Friday, 11 April 2014

Fabric Friday - Shetland tweed

This week on Fabric Friday, I turn my attentions to the Shetland tweed used to make the jacket first seen in A Christmas Carol.

The jacket was a smarter, more tailored cut compared to the Harris tweed and Donegal versions seen in series five.

The elbow patches were dropped - though this seems to have been an oversight since they reappear in the very next episode.

The tweed used came from W Bills and has been likened to a plaid, though it is not truly defined as such.

The fabric has a distinct orientation, with bold vertical stripes of darker brown mixed with a lighter beige colour.

These images are directly scanned from fabric that was part of the bolt that was cut to make Matt’s screen-worn jackets. They have then been colour-matched back to the material to give the best visual representation of the fabric.
The only discernible pattern repeat horizontally are some narrow orange stripes, which are at irregular spacings, alternating between 35mm and 45mm.

This can make the fabric a bit awkward to use when pattern matching, as the true pattern repeat is effectively 75mm.

Woven in 100% pure Scottish wool to a full width of 54 inches wide, it comes from the island of Shetland off the coats of Scotland.

According to one of my favourite vintage tailoring books, Textile For Tailors, the Shetland tweed is woven in a twill, or common twill.

This creates the distinctive diagonal banding in the stripes.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Fabric Friday - Donegal tweed

This week on Fabric Friday I’m bringing you the second of the jacket fabrics from Matt Smith’s wardrobe.

After shooting a handful of episodes with a single vintage Harris tweed, the costume department produced a number of jackets for Matt to wear, all made from Donegal tweed sourced from W Bills in London.

The hand-woven fabric was made on foot operated looms, and so was only a half-width 36 inches wide.

The weave is very simple: a light coffee colour in one direction in a plain or hopscotch weave with a dark chocolate colour in the other direction.
The lighter of the two colours has a flecking in the same shade, which gives the fabric the slightly corse appearance.

I have seen a number of very similar Donegal style fabrics, but their flecking has been in other colours such as red or green. These can ruin the appearance of the fabric.

With the very nature of the weave the fabric is reversible and looks the same from both sides, though it does need to be orientated consistently.

These images are directly scanned from fabric that was part of the bolt that was cut to make Matt’s screen-worn jackets. They have then been colour-matched back to the material to give the best visual representation of the fabric.

Here is what one of my favourite archive books has to say about Donegal Tweeds.

DONEGAL TWEED is another fabric of cheviot quality woven either in the plain or the two and two twill. The warp yarns usually spun from natural-coloured wool and the weft yarns from fibres of different colours dyed before spinning. The cloth has excellent tensile strength and good elasticity; the surface fibres are usually levelled by cutting in the finishing routine.

My book also has some information on the style of weave.

I’ll publish the next tweed from Matt’s wardrobe soon, so check back to see the ever popular Shetland Tweed.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Fabric Friday - Harris tweed

Each week I get a number of emails from readers asking for help with patterns or fabrics.

Aside from suggesting a few sources I can’t really help much with patterns.

My assistance with fabrics also has to be a bit limited as I’m getting mine from the original suppliers, which don’t come cheap; or using my own weavers to recreate discontinued lines which takes a lot of investment and time.

So I thought I’d create Fabric Friday, and each week bring you a bit of detail on the materials used to create the Eleventh Doctor’s wardrobe.

Many readers are on budgets, so screen accurate materials can be prohibitive. Their only chance is to find something similar or evocative that can do the job - so long as you don’t look too closely.

The most requested at the moment is the Cashmere used to make Matt’s frock coat.
I’m asked what is it like - or is this or that fabric close enough to use.

Only once you see the fabric in-hand can you realise how unique it is.

So what I’d thought I’d do is share some detailed scans of the fabrics used for Matt’s wardrobe to once and for all give the definitive reference guide, going through from series five to seven.

Worn for the first episodes shot was a vintage Harris tweed jacket.

The jacket dated from around the 1970s and was made from a Mackenzie two-by-two dogtooth fabric.

As you can see, it’s woven from a beige, brown russet and green thread.

Here is what one of my favourite archive books has to say about Harris Tweeds.

HARRIS TWEEDS are tweed fabrics made from pure virgin wool produced in Scotland, dyed and finished in the Outer Hebrides, and hand-woven by the islanders at their own homes in the islands of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra.
Originally, hand-spun yarn was always used, the carding and spinning being done by the women during the long winter evenings at the fireside. Later, in 1911, the Harris Tweed Trade Mark required that all processes, with the exception of carding, should be done by hand, but owing to the ever-increasing demand for Harris tweeds it was found necessary to obtain yarn from mills on the mainland.
Today, most Harris tweeds are Woven from machine-spun yarns, but the term “ hand-spun” is used in the case of those tweeds made entirely from handspun yarns. The yarns are thick and fibrous, and the fabric is made in the plain or a simple twill weave. Harris tweed has all the characteristics of a good cheviot fabric — elasticity, a fibrous surface, good strength, and good colour tones. The natural dye called crotal and the drying of the cloth by the heat from the peat fires give the fabric its characteristic aroma.
Owing to the scarcity of crotal dye synthetic dyes are now being employed in the colouring of yarns for Harris tweeds.

My book also some some information on the style of weave.

I’ll publish the next tweed from Matt’s wardrobe soon, so check back to see the Donegal.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

My tailor's bookshelf

I’m often asked where I get my patterns from and for tips on how to make garments.
Since tailoring is now my full time profession I’m not at liberty to hand out the patterns I have created and refined.

But what I can show you is my bookshelf of reference material I use when I’m in need of some direction or inspiration.

I use a mixture of modern and antique books.

Many of the vintage books I have contain contemporary instruction on how to draw up frock coats, lounge jacket and waistcoats, all with that distinctive Edwardian twist.

The more modern books give me construction ideas using up to date fabrics and interfaces.

It is a mix of these two that helps me do what I do.
For the full list of the books in my library, take a look at my Fourth Doctor blog.
My 4th Doctor Costume
My tailor's bookshelf

Thursday, 13 March 2014

W Bill - The End Of Time

I can announce some very sad news today.

W Bills, the supplier of tweeds for Matt Smith’s costumes, has been sold and is changing hands. It’s future is currently uncertain.

W Bill has provided cloth for a number of Matt’s costumes, from the series five Donegal tweed; to the series six Shetland Tweed; and finally the gorgeous Cashmere frock coat from series seven.

All of these began their lives as bolts of anonymous cloth on these shelves in W Bills basement showroom a couple of streets from London’s Savile Row.

The longstanding stalwart of their showroom, Ray Hammett - who has worked for the company since 1947, when he joined aged just 17 - has retired, although reluctantly.

From what I gather large amounts of stock are in the process of being transferred to the new owner’s premises in Exeter, leaving a skeleton range of short lengths.

It is unclear if fabrics exclusively woven for W Bills will be repeated or requested by the new owners.

This means the Shetland Tweed used for Matt’s series six jacket could well be discontinued.

If it is picked up by the new owners, there could be a gap in production while they review and replenish stock.

Luckily I found out about this change of hands shortly before it happened and was able to secure the entire remaining stock of Shetland Tweed, just over thirty metres.

This means I can make a few jackets yet, or if anyone wants to buy the fabric by the metre, they can drop me a line and I can give you details.

If you’ve been toying with the idea of getting a jacket made in the original fabric - NOW is your possible last chance!

All Saints boots on eBay

Just to show the All Saints Layer Boots can still be found on eBay, a pair is currently up for sale.

The seller knows what he has, so the Buy It Now asking price is a full £250!

All Saints Layer Boots
I am selling my second pair of these boots.

Worn by Matt Smith in Doctor Who.
Good condition, see pictures.
Comes with original box.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Matt Smith’s costume tests

Some photos have been doing the rounds on the net, and I’ve avoided reprinting them here, but the latest was posted by Karen Gillian herself, so I’m kinda thinking they aren’t being seen as too confidential.

Most of the photos relate to a costume test day held to finalise Matt Smith’s costume as the Eleventh Doctor.

The first shot shows Matt wearing a cream coloured long coat.

From what I understand this is a costume Ray Holman was developing for the Eleventh Doctor to wear. For whatever reason it was shelved.

Ray can be seen in the mirror taking the photo.

Next Matt is seen in a short sleeved white t-shirt, under a black high-cut waistcoat, worn with black jeans and a leather belt.

It’s hard to tell, but Matt may or may not be the All Saints boots which were his specific choice.

Next Matt adds a simple three-quarter length black coat.

Matt then changes outfit, adding a large dark grey coat, with a grey tie and shirt and the black waistcoat.

It’s amusing to remember that costume designer Ray Holman also choose the Belstaff coat for Sherlock, and this look isn’t so far removed from that.

The next look is all a bit piratey, with a red and white striped t-shirt under another waistcoat.

This waistcoat doesn’t have the extended points at the bottom.

The jacket over the top has brass military style buttons.

Matt looks less impressed with combining the striped t-shirt with an overcoat.
Next Matt changes the the striped t-shirt for a checked shirt.

The discarded t-shirt can be seen hanging on the rail behind him.

The jacket and waistcoat look to be the same - don’t be distracted by the very different lighting between this and the previous shot.

Matt then switches the brass-buttoned jacket for a leather one.

Finally Matt tries on a Paul Smith shirt, with braces and a bow tie -
The Doctor is in the building!

The last photo, which Karen Gillian posted on Twitter, is the very first time Matt and Karen were taken together in full and final costume.

Matt’s jacket is the Harris Tweed seen in Time Of Angels and if you look closely he is wearing a blue bow tie with the burgundy shirt (as above), a colour combination never seen in series five.

Monday, 10 February 2014

A tie at the Eleventh Hour -
the finishing touches

My plans to make a perfect copy of the Eleventh Hour Christian Lacroix tie have been going well. So well I now have a handful of finished ties. I was kind of expecting something to go wrong along the way, but all has gone to plan, which is reassuring.

The last thing I need to do is add some special colour to finish them off.

When the tie first appeared there was a lot of debate and speculation about the colouring of the tie. The blue swirly design has areas of enclosed shapes, which look red, but not quite the same as the tie worn by David Tennant.

As we now know, it wasn’t the same tie, hence the differences between them.

But if you look very closely during The Eleventh Hour, three are inconsistencies even within the episode. This is because there are multiple copies of the tie used.

If you look at the location scenes, there are no red sections to the tie.

These scenes would have been shot first, so it is possible the red areas were not yet painted.

The blue highlights are present.

But if you look at the studio scenes, the red patches are very prominent.

The placement of the blue swirly pattern is also notably different.
If you look at the section below the knot (with the two red patches) the location used tie has this moved over to the right.

When I saw the real tie close-up I found the red patches of colour were actually just simply painted on.
There were also some dark blue highlights on the embroidery.

I needed to match these to make the ties complete.

I’ve kept some off-cuts of the brown silk which I can use to swatch test the red paints on.

There are a number of fabric paint suppliers on the market, and before committing to which to use I went through quite a few.

Some are transparent paints, for painting on light colour fabrics; others more opaque for use on darker colours.

I found the latter to be too dominant, so a blend of the two produced a result I liked.

Now I’ve got a good mix of red I can begin painting.

This is all a bit out of my comfort box, so I just have to trust that the paint will take and settle down to an even coverage.

When the paint is first applied it looks a lot brighter and blotchier than it ends up.

A second light coat evens out any remaining inconsistencies.

Finally I need to add the blue highlights.

Comparing the photos I took of the screen-used ties to my Lacroix, I realise the highlights are in corresponding places, so I use my tie as a guide as to where to put them.

I need a very dry brush and to just lightly rub the paint on. You can see the before and after here.

Here’s the finished tie.

What do you think?

If you’re coming to Gallifrey One this week, look out for me wearing it!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Gallifrey One 2014 -
Advanced Tailoring Techniques

Last year when I attend Gallifrey One in Los Angeles, I presented a solo panel in which I discussed and showed some of my more challenging tailoring projects.

Due to popular demand, I have been asked to do a similar panel again this year.
The premininary schedule is now out and I am down to present my panel at 4pm on Sunday 16th February 2014.

The main drive of what I shall be presenting will be British Tailoring and the art of the Frock Coat.

I have been making a lot of Frock Coats one way or another over the past 18 month so I’ve gain a lot of experience.

All of the coats have their roots in the classic Edwardian design despite their differing appearances.

I hope if you are coming to Gallifrey One you’ll come alone and join the audience - there will be Jammie Dodgers.....

If you can’t make it, or just want a good idea of what I’ll be talking about, here is a video of my panel from last year.

If you a specific topic you’d like me to discuss at my panel, please mail me at 
with your suggestion.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A tie at the Eleventh Hour - the tie making

The making of my ties are now out of my hands, but I’m confident that the guys working on them are the best in the business and are doing it with the same passion I put into my own work.

Almost everything about these ties is a bit of a pain to handle.

First the ties have to be cut. As a long experienced tie maker, they have pre-made patterns to use for all common sizes. Luckily they have one which is just the job.

The card template gives the cutter the shape he needs to cut. The window inside this is the finished visible face of the tie.

This was positioned over the embroidery, referencing my Lacroix tie which I left them as a guide.

The ties are made in three pieces: the front leading up to and including the knot; the tail which has a partial repeat of the embroidered design; and a joining piece between the two.

Here they are, all cut and ready to make-up.

The ends of the tie are lined in red silk, and I provided them with some suitable fabric to use.
This is machined in place before the three sections are joined together.

The ties are then folded along the length, pinning them together at the seam. The seam is then hand-sewn together, leaving a short opening at each end.

A strengthening stitch is added at the end of the hand sewing to stop it accidentally tearing. This is on the original tie, and has been replicated in a red thread to match.

It took a couple of weeks for the ties to be made, but I now have the first one finished and it looks FAB!

I still have some work to do, which I shall do soon.