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 . . . .