Saturday 19 December 2009

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

You may have noticed that I recently added some hit counters to my sites, and I have been amazed as to how many readers I have out there!
When I started out I was writing it mainly for myself and one or two friends who knew I was about to make a new, and possibly ultimate, Tennant Coat.
From there my blogs have grown, and I never really knew how many cosplay enthusiasts were bothering to look.

Well, now I know it is more than just a few, I want to thank you all for taking the time to follow what I have been up to this year, and hope you will continue to see where I go in 2010.

I have pretty much written the last entry for 2009 (don’t worry, I’ll be back in January fired-up with ideas!) so all that remains now is to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
I wish to especially thank a few people for
their support this past year: 

Ramie for showing faith in my work

Lisa for aiding the breakthrough with the GAP trousers

Timelord25 for his faith in me to make him a new Five Coat

Seth for his invaluable input and eye for detail, giving me something to live up to

Finally Primrodo for being a sounding board for ideas and direction, and for the use of the image of his TARDIS,
which appears above

Monday 14 December 2009

Bonhams costume sale -
16th December 2009

This coming week there is another auction at Bonhams in Knightsbridge of Film and Entertainment memorabilia.
Amongst the James Bond and Beatles items (and Laurence Oliver’s costume from Richard III) are a number of original Doctor Who costumes.

There is small batch of further items form the Angels costumes archives, containing a couple of Doctor Who lots.

The, after a number of film posters and other memorabilia, there are six more Doctor Who lots, though this time not directly from Angels.
Star items amongst them is a full Tetrap costume from Time and The Rani.
Also on sale is a set of rehearsal scripts form Robots Of Death, which went unsold at the Bonham’s Auction on 16th June 2009, so anther chance to grab them if you meant to bid last time around.

The viewing is Sunday 13th and Monday 14th June, so I went on Monday and took some more detailed pictures, particularly of the Tetrap costumes.

In the meantime, below is a full list of the items on offer, taken from the online catalogue so they can be seen all together and long after the listing on Bonhams will have been removed.

I have separated the items by Doctor era, and you can see the rest of the items here:
Here are just the lots relating to the Sixth Doctor era
Lot 166
Cyberman costume, the heavy cotton boiler suit with stud fasteners, sprayed with silver paint and with applied tubing and net panels, label to inside neck faintly inscribed Ken Baker (sic), with certificate.

This was worn by Ken Barker in the January 1985 story, 'Attack Of The Cybermen', with Colin Baker as The Doctor. Barker is also credited as the Mutant in 'Revelation Of The Daleks', March 1985.

Estimate: £2,500 - 3,000

Saturday 24 October 2009

Change, my dear. And not a moment too soon

This week I am launching the next spin-off from my existing Tenannt Coat and Tennant Suit blogs.

I have already got a blog dedicated to all things to do with Fifth Doctor Costuming, but now I am regenerating again to create an new blog for all things relating to Sixth Doctor costuming.

You will find I have already migrated the entries relating to Six Costuming from my original blogs so they are now all in one place.

This will then keep the Tennant Coat and Tennant Suit blogs concentrating on what they were intended for - all things Tennant!

As my repertoire expands I will bring other blogs online to cover those costumes.

Watch this space . . .

The Five Doctors

No, the title of the posting is not a reference to the classic 20th Anniversary special from 1983, but to collectively the Third, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Tenth Doctors!


Well, I have been having a lot of fun recently, slowly expanding the costume pieces I do.
To start with, they all appeared together in the original Tennant Coat or Tennant Suit blogs, but I have since started building separate blogs to cover the costumes of each Doctor, so they are easier to find and digest.

So far I have added a special blog for the Fifth Doctor to cover the Five Trousers and Five Coat I have been working on.
I also added the blog you are reading, to pull out the information about making my Six Trousers.

This past week I have added the Seventh Doctor blog as I have been working on a replica of the Hanky that goes around his hat (see left).

Now I am adding the Third Doctor to the portfolio! This is because I am starting working on making the Inverness Cape he is often seen wearing.
I am doing it as part of the college course I am currently on.

So start checking out my other blogs as I slowly add to them.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Smaller on the INSIDE!

This week signals a special landmark in my tailoring work.

Up until now all my tailoring has been done in classic cottage industry fashion on the kitchen table - literally! In fact that was a step up from when I did the Mk I Tennant Coat, which had been made on the floor of our spare room, spending my whole time hunched over the sewing machine. Not good for your posture I can tell you!

From the Mk II I managed to get promotion to the kitchen table, as it was the only decent space in the house where I could lay out a large enough expanse of fabric to properly cut the cloth for a Tennant Coat and that has been where I have worked ever since (see above, while finishing the last garment made in the kitchen).

This has been all very well, but after a while, and an increasing amount of work being taken on, it started to become a little unpopular with my partner, who would repeatedly find a light dusting of fabric fluff covering the work surfaces of the kitchen . . . There wasn’t really much I could do about this, as cutting and working with fabrics produced dust and fluff as well as stray off-cuts of cotton.

Since I have started offering Five Trousers for sale, and knowing of some other projects I have in the pipeline, it became inevitable that I would need to find a dedicated room in the house to work in.
Currently we have been using the third bedroom as a study/computer room, and our second/spare bedroom as general laundry room.
A quick rejig moved the computers upstairs to the spare room, freeing up the study to become my sewing room, but I would need some proper furniture to work on.

When I was using the kitchen table, it served for both laying out and cutting, as well as sewing (see right, while laying out the back of a Tennant Coat). This meant I had to plan my day and do all my cutting first before setting up the sewing machine for work. However, if I needed to re-cut a pattern piece and had to clear the decks from sewing before doing the cutting then set the sewing machine up again to sew. In this move I wanted to have a separate sewing and cutting table.

Luckily the kitchen table was pretty sturdy, especially since my sewing machine is a fairly chunky, and when I am had been cranking away it set up quite a rocking action on the table.

However, when buying a new table to use in the sew room, we needed to find something up to the job, but not too expensive - a cheap Ikea table would just not do it.

I then had a minor brain-wave, and realized the best thing to do would be to find a proper Singer treadle sewing table on eBay!

As most stipulate a collection-only I had to limit my searches to a reasonable striking distance. It wasn’t too long before I found the “perfect” table. It had only been used as a piece of decorative furniture in a country cottage, so had been polished and looked after (see right, in-steu at seller’s house). It also, and more important for me, had three drawers either side where most only had one, giving me six drawers to store my bit and pieces as well as my treasured buttonhole attachment. This would make my move to the smaller sized study even more space efficient.

The item was described as follow:
I bided my time and bid for it on the last day and managed to snipe it for £77, which although it was maybe a little more than I had hope to pay, did give me a table in good condition with above average drawer space. I was pretty chuffed to have won it.

There then followed the irritating story that sometimes is all to familiar with eBay purchases. It was clearly mentioned in the listing that collection had to be between certain dates as the seller was moving house and this item would not fit in the living room of their new property. This was to be a good two weeks after the auction closed, which is all fine and up front. I paid straight away to ensure my part of the bargain was kept. I was given the sellers phone number and I called her to work out a date, which we set and I was to await the address when we confirmed a few days before collection.
I waited until the week before to find I could not raise her on her mobile, and she consistently failed to respond to my messages and emails. I was getting worried. I didn’t want to loose out on this table so did not want to file a non-recipt claim.
Then, suddenly two days before the planned collection date I got a text message from her to confirm the pick-up, but with no address details. I replied with no response and it wasn’t until the night before collection did I finally get an address to go to to collect.
We went along and picked up the table with surgical precision - in and out with minimum of fuss - I was just relieved to finally get my new sewing table after waiting for nearly three weeks.

We got it home, lugged it up the stairs and put it in its final resting place in pride of place in my new sewing room. It looked fab!

The table came with a 99K machine already in place which had never been used (see left). It is a much later machine to mine and has a pill-box bobbin rather than the shuttle type I am used to and prefer.

The machine was no real use to me, not even for spares, so I took it off and put my prized 27K in its place (see right).

I knew from the listing that the leather strap that would power the sewing machine had perished and was no good. A quick eBay search found a seller who stocks newly made spare parts and had a suitable treadle belt I could use. It was on a Buy It Now, so I had possession of it in a couple of days and I was able to give it a go.

I had never operated a Singer using a treadle before, so it was a steep learning curve to say the least. After finding that you need to manually start it off to get it turning in the right direction, I was soon rocking away with my feet with both hands free to handle the work being sewn.

Great as this is, I think even when I am proficient at it, I will still hand-crank some of the more delicate and critical part of my tailoring, as the treadle can run away with you and before you know it you are steaming though beyond where you wanted to stop.

Finally, we had a spare drop-leaf table, which although was not as strong as the kitchen table, did give a equal opened area on which I could cut. Since the sewing machine has its own dedicated stand, this table is more than suitable for what I need, so I now have my desired separation between cutting and sewing (see right).

I now have an area where I can work (in peace) and out of the way, though it is smaller on the inside compared to the kitchen.

Wish I had Time Lord technology . . .

After some searching I found the official User Manual for the Singer Treadle, which after a couple of pages digressess onto the contents of a Singer Puzzle box. If you want to read it, you can download it here:

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Suits you, Sir

Recently I have had a number of enquires about the trousers I have been making based on the classic series costumes. I have therefore decided to make them available for commission.

If you are interested, please get in touch by emailing me at
Six Trousers - season 22 design
Made from authentic woven pillow ticking and dyed to just the right colour as described in Making Phoenix Fabric.
NB: trousers shown are made directly from the California Pants pattern and are not strictly screen accurate. Trousers made will be to a revised screen accurate pattern.

Trousers have zip and hook & eye fastening; two side and two back pockets; buttons ready for braces (braces not supplied!); lined from waistband to pockets.


Five Trousers - season 19 design
Screen accurate copy of trousers as worn by Peter Davison in his first two seasons.
Fabric is bespoke printed by Spoonflower and has been designed to accurately match genuine garment. Although never seen in full on screen, pattern has been based as closely as possible to the trousers as seen in Planet Of Fire.

Trousers have high V-split back; zip and hook & eye fastenings; two side pockets; buttons ready for braces (braces not supplied!); lined from waistband to pockets.


Five Trousers - season 21 design
Made to a pattern to match the trousers seen in Planet of Fire, these trousers are made with a fabric design not previously made available. This design of trouser was also seen recently in Time Crash, where Peter Davison wore the pair that had been let out for Colin Baker during the regeneration scene in Caves Of Androzani.

Trousers have high V-split back; zip and hook & eye fastenings; two side pockets; buttons ready for braces (braces not supplied!); lined from waistband to pockets.


Friday 17 July 2009

Haberdashery from REAL shops!

I thought it was a good time to sing the praises of some of the vanishing haberdashery stores that still survive, despite the onslaught of the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a great thing and makes the world just round the corner, but it has also stolen foot-fall trade away from some of the smaller retailers that stock some of the more unusual and diverse items.

Haberdashery has in recent years been doubly hit. As we have progressively moved away from a society that at the least would mend-and-make-do, and at best sew their own clothes from patterns to a world where clothing designer labels rule and throwing away when things go slightly out of fashion, the call and need for stores that sell a wide ranges of fabrics has become redundant.

Despite this, there is a thriving range of independent haberdashery stores out there - if you know where to look.

I have been guilty of their demise too in my own way. I have sourced a number of fabrics and accessories through online retails, but I have found that some of these surviving shops can consistently come up trumps when I have need of something a little special.

The first of these stores that I discovered was The Button Queen. They are located at 76 Marylebone Lane, off the north side of Oxford Street in London. They are a specialist seller, who as you may have guessed, trade in buttons!
When I was searching for the perfect coat button for my Tennant Coat, I Googled and search the entire internet for a 28mm horn-style four-hold button with no luck. Everyone had a 25mm, but not a 28mm. Button Queen however, had just what I had been looking for and at a great price too. I have been using their buttons since the Mk III coat, and have been back for a repeat prescription on several occasions.

Later, when I was doing my Five Trousers, I needed some distinctive buttons for the braces to attach to. I had first hand contact with an original pair of the Six Trousers at the recent Bonham’s Auction, so knew exactly what I had to get. Again Button Queen had a perfect match! (see above, the original Six Trousers, and my Five Trousers with matching button)

I shan’t buy buttons anywhere else without going to Button Queen first!

The next shop I want to tell you about is Cloth House on Berwick Street, again in London. They actually have two shops on the same street, one at No. 47, the other at No. 98, each of which carries a different type of fabric.

I personally love the shop at No. 47 as it stocks a more rustic and heritage style of fabric.
This was where I got my pillow ticking I used for my Six Trousers. It was actually a black stripe on white fabric, which I had to dye yellow.

They also have a wonderful collection of traditional style printed cottons and wool suiting fabrics, as well as a wide range of unusual buttons.

I like their simplistic window display of squares of fabric hanging by wooden pegs on washing lines (see left), as well as a hand-crank (though not Singer) sewing machine in the corner.

Further down Berwick Street is Textile King, who specialize in suiting fabrics. They were established in 1971, and they look it form the outside, thought the interior is much more inviting (see right), being a mix of traditional and modern design reminding me more of an old fashioned gentleman’s outfitters.

When I need to get some professional fastenings, there is nowhere better than Kleins on Noel Street.
This is where I got some top quality Hook & Bar Trouser Fastening that I have used on all the trousers I have made. Most suppliers sell a hook & bar that has to be sewn on, screaming of home-made efforts. The type Kleins sell are a four-part nickel fastening with spikes that pierce the fabric and have a backing plate around which the spikes are bent. The finished result looks high street professional!

The shop I return to the most consistently of all is MacCulloch & Wallis at 25-26 Dering Street, yes you guessed it, in London.
They have an excellent fabric range on the ground floor, with all weights of interfacing I would ever need as well as the special pocket fabric I use.
Upstairs is their haberdashery supplies, with all manner of ribbons, zips, cottons, tools and equipment, though their range of buttons has never quite cut it for me.
Their prices are keen and the staff are always more than happy to help and guide you, and have often given me advise on what fabrics I should be buying for specific purposes.

The final store I use is a relative new one to me. William Gee are located at 520-522 Kingsland Road and are one of the out of the ark shops that have just not changed since the 1970s despite the relentless march of high street trading.

The decor leaves a lot to be desired and the shopper experience is not as slick as many of the others I have mentioned, but their prices are also from the 1970s, and I have picked up numerable bargains here, which is always refreshing.

I am sure there are other such shops out there, they just need to be rediscovered. These shops are great to use: if you have an idea and don’t quite know how to achieve it, the staff in shops like these are always on hand to gave advise and steer you in the right direction. they are often dress-makers themselves, so have first hand experience of working with fabrics. They have a passion for what they are doing and are an untapped resource waiting to be utilized. I love em!

Long live the independent
haberdashery retailers!!!!

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Designer label

When I did my Five Trousers recently, I ordered the fabric from Spoonflower, who can print any design you can come up with onto material.
When my order arrived it was neatly wrapped in tissue paper with a compliment slip that was the Spoonflower logo, but it was printed onto fabric! Which I thought was kinda cool touch (see right).

It seemed such a waste to just throw it away, I thought the the best way to use it was to use it as a clothing label in my trousers, as a little reminder of where the fabric had come from.

I didn’t want to hide it away at the back of the trousers (I was also worried it may get worn), so I put it in the front to one side of the fly, sewn into the curtain (see left).

And having done that I got to thinking that maybe I should have a label too!

I did an internet hunt and found a company called Able Labels who can do fabric clothing labels in short runs (most wanted 1,000 plus) at not too bad a price. I designed it in photoshop and kept it to a single black and white design to bring it in on a budget. I sent them a test jpeg which they wove for me and the result was pretty good!

I ordered their minimum run and put the first label in the back of the Five Trousers and it just looked so right! (see right).

If I get anymore commissions for Five Trousers I can put the labels in and make it look a bit more professional.

Finally here is a better close-up of the finished label.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

The Return Of Steampunk

Over on my Tennant Coat Blog I showed off the 1903 Singer 27K sewing machine I use for all my work.

Though it was not this actual machine, it was a hand-crank Singer 27K that I first learnt how to sew when I was around ten years old.
I was always interested how something that could essential only stitch in a straight line could produce such wonderful three-dimensional and tactile objects, such as the rag dolls my Mother would make for me and other family members in the late 60s and early 70s. I still have a clown made for me as a Christmas present when I was about five years old in 1971, and a girl in petticoats my Mother made for herself (see right).
If you want to read more about the Singer 27K that I use,
you can download a PDF of the original manual HERE.
For years I was resigned to the fact that a straight line it did, and a straight line it would always do.

When I bought my 27K for around £30 off eBay, it had not been used for a number of years, having remained safely in it case hidden away under the stairs of the previous owner. It just needed a little bit of oil here and there, and it was working as perfectly as the day it had been made.
You can’t say that about many things built even over the past 30, maybe 50 years: that after a century it still works! What DVD player is still going to be working in 100 years time?

With the wonders of eBay I discovered an array of attachments that I never knew existed.
The best example of this is what is known as a Singer Puzzle Box (see above right). It is a wooden box with opens out completely flat (see above), inside which are secured a number of hemming, ruffle and spacing attachments.
You can download a PDF of a detailed list of the contents HERE.
Alas, I could only get a few of them to work, and the ones I could, I have little use for.
I acquired them more a curios than anything else.

As I mentioned in No Steampunk Here, I used to get my buttonholes done at an old-fashioned tailors back in my home town of Edgware, North London. That was until I found my treasured Singer Buttonholer! (see left)
It really is the cleverest of tools and can produce buttonholes to a range of sizes and proportions. It had never occurred to me that my straight-stitching machine could possible do anything as complex as a buttonhole, given the side-to-side movement that would be needed.

As well as doing standard buttonholes, the attachment can have other useful applications.
I recently used it to do some reinforcing stitching around the pockets and fly of my Six Trousers, by effectively collapsing a buttonhole down to a single line of tightly placed zig-zags (see right).
If you want to read more about how the Buttonholer works,
you can download a PDF of the original manual
One of the next hurdles to overcome in making my trousers was setting the zip fly.
This is made more difficult because it is essential to sew as close to the zip teeth as possible. The standard pressure foot (which keeps the work moving under the needle while you sew) has the tendancy to not work well with one side of it sitting on the zip and the other unsupported. As a result it tends to fall of the zip and veer off in the wrong direction.

I knew there would be a special foot for this, and sure enough there is.
I tracked one down to a specialist sewing machine repair shop called Chapman Sewing Machine Company, at 80 Parkway near Camden Town. I described the machine I had and what I needed. Sure enough to my amazement, still make zipper feet which fit my machine and they had a dozen or so in stock.

The zipper foot simply has only a pressure foot on one side of the needle. Above you can see my standard pressure foot (left) and the zipper foot (right). Notice how the standard foot is riding on the teeth of the zip.
The foot is further designed to be adjusted, so that it sits on either side of the needle, making it useable if the zip is running on the left or right hand side (see below).

You will see this in use when I make the Five Trousers, and later when I get to do the Tennant Trousers.

While at Chapman’s I thought nothing ventured nothing gained, and wondered if there was such thing as a Zig-Zag attachment.
The movement of my buttonholer was twofold: an elongated circular motion (to form the buttonhole shape); and a side-to-side movement (to create the band of overlock stitch that reinforces the edges of the hole).
I wondered if there was a tool that just did the side-to-side movement, and sure enough there is.

The shop assistant had to ask the advice of the septuagenarian owner, who rummaged around and pulled out a box similar to my buttonholer, but slightly smaller.
Inside was what looked like a baby buttonholer with considerably fewer adjustment sliders (see right).
The one slider it does have (below) adjusts the width of the zig-zag.

My hope was to use it to do an overlocking stitch along the seam allowance inside the legs of the trousers to stop them fraying (you will see this in most commercially available trousers).
However, although I have got the attachment working, it is proving a little erratic and hard to control. I can barely get it to sew along a pre-determined line, let alone along the edge of frayed fabric.

I think I need I little more practice . . . .

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Six plus Ten equals Five

I am slowly working towards making my trousers for my suit, and gaining experience at each stage.
I have come up with a game plan to get me to the Tennant Trousers I need to make:

STAGE ONE - done
The Six Trousers were an exercise in following a commercial pattern and so I learnt the basic techniques, having never made any before. The cut was very loose, so quite forgiving if I got it a little wrong. I did a button fly, as I am a dab-hand at buttonholes and didn’t want to get distracted at this stage with learning how to set a zip.

STAGE TWO - done
The GAP Trousers I bought and have deconstructed have given me the definitive pattern I need to work to. I have copied the pattern and studied how they go together, thought I need practice setting a zip fly.

STAGE THREE - current project
The Five Trousers need to follow the same pattern as the Six Trousers, although the legs need to be more tailored, like the GAP straight-cut. I will therefore use the top part of the Six trousers, and blend them into the legs of the GAP pattern.

STAGE FOUR - the final goal
Tennant Trousers. Once I have completed all the above I will be skilled and ready to make the real deal, working to the pattern of the GAP straight-cut trousers I bought, using the Jo-Ann fabric.

So, I am now at stage three, having done my Six Trousers and cribbed a pattern from the GAP trousers I recently bought.

Since the Five Trosuers need to be a slimmer fit, I quickly realised that I could use the fronts and back I have cut from the GAP trousers with no adaption as such, and attach the waist band from the Laughing Moon Mercantile pattern to create the result I want.

As usual, first up is to make a calico test, which now I have done some trousers, I can make quite quickly (see left).

I used the vertical entry pocket design as the GAP trousers; set my first zip; and used some professional quality hook and bar fastening for the waistband.

I shan’t go into to much detail at this stage about there construction, as seeing it made in calico is a bit dull, besides, after making them I spotted an integral error with the design as a result of me making a rather big assumption!

Although I knew the Five trousers were high waisted with a V-split back (just like the Laughing Moon Trousers) I took it that I could use the pattern as is. However, when I looked at scenes from Planet Of Fire (the only story I know of where he does not wear the cricking jumper) I noticed the V was a lot higher than the pattern. Furthermore I noticed that there was no attached waistband, so the legs of the trousers went all the way to the top of the waist (see below).

I therefore recut the pattern with the waist band added to the top of the GAP trouser legs, and with the accentuated back V.

Here is a comparison of the different patterns side-by-side with in each case the back on the left and the fronts on the right.

Six Trousers

Notice that the crotch on the back is quite shallow and does not hook around like the Ten and Five patterns.
A small V dart above the back pocket gives the seat shape.
The pattern also has an allowance for extra fabric on the seat (beyond the vertical line on the far left on the backs) which gives the option later of letting them out if needed (read: when you get fatter).

Ten Trousers (from GAP Straight Cut)

The back crotch is more accentuated and curves back down into the straight leg.
Again, a small V dart above the back pocket give the seat shape.
Being an off the peg size, there is no allowance for letting the seat out at a later stage.

Five Trousers

These have the leg and basic shape cribbed from the GAP trousers (look at the shape around and below the crotch point) but I have added the high waistband to the top (notice the distance from crotch to waist top is much greater).
The fitting dart on the back is diamond rather than V-shaped to give a good fit. It is surprising how much influence this tiny piece of shaping has on the final fit.

Just to check all was working as planned, I made up another quick test, this time in the Interior Mall fabric I originally got to make the Six Trousers. Interior Mall had sent the wrong colourway, so I could not use the material, besides the design was really not quite right.
I used this because it is striped and would show up how the fit and shaping was working (see below). All I made up was the fronts and back, with no pockets or fly.

They fitted just right and the high back worked well.

Adding this to the pattern, and forgoing the attached waistband, threw up some unexpected problems, and it dawned on me how important the seam at the bottom of the waistband actually is.
It is to this seam the tops of the pockets are attached and hang from; this seam also secures the top couple of inches of the trousers, making it a stronger area for the braces buttons to be attached, otherwise the insides of the trousers would get pulled inside out; this seam is also where the zip tidily finishes and the buttoning above the zip are located. I was now having to work without the convenience of this. It appears a minor thing, but it has an important knock on effect.

When I studied the trousers closer, I noticed there was a single line of stitch where the lower seam of the waistband would be. This would be my (and had been the costume designer’s) get out option: I could have a single line of top-stitching onto which I could hang and attach all I needed.

With the pattern for the Five trousers finalised, all I have to do is make them up.