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Tender Co. Denim


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Dyeing Tshirts with woad is much the same process as with the jeans that I put up before, but because the Tshirts are white it's all a bit easier to photograph...

First the Ts get soaked in water overnight:


we did these a few weeks ago- it was an absolutely beautiful day:


(you can see the woad flowers in the field behind the washing line, under the oak tree)

The woad bath had been warming up overnight as well and is now ready to dye:


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Ian pulling a Tshirt out from soaking. The Tshirt gets a quick wring, to get the excess water out (so it doesn't dilute the dye too much), then you open it out- jersey clings to itself when it's wet, and when you're dip-dyeing you want the dye to get in between the layers of fabric. The rib at the cuffs and hem actually helps this, as it holds the body fabric into a cylinder


then it goes into the dye, on a hanger. It's very important not to touch the fabric unnecessarily- wherever you touch it could leave a mark, even the hanger can leave lines, but this is sorted out in the second dyeing,



Ian hooks the hanger over a bar so that the Tshirt can sit peacefully in the dye bath. It stays in for about half an hour. We can only do 1 Tshirt at a time- more would touch each other, and leave marks


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now comes the best bit:) the Tshirt comes out from the dye as smoothly as possible (but not too slowly). Before it's oxidised, indigo (and the indigotin in woad) is green, and it comes out this amazing colour:


it's the same for the jeans dyed in natural indigo, but it's less easy to see, as the fabric is darker to start with.

The woad dye starts to oxidise straight away, so you have to pull it out of the dye pretty quickly, and then open the garment out so that it doesn't stick to iteself

the creases on the left side of the body (below) would leave stripes on the finished garment if it wasn't opened out quickly:


I was taking these pics one handed while trying to help Ian dye at the same time... above he's passing it to me to hang up. You can see the edges of the rib are already starting to go blue. By the time I'd hung it up and shaken the body open (10seconds max), it looked like this:


you can see it turning blue as the indigotin oxidises. Under the label and rib oxidises last, as the wet dye drips down from above, and where it's wet t can;t oxidise...


it takes around 20 minutes to fully oxidise, hanging on the line in the breeze


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the fully oxidised Tshirts:


get a rinse by hand in water:


and then go in for a 40degree wash with a little vinegar, to help set the colour:



and hang out to dry on the line


This 'wedgewood' blue is very characteristic of woad, rather than indigo, which can be darker.

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on the way home waiting for the train I popped into what has become perhaps my favourite pub in the world. The waiting room at Downham Market station has been turned into:


It's tiny, has a model railway running round a shelf just below ceiling level, serves excellent local ales, and has a little library with a wood fire and loads of books, with a 50p honesty box if you want to take one away. It's absolutely lovely


read a book about home life during the 2nd World War and drank a nice pint


and that's how Tender's woad-dyed Tshirts finish the day:)

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oh no! what have I done! I thought about how much I should give away when I started this, but to be honest the whole point of this project really is that the techniques and processes kind of speak for themselves, so I don;t really think anyone could knock it off successfully without just doing the same thing, and it wouldnt really work on a large scale, so it's not all that attractive as fakes (I hope). Plus another main thing for me is the people I'm working with on this, who are all excellent, and I feel really lucjy that I can share what I'm learning...

thanks for the nice comments :)

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i was wondering, how much experience did you have w/ regards to garment making before you made your first three pair of project denim and then how'd you get in contact with all these suppliers, other than the tanner since you've already said how you found them.

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^^ well I've been making clothes at home since I was about 14, then I went to art college and did a menswear degree, then I did 18months apprenticed to a bespoke tailor. Then I got a job designing with a pretty big jeans brand (ahem) for a few years. I quit that last year and went to Kojima for a couple of months, learing indigo dyeing and seeing some amazing things! for this project though really just I've been incredibly lucky- one tip-off's led to another, which has led on to another etc. I've made a load of mistakes, but I'm learing such a lot!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Very very interested in the belts. I love that "wire" buckle. Thanks for all the posts Bill. Great stuff!

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Well, as William explained to me : it all has to do with strength. (Levi's switched to hidden rivets, Lee opted for Bar-tacks, Wrangler opted for the strongest solution...) But I think William is better placed to answer/explain this.

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Why aren't you a fan of hidden hip-pocket rivets?

hey mitch- sorry yeah I should've mentioned this when we met up...

apologies in advance if I upset any levi's-heads, this is all only personal opinion! Also I may be wrong, I've come up with this theory on my own- I;d be very interested to hear any other opinions/history

as I;m sure everyone here knows, early jeans mostly had donut (washer & burr)rivets at all the pocket corners, including the hip pockets. Like this pair of Evis (although these are nipple rivets, but it's the same construction)


as the tip of the burrs on donut rivets tend to be quite sharp, people found that the hip pocket rivets were scratching furniture and saddles (I seem to remember reading somewhere that teachers were complaining about children in jeans ruining their school chairs, although maybe kids wouldn't have been wearing jeans to school at that time?). However if any point of a pair of jeans needs a reinforcement it is probably the corners of the hip pockets, so some sort of solution was needed.

The big 3 needed to do something about it. Lee switched from a rivet to an 'X' double bar tack:


Wrangler swapped to dome rivets:


(photo from www.jeansdirect.com)

and Levi's went for


(photo from Lynn Downey's This is a pair of Levi's Jeans)

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I guess it was important for Levi's to keep the rivets, as it was that feature which they patented, and therefore that's what distinguished them from other brands. This is really my issue with hidden rivets, that they're a marketing thing, rather than all that practical.

So- here's how a hidden-rivet pocket goes on (I just made this, on a domestic sewing machine, and I wasn't massively careful, so sorry it's not that beautiful, but the prinicipal's there!)

First you cut the pocket piece- note the slits where the hidden rivet 'ears' will stick up


first you double-fold down the centre section, which will become the pocket mouth


and stitch that down and fold round the edges



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^^yup- sorry about that! just got distracted by some of the realities of running a small business single handed...

so where were we?

you place pocket upside down, in position so that the ears are in the right place


Then you fix them down with a bartack (this is the bartack which you can date certain vintage levi's by the colour of, I believe)



(I don;t have a bartack machine at home, so this quick mockup is just with a zigzag...:o)

then comes the all important rivet:


from the back: (note the bartack above the rivet)


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again please note this just a quick mockup I made rather badly just for this post- Tender is all much better constructed, on proper machinery!

So now comes the important point. The point of a rivet is to strengthen the pocket corner right? by fastening the pocket to the seat of the trousers. BUT if you look back at this you'll see that the only thing which is actually attached to the trousers in the 'ear' of the pocket, not the actual pocket itself.

anyway, after you've rivetted the ear of the pocket down, you fold the pocket back over and stitch around it:


and then you have a hidden rivet pocket:


you have to be very careful around the rivet, because it's really easy to hit the rivet with the sewing machine needle. But the main problem is that if you don;t sew outside the cut where the ear folds back, you leave an exposed cut in the fabric at the corner of the pocket, exactly where the rivet is supposed to be supporting it. You know how if you want to tear a piece of cloth you just make a little nick and then pull? Well I've seen that happen on the corners of badly-attached hidden rivet pockets.

Obviously, it shouldn't happen, because you shold sew outside the nick, but if you think about it, the only thing that's stopping a hidden-rivet pocket tearing off is about 2 stitches worth of distance between the pocket stitch and an open cut.

If you look at the back of a hidden rivet pocket, you'll see often see this gap between where the bartack ends (at the edge of the ear), and where the pocket sticth comes in, like here (yamane deluxe)


That gap's the distance saving the pocket from tearing.

As I said, if it's done right this isn't a problem, but I just feel that this level of delicacy/uncertainty just for the sake of a marketingt gimic kind of goes against the whole utilitarian spirit of a pair of jeans. That's why for Tender I've gone for a simple dome rivet, which I think solves the scratched-furniture problem perfectly, and it's stronger than a bartack and much simpler (and stronger) than a hidden rivet.

I realize this may all be pretty contentious, and as I said, it's only a theory- please weigh in with any comments:)

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I assume this is experimental stage for Tender with hidden rivets ? With that in regard, I think you did a solid job...

I personally prefer hidden rivets - whilst I think with your current style of jeans the dome rivets work nicely....

In other words - once Tender decides to go slimmer you might have to get used to hidden rivets-and the pics you posted proof that you'll be able to do it..

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I would say you have it right.

The only thing I disagree on is that an exposed dome rivet doesn't mark up furniture or truck/car paint. I used to wear wranglers a lot when I was working construction and my work truck had tons of scratches along the side of the door where I would close the door with my ass. (To add to this I love to get into my car Smokey and the bandit and dukes of hazard style. Slide across the hood on my ass and then jump through the driver side window, start my car, and then commence my get away..... in my dreams.)

Also, dome rivets, don't stay nice an smooth after sitting on some concrete for a decent amount of time. They start to get little scratches and burrs, which can also dig into wood furniture.

Anyways, the exposed rivet is the strongest way to hold down a back pocket and the dome rivet tears up the furniture/saddle way less than a nipple rivet.

Thanks for all this information. I always thought that the little tear in a back pocket of a hidden rivet could potentially be troublesome and thanks for showing why.

Also, are we referring to back pockets as hip pockets? One thing that really tears up truck paint when you are unloading stuff from the side of the bed, is the rivet on the side of the jeans that is usually a nipple rivet that holds the front leg to the pocket on the side seam. There needs to be a hidden rivet solution for that thing.

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