Friday, 26 March 2010

Bristle Fashion

This week started with a trip to Thom Sweeney to deliver three of our beautiful bespoke shoes as samples to have in their shop. The perfect place for that 'head to toe' marriage between tailoring and bespoke shoes. Let's hope it is a fruitful collaboration.

And what a great shop it is. In the heart of Mayfair, it has four public rooms, which is a fantastic layout, as it feels like a gentleman's club. There is a vestibule with sofa, chairs and drinks cabinet; a showroom with a huge gilt mirror; a cutting room; and a sitting room where you can peruse fabrics. It has great wallpaper made from multiple images of the coolest style icons of the '60s and '70s, when English tailoring was at its hippest. It gives the place a feel of tradition matched with design... exactly what we bring to our work.

Which brings me to the second event of the week, a workshop as part of the Crafted programme we are involved in. And the subject? Branding. Initially quite a diffuse thing, the public's response to you and how you can affect it. It requires a deep look into the personality of your business which I find excruciating, but it is worthwhile. Especially when you see some well executed examples of it (see Thom Sweeney). Food for thought indeed. It requires long, laborious work which has to be distilled into a concise, clear message, both in words and images. Not an easy task.

The other thing I find challenging is to have that thinking at the forefront of your mind in every business situation you find yourself in. In a small business like ours, basically we encapsulate that thinking. It's how we speak, dress, communicate in the various media. We are the face (or interface) of carreducker (heaven help us!).

Yesterday we took possession of the latest batch of Winkers which included three new designs using fabrics from Eloise Grey (a fellow Crafted member). Using beautiful organic Scottish tweeds, they are a new direction for the Winkers, but we are really pleased with them. It goes with our ethos of collaborating with other companies to create specific models, furthering the offer.




Now, back to threads and bristles. We left it last week at the point where we attach the bristles to the threads. This is a vital stage, because if they are not attached well, the bristles come off and you spend forever trying to re-attach them. So best to get it right the first time.

Having keyed the bristle with fine sandpaper. You must twist the tapered ends of the threads which have no wax on them




Without letting go of your twist, gently pull the thread end over a piece of tar. It's the tar which will stick the thread and bristle together. I get my tar from people who are fixing the streets. Just ask them for a piece. They ask you why; you explain; they look at you strangely; and then generally give you a massive lump.
Be careful of the tapered ends. Carefully coat both of them.




Do the same with the bristles. These are more robust, so pull harder and get a thick coat of tar on them. Put tar on the keyed section, leaving the smooth section clean.




This is the critical bit. While the tar is still warm, get the finest end of the taper and lay it on the bristle. Pinch between thumb and forefinger and twist forwards once. This will attach the end.




Holding the thread in your left hand and feeding it through, twist the thread onto the bristle so that the twists sit just behind the previous ones. It is important to get it on tight, so make sure you keep tension on the thread with your left hand while you twist with the right.







When you reach the full thickness of the thread, you have finished.




The last task is the 'lock' the twist. Take your welting awl or a nail and make a hole through the thread.




Then pass the tip of the bristle through this hole and pull it. The thread passes through the hole till the end and locks it in place so that it doesn't pull off during stitching.







Put the tips of the bristles on the table and cut the end off at a bevelled angle so that they are pointed. This helps to let them pass if they meet in the middle of a hole while stitching or welting.




The last thing is to put a curve on the bristle to match your awl curve. Do this by running your nail down the tip like you would do to a ribbon while packing. But be gentle to get a perfect curve.






And that, as they say, is that. It's worth practicing this a few times. There is nothing more frustrating than your bristles coming off mid welt.

Good luck and happy shoemaking.