Thread Theory aims to bring menswear sewing to the forefront of the DIY fashion movement. We want to make sewing menswear accessible to all – we do this by designing modern, wearable garments, by writing thorough instructions (paired with photographed sew-alongs), by making necessary notions and fabrics available in our online shop, and by fostering a sense of community on the blog, Facebook group and through #makemenswear. We are also working towards developing androgynous styles with a women’s size chart based on a steady demand from people sewing our menswear patterns as androgynous fashion! Matt and I launched our very first pattern in 2012 (the Newcastle Cardigan) which means that this year marks our 10 year anniversary! We have always focused on rugged, wearable Pacific Northwest style and name all our patterns after our favourite hikes and locations on Vancouver Island (where we live).
We developed Thread Theory and our first menswear patterns after searching high and low for pattern designs for casual, modern and slim fitting clothing for Matt. Matt has long arms which were never accommodated by store bought shirts. At the time, I had greatly enjoyed sewing and fitting my own clothing for many years so I suggested that I sew him a shirt. He was amazed at just how easy it was for me to lengthen the sleeves to whatever length he needed! Needless to say, he tried on that first shirt and was over the moon with the results. The sense of pride I felt when he proudly wore his shirt spurred me on to sew more menswear…only to find there were very few patterns available that would allow me to sew garments similar to the store bought shirts, sweaters and chinos that he favored. I realized that many other aspiring menswear sewists must have felt as frustrated and ignored by the sewing community as I did, and thus the idea to create our own menswear patterns began!
The funny thing about being an entrepreneur (for us) is that I suspect we will always feel like a new business that is just finding its place! That being said, I have been working on Thread Theory full time for 9 whole years now and Matt has done several long stints working on Thread Theory full time as well between his other jobs. I think the main things that have made me feel like an established business over the last three years in particular is working with a wonderful employee and a number of contractors and also counting Thread Theory as our primary income on our mortgage application when buying our farm two years ago!
I love purchasing fabric from Blackbird Fabrics (Canadian), an online shop based out of Vancouver (just across the Georgia Strait from me). I’ve met Caroline in person while visiting sewing related locations in Vancouver and I’m a sucker for the beautiful prints she stocks (in addition to the very useful eco-friendly solid fabrics. My other favourites are Stylemaker Fabrics (US based) for unique textures and prints, and Simplify Fabric (Canadian) for high quality eco-friendly textiles.
I have greatly enjoyed getting to know many of the indie pattern designers over the last 10 years both in person and through email/social media. It’s hard to pick a favourite! I admire the precise approach taken by Waffle Patterns (they have a great menswear jacket available) and how inclusive and versatile all the patterns are by Wardrobe By Me (so many variations included in each pattern!).
Favourite part: I love the research that goes into each pattern. I immerse myself in tiny construction details as well as the history of the garment as a staple menswear piece. I love reading vintage and current pattern instructions and sewing books while also communicating with fellow menswear sewists as part of my research. I continue to distil all of this information until I am confident that the construction process I develop for our patterns is one that best suits the garment and the people who will sew it. I find this whole process to be a very satisfying puzzle! Matt and I recently welcomed Adrianna to our team. She is now writing our instructions, illustrating them, and sewing our samples. I have hugely enjoyed working with someone so well versed in the same skill sets I have as running my own business for 10 years can sometimes be a lonely venture!
As I always tell customers who email us, seeing their finished projects, or, even better, reading the stories behind the projects absolutely makes my day! For years now I have had a picture printed off by my desk of a little boy wearing his dad’s freshly sewn Comox Trunks. The look on the little boy’s face is one of such pride…that look is why I encourage people to sew! I want every family to feel that pride about the origins of their clothing.
Hardest part: There are two things that I find quite difficult - the first and most constant is the lack of in-person community. While emailing with other pattern companies is lovely, it is not the constant community I would enjoy if I was working in an office filled with people who have similar skill sets and interests. I work from home while my son is napping and in the evenings so this is quite isolating and also brings me to the second difficulty - fitting a home based business around life demands! It is very rare that we shut down our online shop during holidays so you will often find Matt or I holed away answering emails or troubleshooting technical difficulties while the rest of the family is preparing Christmas dinner or the like.
It took us many years to find a work/life balance as we were so excited about our growing business for the first few years that working all hours felt wonderful. Of course, now we are parents and have a farm, the opposite is the case! I am constantly trying to squeeze Thread Theory work in between more pressing demands. I am grateful for the long long hours I put into the business in early years and also to our amazing employee, Adrianna, as I can now call myself primarily a stay-at-home mom instead of working 9-5.
I am most proud of our Fairfield Button-up (you can purchase the Fairfield Button-up pattern here). I worked very hard on every single detail to ensure that the instructions and pattern notations would guide sewists through the more intimidating steps of sewing a shirt. I’m so glad I did as I have received many messages from sewists showing their beautiful end results and telling me, to my amazement, that it was their first or second garment sewing project!
As a primarily menswear pattern company, I have always felt lucky to have such a stable base of enthusiastic customers that grows in a very steady and slow manner. We certainly saw an increase in new sewists during the pandemic and have not noticed any decline yet! I am thrilled that more people are wanting to sew our patterns for themselves and their loved ones. I also look forward to gearing our patterns more in the direction of androgynous fashion as based on surveys, social media, and emails with customers, the demand for this type of clothing is increasing rapidly. I hope the industry will continue to work towards greater inclusivity and I certainly want to be part of this evolution. I also suspect some interesting changes will take place for digital pattern formats due to the increased interest in projectors and who knows what other technology will become available!
Lastly, I hope pattern companies and fabric companies will continue to emphasize sustainability and frugality since, I know for a few years that the indie pattern community had a bit of a “collect them all” mentality due to an understandable desire to support all of these new businesses. I am really glad that this sort of consumerism seems to be a thing of the past in our industry now that there is such a plethora of quality pattern companies out there! I really hope our patterns and notions will be purchased and then used many many times to create a wardrobe of confidence-boosting, well sewn, sustainable garments!