Thread Theory

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


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Searching for menswear sewing patterns

West Coast forest

First off, thank you for the huge response to last week’s call for pattern testers!  Our five testers have been chosen (this was very difficult since there were so many outstanding and enthusiastic candidates) and they are busily sewing away as we speak.

To thank you all for your continued interest in the Thread Theory blog and, especially, for your enthusiasm each time we call for volunteers to test, here is a $5 discount code that can be used on anything in our shop.  If you have found the perfect fabric but don’t want to wait around for our patterns to go on sale, this $5 coupon will be just the ticket to get you sewing faster.  Enter INVOLVED upon checkout and your order will be $5 cheaper! 🙂  There is no expiry on this code.

Now, moving on to new business, I have a pressing question to ask you: Do you know and love any PDF menswear patterns created by other indie pattern designers?  We’ve been scouring the internet to find every menswear PDF pattern out there since we are endeavouring to collaborate on a very exciting upcoming project.  We don’t want to leave anyone out!  Comment below with the any menswear sewing patterns (and the name of the company that created them) so that Matt and I can send these talented designers an email to make acquaintances!

Matt and Morgan camping

Thanks for helping us to foster a sense of community in the online world of menswear sewing.  We’re really hope you’ll help us meet some new (to us) colleagues!

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Special Delivery!

What’s that, you want another sneaky Wednesday post from Matt full of hints of things to come?

You got it.

First up, an itty-bitty box full of brown paper!

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That’s right, after being an incorporated business for 10 months and selling our product for 5 months (jeeeez, has it only been 5 months?!), we finally got around to ordering business cards! They were designed by the lovely and incredibly talented Sonia Bishop (who also designed our logo) and printed by ClubCard printing out of Vancouver, BC. They are a vertical design done in plain black and white ink on 24pt natural kraft paper. And we love them.

Next up are some significantly larger boxes. 6 of them, to be exact, weighing in at a total of 180 lbs.

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That’s right, tissue patterns! Our first three patterns have arrived and they look GREAT! We knew it was going to be a pretty big load, but we had NO idea how much space 3,000 packets of tissue paper would take up. Turns out it’s a lot; Morgan is currently painting our closets so we can have everything looking pretty and organized for a later photoshoot. And they are HEAVY! Step 1 of going to print: Complete.

Now for some Goldstream Peacoat action: Morgan has finished the second prototype of the pattern, and it turned out beautifully!

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There are still a couple tiny changes to be made before it is graded and prettied up, but we’re getting close! More details coming soon…

Last, but certainly not least, there is a super-secret project that Morgan and I are working on. I can’t say much more about it other than one of our previous posts contained a photo hint (remember a cardboard box?). It is involving quite a bit of planning and logistics, but we’re VERY excited to show you once it’s ready!

Thanks for stopping by, and remember to follow our blog for updates!


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What Makes Menswear Interesting to Sew?

Today’s post is a compilation meant to fight the common misconception that menswear is too boring to waste valuable sewing time on.  I firmly believe that menswear is just as interesting if not more interesting than dresses and skirts as a sewing project.  Sewists who choose to work on a menswear project are often more confined to convention than if they were to sew up a women’s garment…but this can lead to a highly satisfying project that tests your sewing precision, your knowledge of fabric properties, and your creativity when faced with creating an original garment while meeting established criteria.  (Keep in mind that I am only arguing FOR menswear sewing and am not arguing AGAINST sewing for women as all of these factors can also be applied to sewing women’s garments).

Beacon Hill Shoot-14

Menswear: Searching for the happy medium between careful details (top-stitching and the right button choice) and classic conventions (such as fabric choice and a modern but acceptable fit).

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Women’s Fashion: Choose any focus you would like – pursuing trends, statement pieces, wardrobe staples…any shape, any style

I have read a smattering of comments and posts within the online sewing community that explain the author’s boredom with sewing for their husbands, themselves or male children – they say that fabric and notion choices are bland compared to the bright prints used for women’s clothing.  They state that the men they sew for do not want  unusual styles so it is easier and probably more effective to just buy the brand of shirt that the man already knows he likes to wear.  Lastly, many say that there simply aren’t any fashionable menswear patterns to use for their projects so it is too much work and too much risk to alter or create the patterns needed for stylish results…well, I think I’ve addressed the last point already by starting a menswear sewing pattern company so lets move on to discussing the previous two points!

1. Fabric and Notion Choices:  I agree that, when walking into a fabric store, it is difficult to walk past the bold prints and delicate florals to head to the underwhelmingly gray suiting section or the sea of blue denims.

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A sea of fabric choices at Vithalani Fabrics in Vancouver….I picked through the prints and crazy textures to find two gorgeously soft trouser fabrics.

But once you force yourself past the prints and immerse yourself in the subtleties of menswear fabrics, you will realize (or at least I realized!) that the hunt for the perfect trouser fabric is a tough one and, as a result, is much more satisfying than simply grabbing the most trendy and thus most readily available floral voile for a new dress.

Menswear fabric choices have changed very little in the last couple centuries.

Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison as they appear in MY FAIR LADY, 1964.

An Edwardian suit fit for attending the races, as costumed for My Fair Lady. The trousers, made up with this wool suiting (with slight adjustments to the fit) would be very classy fall or winter trousers in 2013.

Wool chinos from Wings and Horns - a similar fabric choice as the Edwardian trouser sample but unarguably modern.

Wool chinos from Wings and Horns – a similar fabric choice as the Edwardian trouser sample but unarguably modern.

To continue with the example of trousers – men’s pants in the Edwardian period and men’s pants now still generally meet several criteria:  They are made of a woven material rather than a knit, the are made with a solid rather than a print, and they are made with a medium to heavy weight fabric rather than a thin draping material.  Thus, the sewist can view acceptable fabric choices of the past as either a tool to aid in picking their fabric or a ‘rule’ that can be broken to make a statement.

Menswear (and most fashion, according to what I have been learning at fashion design school) has three categories:  Line, Colour, and Texture.  Menswear has a very simple formula that can be followed to result in a custom and stylish piece:  Choose to exaggerate or ‘break a rule’ in one of the three categories and stick to the ‘rules’ in the other two.

It is very easy, when choosing fabric for menswear, to pick traditional textures, colours and weights and instead make a statement in the category of “Line” by choosing an unusual silhouette by exaggerating fit and stitching details.

Wings and Horns - Exaggerated lines - slim fitting trousers in a classic grey wool have been made unusual by adding cargo pockets and rolled hems.

Wings & Horns – Exaggerated lines – slim fitting trousers in a classic grey wool have been made unusual by adding cargo pockets and rolled hems.

Conversely, make a simple, classic garment and make a statement with fabric choice.

Engineered Garments - These shorts are hemmed at a conservative length and fit just as one would expect mens shorts to fit - but the choice of print makes them undeniably a statement piece.

Engineered Garments – These shorts are hemmed at a conservative length and fit just as one would expect mens shorts to fit – but the choice of print makes them undeniably a statement piece.

Either way will result in an incredibly stylish, custom and expensive looking piece because it has been thoughtfully created to suit the wearer – something that is very difficult to find ready to wear from a store!

2. Men who don’t want to break fashion barriers: It might seem difficult to justify pouring hours of sewing time into the creation of a shirt or trousers that are no different than the favorite department store brand that the man you’re sewing for purchases in every available colourway.  Many sewists forget that, if they slow down a little and think about the garment they are sewing and the lifestyle that it will be worn in, they have the power to create something much better than one would readily find in a reasonably priced store.

Since men are so accustomed to having a closet full of t-shirts, button-ups, and trousers that all fit the same way and perform the same job, it is easy to keep the parts they like about a garment and add ‘fixes’ to eliminate any issues.  In the world of menswear little things such as sleeve length, button placement, the width of belt loops, and how easy a fabric is to care for (can it skip the ironing process?) can make or break even the most stylish and flattering garment.  While a garment from the store might be made of the most amazing fabric and fit spectacularly, it won’t be a well loved shirt if, for example, the collar is too floppy.  Sewists have the power to anticipate these problems and one-up the stores by creating not only an acceptably stiff collar, but the crispest, absolutely best collar on a collar stand that is the ABSOLUTELY PERFECT height…now, sure, when planning a sewing project, thinking of little details like this might seem boring compared to imagining which heels and necklace will look the best with your new blue polka-dot dress fabric, but the satisfaction of seeing the well-thought out shirt on the body it is designed for for the first time is immense and anything but boring.

Here are just a few easy and incredibly thoughtful details that could be added to a home-sewn piece of menswear clothing:

  • Channels in the collar of a shirt to place magnetic collar stays in – these will keep the collar points exactly where you want them and make a button up shirt look very smart.
  • A loop at the back of a button up’s collar stand to thread the tie through, keeping the tie perfectly in place.
A tie loop - use contrasting fabric or ribbon or a sneaky self fabric loop.

A tie loop – use contrasting fabric or ribbon or a sneaky self fabric loop.

  • A “Lover’s” pocket – an inseam pocket placed at waist level of a coat so that the wearer’s partner can have a toasty warm hand while walking with their arm wrapped around them! I can’t find a picture of this but I was told they exist by my teacher at school and I think they are an amazing idea!
  • A scarf loop – a loop placed in the underarm lining of a coat that a scarf can be looped through when it is not being worn – perfect for keeping a scarf secure while the coat is stashed on the back of a chair in a restaurant.
This loop has been added close to the front which would work but might cause unnecessary bulk at the front if used while wearing!

This loop has been added close to the front which would work but might cause unnecessary bulk at the front if used while wearing!

  • Custom measured pockets – hidden pockets in a coat or the back pocket of trousers that perfectly fits the wearer’s wallet.  Or a front pocket on trousers that extends only to the point that the wearer wants his keys to sit…not halfway down the leg as is the case with pockets of many store bought pants!
Two specialized pocket options.

Two specialized pocket options.

  • Personal details such as interior hand stitching on a blazer that matches the wearer’s favorite shirt – this would act like a helpful key to make sure the man is picking shirt colors that co-ordinate with his jacket!
red stitching

Contrast stitching in a bright red

I hope this post has convinced you that menswear sewing is a satisfying and creative endeavor!  The options for details and the weight you place on the scale of Line, Colour and Texture are full of creative possibility.  Thinking through each possibility to customize your garment before you even begin sewing will result in a unique item that is well worth the hours spent to create it.

Lastly, to finish this week’s post, I have a screen shot to share and thanks to give to BurdaStyle for including the Newcastle Cardigan in their Best of March gallery!  We appreciate the supportive comments from BurdaStyle members!

Thanks BurdaStyle!

Thanks BurdaStyle!


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Newcastle Cardigan Photo Shoot

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The Newcastle Cardigan has been graded and I sewed up our first proper sample this week!  We’ve updated the pattern store to include some of the photos and also have them on our facebook page.  The pattern is currently out with the first batch of test sewers and we’re looking forward to seeing the results of their work (we’ll include their projects on the blog).

This isn’t going to be a word heavy post as I’d like to let the pictures speak for themselves!  The first set of photos were taken at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria and the cardigan was modeled by Matt.  The second set of photos were taken at The Pacific Design Academy and the cardigan was kindly (and super stylishly!) modeled by Iain Russell of is this Menswear?  Check out his instagram, facebook and tumblr pages for endless photos of amazing menswear inspiration.

Without further ado, here it is – a size small version of the Newcastle Cardigan made up in brown bamboo fleece and stretch suiting as contrast:

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Patterns of Note

Happy Friday!  Today (as previously mentioned) I’m going to be writing a little bit about the best menswear patterns I have found amid the slim selection of current menswear sewing patterns.

I won’t be discussing vintage patterns (there are many intriguing patterns available if you are willing to hunt for them) because Peter Lappin, an excellent sewer and blogger, has already covered this topic extensively.  You can see his vintage menswear collection and the great projects he has made up using these patterns by visiting his Pattern Photo Library.Here are just a few of his vintage patterns:

Peter’s blog, Male Pattern Boldness is great reading and excellent sewing inspiration.  He calls his blog “The World’s Most Popular Men’s Sewing Blog” and judging by the amount of comments he receives and the excellent content, I think there is no argument that he’s telling the truth!

Moving back to the topic of current menswear sewing patterns, here is a small selection I have compiled:

1. McCalls shirt M6044

M6044

This was my first real item of men’s clothing and I have sewn this pattern many times since.  My husband and I made a trip to Fabricland in my early sewing days to find a button up shirt pattern and fabric so that we could sew him the perfectly fitted button up shirt he had always dreamed of.  We were way over our heads with the project as I had never altered a pattern for fit before and had no idea what fabric type to choose.  Plus, we were going to complicate matters by having him do the sewing!  We picked McCall’s M6044 and some easy to sew but crinkly quilting cotton.

It is pretty much impossible to find Matt a RTW button up shirt – casual or formal – that is even remotely close to fitting him.  He has wide shoulders, a thin waist, a skinny neck and very long arms so most shirts, even if they are slim fit, are too baggy if they fit his shoulders and the neck is usually too loose for him to wear a tie.  The arms on RTW shirts are without fail about a third too short for him so he is forced to wear them rolled up to the elbows.  We initially cut out a size medium in a misguided attempt to account for the problem of short arms but we got halfway through cutting and became overwhelmed by the prospect of adjusting the rest of the shirt to fit.  The half cut out shirt sat in my UFO pile for almost two years until I brought it out in an attempt to empty my fabric bin.  I re-cut the pattern as a small and made up the shirt as is.  I decided that if the shirt turned out wearable, it would be a bonus, but the real point of sewing the cut out original fabric was to familiarize myself with the process of creating a button up shirt before adjusting it to fit Matt.  As expected, the arms are way too short for him, but we were very pleased with the fit across the shoulders and of the neck which needed no adjusting.  We brought in the side seams of the garment about 1.5cm on each side – much less than we thought would be necessary – and the shirt turned out very wearable considering all the odds it had stacked against it!  I added some scraps from a thrift-store shirt as contrast on the collar band and the cuffs which Matt really liked.

Another version I sewed up for him turned out like this:

2. Negroni Shirt from Colette Patterns

Negroni shirtI haven’t sewn this Colette pattern up myself as I had already made the alterations to the McCall’s pattern to achieve a similar fit to the Negroni by the time I came across this indie shirt pattern.  I would like to try this pattern out though because the pattern description lists the most wonderful, thoughtful details – something that the McCall’s pattern completely lacks!
Colette Patterns description:

“For men that like a classic, slightly retro shirt with a more modern cut, this shirt pattern is just the thing. The instructions will guide you gently through every step of creating a well-crafted casual shirt: felled seams, a lined back yoke, and sleeve plackets on the long sleeve version. Subtle details include a convertible collar (also known as a “camp collar”) and midcentury style collar loop detail.

This shirt can be made in a variety of fabrics, such as crisp shirting, warm flannel for winter, or cool rayon for summer.”

The sleeve plackets are a big plus as the McCall’s pattern provides an easy but cheap seeming alternative – simply finishing and folding over the seam allowances before top-stitching to create a rather flimsy but quick slit.  The Colette pattern would lead the sewer to produce a much sturdier and professional garment than the easy but very casual McCall’s button-up.

3. Burda Style Pete T-shirt -FREE!

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I have attempted this pattern several times now and have ended up converting all completed t-shirts into women’s tank tops for myself due to poor fabric choice.  When Matt put on his new t-shirts they draped in a ridiculously feminine way because the knit I had picked was much too thin and silky.  Nevertheless, these failed projects were certainly not the fault of the pattern!  This free pattern is a good base for practicing sewing with knits and also to practice altering a menswear pattern to achieve a perfect fit.  I found that sewing the pattern up, as is, led to a very wide and short t-shirt (BurdaStyle users have made similar comments) and the minimal instructions were fairly complete but a little difficult to follow.  Despite my lack of success creating a t-shirt, there are many excellent versions on BurdaStyle that prove, with the right fabric and knowledge, the free Pete pattern can be used to create great designer t-shirts!

Topic for Future Post:

In the next few weeks I will be working on a tutorial using the Negroni Colette pattern.  I am hoping to provide photo instructions and inspiration on how customize a basic button up shirt to produce something expensive looking, customized to the wearer, and interesting.  Here are some tantalizingly inspirational images that hint at what the tutorial will include:

Robert Graham neck detailpatches.

DappertasticCollars

Shoulder detail

Gingham shirt with sky blue pants