Monday 16 November 2009

Blue suit fabric - discovery

Now I am back working on my Tennant Suit, a series of happy coincidences arrived at an amazing discovery.

I had recently finished a pair of Season 19 Five Trousers for a client, and with a lot of uncertainly over postal strikes in the UK, I was reluctant to post them to him fearing they may become part of the mountains of undelivered mail that have been collecting in sorting depots over the preceding few weeks.
Luckily my client only lived the other side of London, and given he had an interest in the fabric sellers based in Soho, we decided the best thing to do was meet up for a joint trip around the shops and to hand over the trousers in person.
Irritatingly a combination of freelance work placements and my need to attend college in Hemel Hempstead prevented us from meet as soon as we had hoped, so credit must go to my client’s patience while we waited for a mutually convenient day to happen, and today (16th October) was finally that day!

We meet just after lunch in a Starbucks on Wardour Street and had a good chat about Who costumes before setting out on our tour.
First stop was Kliens (see left), where I needed some 4-Part Hook and Eye Trouser Fastenings for another pair of Five Trousers I was working on.
Kliens is a great little shop for hard to find professional quality haberdashery.
One range they do have which I find an inspiration for a future project is of frog fastenings (see right), like those used on Jon Pertwee’s smoking jackets and Inverness Capes. (see right, inset)
Knowing I have a reliable source of these makes creating these garments all the more tempting, and as you may have read, I plan to do so in my Tailoring Class in the near future.

We carried on our journey, taking in a number of shops, with a shortlist of fabrics we wanted to try and track down, such as the houndstooth check used for Tom Baker’s waistcoat (see below, left); various velvets and tartans for Jon Pertwee’s costume (see below, centre); we well as the elusive beige fabric for the Five Coat I am also working on right now (see below, right).

But while looking around, I can across something I was not expecting to find . . .
Blue Pinstripe fabric
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.

Well, in one of the shops we looked through in Soho, I found two short rolls of blue cotton fabric with a bright red pinstripe, just like the small swatch in the exhibition!

The cotton seemed very lightweight, and not like a suiting fabric at all.

It was quite an exciting find, but I reserved a little caution, as I could be wildly out, so will wait til I get home, but I thought it looked good.

When I got it home, the first thing I did was compare it to the fabric swatch I have of the GAP Trousers, which is the exact source of the brown suit material.
The first thing I notice is that the stripes are a different spacing, being wider. Oh well I thought. (see below - click to enlarge)

But then I took a closer look at the two suits, especially focusing the breast box pocket. What caught my eye was that the width of the flap above the pocket on brown suit spans eleven pinstripes (see below, top), but the blue spans nine (see below, bottom).

Comparing the spacing of the stripes between my two fabrics, I find that nine pinstripes on the blue match to eleven on the brown – exactly as I could see in the photos.
In fact, looking at the rest of the body of the screen-used suits, knowing what I have now found, I can see the stripes do look closer together on the brown suit compared to the blue.

Maybe this IS the right fabric after all.

All I need to do now is see if I can over-dye it to match the real suit. Watch this space . . . .


  1. Recently had the blue made through Magnoli and it's pretty close. Just need to dye it darker. What are your suggestions? A rit dye of navy blue applied or something else?


  2. It's a shame Magnoli couldn't just get the colour right straight off.

    Inadequate research I guess!

  3. just dye it in half a bottle of navy RIT, and two and a half gallons of water. The red will stay bright.

  4. Well.... bright enough to see that it looks like the suit now.