Uni-Watch explains how to sew your own old-timey baseball jersey. If that’s how you’re looking to spend your free time.
Yujiro Thread Cutters
Having recently moved into a new apartment, I needed some tools this weekend for some home projects, so I stopped by Hida Tool, a shop well known in my area for Japanese hardware. The store is probably no bigger than a small living room, and it’s so cramped with stuff that it’s hard to get around when there are more than three or four customers inside. On one side of the shop there are specialized Japanese kitchen knives, neatly lined up and organized, but displayed no more pretentiously than what you’d find at any small hardware store. On the other side is an array of woodworking and gardening tools, including many more specialty knives, as well as hammers, axes, and saws.
In browsing around, I found these Japanese thread cutters, which I think I might have first seen on Ethan Newton’s blog, Rugged Old Salt. They’re made with a high-carbon steel inner core and feature a thin black coating to help protect the surface from rusting. The little inscription you see on the blade reads “Yujiro” (the manufacturer’s name) and “handmade.” I don’t know how much stock I would put in the handmade claim, as everything nowadays seems to be advertised as handmade, but it does add to the romance.
Thread cutters are really handy for sewing on buttons or mending tears, but even if you don’t do at-home repairs, they can be useful for cutting the loose threads you sometimes find on garments (so long as you’re not cutting anything that can unravel on you). Of course, you can find perfectly good snippers for much cheaper. My old one looks something like this, and I think I paid no more than one or two bucks for it at a local sewing supplies shop. The only advantage I can see in these Yujiros is that they’re much prettier.
If you’re interested in buying one, Hida Tool has a sale right now for 10% off all purchases (and 15% off Japanese knives). Their listed price of $22.90 is already cheaper than the $38 you’d pay at Amazon or Etsy, and they also have a cheaper model for $14 if you want something more affordable (though, I’d recommend ponying up for these $23 ones, personally). To take advantage of the sale, you’ll have to call them directly, however, as their website isn’t current set up for the discount. A ~$20 pair of thread cutters is about the silliest purchase I can think of, but … they do look great.
There’s Nothing Like Homemade
One of my favorite designers is Nigel Cabourn, and one of his most notable pieces is his Cameraman Jacket, which returns every year in new color and fabric combinations. We feature it frequently in the eBay roundup, but even second-hand it costs a pretty penny. Retail is about $1500.
One of our readers, Corey, fell in love with a cameraman jacket in one of our roundups, but he couldn’t afford it, even second-hand. Luckily, he’s got an exceptionally handy girlfriend. She made him the one above, which has a few adjustments from the Cabourn original - toggles instead of metal hardware, a slightly lower wool panel. She details the process on her blog, for those of you with a sewing bent. An impressive achievement!
Getting Your Buttons Down
Knowing how to properly sew on a button is perhaps one of the most useful clothes-related skills you can pick up. Buttons occasionally fall off even the best of garments, and need replacing, or sometimes we wish to swap out the manufacturer’s buttons for something else. A mid-tier cardigan, for example, can be made much better looking if you change out the plastic buttons for some horn ones.
There are many good instructional guides online that’ll show you how to sew on a button. I like these by Nicola Donati and Savile Row tailor Matthew Farnes. Valet also has a nice "toothpick trick" for coats. The things you’ll need before practicing with these guides are quite basic: some button thread, a sewing needle, some scissors, and, of course, your new buttons. You may also want to have a seam ripper to take off your old buttons, and a thimble if you’re trying to sew through tough cloth. All these things should be available at your local supermarket for two or three bucks each. Once you have what you need, it takes about ten minutes to learn how to sew on your first button, and maybe a few tries before you get the technique down.
As to where you can score some nice buttons, I recommend Britex if you’re in San Francisco. They hold sales twice a year, which you can find out about by signing up for their newsletter in-store. In Los Angeles, there’s B. Black & Sons, and in New York City there’s Tender Buttons (arguably the most famous button store in America). For online sources, you can turn to Isles Textile Group, Hwa Seng Textile, and MJ Trimming. I personally prefer buying things in a brick-and-mortar store, especially with things that can have so much visual variation such as horn or mother-of-pearl buttons, but if you don’t have a good button store near you, you still have options.
For something truly affordable, try checking thrift stores. Something made by a reputable company such as Oxxford, for example, might be damaged and can be had for under $20. These will have all the manufacturer’s original buttons, which should be made from high-quality horn or metal. A smart way to pick up nice buttons for a fraction of the cost you’d spend otherwise.
Fixing a Pull on a Silk Tie
I’ve had this glen plaid Isaia tie for about a year now. I love it, but unfortunately, it has a few snags in the silk. The tie looks fine for the most part when I wear it, but the imperfection means that I always reach for something else before picking up this one. It’s a shame too because I love the big, bold glen plaid pattern, and would otherwise enjoy wearing it at least a few times a month.
I thought about just letting it go and passing it to a friend, but before I did, I wanted to give one last ditch effort at repairing it. Funny enough, after a quick Google search, I came across this old post that Jesse published. In it, he quoted a StyleForum member named Orgetorix, who suggested that you could repair a tie by threading a needle, pushing it through the tie’s envelope, and essentially “weave” the silk back into the fabric. It took me a few tries and some experimenting. For example, I found that a bigger needle worked better for the looser weave on my Isaia tie. It also seemed that the trick was in pulling the threaded needle through as quickly as possible. If I moved too slowly, there didn’t seem to be enough friction to push the snag in.
After about twenty minutes of work, however, my tie was fixed. I’ve posted before and after photos above. I’d like to think that the repairs are so good that you can’t tell where the snags were, so I’ve placed my sewing needle next to where the damage used to be.
Now I feel like I have a brand new tie, thanks to Jesse and Orgetorix!
When I was researching the Q&A for episode four of Put This On, I reached for one of my favorite reference books, “Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House,” by Cheryl Mendelson. Ms. Mendelson is a true domestic goddess.
The book offers practical advice and explanations of everything from laundry to vacuuming to sewing to entertaining. It’s exceptionally well-written and absolutely fascinating. The advice is consistently excellent, as well. It’s my shortcut to figuring out how to do things the Right Way.
Of particular note to readers of the blog are the careful explanations of the valuable properties of various fabrics, the simple explanations of clothing repair techniques, and the rundowns on ironing and stain removal. Whether you live alone, or share home care duties with a partner, it’s essential information.
Taylor got into sewing about a year ago, and he just made himself these jeans. Holy moley.
After some success making scarves for a few close friends and family members this holiday season, I thought I’d try a genuinely ambitious sewing project. The tricky bit of learning to sew when you’re a man is that there’s no basic building block piece you can make. Women who are bad at sewing can make skirts. Men who are bad at sewing can make… skirts.
So after careful consideration, I’m going to take a stab at making a pair of pajamas. I bought a pattern for $5 on eBay, and headed down to LA’s fashion district to buy some fabric.
The big fabric stores, like Michael Levine, tend to cater towards seamstresses, not tailors. That means lots of cotton floral prints and not a lot that I would want to wear as pajamas. Some careful research turned up B. Black & Sons, who’ve been supplying woolens to tailors since the 20’s. I figured that if they didn’t have shirtings suitable for my PJs, they’d at least know who would.
The gentlemen who work at B. Black were a little perplexed by my presence, but offered a few helpful words of advice and sent me off to wander through the store. It’s a big place, and chock full of suiting wool of every kind, but they had some cotton here and there, and I found something I liked. It’s a pretty simple blue pinpoint oxford. Ten bucks a yard, and I needed six yards… this won’t necessarily be a money-saving project, but I went for it. A few buttons from the notions counter and I was all set.
So, now I’m armed with a pattern, some buttons and no idea what the fuck I’m doing. Wish me luck.
(photo by Nick Solares)
A lovely Pendleton patchwork blanket, made from scrap pieces from the Pendleton Outlet. Total cost of materials: $12.