Thread Theory

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


How to sew on a button (so that it won’t fall off!)

Finished button

When I first started sewing I didn’t own too much in the way of sewing manuals and, anyways, they may not have helped me much even if I had them because I am more of a ‘try and try again’ style learner and probably wouldn’t have referred to them as I bumbled along the learning curve to becoming a proficient sewer!

When I began my first semester of fashion design school after spending several years avidly sewing my own clothing, I was very eager to learn the ‘proper’ way to do things thinking that I likely did them all wrong.  As it turns out, I’ve since come to the opinion that often the ‘proper’ way of doing something when sewing is the way that works best for the circumstance.

In the case of sewing on buttons, for instance, the ‘proper’ way of attaching them is in any manner that results in a fastener that is strong, will not fall off over time, is easy to use and looks very nice.

So I’ll show you the way that I sew on a button and you can give it a try; if it fills all of the above criteria, then it is the ‘proper’ way for you!

merchant and mills boxed

And while I’m at it, I thought I should use some of the Merchant & Mills tools we have in our store so that you can see what is within the beautiful packaging.  To sew on this button I’ll be using the measuring tape, the wide bow scissors, a hand sewing needle, a glass headed pin, and most importantly, tailor’s beeswax.merchant and mills unboxed

And I’m sewing the button to this pair of linen shorts that I just made for Matt.

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The linen is courtesy of the Fabrics-store which is an online shop that specializes in the most lovely of linens.  Both linens that I used (for the self fabric and the contrast waistband and fly shield are yarn-dyed.  I think yarn dyed fabric has such beautiful depth to it and is so appealingly rustic.  Check out the Fabrics-store’s gorgeous selection – it was lucky that Matt was around to pick the fabric because I was totally unable to pick a favorite (they’re all favorites!).

button - shorts front

Okay, now lets move on to sewing on the button! First off, I like to determine the perfect button placement.  On trousers, the button should sit directly above the zipper.  On these shorts that was one inch in from the edge of the waistband.  I also measured the halfway point between the top and bottom edge of the waistband so that the button would be centred.button - measure

To prepare my thread, I ran it through the tailor’s beeswax.  To do that, just pinch the thread between the wax and your thumb and run it along the edge of the wax.  Then repeat the process a second time.  Finish the application by quickly rubbing the thread between my fingers to work the wax into it.  It only takes a couple seconds and makes a world of difference!

button - wax thread

I used to hand sew without preparing my thread, which I now know was a silly thing to do!  I was plagued with knots and tangles while carefully sewing hems and my buttons would often (and I mean OFTEN) snap off at the most awkward of times.  Beeswax is quick to apply to the thread and helps to make it stronger.  It also causes the thread to behave in a completely different manner than un-waxed thread – if it becomes tangled while hand sewing, my exasperating initial reaction of tugging at the knot actually works – the knot doesn’t become tighter, it just magically slips away!

Choose a sewing needle with a long eye – that way you can double up your thread and feed both ends through the eye at once.  This may seem an impossible feat (two big fat thread ends through one tiny hole?!) but just give your ends a quick trim and the wax will keep them nice and stiff so you shouldn’t have a problem.

button - clip rough thread ends

Threading the needle in this manner makes sewing on a button twice as fast…my construction teacher taught me this and I send her a telepathic thank you every time I sew on a button!button - double thread needle

Make the thread ends even with the looped end of the thread (so that you will be sewing with four strands of thread) and knot it.
button - tie knot in thread

Now this may seem counter-intuitive (at least it initially did to me!): Start sewing on the button from the FRONT of the garment rather than the back.  That way the knot is hidden underneath the button.button - begin sewing

Once the needle and thread are pulled through to the back, bring the needle through to the front again as close to your original stitch as possible (but not in the same spot or you will simply be undoing your stitch!).button - shorts from back

Instead of pulling the threads super tight, leave a gap between the button and the garment like so:button - room between button and shorts

This will later be filled with a shank made out of twisted thread that holds the button away from the garment making it easier to grab and use.  If you were sewing on a button with a shank, you wouldn’t have to do this because the shank is already provided!

Repeat this process several times but make sure to leave enough free thread on your needle to create a shank (somewhere in the vicinity of 5″-8″ (12 – 20 cm)).

button - sew from back

End with your needle on the right side of the garment and twist the 5-8″ of thread around your stitching (in the space between the button and the garment).  Pull tightly to create a solid shank.
button - wrap to create post

Once your shank has been created, it is time to secure the stitching.  To do this, don’t just begin with a granny knot (that’s what I always did and they never held!).  Instead, push the needle through the thread shank.  It will probably be difficult to do, but you can always push the end of the needle against a hard surface or use a thimble to coax it through.button - go back through post

Now do this again from the opposite direction to lock everything in place.button - go up through post

My teacher said the next step is unnecessary but I can’t help myself – it feels too weird to end a hand-stitching process without tying a knot – so just tie a little knot using the loose ends from when you started stitching and the ends attached to your needle.button - tie threads

Trim off the excess thread and you have a super strong, beautiful and easy to use button!Finished button close up

You can hardly see any thread on the wrong side:

Finished button inside waistband

And it is really easy to grab and use:

Finished Button thread post

Is this the process you use to sew on a button?  If you do something different, what do you do?  I’d love to hear as I imagine there are all sorts of techniques out there with many of them being just as good as what I have come to consider my ‘proper’ way.

Now one more photo of the finished shorts:

side view

I think Matt will be wearing these shorts all summer long (and he reports that the wide legs are perfect for riding his bike to work)!

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This made me smile yesterday!


I couldn’t resist sharing this email with you!  Yesterday afternoon, Mandy emailed me through our Contact Us form to say:

I bought some notions a couple weeks ago, and just wanted to say how much I love the glass head pins.  They glide so smoothly into the fabric and have really made pinning less of a chore!  I usually avoid pinning whenever I can, but I see now that the pins I had been using were to blame for my dislike of pinning.

I’m so glad that I can purchase these from a local supplier and I’m certainly eyeing up the other notions and your fabulous patterns for the future.

Isn’t that lovely?  It’s so encouraging to hear such positive feedback about the products we carry in our store and to know that someone loves our Merchant & Mills notions and tools as much as I do!


Looking for sewing tools?

As of today, our online store stocks what I consider to be the highest quality of tools available – Merchant & Mills!

merchant and mills banner

If you are tired of sifting through racks of sewing tools that most commonly feature gimicky plastic tools and pink and purple notions, than we know how you feel!  If you are on the quest for quality sewing tools that will not only properly serve their purpose but also look dignified while doing it, then you need look no further than Merchant & Mills!

I found Merchant & Mills when I was looking for a Tailor’s Beeswax in hopes of avoiding the REALLY annoying tangles and knots that I am constantly plagued with when I try to hand sew hems.

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They are a little British company, based out of East Sussex, run by partners Carolyn and Roderick.  Matt and I, upon viewing their inspirational welcome video, connected with the principles behind their company immediately and thus we are VERY proud to be stocking their classic and functional sewing tools and notions.

We have selected some of, what I consider to be, the most essential sewing notions to add to the Sewing Supplies section of our store.  Aside from beeswax (in a really handy little storage pot), we are now stocking beautiful glass headed pins

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…sharp and sturdy hand sewing needles

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…a very dignified and easy-to-use tape measure

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…and, best of all, the manliest of thread snips!

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We’re really excited to be offering such functional and dignified tools to menswear sewists.  Now that I’ve got the sewing tools bug, I’d love to hear: What sewing tool do you most wish to add to your sewing room?  What is the best/most used one that you already own?


New today! French Instruction Booklets

French Instructions 2

I have a big announcement about another free addition to the Thread Theory store was just launched today: French translations of all our instruction booklets!

We’ve worked with a French speaking sewer and our French speaking graphic designer to translate our PDF booklets so that people who have bought our patterns in the past, whether it be from stockists or from our website, will have access to the instruction booklet, complete with translated diagrams and metric measurements!

Now here is the [small] problem: We’re still working on perfecting these and need your help.  Neither Matt or I speak French so we hope that any of you French sewists who use these translated booklets will send us an email ( if you notice incomplete translations or measurements that you would prefer to be in metric.  We’ll continue to perfect the booklets based on your suggestions!  Some of the content still in English is in red text – these things are the priority items that need to be translated.  Also, some of our measurement charts are not yet in metric because I’m hoping that French sewers will send us their opinion about how they would like these to be formatted: For instance, do you prefer if BOTH metric and imperial measurements are included?  Or do you like if only metric measurements are given?  Do you seamlessly transition between both when it comes to measuring seam allowances or determining fabric amounts (I know I do…it drives Matt crazy!)?

Thank you for your opinions and assistance!  I look forward to hearing from you.


Merchant and Mills on Instagram

Next up on Thread Theory updates: We recently joined Instagram!  I’m excited to use it to give you behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Thread Theory studio and information about developments before they are announced on the blog or website.  And based on what our latest teaser featured, you can probably predict what I’ll be busy with today: Uploading Merchant & Mills products to our store!  Stay tuned for an in-depth post about this amazing and inspiring company as well as the beautiful and very functional tools that we will be carrying in our store.

Have a great weekend!


Our Very First Stockist!

Today we are proud to announce that Thread Theory Designs Inc. officially has a pattern for sale with it’s first stockist!

stitch56 screen shot

We are so excited to have our patterns available for download on Stitch 56, a skillfully curated selection of “beautiful sewing notions, tools, patterns and other necessary items.”  The website is Australian based and sells an excellent selection of indie sewing patterns (we are the first downloadable pattern, the rest of the patterns offered are currently printed patterns) as well as the traditional and very manly sewing tools from Merchant & Mills which we absolutely LOVE!

In other news, Matt couldn’t wait for his blue Jedediah Sew-Along shorts since it has been so wonderfully hot lately…so in order to stop him from wearing his ancient cut-off Dickies every day I whipped up a simple version of the Jedediah shorts with no cuff and an extra short (hipster?) hem.  Matt loves them and has received compliments on them already.  He wore them after a swim at a local lake yesterday so we took a few quick shots while he was still drying off!