A versatile pattern given an African twist

A review of Thread Theory Men's Fairfield Shirt

Reviewed by Peter Herman on 7th February, 2022

It is not easy, as a man, to sew your own clothes. I do not mean the strange looks you get in the local sewing shop, but more practical things. Good patterns for everyday wear are hard to find, patterns for anything else than plain and slightly boring garments are not even worth looking for. For women, there are patterns for dozens of really different tops. As a man, you should be glad to find a pattern for a tee shirt, a polo (exciting choice!) or a button-up shirt. And what makes it worse, many patterns are not even well-made.

Luckily, for button-up shirts, there is Thread Theory. Their Fairfield shirt fits very well, is versatile (a slim fit with darts or a wider fit with a pleated back; sleeve tabs for informal shirts, different collars) and is very well drafted. It has a double yoke fitted with the ‘burrito’ method, felled seams all over (no serger needed), a fixed button band and tower plackets on the sleeves that are easy to mount and allow very precise finishing. It is my favourite shirt pattern. I have slightly adapted the pattern around the neck and at the cuffs, and meanwhile made four shirts with it. It comes with crystal-clear instructions and very nice diagrams. There are also online video resources, but I can´t imagine why you would need them with these written instructions. I have not tried them.

African websites show many different ways of using Ankara fabric in stylish garments. One style is called ‘half plain, half Ankara’. I was intrigued by it, because it is strange and stylish at the same time. It combines a plain white shirt with the strong coloured design of the Ankara prints. I wanted to try this for myself. As one half is ‘plain´, I thought I could make it with my usual shirt pattern. So Fairfield ended up in this half Ankara shirt. I found the fabric, handmade in Ghana, at www.vannamori.com. It is a fairtrade shop with a limited but fabulous choice of Ankara fabrics. Visit them and try not to buy too much. The fabric I bought is of very high quality. It is a densely woven, light and pure cotton base fabric, coloured with wax-based batik. Both sides have similar intensity of colour. One side is shiny with wax, the other dull. Here I used the dull side as the right side.

Now that the shirt is finished, I do have something out of the ordinary, even with a very regular pattern. I am still wondering when and where I will wear it. Waiting for a post-covid party…