Thread Theory

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


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The workshop of Wray Parsons Pt. 2

We popped by woodworker, Wray Parson’s workshop again to pick up another order and this time Noah and I were able to tag along. Wray showed me his entire catalog of sewing and needlework tools that he makes or has made in the past. I enjoyed hearing the design process stories! He usually works with needlework artists who are looking for specific tools. They explain how they want the tool to function and look and then together they figure out how to create such a tool in wood, specifically on a lathe. He also puts a lot of thought into streamlining production so that the tools can be made in small or large batches as demand from shops and artists worldwide ebbs and flows.

When we first stepped into the shop Wray pointed toward the table where the orders sat and I went over to what I thought was our usual cardboard box. He stopped me and directed me to a very special pile instead…our little bag of wooden tools was sitting atop the most beautiful wooden bench complete with inset blocks spelling out Noah’s name! As soon as we got home Noah set the stool upside down and had great fun playing with the legs and watching as the letter blocks tumbled out for him to grab. I’m sure he will be using this stool, first as a toy and then as a seat, for many years!

While we carry most of Wray’s sewing related tools, there are a few designs that are new or I had forgotten about since I originally viewed his catalog years ago.

This little spool-shaped contraption is a combo pin cushion and beeswax block (used for conditioning thread to prevent tangles and to strengthen it when hand sewing). Wray uses 100% beeswax and, as always, stuffs his pin cushion with sheep’s wool so that the lanolin will protect your pins from rust.

While we carry his lovely acorn tape measures, he also makes these elegant bell shaped ones. To put the tape away, you spin the handle of the bell. When we are at craft fairs it is so fun to see people’s eyes light up in childlike wonder when they start spinning the acorn stem…this tiny bell sized to suit a doll or fairy would certainly have ignited my imagination as a child!

These wooden thimbles are very cute. I have never stocked them as they are decorative rather than functional but I thought you might enjoy looking at this one all the same!

From what I understand, the above tool is a form of bunka brush which is a brush used to set the nap of threads or fabrics all in one direction. It is intended for a very specific needlework but I wanted to photograph it to show you the three tiny wooden rings that float freely as decoration around the handle. So intricate! Wray includes this ring design on several of his long handled needlework tools.

Lastly, I am just so excited to show you this new project Wray has been working on at the request of an embroidery artist. These pin cushions are a take on his usual design but instead of adding velour fabric he’s packed the sheep’s wool in a fine mesh. He’s also altered the way it’s constructed so that the cushion can be removed. Any guesses why these changes have been made?

They are a DIY kit! These little changes mean you can add your own fabric or embroidery to create a custom cushion! What a unique way to feature a very special piece of fabric or an embroidery project! I’m definitely going to include these in our next order and can’t wait to work on some embroidered linen to decorate one for my own studio.

I laughed when Matt came home from his first visit to Wray’s workshop with a camera full of pictures of tools…Wray and his woodworking were nowhere to be found! I took these photos of his work to rectify the situation and Wray shared a favorite action shot of himself with me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed what has turned into a two part meet-the-maker series! I’d love to work with Wray to design a few more sewing tools. So far I am thinking of a magnetic pin dish (much larger than his needle minders since I love the convenience of being able to toss my pins in the general direction of a dish while I’m in a sewing frenzy). I’d also love to figure out some sort of wooden bobbin storage but I haven’t had any great ideas about how to convert this to something that could be turned on a lathe. Do you have any ideas for wooden sewing tool designs?

View Wray Parson’s tools in our shop.


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The workshop of Wray Parsons

Matt recently went to visit local woodworker, Wray Parsons, and picked up our latest order of beautiful lathe-turned sewing tools.

With our recent move we live even closer to Wray so it seemed like a great opportunity to forgo mailing the order and instead have a tour of his workspace and a chat.

Wray kindly agreed to me sharing photos of his workshop on the blog as I thought you might like to take a peek as well!

It is amazing to see the large size of the tools used to make Wray’s remarkably small and precise wooden tools. In the background of the photo above you can see his lathe used for turning the wood into it’s final shape, below you can see the jointer and planer used to create his blanks (the rectangles of wood ready to be turned).

He also has a bandsaw (below) to process material and cut intricate shapes. Beside the saw you can see an example of one the the burls that he works with.

All of these tools and a lot of skill and time go into making his precisely crafted wooden tools.

He uses a set of specialty chisels imported from England to create the smoothly functioning threads on his acorn thimble case.

His wood storage appeals to me:

His projects are so miniature and his woods is so precious that even the tiniest piece (what most woodworking shops would view as scrap) is carefully stored for a future project.

Wray’s wife has a long history of needle work so he consulted her for his original line of tools and frequently consults the shops who stock his tools when designing a new tools.

He’s also greatly inspired by historical needlework tools, his acorn tape measure (pictured above) and thimble case are modeled after the silver acorn thimble cases found in Victorian sewing boxes. The stem on the acorn twists to roll the tape back up! His soldier’s friends (pictured below) are modeled after wartime sewing kits that soldiers kept handy to mend their uniforms.

Whenever he sources blades, scissors or stuffing to complete his tools, he finds the best quality: His seam ripper blades are very hard and sharp Japanese steel, his thread snips are Italian, and the pin cushions are stuffed with local sheep’s wool to coat your pins in rust preventing lanolin.

Wray also showed Matt the heated greenhouse that he built for himself.

It has a coal fired stove inside the timber and glass structure which allows Wray to grow tomatoes well into the winter.

The raised beds are very substantial and you can see that his heating and watering set up is finely tuned. The greenhouse is so large he even grows fruit trees within it!

What an inspiration for our future greenhouse! We are a long ways off from having something so substantial but I can certainly dream!

Anyhow, back to his woodworking: In our latest order we added some darning mushrooms which we have not stocked for some time. I’m trying to focus on sewing related tools (and used to include these mushrooms in the knitting section of our shop) but they are too beautiful, useful and aligned with the growing movement of mending instead of buying new…they simply make sense to have in one’s sewing kit!

Well, I hope you found this peek at Wray’s workshop and tour of Wray’s tools intriguing! Noah and I plan to pick up our next delivery so I can have a closer look at that garden and greenhouse! Wray kindly sends us photos and updates by email quite often but it will be much nicer to chat in person regularly now we live so close.

View our selection of Wray’s sewing tools.


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5 Reasons to Repair Your Garment Instead of Replacing It

 

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We now stock locally crafted lathe turned darning mushrooms, mini pin cushions and acorn pendants in our shop!

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You will probably recognize that these are the work of skilled sewing tool craftsman, Wray Parsons, who lives an hour south of us in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island.  We have devotedly stocked quite a few of his other sewing tools for the last couple of years.

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As someone who hopes to create garments that will last indefinitely, I am especially excited to add Wray’s darning mushrooms to our shop.  Aside from the way they align with my values (more on that momentarily), I think these mushrooms are incredibly beautiful!  They are turned from Yew wood that features the most intricate of swirled patterns.

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Wray crafts them with a needle case hidden inside the mushroom stem and a flat base so that the mushrooms can sit on your shelf as they would on a forest floor.

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A darning mushroom is a traditional tool that allows you to maintain even tension while mending a hole in a knit garment (such as a sock).  Even if you don’t yet know how to darn, you can use this mushroom as a needle case and a friendly reminder of a skill that you would like to learn one day!

To get you started, you might like to check out these tutorials on darning:

Darning Tutorial (Wool and Chocolate)

Make Do and Mend (Colette Patterns)

How -To: Darning (Zero Waste Home)

In honor of this new addition to our shop, I have a guest blog post to share with you today!

I imagine most of us who sew agree, it is well worth repairing your lovingly sewn garments rather than tossing them to make new ones.  I was recently chatting with Wesley, the founder of iManscape.com about what sewing means to him (as a person who, as far as I know, does not engage in sewing as a pastime/passion/hobby).  Wesley is a devoted menswear and self care enthusiast.  He quickly brought up the practice of mending his wardrobe and offered to write an article for my blog explaining why everyone interested in menswear should possess the skills and mindset to mend.

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Without further ado, here is Wesley to tell you why menswear should be mended:


 

Wear and tear can take their toll on even the most resilient garments. Despite your best efforts and care, your clothes will fray and rip from time to time. When this happens, the obvious step is to throw it out and buy a new piece of clothing. But what if there were another option?

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Learning to repair your own clothing is a valuable skill that used to be commonplace in society. While it may be time consuming the practice has a variety of benefits:

  1. Cost Effective: Depending on the type of repairs it will almost always be less expensive to repair an old garment than to purchase a brand new one.
  2. Prolong the Life of Your Favorite Clothing: Minor rips, tears, and frays that do not render the garment useless are common. Like a chip in a windshield, however, it will continue to spread. Learning how to make minor repairs now, and larger repairs later, will extend the life of that favorite shirt or pair of socks.
  3. Learn a Valuable Skill: Learning how to repair your clothing is a worthwhile talent to develop. Learning basic sewing and mending techniques will also allow you to make alterations to your existing clothes as well.
  4. A Worthy Return On Investment: Purchasing an article of clothing is an investment in time, fashion, and appearance. Whether your clothes rip or fray within one week of ownership or one year, accidents happen. Learning how to repair and extend the life of that garment helps maintain a positive return on the investment of your purchase.
  5. Stay Trendy: If the history of fashion has taught us anything it’s that everything is cyclical. Prolonging the life of your garments helps ensure they’ll last until the next time they come into fashion.

Tools of the Trade

There are a variety of tools to consider, each with specific uses. When starting out, you needn’t have all of them, however some common tools  you may want to consider are:

  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Seam Ripper
  • Thimble
  • Needles and Tread
  • Darning Tools, i.e. mushroom, egg

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Those Darn Darns

Darning is a method used to repair holes and worn areas in fabric. One of the more recognizable tools is the darning mushroom. Darning mushrooms are commonly used to repair socks, stockings, or leggings. The tool is noted for its mushroom-shaped head which the sock is stretched over. The affected area is held tight and is therefore spread out and more easy to work with.

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When first learning how to mend clothing, socks and other footwear are a great place to start. This way if you mess up, you can always cover it with your shoe! If you choose to go this route, a darning mushroom is an essential tool of the trade.

Speaking of Trends

The practice of repairing one’s own clothing has experienced a resurgence in recent times. There may be a learning curve involved, but given a little practice and guidance you can be mending your threads in no time.

Author Bio: Wesley is the owner of iManscape.com. A place of manly things such as the best safety razors, beards, and of course manscaping. To see more from Wesley visit iManscape or like them on Facebook.


 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on mending, Wesley!  It is interesting to hear the perspective of someone who doesn’t spend their days sewing and blogging about sewing (a surprisingly rare sort of person in my life!).  I am happy to hear that clothing and the work that went into constructing the fabric, design, and the clothes themselves is valued by someone who hasn’t actually performed the task themselves.

As someone who sews, do you feel inclined to mend garments?  I must admit that, while I am quick to mend clothing and linens that I have sewn, I am prone to letting store bought clothing wear out.  I think I should reconsider this as I will likely always have a few store bought pieces in my wardrobe.

Check out the darning mushrooms in our shop >


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Artist Made Wooden Sewing Tools

When Matt and I were at CREATE recently, a woman who took my Comox Trunks sewing class told us that her dad made beautiful wooden sewing tools.  He had some on display at the front entrance to CREATE so we went to check them out – and knew they would be a wonderful addition to our shop!

Wooden Sewing Tools

Wray Parsons is a skilled wood worker on Vancouver Island who specializes in creating sewing tools.  He is very particular with his selection of woods – he uses local wood or sustainably harvested exotic woods and creates precision instruments in very small batches.

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Each and every one of his tools is unique because of his wood choice and the different design elements he likes to add.  We’ve added a drop down wood selection list to each item in our store so you can choose the wood you like best!

As you can tell, I really admire Wray’s woodworking but, as a fellow designer, I perhaps relate even more to the time and effort he has put into creating very functional designs.

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The large, three legged velvet pin cushion, for instance, features a stable wooden base that prevents pins from slipping deep into the cushion or poking out the bottom (my pet peeves with the classic tomato shaped cushion!).

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The needle minders he makes include very strong magnets so that your pins won’t slip off.

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He includes one magnet embedded within the needle minder and a second one is loose so that you can sandwich non-magnetic things (a table leg perhaps?) and your needle minder will always be within easy reach!

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The seam rippers are probably my favorite item – the tapered handle really showcases the interesting grains in each type of wood.

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Wray has chosen high quality metal blades which include a safety ball.  Several years ago I cut myself really badly using a seam ripper that didn’t have a safety ball so this little feature is very necessary to me!

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To make these seam ripper’s even safer, Wray creates matching wooden lids that fit extremely snugly (unlike those silly clear plastic ones that are forever sliding off and cracking in my sewing box!).

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If you’d like to see all the wood choices and read more details, head on over to our store!

And one last note before I post this: In case anyone is reading this while planning gifts for me (***hint*** Matt, my darling hubby :P), a Zebra Wood Seam Ripper is on my wishlist!