Book Review: Books About Sewing For Men
These new and evergreen publications will inspire you to sew high-quality, stylish menswear.
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At Threads, we focus on techniques for sewing womenswear and on women’s fashion, because our audience (according to surveys we take multiple times a year) is mainly female. However, we know many of our readers also sew for the men in their lives, and–perhaps more important–we are well aware of the growing numbers of men who have either returned to sewing or are taking up the art for the first time.
We’re excited by this development for many reasons. First, as sewers ourselves, we can’t help being thrilled when our circle of fellow enthusiasts grows. When our sisterhood expands to include a brotherhood, everyone benefits. Second, we love the sewing and style of menswear. Well-tailored jackets and coats, crisp shirts, cushy sweaters, smartly cuffed and creased trousers, or artfully weathered jeans–all crafted in high-quality fabric–make the “menswear uniform” anything but a uniform.
Although many of the sewing techniques covered in Threads apply to men’s clothing as well as to women’s, we don’t always delve as deeply into the specifics of constructing specifically men’s apparel as might suit (pun unintended, but I’ll leave it in anyway) some of our readers. We hope to rectify that in the future. Meanwhile, there are a number of thorough and inspiring publications that can help you sew a wardrobe worthy of Savile Row. The same techniques can be used for trendier clothes as well, so you can be as classic or as modern as you desire.
Take a look a the selected resources listed below. They cover many aspects of designing and sewing garments for men; some are suitable for beginning sewers, others skew toward more advanced techniques. As with any sewing techniques, a bit of practice is all it takes to master the methods. If you like making things (and especially if you dislike shopping, as I mostly do), you can craft a closetful of great-looking, unique clothes that are custom-fitted to your frame. The process is cleaner than working under a car, takes less space and fewer tools than woodworking, and leaves you with more to show for your time than watching a football game.
Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing, by David Page Coffin (The Taunton Press, 1998)
David’s first sewing book is pretty much a classic. If you want to know how to make bespoke-quality shirts, this is a must-have resource. For even more inspiration and instruction, look for David’s blog, at ShirtmakingWithDPC.com.
Making Trousers for Men & Women: A Multimedia Sewing Workshop, by David Page Coffin (Creative Publishing international, 2009)
Following up on his shirt book, David explores the world of pants contruction. Learn multiple methods for making pockets, fly closures, and more, all inspired by high-end ready-to-wear and designer garments.
The Gentleman’s Wardrobe: Vintage-style projects for the modern man, by Vanessa Mooncie (GMC Publications Ltd., 2017)
Dapper gents wanting to take personal style into their own hands can do so easily with this book, which includes patterns and sewing instructions for shirts, trousers, a jacket, a waistcoat, sleepwear, and accessories. For a basic wardrobe, you won’t need to go much further.
Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear: A Construction Guide, 2nd edition, by Robert Cabrera and Denis Antoine (Fairchild, 2015)
This book, and earlier editions of it from the 1980s and 1990s (available on Amazon.com), cover in detail the development and fitting of patterns for trousers, jackets, and vests, as well as classic construction techniques. From padstitching to pressing, with assorted pockets in between, the authors show you how to make the men’s suit of your dreams.
Tailoring: A Complete Course on Making a Professional Suit, by the Editors at Skills Institute Press (Skills Institute Press, 2011)
You’ll find step-by-step instructions for tailoring a man’s and woman’s jacket (the processes are a little different), and men’s trousers. There are instructions for fitting a muslin for women, but for men, the fitting is done on the jacket during construction. This book is simplified for the home sewer, and would be fine for a beginner.
Patternmaking and design
The Shirtmaking Workbook: Pattern, Design, and Construction Resources, by David Page Coffin (Creative Publishing international, 2015)
David is back with more great ideas for making shirts. This volume leads the reader through developing just about any variation of the shirt he or she might want. Collars, plackets, and more from a wide range of vintage and modern examples are dissected and explained thoroughly, with many clear and inspiring photographs.
Patternmaking for Menswear, by Gareth Kershaw (Laurence King, 2013)
If you are interested in starting from scratch, this book is a good place to begin. The author shows you how to draft a custom top or pant sloper, and then provides instructions for using these basic blocks to draft 20 garments, from Henley shirts to dress shirts, track pants to dress pants, and anoraks to blazers. If you have no experience in pattern drafting you’ll have to put in some time, but you’ll learn a lot in the process.
Patternmaking for Menswear: Classic to Contemporary, by Myoungok Kim and Injoo Kim (Fairchild, 2014)
This book explores drafting for men in a slightly more comprehensive manner than Kershaw’s. The authors show how to draft basic slopers, then how to develop a range of details such as collar, cuff, pocket, and placket variations, as well as several casual and suit jacket styles, coats, and vests. Work your way through this book and you’ll be able to draft a pattern for practically any garment you like.
Inspiring and instructive websites
ShirtmakingWithDPC.com: David Page Coffin’s blogs on making shirts and pants. He’s given a lot of thought to the best ways to construct these garments, and shares tutorials on the topics. He also offers ideas about shirt fitting, in particular how to manage the shoulders.
MalePatternBoldness.blogspot.com: Peter Lappin is one of the most fun, active male sewers on the web. From his sew-alongs and tutorials to his posts about Cathy Lane, Peter’s enthusiasm about sewing just about anything is contagious.
ThreadTheory.ca: This Canadian company sells terrific patterns for men’s outerwear, casual shirts and pants, and even underwear. Check out their blog for tutorials on making and hacking their patterns.
MainelyDadsWinterCoat.blogspot.com: A self-taught sewer who claims, justifiably, to be “his own luxury brand,” MainelyDad chronicles his adventures making some of the most stylish men’s outerwear I’ve seen. Also suits, shirts, authentically Scottish kilts, and wooden boats. It’s enjoyable to follow his journeys through a variety of classic construction techniques, and to see how he translates his interest in garment details into a very handsome wardrobe.
Do you sew menswear? What are your favorite garments to make? Do you have an sources you like best for inspiration and techniques?
Vanessa Mooncie, The Gentleman's Wardrobe
Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear, by Roberto Cabrera and Denis Antoine
Patternmaking for Menswear, by Myoungok Kim and Injoo Kim.
Tailoring: A Complete Course on Making a Professional Suit, by the Editors at Skills Institute Press
Pattermaking for Menswear, Gareth Kershaw