Thread Theory

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


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Negroni!

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I finished Colette Pattern’s Negroni men’s button up shirt!  Here is my husband looking dashing in it:

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And a view on the hanger before I added buttons:

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Colette Pattern instructions were wonderful, leading me through each detail step-by-step complete with many more illustrations then you would expect from one of the big pattern companies.  Nifty finishing steps were included such as sturdy flat-felled seams and a tricky but well explained lined yoke.

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The first few times my husband tried the shirt on in the early stages of the sewing process, we were both a little worried about how well the convertible collar would sit and how fitted the body of the shirt would be.  The facings added a lot more bulk than I was accustomed to along the centre front and caused the collar and neck area to ripple a little bit instead of sitting crisply.  I continued sewing along, trusting the quality of Colette instructions and was not at all dissapointed.  I added  topstitching at centre front just to make sure the facing wouldn’t peek out.  Once on, the shirt looks great, it is a fairly slim fit and the grosgrain, button holes and topstitching secure the facing completely in place.

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In addition to the pattern’s features I added shoulder details, contrasting yoke and cuffs, a grosgrain ribbon underneath the buttons, and contrast thread when sewing the buttons on.  Below is a little photo tutorial for my shoulder and ribbon additions in case you are curious how I added these details!

Shoulder Detail:

To create the shoulder detail shape, create a tissue pattern piece to use when cutting out all other included pieces.

To do this, trace the front shirt piece (Piece A) on tissue paper.  Trace along the neckline, shoulder and arm hole and across from the arm hole to the shoulder to create a style line (account for 3/8 seam allowance on the style line where you will fold later to hide raw edges).  Cut out this pattern piece in either self or contrasting fabric to create a shoulder detail that fits perfectly on top of the existing Piece A as shown below:

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Fold style line under and press:

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Topstitch shoulder detail to shirt front, keeping within the seam allowances on shoulder, neck and arm edges.  Edgestitch along style line:

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Sew up the rest of the shirt as directed resulting in a subtle shoulder detail like this!:

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Grosgrain Ribbon:

For this detail, you will need a metre of 1/4″ wide grosgrain ribbon in the colour of your choice:

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I added the ribbon just before hemming because I wasn’t sure, when completing the collar earlier on in the sewing process, if  I actually wanted to add a ribbon.  You could either add your ribbon before attaching the collar so that the top end of the ribbon is enclosed on the neck seam or you could add it before hemming as I did if you’d prefer to see how it would look on a more completed shirt.

Line up the grosgrain ribbon along the button placement markings on the right side of the shirt (the right side when you are wearing it, the left side when you have it face up on the table in front of you…this is always confusing!):

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Fold under the top edge of the grosgrain ribbon and stitch around all edges of the ribbon through both the shirt front and the facing layers.  Make sure that the sides of the tucked in ribbon end are enclosed by your stitching.  At the hem, simply snip off any extra ribbon so the ribbon end is in line with the hem seam allowance:

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Continue sewing as per the Colette instructions.  When you go to sew your buttons on, place them directly on top of the grosgrain ribbon.

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And last but not least, now that my triumphs have been thoroughly documented, here’s a very sad “oops”…I snipped through the shirt front when trimming seam allowances!

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Negroni Progress and Pattern Company News

I’ve been working away at Colette Pattern’s Negroni men’s shirt today as mentioned in this previous blog post and it’s going well.  I’m taking pictures as I go so there will be a tutorial added once I have finished – it will explain how to add shoulder patch details, and add details such as buttons with contrast thread, a grosgrain ribbon under the buttons, decorative top-stitching, and contrast cuffs .  Here are a few sneak peek photos of my progress so far:

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Isn’t that such a lovely green?  I’ve chosen to use a Kona cotton because my husband tends to skip ironing pretty regularly and surprisingly enough, even when I offer to do it, he won’t let me iron  the old shirt I made for him out of quilting cotton because he likes the crinkled, casual look.  I wouldn’t agree with him on most shirts, but, for a casual with-jeans look, the heavier cotton actually looks pretty nice.  It gives an intentionally well-loved designer look to the shirt.  And anything that keeps us away from the ironing board is worth pursuing!

Lately I’ve been making good progress with Thread Theory menswear patterns.  After consulting often with my very helpful patternmaking instructor, I decided a month ago to hire a professional patternmaker for the Parkland Collection and then sew the samples and write/illustrate/photograph the instructions myself.  Kathleen Fasanella has written on the amazing site, Fashion Incubator, a great analogy that I agree with wholeheartedly.  She says that we don’t expect a restaurant owner to be the only cook  (or, I might add, to even be the cook!), why should independent pattern company owners expect to be able to successfully design garments, create patterns, write instructions and sell products?  Most independent pattern companies I have come across seem to operate in this way, but I think it is best, at least while I am starting up, to begin with a completely accurate and well drafted pattern based on my design so that I can fully concentrate on writing and illustrating clear instructions where I think my strengths lie .  This way, I hope the collection will be a dream to sew and the patterns will produce very satisfying results!

After a month of searching, I have found a great patternmaking company right here in Victoria, B.C. where I live!  My wonderfully supportive patternmaking instructor, Alex, owner of In House Patterns, ran across the company on Linked In.  I want Thread Theory Designs Inc. to use as many local services and connections as possible so I am thrilled to have found Sabine David of Suncoast Custom Patternmaking and Design Service.  She has been incredibly prompt at replying to all my questions so far and has agreed to make my designs.  I’m hoping to start with just the Newcastle Cardigan so that I can experience the whole process from drafting to fitting to receiving the digital pattern and then have the rest of the designs made.

The Newcastle Cardigan - hopefully the first completed pattern within the Parkland Collection!

The Newcastle Cardigan – hopefully the first completed pattern within the Parkland Collection!

I was beginning to worry after a month of contacting patternmaking companies to no avail but now that I have found a patternmaker, the June collection launch date is still looking very realistic!

If anyone has any hopes for the patterns or advice for a new company, here are some questions I would love to hear answers to!

– What menswear sewing patterns would you like to see and to sew?

– How do you prefer sewing instructions to be formatted: booklet or a single large sheet?

– What do you find easier to understand: photo or line drawing illustrations?  Or a combination of both?

Have a great weekend!


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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

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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