Hi there, makers! The big catch up continues today with a project that was exceptional — so exceptional in fact that an exclamation point was needed in the title.

I put the snow days to good use and finally sewed the Finlayson sweater from Thread Theory. It’s one of those projects: I’ve had the pattern printed for months now, fabric washed and ready, just the measuring and sewing wasn’t happening. I could come up with a few half-decent excuses, such as: (1) the intended recipient is difficult to pin down for measuring; (2) I obsessively worry about fitting and so I stall on new-to-me projects.

That second excuse is a very weak one. I’ve sewn with Thread Theory patterns before and with great success. All the t-shirts I’ve made so far from the Strathcona pattern have been getting lots of wear. Their one “flaw” is that they’re so neutral that they’re not particularly photogenic. That, and the recipient is not easy to catch for photos.

Photogenic, photographable, actually photographed or not, I still feel that I owe Thread Theory a post and a solid recommendation. And finally today I have some photographic evidence I can offer of how good their patterns are.

Ah, menswear. Different rules are at play than when sewing for women. It’s always important to balance the elements: get the proportions right, choose colors well, get the right amount and kind of detail… But if you get that balance off  in womenswear, you can still make it into a statement, a particular look. In menswear, it’s like you just cut the wrong wire when disarming a bomb and went from MacGyver to MacGruber.

Looking at Morgan Meredith’s designs and projects, I feel that she gets it, and definitely more than I do. The Thread Theory blog has become my go-to not just for sewing inspiration but also style ideas.

A little backstory on the Finlayson and why I had the pattern stashed for so long already:

One day before I started sewing my partner in crime found a sweater online that he liked and he sent me the photo. It was a black pullover with a shawl collar. I had it saved since then. I had briefly entertained the thought of knitting up something similar, but that was likely to end up a bit too warm (in wool and alpaca) or too heavy and sagging (in cotton). So I filed that away until I stumbled upon Thread Theory and saw the pattern for exactly that sweater.

So here’s exactly that sweater, and you will notice immediately that it isn’t exactly black:

The Finlayson sweater, hanging out on the carpet in all its glory

It’s black/beige fairly lightweight French terry I found at GirlCharlee. I think it was the one French terry they had in stock at that moment. Why I wanted to make this in French terry I can’t really tell you. I don’t remember. I guess French terry struck me as the most sweater-y choice at the time. And wool jerseys tend to be expensive.

This 100% cotton fabric was fairly easy to handle and makes a light, breathable, and not too warm garment, which is what the gentleman was after. However, it doesn’t have good recovery. I should perhaps try steaming the bottom band and the sleeve cuffs to see if they bounce back into shape. They stretched out quite a bit when I sewed them. Still wearable, still decent-looking, but it depends on what look you’re looking for in terms of fit.

The pattern is drafted for a variety of knit fabrics, so you need to take into account what shape and fit you want to get for when you make your fabric choice. There are two different cuff pieces to accommodate your choices — one for very stretchy knits and one for stable knits, so the pattern has your back.

I was surprised how easy this pattern was, to be honest. In terms of sewing itself, it had just the right combination of challenging and easy elements, which made for a great time at the sewing machine.

The best part: that collar.

The key to getting it right is basting. I’m not sure now if the pattern mentions it, but I stabilized the tricky part — i.e. the part on the front where you attach the crossed-over collar fronts and turn corners — with knit interfacing. I really recommend doing that. It will also make it easy to mark the points where you need to pivot your stitching. Be careful and go slow and it won’t be that hard to get it right.

The pattern instructions are very clear and there’s a sewalong up on the Thread Theory blog (lots of photos for every step!).

A detail to love: the seam finish on the back neck. There is a lot of bulk there after you insert the collar (five layers of fabric), and Meredith’s tip to enclose it under a ribbon or tape finish is a great way to keep it all flat and contained. I used Hug Snug. I’m hopeful it will hold up well, if a little unsure… the stuff is very lightweight.

Behold: the collar of Zen

Readers, I goofed at one point — with the sizing. I decided to be generous, knowing that if I made the sweater too tight-fitting, it would never get worn. It looked okay basted to fit (yes, I didn’t skip that step this time) but came up enormous when actually sewn up. Luckily, taking it in at the side seams got it down to a decent fit, possibly because we’re all broad-backed in this family, including the lynx cat.

There’s a really good range of sizes in this pattern. I think it goes beyond the range from the Strathcona pattern.

One modification I made: a forward shoulder adjustment. I wonder how many people need those, since not many sewing bloggers include anything about that adjustment in their pattern reviews. It was necessary in this pattern, otherwise the sweater would have been pulling toward the back.

Finally, some hard to obtain modeled shots:

Verdict: I recommend this pattern and I will probably sew it again because there’s still talk of a black version. The sweater has been worn non-stop since I finished it, which makes me very, very happy.

Wait — there’s more. I have more Thread Theory projects planned. Their current Thanksgiving sale is 50%, by the way! I have a Camas blouse cut out for myself, a Fairfield shirt waiting to be printed and muslined, more Strathcona tees (and maybe a henley, who knows), and a Newcastle cardigan waiting for the right fabric.

Given how enthusiastic I’ve been throughout this post, I feel I should say I have no affiliation with Thread Theory. I’ve just enjoyed the patterns I’ve made up so far, all of which I bought myself.

Do you have any patterns for men that you’d recommend?


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I write about sewing, knitting, and may sometimes be tempted to talk about books.

9 thoughts on “Finlayson!”

  1. Oooohhhhh what a great pattern and make. I think my hubbie would like that one. I have the Colette Negroni shirt which I am yet to make him, and also a scrubs pattern which I use a shorts and track pants template. But mostly men’s patterns are really really basic!


    1. The sweater got a thumbs up from the whole family at Thanksgiving dinner. I still can’t believe how fun sewing it was, and I did stock up on a few other Thread Theory patterns. I hope I don’t become an entirely unselfish sewist!:-P

      I have the Negroni, too, but I haven’t made any steps yet toward actually making it… But I have yet to make a shirt for myself. So many sewing dreams, so little time and patience for muslining and fitting…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, the collar of Zen. I would be making another Finalyson right now if I wasn’t hell bent on staying away from shopping on Black Friday. It will have to wait but there is already a plan…


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