Sunday 30 September 2012

Ultimate Six Frock Coat -
the collar arrives

Yesterday I showed you the work involved in commissioning my reweave for the Checked Collar (fabric 6), and I promised to show you how it looked now I’ve received it.

Being a fabric that will ultimately only be used in small limited areas on the coat, it looks a bit odd seeing it uncut and showing the full pattern repeat.
So I thought I’d do a little experiment.

It’s going to be a while before I cut this cloth in anger, so I dug out some reference pictures I have of the original coat, and I took some pictures of my woven fabric.

I’ve highlighted the areas I’ll be using so you can see how well they match up.

I’m pretty chuffed with the result. Certainly looks like I’m on the right track!

Next up are the commissions for the Lining (fabric 14) and the Red Tartan (fabric 1), both of which are already well under way.

Stay tuned!

Saturday 29 September 2012

Ultimate Six Frock Coat -
weaving the collar

Work is progressing apace now on my replica Six Frock Coat.
It’s all taken a lot longer than I planned – but I’m getting there!

Earlier this month I completed the solid colour phase of the fabric gathering, and now have fabrics for the Purple Felt (Fabric 2); the Green Felt (Fabric 3); the Peach Wool (Fabric 4); the Red Felt (Fabric 5);  the Yellow Lapel (Fabric 7); the Pink Lapel (Fabric 8); the Cuffs (Fabric 10); and the Pink Felt (Fabric 11).
Now it’s time to revisit and complete work I did on the Checked Collar.
Fabric 6
I’ve deliberately waited until a good number of the base fabrics were in-hand before moving up a gear and commissioning the final few fabrics, most of which need to be custom woven.

The first of these, the Checked Collar (fabric 6), isn’t used that much on the coat, (only the collar, the pocket flaps and the back button brace) so it cannot possibly justify a machine woven run at a fabric mill.
I’m not even going to bother to look for an off the shelf match for this, so my only option is to find a hand weaver to take it on.

Being the collar, which frames the wearer’s face, it is the one part of the coat that gets looked at the most, so I got to get this right.
I’ve already done all the groundwork to work out the weave needed and the colours used – and it turns out to only be constructed from four colours (black, purple, green and cream).

I have also been able to measure the sizes of the squares and count the number of threads making up each panel.

Armed with all this I set about finding a weaver, and chanced upon a suitable chap on the Welsh boarders who specialises in short-run work.

After choosing the yarns, which were mainly sourced in London, we quickly moved to a series of small test weaves to check the thread density.

Three small patches were sent to me for approval, and it was very exciting to receive them in the post. The checks are half-scale, so they look a little coarser than how they will appear in the final fabric.

Approval given, it meant weaving could commence!

My weaver kindly agreed to take some photos while weaving, and we can see him here setting up the the warp (lengthwise) yarns, before weaving in the weft (the crossways) yarns.

Monday 24 September 2012

Ultimate Six Frock Coat -
ticking the final boxes

Last week I showed you the least batch of fabrics to arrive, ready for use on my Ultimate Six Frock Coat.

One of those fabrics was the yellow dyed pillow ticking, a material I had sourced several years ago to make my Six Trousers.

I thought it a good time to look back on how I prepared that fabric then, and will need to again when the occasion arises.
Fabric 10

Of all the fabrics on the Six Frock Coat, this has to rate as one of the easiest to accurately replicate, despite being nearly thirty years later.

The fabric is a very old-fashioned, traditional material available in the UK for what seems like an eternity. In the 1980s it would have been found at every well stocked fabric store.

Personally I can remember staying over at my grand mother’s house and sleeping in a bed where the sealed feather pillow case was made from a thick canvas like fabric in a striped weave. Looking back it was pillow ticking in authentic use.

The fabric only comes in white (or a natural shade) with the stripes traditionally in black, though I have seen some version with them in navy blue.

The fabric does not come in yellow as seen in Doctor Who, as it was dyed before use.

If you look closely at the fabric samples on the original costume design, you can see the swatch of ticking is the same black and white version, revealing it was sourced in that colour, and dyed to the yellow colour.

When I was in early stage planning for the Ultimate Tennant Suit, I made myself a pair of Six trousers so I can get some understanding of how trousers are made.

Here is how I dyed my fabric back then.

I found some colourfast Dylon fabric dye in Sunflower Yellow (which sounds nice) at a local wool shop (see left). This can be used in a washing machine at 40degrees. I also need to buy 1lb of salt, which is used to open the pores of the fabric and make the dye fast.
This is one of the occasions I think reading the instructions on the packet would be wise (being a man I don’t often do that).

First I need to wash the fabric thoroughly, to make sure there is no grease or dressing on the material, this will resist the dye and make it come out patchy.
I then empty the entire packet of dye into the drum of the washing machine, add 1lb of table salt, then the still wet fabric (see right).

I then have to wait a nerve-racking hour for the machine and dye to do its magic.
Once the hour is up it’s time to see what‘s happened, and I am pleasently surprised to find it has worked a total treat. My white and black ticking is now yellow and black, and the dye has not tainted the black stripes as I secretly thought it might (see left).

I just then need to leave it out to dry then thoroughly press it to make it pristine and ready for use (see below).

Once the fabric was dyed and pressed it was ready for use.

I’ve since had the chance to put my version alongside the screen used coat, and apart from the dirt on the real thing, the colours and weave match up perfectly.

I’m very happy with the result, and I’m good to go!

Achieving the colour was nowhere near as scary or difficult as I thought. I would consider doing this again if finding the right pattern/colourway was a problem.

If a white colourway was available as an alternative, dye it to the right colour is now very much an option!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Ultimate Six Frock Coat -
the fabrics continue to arrive

I’ve been a bit quiet about my work on my Six Frock Coat of late, the reason for which I’ll touch on later, but things have been a-happeneing.

This week the final two custom-dyed wools fabrics arrived, and I thought I’d show them off with a couple of others I sourced a few months back.
Fabrics 7, 8, 10 and 11

So what I have to show you today are: the Yellow Lapel (fabric 7), Pink Lapel (Fabric 8), Cuffs (Fabric 10), and Pink Felt (Fabric 11).

Three of the colours here are for the least used fabrics on the entire coat, each only representing one panel apiece. It’s a bit annoying I have to place a minimum order for these – but needs must I guess.

The fabric for the cuffs is only used twice, but this is hardly setting the coat on fire!

All four of these fabrics are very different in their composition: the Pink Lapel is a cotton velvet, colour matched to the original coat; the Cuffs are classic pillow ticking dyed yellow, exactly the same as the Six Trousers; the Pink Felt is a medium-weight felt; and The Yellow Lapel is a quite thick, slightly fluffy woollen weave.

It’s funny – stacking these four fabrics together makes it look like the coat is made from an almost colour co-ordinated set of pastel shades, reminding me somehow of a Victorian ice cream seller!

This batch, together with the fabrics I showed you in April, now completes work on the coat’s solid colours.
I now have eight of the fourteen in-hand and ready to cut!

This leaves the Red Tartan (fabric one); Checked Collar (fabric six); Woven Back (fabric nine); Pocket Piping (fabric twelve); Appliqué Strip (fabric thirteen). A couple of those are merely trimmings, but I counted them with equal emphasis so I don’t overlook them.

As I mentioned earlier, my postings on this project have been a bit scarce of late. This is because I now have some undesired competition when it comes to making a Six Frock Coat.
Inevitably my research was plundered for their use, so I don’t plan to make the more complicated aspects of the coat available to a rival to be passed off as their own work.

This is a shame, as I have drafted a fascinating entry on my work on recreating the stunning lining fabric, as well as the red tartan – both of which are poised to be woven.
This effectively just leaves me the two hand-woven fabrics – both of which are already on looms as a write . . .

At this rate I’m gonna be done by Christmas!