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Tender Co. Denim


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^^ for the first season the smallest size is 2 (measures 30" true waist). For the second season I'm also doing a slimmer fit, type 130, as well as the 132, but again the smallest size will probably be a 2, although depending on demand I may be able do a 1 (28) as well.

So a couple of weeks ago I went dyeing....


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the jackets are now soaked through, and the unsanforized denim has shrunk a fair bit (the labels are now a bit pillowy etc), and has actually lost a bit of it's own indigo, so the water's already a bit blue.


at this point I should introduce Aviva, a textiles student at Norwich University, who helps Ian out with dyeing sometimes- she's lovely, and it makes all the difference having an extra pair of hands



the mangle gets rid of the excess water, so that when the jeans or jacket go into the dye bath they don't dilute it too much.


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the jacket stays in the indigo for about 20 minutes, with a bt of a stir, to make sure the fibres are fully saturated, and then out it comes, as smoothly as possible (when I was learning synthetic indigo in Kojima it was all about keeping the fabric moving quickly, and in and out of the dye, but Ian's natural method (without the oxidant chemicals in the dye bath) is much slower and more relaxing;))


there's a slight gap in photos now, as the next bit needs everyone to have their hands full... I pull the jacket out of the dye and hold it over the bucket next to the bath to drip (this dye goes back in the bath). While I'm holding it Ian opens the jacket out and shakes off the extra drips, then he holds it up to the line, where Aviva's holding clamps open for it to fix up... This all happens really quickly, while the indigo's oxidising. If it oxidises while the fabric's folded, or if some parts oxidise before others, you get big streaks and spots across the garment.

Excuse me if this is common knowledge, but the whole point about oxidising indigo is that the dye turns from green to blue only as it hits the air (the bubbles on the top of the dye bath are blue because they're in contact with the air, under the surface the liquid's green, and unfortunately pretty much mpossible to photograph!) Once the dye's oxidised it won't dye fabric again until the bath's been reactivated, hence trying to reduce air bubbles in the clothes.

Here's the fabric straight out of the dye bath- it starts to go blue pretty quickly, but you can stll just about see the green:


the herringbone tape down the inside fronts of the jacket (where the lining will button in) looks particularly fantastic I think



the garments need to hang up for around 45 minutes to fully oxidise. The bottom of the garment (or top if it's hung upside down) is the last bit to go, as the drips run down, keeping it wet the longest.


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once the jackets have reoxidised, they're get a quick rinse in cold water:


and then they go in the washing machine, with a splash of vinegar to help set the dye:

and then back outside to dry out fully on the line. we've been really lucky with the weather- it was an absolutely perfect drying day, sunny with a good breeze:



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as they come out you can really see how green the dye is before it's oxidized:


the jeans come out as quickly and smoothly as possible


and get opened out so that air can get into the legs:


you get some lovely colours in the bubbles:


then the jeans hange up to oxidize, same as the jackets ealier:



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^^great stuff lance- you'll have to post up pictures!

the jeans oxidize, get another dip, reoxodize, get a rinse and a wash, and then hang up to dry:


and we have hand-dyed natural indigo Tender Co. jackets and jeans ready to take home:



and home, knackered, to London after about 14 hours of dyeing...


a very good day! :)

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^^ thanks! very glad you're interested. The first collection is just being finished off at the moment (I spent all weekend printing out swingtag labels and sewing on buttons), and should be delivered to shops early June. I'm working on a slimmer fit at the moment, which'll go into the second season

not sure if I can hold myself until the second season, especially after I saw those processes. All of your products look perfect! I guess I'll start at the belt. ^^

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Met up with Rob from Lineage of Influence during the week, lovely blog, lovely bloke, and he's done an extremely kind post with some nice detail shots- http://lineageofinfluence.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/made-with-tender-loving-care/

Bit of shameless self-publicity, but it's an excellent blog updated pretty much every day that's well worth a look if people don't know it already.

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You deserve all the good publicity you get, Bill. This project is inspirational. If I can ever buy something of yours (anything! Everything!) I'll feel awesome paying for the item and for all the pictures in this thread.

Would you be interested to hear some ideas for other artists you could work with?

Speaking of buying, everything is now available on superdenim. Decent product pics there.

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yes Lewis told me- to be honest I'm delighted! Few and Far (www.fewandfar.net) in London have some woad Tshirts, and Tenue de Nimes, www.hickorees.com, Unionmade, and Douglas Fir will all get their deliveries in the next week or so.

Speaking of Tshirts- let me introduce Phil and Denise:):


The first job is to cut out the jersey, which is loopwheeled in England (no photos yet- I'm hoping to visit sometime soon), so the fabric is layered up, and arranged under the paper pattern:


the bosy is cut in one piece, with no shoulder seam, so the fabric has to be cut folded across the shoulder, and the only other pattern piece is the sleeves, which come out on the doubled fabric. Phil marks out the shapes with a pencil:


The main panels get cut with an electric saw. These are pretty lethal- it's basically a very long razor blade which vibrates so fast you can't see it move. There's a base plate which moves underneath the fabric, lifting it slightly so that the blad can cut the bottom layer:




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Because the neck hole is slightly lower at the front than the back (because the head is slightly forward of the shoulders), it can;t be cut out on the same fold as the shoulders, so each one gets cut out by hand, with scissors:


Once the body and sleeves are cut out, we also need 4 strips of rib, for the front and back hems and for the sleeves.


Tender Tshirt rib is 100% cotton- most Tshirts have a bit of elastane in the rib, which keeps it looking fresh on the hanger and gives it a good elasticity. The problem is that over years of washing the elastane loses its stretch and the garment loses its shape. The rib on Tender Tshirts isn;t quite as stretchy, but to counter this it's put on short (pulled out to sew onto the body fabric). This takes more skill to sew on (the tightness has to be even along the seam, which can only really be judged by eye/experience, but the difference in tension of the bosy and cuff is built into the garment and can't be lost over time. In fact the rib gets slightly tighter and firmer with long-term washing.

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So everythimg's cut, and Denise is ready to sew them up. First finding the right thread:


and setting up the overlocker (serger)


The first job is to sew the rib on to the body, neck, and sleeves, folded double. This is overlocked on, and the washing tab goes on with the front hem rib:


The neck rib is cut with a V at each end, so that when it's folded and sewn to the Tshirt it lies flat (square ends would mean the rib would stick up vertically from the garment) I took these pictures when we were doing the samples, just before Christmas, hence the tinsle...

Once the Rib has been overlocked on, the pieces go over to be cover-stitched on a flatlock machine. This goes over the top of the seam, and reinforces it. It was always used on sweatshirts, and it just makes tthe seam that bit stronger. I've put it on all the Tshirt seams except the armhole, as it also stiffens the seam, and you don;t want the armhole standing out.


Now the rib is fixed on the sleeves get sewn to the body, and the side seam of the body and sleeve is overlocked in one go.


The side seams are then run over with the flatlocker, and the ends of the seams (where the flatlock runs off) get a little bartack to stop them coming apart. Then the label gets sewn on, across the neck rib:


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finally the Tshirts get a good press on a vacuum table


and the Tshirt's finished


Off to the printers'. On the way I saw this old warehouse building. It's lovely to find places still making things in England, but a bit sad to see these old buildings that once would have employed hundreds of people now empty or used for other purposes...


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