Looking for a guide to sewing men's clothing
September 1, 2010 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in learning to make clothing. I'm looking for a book that goes from basic sewing skills to basic garments. Difficulty: for men.

My main motivation is to be able to make historical garments (mid-19th century and on) but I'd be happy to work through contemporary projects to acquire the skills necessary to work from older patterns.

The subject of men-learning-to-sew-mens'-clothing has come up on the green before (here, here, here) but my aspirations are not quite as lofty; I just want to make clothes from patterns.

I've gotten more or less comfortable with a basic home sewing machine and have made a few bow ties, but I've stalled a bit for want of a project that's a little more challenging without trying to leap straight to making complex garments.

What I'd love to find is the sewing equivalent of Stitch'N'Bitch for men's clothing. What I particularly like about the organization of Stitch'N'Bitch is the skill progression; each chapter and/or project builds on techniques learned in the last. I don't really care if this hypothetical book is written for a male or female audience, but I'd like the projects to be male-oriented; I would much prefer to work through projects that I might actually use or wear than making a bunch of womens' clothing and accessories.

Does such a book or blog exist? Suggestions along these lines would be greatly appreciated!
posted by usonian to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Others can comment on the basics, but when you do get to a more advanced stage, I can't recommend David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking highly enough.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:21 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Though I don't know of any books or blogs for sewing men's clothing, I will say that buttonholes, collars, hems, etc are the same skills regardless of who you're dressing.

You can probably take sewing classes in Boston (it looks like you're near there) on a regular or as needed basis.

If that's not possible for you, I would suggest getting some patterns for some basic things like pajama pants. Lots of straight line sewing, but you get to cut the pieces out, learn about positioning the pattern pieces on your fabric, and what all those crazy arrows mean, before you tackle a more advanced project.

I'm a big believer that hands on experience is worth a lot when it comes to learning a craft.

So, for me, reading a book< trying it out < trying it out with an experienced teacher at your side.

Note that just having someone who is a great sewer supervise your efforts is a hit or miss route. Some folks are great at their craft, but terrible at explaining or demonstrating.

I teach knitting, and it takes a particular skill to do things slowly enough to have them be observable to the student. And some actions can be completed in a variety of ways. If you can't do it x way, y way might be a better fit for your comfort level/skills/brain. If your expert only is familiar with x way, you're both stumped and frustrated.
posted by bilabial at 12:30 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

(That'd be mefi's own David Page Coffin.)
posted by mollymayhem at 12:58 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding using basic patterns. If you read the directions carefully, consulting a non-gender-specific resource that seems appropriate for your skill level when necessary, you'll learn a lot of skills. Once you get to clothing you intend to wear in front of people, I'd suggest trying pants before shirts; I found sleeves to be a big leap in difficulty.
posted by mchorn at 1:03 PM on September 1, 2010

You should take a look at BurdaStyle. They have some mens patterns, a lot of patterns are free, and they have EXCELLENT forums.
posted by bibliogrrl at 1:31 PM on September 1, 2010

Best answer: This guy blogs about sewing. He does a bit of cross dressing too but also makes men's clothing.

Also, there is a sewing section just for men at pattern review on the message boards. They also have reviews (duh!) of patterns, sewing machines, notions, and books. It's a really good resource, and you don't have to subscribe at all to enjoy the site.

There are a lot of blogs out there that post tutorials on specific sewing techniques, from installing zippers to Making Hong Kong seams, buttonhole techniques, correctly fitting a garment, etc.

Seconding Burdastyle, too.

I am not sure of any specific book that takes you through learning how to sew for men. There are plenty of them for women, though. The closest thing Amazon has is a book by Simplicity from 1973!

Have fun!
posted by annsunny at 9:52 PM on September 1, 2010

I just bought and am enjoying this book. Not specifically for men, in fact it's geared toward women (because only women sew, sigh), but it covers the basics and so is good for everyone. You mentioned that you're getting more familiar with the sewing machine, and this book is really geared toward beginners learning how to sew, so it might be a little basic for you. But I find it helpful as a review, as a good presentation of different methods for the same outcome, etc. It has wonderful step-by-step instructions, good photography, too. Also it covers every kind of little thing, like the different types of seams, adding zippers, bias binding, etc, etc. Not so much about how to read a pattern, I'll have to find another source for that one.
Don't forget the employees at your local JoAnne's (or other fabric store) are a great resource for getting started.
posted by purpletangerine at 10:24 AM on September 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone! I haven't made a lot of progress on this front, but I did want to link to a book I found at the library which is an excellent skills overview volume. It's not project-based, but it has nice photos, diagrams, and explanations of a lot of techniques:

DK Complete Book of Sewing

There's a newer edition, but both seem to be out of print. I just purchased a used copy of the original for $0.85 via alibris. (Always look for coupon codes on retailmenot!)

Although I haven't plumbed the depths of all the sewing forums out there (historic and otherwise) it seems like Tailoring with a capital T (that is, the sewing of mens' garments) is often discussed as thought it were a black art, handed down to initiates only by lengthy apprenticeships at the finest bespoke garment shops. There's got to be a middle way. (I agree with bilabial that the hands-on instruction is the best of all possible ways to learn. Living in the sticks, that's sometimes easier said than done!)
posted by usonian at 9:55 AM on August 16, 2011

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