Making the clothes he really wanted to wear
This month we want to showcase the inspiring sewing journey of Duane MacLeod. Duane lives in Maine, USA and is a father and a grandfather. For 11 years he has been sewing his clothing with his personal style. Let’s meet Duane!
Do you sew as a hobby or do you own a sewing business?
I am strictly a hobby sewist and sew primarily for myself. I enjoy using (and repairing / rewiring) vintage Singer sewing machines.
What type of menswear do you make? Do you have a preferred type of garment?
I am mostly a “woven fabrics” sewist. I love making outerwear, especially coats for our long cold Maine winters. Lately I’ve been making waistcoats as they’re a stylish way to wear an extra layer. Since they require very little fabric, I’ll splurge on a fabric that I might normally talk myself out of.
When did you learn the basics of sewing?
I learned the basics of sewing in the early 70’s, when I was in college. Our student apartment needed curtains, so I learned to thread a machine and sew a straight line. That led to lots of DIY projects over the years, making slipcovers and upholstering old furniture. I didn’t consider making clothes until my daughter went to art college as a textile design major.
How did your menswear sewing journey start?
While scrolling through Etsy, I was drawn to a trench coat on the cover of the Japanese sewing book Mens Coats by Shimazaki. I ordered the book and decided to make the duffle coat because it looked the easiest. I followed the step by step illustrations, and the coat slowly came together. At the time, I also discovered the website Pattern Review and, when I needed advice, other sewists in the community were so generous in answering my questions. After making that coat I was hooked, so I decided to make all the coats in the book! The coats led to other menswear: shirts, trousers and tailored jackets.
How do you describe your style?
My style is “traditional with a twist”. I work with conservative silhouettes that are personalized through the use of color and fabrications. I love having clothes that no one else has. It’s truly my superpower. One of my sewing “goals” is to encourage more men to find their own superpower by making the clothes that they really want to wear.
What makes your sewing stand out?
I am not a perfectionist, but I strive for the best results I can obtain. That involves making lots of muslins / toiles, and practicing new techniques before attempting them. I work slowly and baste a lot. I’m never in a hurry to finish a project. I just take it step by step. If I’m tired or frustrated, I walk away. Sewing this way has been key to my sewing success. I call it “results sewing”.
What patterns do you use?
I often work from vintage commercial patterns from the 50’s and 60’s, that I find on eBay or Etsy. Indie patterns are also great for more contemporary designs but there are very few current menswear patterns.
Who has inspired your sewing the most?
My sewing hero is undoubtedly Peter Lapin and his blog Male Pattern Boldness. No one has done more for the male sewing community. I also participate in the Instagram community of @Sewover50. It’s a wonderful source of inspiration, and increases visibility of older sewists.
Which are your most memorable makes? What makes them special?
I made my son’s wedding attire; a Prince Charlie jacket and vest, plus a kilt and tartan fly. It was a once in a lifetime labor of love. There’s nothing better than sewing for a special occasion. I also made my suit for my daughter’s wedding from a vintage Bill Blass pattern.
What prompted you to engage in social media?
I was inspired by the blog Male Pattern Boldness, which has always been informative and entertaining. I started the blog The Japanese Pattern Challenge to show my process for making the coats in the book and to help other sewists avoid some of the mistakes that I’d made. When I started sewing other menswear I renamed the blog as Mainelymenswear.com. The focus is still educational, to show the process and techniques I use, including lots of “in process” shots. I’ve recently started a YouTube channel with the same approach. If I’m working on a project that involves a specific technique, I’ll slow down and video the steps.
What message would you want to share with our readers regarding sewing menswear?
A man can have an interesting and sustainable wardrobe by making his own clothes. Like anything, skill comes with practice. My favorite sewing saying is, “There is nothing hard in sewing, there are just the things you haven’t done yet”. Duane
Thanks Duane for your time and for allowing Sirena Magazine to showcase your story and your inspiring “traditional with a twist” makes. We hope our readers, especially men, are motivated to create their own menswear which they would love to wear.
Article written by
María Enid Rosa