When we were first introduced to Duane (@mainelymenswear) via instagram he had just posted his version of the Sienna Maker Jacket and we had to check the hashtag a few times to realize that it was in fact our pattern he was modeling (or at least a version of it!) He had tricked out all the details, made it in wool and lined it with a quilted satin, but indeed the bones of this were in fact our dear Sienna. We had brainstormed ideas for hacking Sienna for men, but thankfully Duane did all the work for us! Once I checked out his blog (Mainelymenswear.com) and read about all the amazing work he did to this pattern to take it to the next level (and season) I felt this was the sewing practice of someone you absolutely needed to learn more about. His blog is equal parts ambitious and self-deprecating (my absolute favourite brand) and since male sewists are rare in our community, I found it really interesting to hear a different perspective on patterns and dressing in general. So without further ado, let’s meet Duane!
Where in the world do you live?
I live in Georgetown, Maine. It’s a very small island community in the Midcoast, off the beaten path for most of the summer tourists. We have a spectacular state park with miles of beaches, lobster shacks (of course), and lots of mosquitos. Anyone who’s followed my blog knows that I built a small daysailer which I keep at the marina in my backyard. I’m a registered nurse in a small urgent care clinic; I think it’s safe to say I live a charmed life.
How long have you been sewing?
I’ve been making my own clothes for about 10 years now. It all started with one of the Japanese sewing books, Men’s Coats by Ryuichiro Shimazaki. It’s on the landing page of my blog. I wanted a new winter coat, but I hated everything in the stores. So I set out to make the duffle coat from the book. I tell people that I jumped into the deeper end of the pool, and I’ve really never looked back. Eventually I made all the coats in the book, and started a blog as a “bread crumb trail” of my progress. Hopefully it’s helped some sewists out there. Even though I don’t blog as often these days, I continue to share my process as a way of encouraging others. Truly, if I can do this, anyone can.
How much time do you spend on your sewing practice a week (including planning, researching, sewing etc).
I probably spend at least 3 days a week in my very messy sewing space. I’m a morning person. So I like to get up, walk Homer (my mini schnauzer) and get to work. I’m never in a rush. If I’m getting tired, or something challenging is coming up, I walk away. I’ve learned that the tricky bits always turn out better when I’m coming back to them fresh. I guess you could say, when I’m “in the game”.
What is your home sewing set-up like?
Oh, man, it’s a mess! I live in a tiny old house, and my sewing “room” is a narrow space in the upstairs hallway. Everything ends up in a pile on my ironing board. How anything gets accomplished is a miracle. My stash is in plastic bins under the bed in the spare bedroom. Truth be told, my scrap stash is probably larger than my fabric stash! I like to work project to project, so having lots of fabric in the queue I find unsettling. Right now there’s enough for 3 shirts, a pair of trousers and a blazer. My 2020 goal is to whittle that down.
Did you have a gateway person or experience that brought you to sewing?
I have to say that Peter Lapin (of MalePattern Boldness fame) is my gateway person. I’m sure he is for lots of us guy sewists. He truly is the ambassador of sewing for men. I was going to be in NYC, and it was after he had completed his shirt sew along. He graciously agreed to meet me, and we talked about sewing, his blog, cousin Cathy, the whole thing. I wore the shirt that I made as part of the sew along. I was so proud of it……and it was SO horribly made. Looking back on it I have to laugh.
What was the first thing you remember wanting to sew?
I really wanted the duffle coat from the Japanese pattern book. The photo is so seductive, one coat in camel and another in winter white. I eventually got a winter white coat, a vintage Pierre Cardin design. But that white duffle coat still calls out to me! I would tell anyone, if there’s something you really want to sew….just jump in and make it.
How would you define your style?
That’s a tough one. Traditional with a twist? Overall, I’m a pretty conservative dresser. Loose button down shirts, flat front pants (I’ve yet to make jeans!). I hate the idea of dressing “age appropriately ”. What I really want is something that makes people wonder “where the heck did that guy get that?” I love making outerwear, and I live in an area where it’s needed almost 10 months of the year. The world of men’s outerwear is so dreadfully dull, it really gives me a chance to step out of the ordinary. Consequently, there’s almost always a jacket or coat on my sewing horizon.
What is your favourite thing you’ve made?
That would have to be my winter white Pierre Cardin coat. It’s hard to describe when everything just comes together. The right fabric, the right style lines, the right details, right down to the right buttons. This coat does it all for me. It’s from a vintage Vogue Paris Original pattern which includes so many traditional tailoring techniques. I just get transported to another time and place working with traditional materials and all the hand sewing involved. I had a painting instructor in college who wanted his students to dream into their work. I dreamed into this coat. In the end I worked at least six weeks on it, maybe more. When I wear it, I live the dream. I feel like royalty.
What is your favourite Closet Case Pattern?
The Sienna Maker Jacket! When I saw this pattern, I just knew it was right. It has the workwear aesthetic that I was looking for. The details are pitch perfect, and so rewarding to see come together. Some day I’ll make the long belted version. I have a faux Hudson Bay candy striped blanket from LL Bean that would be perfect! Is it becoming obvious that I have a winter white obsession?
How does sewing affect your relationship to shopping and RTW?
Other than socks and underwear I don’t shop anymore. It’s truly my super power. I get to have exactly what I want. How amazing is that!?
What are your go-to fabric stores?
When you live far from a big city with a garment district, the internet can be a great resource. Two sources that come immediately to mind are Gorgeous Fabrics in MA, and Oak Fabrics in Chicago. Both will send you a few swatches for free. Thats’s huge for us rural sewists! Anyone who follows me online knows I love tailoring, so B Black and Sons is my online go to for tailoring supplies. When I get to NYC (a few times a year) I usually hit AK Fabrics and Gray Line Linen. Elliot Berman is also a favourite if I’m looking for something out of the ordinary. But mostly it’s the button and trim stores that I need to visit. The selection is mind boggling, and so often it’s the little details that make all the difference in my makes. AND I can’t forget my local shop, Z Fabrics in Portland, ME. A gem!
What are the tools you can’t live without?
I can’t live without a big spool of Italian cotton basting thread. The best $5 you’ll ever spend.
What was the best lesson or skill that took your sewing to the next level?
I’m a self taught garment sewist, so I’ve relied heavily on books. By far the two that have improved my skills the most are Roberto Cabrera’s text on menswear tailoring, and Edna Bishop’s, The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction. Both stress traditional techniques and there’s not a fusible in sight. Cabrera makes what appears complicated, simple. I call it sewing origami. And Bishop will take your garments to the couture level without you ever noticing it.
What pattern release would you not be able to resist (aka what type of garment would automatically jump your queue).
Anything outwear. A man can’t have too many jackets / coats.
What are your sewing goals? What would you like to learn how to do to push your practice forward?
The big dream is to attend real tailoring school, preferably in the UK. I just need to figure a way around the visa requirements, so that I could complete the usual 10 month training. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What’s the next thing you want to make?
I have a new grandson as of December 14th, so all my current sewing is about him! Mainely (little) menswear.
How was sewing impacted or interacted with your identity?
I’ve actually arrived at that point where almost my entire wardrobe is “me made”. Like everyone, I’ve made my share of crazy impulsive things. But they tend to just sit in the closet. The clothes that I reach for everyday are the clothes that really speak to me. They’re the expression of me that I show to the world, and I love wearing them. Every once in awhile (and it’s rare) I see someone who’s wearing something unique, and I’m immediately struck by the joy that that creates. I want to be that guy. I want people to think,”man, that old guy has the coolest clothes”, and to feel that little bit of joy in the world.
Where else do you turn when you need inspiration?
I like to look at what’s coming down the runways, but in all honesty only about 1% of it interests me. There seems to be more and more streetwear each season. It’s just not a look I like, and I’d feel uncomfortable wearing any of it. That limits me to just a few designers. I always check out Missoni because I love the combinations of fabrics. It always looks so effortless and “put together”. Junya Watanabe is another favorite. I’ll go back and look at past seasons, maybe from 2 or 3 years ago. The details continue to “push all my buttons”. Kim Jones is doing some interesting stuff at Dior, hence my toile jacket of last year. I love his jackets with the long silk sashes, but let’s be honest….That’s not MY life! I feel the same way about Joseph Abboud. His clothes are beautiful, romantic in a way, but totally unsuitable to my lifestyle. But it never stops me from looking.
What makers or sewists in our community do you find inspiring?
Wow, there are so many. There are some amazing men “flying under the radar” out there. Here are just a few that I enjoy following on instagram.
@Theseamstersapprentice For anyone who aspires to tailoring. An inspiration
@Wouter.vdub Mind boggling men’s shirts
@_donnyq Amazing combinations of textiles, and a style all his own
@Fathersewsbest Fantasy becomes reality.
@Alanthomson1981 Classic tailored suits and outerwear.
@Theamazingdrstitch Alteration guru
@Raythemastertailor Sharing all his knowledge.
@Paradox_emporium Imaginative shirt details to envy
What experiences have come out of your interaction with the online sewing community?
I’ve been the recipient of so much good will from the sewing community. I’ve had blog followers send me fabric (Liberty no less!!), buttonhole gimp, wonder clips and more. I’ve met amazing sewists through Peter Lapin’s MPB day in New York. I’ve been a guest on two podcasts. I’ve even had artists draw pictures of me for their Instagram posts! It’s all pretty amazing, and really speaks to the heart of the sewing community. I’m so fortunate to be a part of it.
Thank You Duane!