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.

Saturday 13 June 2009


Spoonflower.com is a great little website!

In a nutshell it gives you the ability to have printed bespoke fabric to your own design, and then order as little of as much as you need.
Whereas most fabric manufactures require exorbitant set-up fees and minimum runs enough to cloth an army, Spoonflower has none of this (assuming you can design and create your own patterns), and the cost of fabric really isn’t that much, considering.

Spoonflower are based in a former sock mill in downtown Mebane, North Carolina USA and were formed in early 2008 by Stephen & Kim Fraser, who spotted a gap in the market for bespoke fabric printing.

Luckily Stephen (a self-confessed internet geek) used to be the marketing guy for another North Carolina company called lulu.com, who were doing print-on-demand book publishing. It wasn’t a massive leap to move to print-on-demand fabrics, and before long they were up and running.
Spoonflower, in case you wondered, is an endangered plant native to North Carolina that grows around the edges of bogs.
Kim built a rain garden (read bog) in their backyard. While researching the names of bog plants for the garden, they came across Spoonflower and liked it enough to buy the domain.

Stephen is continually amazed by the uses for the fabrics users design, “People use the fabric to make clothes, quilts, bags, and other things that you might expect, but they also use it to make buttons, dolls, cloth-books, and all kinds of other things that we had not thought of before we started the business. The dolls are my favorites. There’s one guy in Wilmington, John Golden, who makes stuffed robot dolls. They’re great.”

Now, I had heard mixed reviews of the results from Spoonflower, so I approched it carefully with eyes open, but personally I have found it to be very good at all stages – no complaints from me, and I found it very easy to set-up and use.

First you need to create an account: the usual stuff with a username and password.

From there you upload your design as a TIFF, JPEG, PNG or GIF – so basically anything you can create or convert to Photoshop is usable. There is an online design tool, but I am very competent in Photoshop, so I will stick to what I know.

Then you simply choose the design you want to print and select from a range of sizes of fabric in a choice of two fabric weights; a Quilting weight, which is 4oz per yard; or a heavier Upholstery weight, which is 10oz per yard.

A quick 8 inch square swatch is US$5, and is well worth getting to check that your design’s colour is coming out as you would like. I recently did a swatch (see below) where I crammed on a load of tests I wanted to do, to varying success, and got them printed together to save costs.

Once you have received that, or are feeling confident, you can order between one and three yards at a time, which is about enough for the average project.
There is no specific minimum order, but a quarter yard is the shortest you can order.

In the pursuit of perfection, it is easy to spend inordinate amounts of time searching for a match for a screen-used material and ultimately not find it.

A case in point is the blue pinstripe Tennant suit material.
As part of the costume display at the recent Earl’s Court exhibition, there was a board showing the blue suit with a swatch of the material used (see right).
It revealed something quite interesting. There were actually two swatches: one was as seen in the series; the other was much lighter blue with bright red pinstripes and was labeled ‘ORigiNaL FABRiC’.

This was because it had been over-dyed with a darker blue to arrive at the screen used colour (see left). This seriously complicate matters, as it means it does not exist as screen-seen, but would have to be found as it was woven and then over-dyed to get a match, and that would be hit and miss until it was done right.

In a circumstance like this it may just be easier to directly recreate the fabric as it looks rather than match it as manufactured, and Spoonflower is just made for that job!

I am working on some blue pinstripe fabric, as seen in my test swatch, but if you are eagle-eyed you might notice the design for Peter Davison’s trousers and hat band there too.
I have never seen the hat band ribbon, even when I went looking for it in 1982 while it was current; and the trouser fabric was discontinued during the Davison era, resulting in him wearing a different design of trouser for his final season.
All this makes it near impossible to accurately match these on a budget, without Spoonflower that is!

I quite enjoyed making my Six Trousers recently, and would like to continue getting some tailoring experience so plan to make some Five trousers as well.
Ironically I stumbled across some fabric which is almost (but just not quite) identical to the Five fabric, made by of all makers, Malabar (see below). However, finding a truly perfect match for the striped fabric would be near impossible.
It was a fabric from Malabar’s Shamois range, you may recall, I used for my Mk II and Mk III Tennant coats.
The design I am using for my Five fabric comes from Mark Ferris, a friend from the Doctor Who Forums who lives in Australia. He has been working on the design for a while (see below).

© Mark Ferris 2009
With his permission I have taken and refining it further with a view to getting it printed. Mark had produced the design in Photoshop at low resolution, so I redrew it in Illustrator for clarity, making it pin-sharp, before exporting an RGB jpeg that Spoonflower could print from (see below).

I choose the upholstery weight, as I felt the quilting was a little thin for making my trousers. The fabric comes 55 inches wide, so I can get the height of a trouser leg across the fabric. I have ordered 2 yards, as I don’t think a single yard would cover it.
Orders take about two weeks to be sent out, so it is not an over-night service.

The fabric arrived this week, and I must say it is a very nice user-experience when it arrives.

My fabric arrived wrapped in tissue paper, with a Spoonflower sticker to keep it snug (see left). It’s like Christmas!

I carefully opened the tissue paper and my fabric was inside, complete with a nice little compliment slip, fabric printed naturally! (see right).

What I think I am going to do is keep this printed logo, and sew it into the back of the trousers when they are done, as a sort of designer label!

I unfolded the fabric and I must say I am very pleased with the result (see below). It is a very good match to the design I supplied; there is no sign of any banding (that I had been warned can happen); and the upholstery weight I have gone for is just right, being heavier than the first tests I had done, but not at all stiff the way you might think.

The plan now is to get some more experience making trousers before attempting the ones for the final suit, so making some Five trousers fits the bill perfectly.
I will start cutting them just as soon as I can.

Watch this space!

Friday 12 June 2009

Bonhams costume sale - 16th June 2009

This coming week there is an auction at Bonhams in Knightsbridge of Film and Entertainment memorabilia.

Amongst the James Bond and Beatles items (and Christopher Lee’s original cape from his first Dracula film) are a number of original Doctor Who costumes, some dating right back to the very first season in 1964.
Also on sale are three Doctor costumes; one from Jon Pertwee’s last series; Jon Pertwee’s jacket when he appeared in the Children In Need special, Dimensions In Time; and a near complete Colin Baker outfit (sadly missing the coat).

This is an opportunity I can’t miss, if not to bid, but to at least go along to the viewing and take a closer look, and maybe some decent photos.

Ironically I have just done a replica (to a slightly different pattern) of the Six trousers, so now I will get the chance to check out my work against the real thing close-up. I will take a swatch of the fabric I used and compare it.

The viewing is Sunday 14th and Monday 15th June, so I will go on Monday and take some more detailed pictures, particularly of the Doctor 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 Fifth Doctor era
Lot 14
Simon Rouse as Hindle from Dr. Who: Kinda series, featuring Peter Davison as The Doctor, first broadcast February 1982.
A two-piece suit, including a khaki coloured canvas jacket, having leather collar and panel to front, with matching stripe detail to sleeves, brown silk effect lining, the jodhpurs style trousers, of matching fabric, with leather detail to side seams, having zips to hem, and elasticated stirrup, labelled inside trousers “Morris Angels & Son, Ltd., Theatrical Costumiers, 119 Shaftesbury Avenue, London,W.C.2” and inscribed “S. Rouse”.
A costume of this type can clearly be seen on screen during the series, and features in the scene where Hindle is frustrated after the Doctor meets with him and makes a quip with an apple.
Estimate: £350 - 450
Sold for

Lot 15
Barbara Murray as Lady Cranleigh from Dr. Who: Black Orchid, featuring Peter Davison as The Doctor, first broadcast March 1982.
An Eighteenth century style full length dress, of peach coloured taffeta, heavily embroidered to front with floral motif, having lace collar and cuffs, with corset to top, labelled inside with measurement details.
This dress appears during the ball scene of the series.

Estimate: £300 - 400
Sold for