Thread Theory

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


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New in our store! More dreamy sewing tools

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We have a huge selection of new Merchant & Mills tools in our shop!  I went on a shopping spree for this order and not only re-stocked any sold out tools but also purchased a whole bunch of new ones that have been on my wishlist for the last couple of years.  Let me introduce you to the newest tools in our supply shop:

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First off, meet these beautiful polished steel buttonhole scissors hailing from Sheffield, England (home of quality scissors and traditional scissor makers).  I’ve been coveting these for quite some time due to their short blades which make for really precise snipping capabilities.  I have a pair in my studio now that I have been using for everything from snipping exact notches, to grading and clipping seams, to actual buttonhole slicing.NewMMProducts-37

They operate incredibly smoothly (they are the smoothest out of all the Merchant & Mills scissors that we carry) and are a nice practical size that makes them convenient to grab – not too heavy but not too small.  Above you can see them in Matt’s hand and below you can see the wide bow scissors that we carry for size comparison.NewMMProducts-11

I decided to increase our stock of pins and needles as well.  Personally, I love my glass head pins (a best seller in our shop) as an all purpose pinning solution but, since every sewer has their preferred pin type, and since menswear fabrics can really fluctuate in weights, having a variety of pins on hand can be useful.
NewMMProducts-15This box of dressmaking pins is absolutely crammed full of classic metal-headed pins that are excellent for medium weight fabrics.  You won’t have to worry about running out of these pins while pinning multiple projects since you will have a whole ounce at your disposal (that doesn’t sound like that many, but believe me it is!).
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I’m very excited about this next pin option which I think is particularly suited for menswear projects:

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Toilet pins are especially large and strong pins that were traditionally used as closures on garments long before the invention of zippers.  Women (and their maids) would pin themselves into their clothing for the day!  Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you skip zipper installation on your Jedediah Pants!  Instead, use these pins when you are working with heavy, rugged menswear materials.  They would do particularly well pinning cargo pockets on heavy canvas Jutland Pants and would easily pin thick denim waistbands and belt loops in place.  You won’t ever need to worry about bending these pins!NewMMProducts-26

Here is a photo for size comparison (the dressmaking pin is on the left, my favorite glass head pin is in the middle and the toilet pin is on the right):NewMMProducts-28

I’ve been researching visible mending lately using Sashiko stitch so this next addition to our shop is with this sort of sewing in mind – darning needles!

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Each wooden case comes with 10 needles of assorted sizes.  All include long heads that would work nicely with Sashiko or pearl cotton thread.

I also added the best thing since sliced bread to our shop:

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Easy-thread needles!  These will save you loads of frustration if you are short of sight (or patience).  All you needed to do is press the thread down into the groove at the top of the needle head and it will lock into place with a tiny spring action!
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To store all of your hand sewing and machine needles, we are now carrying Merchant & Mills beautiful hand crafted leather needle wallet sets.  Each needle wallet comes in a rustic embossed cardboard box and is made from “happy English cows.”  The wallet comes full of essential hand sewing tools:

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How cute are these baby bow scissors?!  They measure only 3″ in length!  You will find the scissors tucked into the left pocket and a complete set of hand sewing needles and threader perfectly slotted into the right pocket.  The needle wallet includes two felt pages to store all of your needles.  I think I will pack the first page with hand sewing needles and the second with partially used machine needles (such as my ball point and twin needles).

While I was happily shopping away, I also added a few little essential notions to our Merchant & Mills order.
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This tiny seam ripper is perfect for travelling to sewing meet-ups or for packing in your sewing machine’s tool cupboard.  It would also make the perfect insert for hand carved or lathe turned seam ripper handles!  At one point a couple of summers ago, Matt started carving me a seam ripper handle while we were camping.  He was on the lookout for a seam ripper like this to complete it but never got around to it – maybe I can convince him to finish it now!

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Do you know what a bodkin is?  I didn’t either.  But now I do!  It is a handy little tool that helps to thread elastic, cord, yarn (or even shoelaces!) through narrow channels.

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The one on the left includes a tapered hole that can lock your cord in place while the one on the right has an especially wide head for heavy elastics and a handy capped tip.  I’ve already used the one on the right to save me immense frustration while trying to re-lace my hiking boots!  The laces don’t have plastic coated tips and I was just about to cave and buy new laces when I remembered my bodkin.  It worked a charm.

Now, last, but certainly not least, meet my absolute favorite purchase from this Merchant & Mills order – the thimble.

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This stunning thimble is solid brass that has been lacquer coated so it won’t tarnish over time.  It features the Merchant & Mills logo engraved along its base and handy divets that keep the needle head in place as you push through layers of fabric.  The best feature of all is that the top of the thimble is completely open which allows it to slip down on to the finger for a custom snug fit.  It also keeps the finger tip free to manipulate fabric.
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I’ve never found a thimble that I’ve wanted to wear until this one!  It feels secure on my finger (it is pictured above on Matt’s finger; on my smaller finger it sits slightly lower) and I feel so uninhibited by it that I can even wear it while pinning a hem and even while typing (I didn’t want to take off my pretty thimble once I first tried it on lol!).

Head to our shop to check out many more photos and thorough descriptions for all of these tools!  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email so I can add the answers to our product descriptions.  I hope some of these tools will fill a hole in your sewing tool box!

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Spotlight on the humble tape measure

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While reading the much anticipated first issue of Simply Sewing recently (have you heard of this new magazine?), I came across a little note within an article on essential sewing tools.  The note mentions that it is worth spending a little extra on a good quality flexible tape measure so that it will not stretch out easily and render your measurements inaccurate.

This note reminded me of my orientation day when I began sewing for an interior designer a few years ago.  The very skilled and knowledgable seamstress that I was working with told me to handle our tape measures very carefully and to drape them softly over their hook on the wall each time I put them away.  This careful handling would prevent them from stretching out – something that is very important to someone who is sewing precise roman shades!  When she told me this I nodded quietly while guiltily visualizing my tightly rolled tape measure within it’s plastic case in my sewing box at home!  When I got home I inspected my tape measure closely – it was a cheap plastic blue one (rather than coated fabric or strong, reinforced plastic) and, after several years of use it featured visible stretch marks along it’s entire length!  Needless to say, when I compared it’s measurement markings to my metal pattern drafting rulers, they were quite off!

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Ever since this experience I have been much more careful with handling my tape measures and have now switched to using coated cloth measures that are far less prone to stretching.

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Aside from resistance to stretch, there are a couple other features I like my tape measures to include.  I prefer to use tape measures with very clear and simple markings – I find it annoying when inches and centimeters are crammed onto one side of the measure – the Merchant & Mills tape measures that we carry in our shop are particularly simple and clear to read since one side is black and one side is white making it very easy to refer to your desired unit of measurement instantly.  Lastly, I like to use tape measures that feature no blank space at the beginning or end of the measure.  I prefer tape measures to start at “0” exactly where the metal tip begins and to include measurements right up to the other metal tip.

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While I only own basic tape measures, I have seen some really useful specialized ones when working with other sewists at pattern drafting workshops and school that I would like to add to my tool box.  For instance, I have noticed drapery weighted tapes are a common tool within many seamstress’s sewing boxes.  They drape the chain over the body to measure various rounded areas (for instance, the front shoulder to waist measurement that extends over the bust).  They pinch the chain at either end point and then remove the chain to a flat surface where they measure its length.

Have you tried working with circumference tapes that feature a slider and locking button to measure the circumference of various areas of the body?  Or, have you attached an adhesive tape measure to your sewing table?  Or are you a fan of working with quilting rulers while garment sewing?

I’d love to hear your measuring tips and tricks!

If you are feeling the need to update your measuring tools like I am, our Merchant & Mills measuring tape is currently 25% off this weekend!


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Christmas Wishlist

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It’s time to start thinking about wishlists and presents so Matt and I have been busy adding more sewing tools and stocking stuffers to our store!  In celebration of this, we’re holding a sale until December 1st so that you can order all your Christmas sewing projects and gifts for your sewing friends at once.  Enter the code WISHLIST upon checkout to receive 15% off orders over $100.

Now, let me introduce you to some of the newest items in our shop!  First up is a small side project that our graphic designer and I started brainstorming during a sailing trip together last summer:

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Thread Theory drink coasters!  My sewing table is the recipient of many wine, coffee and tea stains because I can’t seem to sew without having a drink to sip at my side.  I hope these will prevent a few water stained rings from developing on your tables!  Also, with the Christmas party season coming up coasters will be in high demand.  We made these coasters very subtly sewing themed so that they can spread into the rest of your home without causing you to look too sewing-obsessed!Coasters-15

The coasters come in packs of six and include two of each design.  The first design is The Anatomy of the Goldstream Peacoat.  Use it to thoroughly impress non-sewing relatives with your vocabulary over eggnog and rum punch :P.Coasters-14

The second design features our Knolled Thread Theory Workstation.  Have you heard of knolling?  I first heard this term mentioned by Jen on the Grainline Studio blog.  I followed her link to the video definition and ended up watching the whole (super funny) video series featuring Tom Sach’s rules of conduct that must be learnt before entering his studio.  Needless to say, Matt and I have been obsessively knolling ever since!Coasters-13

The last design is a geography lesson – this coaster features the locations of the four parks that we were inspired by when designing the Parkland Collection patterns.  You can see that Strathcona Park and Goldstream Park are both on Vancouver Island while Jedediah is actually an island between Vancouver Island and the mainland.  Newcastle is also an island just off the coast of Nanaimo, Matt’s hometown.

I had so much fun working on this coaster project – it was a nice change from pattern design and instruction writing!  I hope they will be a welcome addition to your home as they have been in mine (they’re seriously everywhere…).  Head here to check out the dimensions and other specific details about the coasters.

Also new in our store are three Merchant & Mills tools!  We restocked all of the tools we currently carry and couldn’t resist adding a few new ones to our order.

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Let me introduce you to the most glorious Tailor’s Shears you will ever meet!  These smoothly operating beauties were created in Sheffield, England, the home of British Steel.  They are forged from high carbon tool steel which will retain its sharp edge and includes inner corrosion protection.NewProducts-14

They feature a very practical 8″ blade (not too long, not too short) which is side bent so that the bottom blade rests flat against your cutting surface. NewProducts-13

In classic Merchant & Mills fashion, these quality scissors are beautifully presented in a style perfect for gift giving.  Their blade is stamped with the Merchant & Mills logo and they are packaged in an embossed box complete with stamped tissue, a description of the scissors, and a pretty outer sleeve.NewProducts-12

We also added to our essential notions.  My goal is eventually stock every tool I find to be necessary when working in my sewing studio.  With that in mind, we added a metal sewing guage with a red plastic slider to our shop.
NewProducts-8This is a tool that is never far from my hand when sewing – it is perfect for measuring seam allowances, buttons, buttonholes, topstitching and pretty much every other precise little measurement you might require. NewProducts-9 Lastly, we now carry two styles of thread snips!  The first style has been in our shop for a while and has received enthusiastic reviews.  If you haven’t checked them out already, you are welcome to go examine my favorite Wide Bow Scissors.  While these scissors are my choice for snipping threads, I understand there are two camps when it comes to thread clippers – classic scissors or spring loaded snips.NewProducts-5

Matt is a spring loaded snip devotee and so he wouldn’t let us place another Merchant & Mills order without adding these beauties to our store.NewProducts-3

These polished stainless steel thread clips are larger and far heavier duty than Matt and I have ever come across in our search for thread clips (which was Matt’s main past time while visiting stockists on our U.S. road trip last spring).  They are 4.5″ long and include a comfortable finger ring that is designed to fit over your 3rd finger so that they can hang from your hand, ready to use, as you sew.NewProducts-2

These clips were also made in Sheffield, England and have been packaged beautifully by Merchant & Mills.  They sit glistening in a black jewelry box on a velvety black pillow.  They are wrapped in another pretty sleeve as you can see below:NewProducts-1

 

I hope you love these new additions to our store as much as I do!  If you are looking to stock up on sewing tools and kits for yourself or to use as gifts, all of our stock has been refreshed.  We have received many inquiries ever since our Bag Making Supplies Kit sold out so we have added this back in our store (along with the sold out Chicago Screws!).

Good luck with your Christmas shopping!


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

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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!

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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!).

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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!

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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.

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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.
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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)).

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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.
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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:

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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:

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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!

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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!


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Looking for sewing tools?

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

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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?


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New today! French Instruction Booklets

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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 (info@threadtheory.ca) 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!