. In the “Any other comments?” answer box at the end of the survey, person after person wrote that they have been enjoying these posts and hope I keep writing them. Wow! I had considered stopping them as I suspected they were tolerated at best…I’m glad to hear that isn’t the case! I really enjoy writing about our new lifestyle and will continue with much more confidence now. With that in mind, here is a little peek into our long post-Christmas winter days:

While driving Noah into the little town nearest us earlier this week (we attend an action packed toddler group at the local community hall) he fell asleep when only minutes away from home. He’s usually only napping in the afternoon now but has had at least four teeth coming in over the last few days so that wore him out enough to fall asleep as early as 9:30 in the morning. Rather than wake him I decided to just keep on driving and head 45 minutes south to a big menswear retail chain to do a little RTW research for Thread Theory. Once Noah woke we headed into the shop and he pushed a buggy (he just won’t sit in it lately!) while I looked at pocket details, fabric choices, fit differences between brands and all of the other details that serve as inspiration when I am beginning new designs. I plan to draw up some techical illustrations and start a mood board while Matt and Noah are at their swimming lesson this Sunday. After that, I’ll mull over the construction process in an attempt to create a garment that is a pleasure to sew. This will invariably lead to a number of design changes after which the pattern can be drafted…and onwards the process will go!

These late winter days are an excellent time of year to dig into design work as, although my seed starting station is partially set up, only peppers and celeriac have been sown and the rest must wait until closer to the last frost date. Outdoors the landscape has been covered with frost, snow, or, for the majority of the time, puddles and mud. We have been working at pruning (Matt has taken on the dwarf fruit trees while I’m working on ornamentals and blueberries) but the soil itself is still far too wet to do all that much. This is changing quickly though! This weekend I’m going to do some weeding during nap time as I’ve noticed the weeds have suddenly taken off in the herb bed. That way I’ll be ready to order a big load of mulch to unload over the freshly tidied beds when my parents visit next weekend.

In the meantime though, the evenings are still dark and long so I can work away indoors on pattern development once Noah has been put to bed (ahem…on the nights I have energy to work, that is!).

Another wintery sort of project we have taken on of late is a general shift and tidy of some of our living spaces. We spent two evenings last week as ‘date’ nights. We headed out to our workshop to put on music and tidy and hang tools and create storage systems. After that little bit of effort the workshop is so much more useable! Our house has received the same treatment. We moved all of my sewing equipment and office station to the main floor of our house. Now we have lived here for almost a year (as of this coming March), our daily rythym has taken shape and it has become clear that our lovely second floor studio with windows overlooking the property and a balcony to off one side will just not be used! The nursury is directly across from this room…and I only work when Noah is sleeping! Sewing, typing, and creaking floor boards interfere too much with his sleep.

Thus, the studio will now become our inventory and shipping station. This is just as well because we have another restock of 3000 tissue patterns arriving next week! Matt and his dad are spending the weekend building some sturdy wooden shelving to hold the inventory. Up until this point, our tissue pattern boxes have been piled high in our second floor landing which I would really like to clear up to make into a craft and play room.

My sewing station is now in our sunroom (the very furthest possible point from Noah’s room) and it is a great little corner in which to work. It needs some major work setting it up but it is functional for now and I love that I don’t feel too secluded but it isn’t in anyone’s way (though I have to pack my things up each time I sew so that the power cord and ironing board are not a hazard). I like that Noah can see my work station constantly so he will grow up very aware of what I do for work. Earlier this week we sewed together for the very first time. He plays with my sewing machine knobs quite regularly but, until now, I had never plugged the machine in to show him how it works. He sat in my lap with wide eyes while I sewed him a big pillow for his room. He had a blast stuffing it with me and ran to the sewing machine the next day when I mentioned I had more pillows that I wanted to make.

Outside of studio projects, we have a number of other developments going on this winter on our homestead. Since my Fall post, Matt and my dad have felled, limbed, bucked, and split all of the trees I had intended to hire an arborist to deal with! My dad bought a tractor and has made a new road through one section of the property.

The two of them also re-roofed the chicken coop to combat a frustrating rat problem due to the poor design of the original roof. With the rats long gone, our chickens are happy and have been laying eggs daily all winter long! Our two roosters get along famously and I’ve never once seen them fight. We definitely need at least two more hens though (more likely, three or four!) as Noah eats a lot of eggs and our rooster to hen ratio is still way off.

As winter draws to a close we will be tackling a large rainwater collection and irrigation project. I only had a small veggie garden last year and even then our well was more or less dry mid-summner. I have big garden plans for this summer so a huge rainwater cistern will be essential to irrigate the vegetable bed and orchard. We will be purchasing a 3000 gallon water tank shortly to install by the workshop that we roofed with metal last summer. Once we add gutters to the shop it will collect the rain and a drip system will run from the tank to both garden areas. My past gardens have always suffered mid-summer as I become more and more stingy with water. I hope a timer system and efficient drip tape will lead to happy and healthy plants, all while using the rainwater that is readily available to us throughout a West Coast spring!

To finish up this update with a touch more Thread Theory news: Our next pattern is inching closer and closer to the test sewing stage. Now that the initial sample is sewn, instructions are written and all design details are finalized, it is currently being graded. Next, Matt will format the PDF pattern while I get started on illustrations. I think I will leave the bulk of the illustrations until after I receive the test sewer feedback. We did this for the first time with our Qualicum Bag pattern and it worked very well. Since test sewers only had my written instructions to go by (no images), it really put the clarity of my writing to the test. It was also easier to change construction order and methods as per the tester feedback because I did not have to redo all of the diagrams to reflect the changes.

Anyways, thank you, once again, for the unexpected support and encouragement that you gave me through the survey. You’ve shown me how to embrace this phase of life that I am in and have made it clear that changes of pace and lifestyle should be embraced rather than resisted. I’ll be back with another post when the giveaway winner is announced on February 15th! In the meantime, head here to enter the giveaway, and head here to complete the survey.