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Tender Co. Denim


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The first carding send out a beautiful stream of wool, still very soft and easily breakable. This stream of fibre is sent through yet another, finer carding system to further even out the individual staples of wool:











At the end of the carding process, the now-parallel fibre comes out of the final set of rollers and onto a tacky conveyor belt which is cut into strips and divides out, pulling the fibre with it into strips about 1†wide:



The strips of the fibre streams are pulled through a set of finely ridged, slightly offset rollers, which gives the wool a ‘false twist’, just enough to form it into a circular cross-section shape, so that it can be wound up onto reels:





At this stage, the product is still just a fine stream of fibre, it’s not yet been spun into yarn and is easy to pull apart:




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The reels of carded fibre are set in rows onto bars above the spinning machines. Because the density of the yarn at the end is much higher than the reels of fibre, a big reel of fibre will spin down to a single cone of spun yarn:



This is ring-spinning (as in ringspun denim, which Tender’s is, for that matter), and is a bit difficult to photograph, as it takes place at quite high speed. The fibre strand is drawn down through a thin ring (the loop in the horizontal wire in this photo):

and down through a wider ring which moves up an down over a revolving plastic tube, which will become the centre of the reel of yarn. The difference in diameter between the small ring at the top and the big ring at the bottom determines the character of the twist of the yarn (as well as the direction in which the tube rotates, for S or Z twist yarn).
All of this takes place in long rows of spinning machines:
Because of the way that ring-spinning works, only fairly small reels of yarn can be spun, too small to be useful in weaving:
In cheaper production, yarn would be knotted together to create the requisite length, but this can cause breakages and unevenness in the fabric, so the yarn here is spliced together:
The splicing machine takes 4 spun reels of yarn and winds them up in turn onto a bigger ‘package’ at the top. at the end of each reel, a mchanical arm brings up the end of a new reel and uses a blast of air to tightly spin the two ends together, continuing the single yarn:
Edited by rodeo bill
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The packages of yarn amount to 60m each, if unwound, which is the length of a woven ‘piece’ of cloth. Multiple pieces can be woven in succession, but one is manually linked onto the next and will later be cut apart for packing onto rolls. The yarn is set up onto huge arrays, called ‘creels’, and each package has its end thread through a series of punched holes, leading them up to a final set of holes which arrange the yarn out into a flat plane: 

Threading up the creels is an incredibly fiddly and painstaking job, but is also (quote) “mind numbing†so the job is rotated out so that nobody needs to do it day after day.
The yarn is wound from the creels directly onto the warp beam. This looks like a gigantic (3m wide) cotton reel, but whereas a cotton reel holds a single yarn wound round-and-round and up-and-down, the warp beam holds many separate, parallel coils of yarn- each package on the creels ends up being a single, 60m long coil of yarn on he warp beam, next to another, next to another.
When the beam is full (and the creels are empty), it is rolled out onto the weaving floor, and set into a loom. The loom has matching beams on the front (holding the warp ready to be woven) and on the back (where the woven fabric is collected), and it is transferred from one to the other through the loom itself, which adds the weft (fill) and converts the yarn into cloth.
These looms are ‘rapier’ type, as opposed to older shuttle looms or more modern air-blown machines. Any loom works by picking up alternating warp yarns, running through a weft yarn, then switching the warp yarns back, creating some sort of lattice (the exact arrangement will determine the pattern of the fabric):20733271333_8d3ce16ace_c.jpg
Edited by rodeo bill
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In a rapier loom, a tape runs backwards and forwards from both sides, with small mechanical pincers at the ends. A pincer picks up the weft yarn, pulls it into the middle of the loom where it is collected by the other pincer and pulled out to the opposite side. At this point a knife cuts the weft yarn (leaving a loose edge, as opposed to the closed woven ‘self’edge of a shuttle loomed fabric). There are advantages to all the different weaving methods. The nice thing about a rapier loom is that it is fast and very even, allowing an extremely high level of consistency which is paramount with fine woollen fabrics.









As the fabric comes off the loom, it is stretched past a bright light, which will show up any flaws. This is the first of three inspections through the finishing process:

Finally the cloth is taken off the looms and held in the warehouse before being taken off for finishing.
Finishing later....
Edited by rodeo bill
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Part II...


First, the fabric is run through a machine which effectively washes it in steam, shrinking it by about 10%, and treats it with a light soap solution which removes the oil added in for spinning and weaving:
This is the most basic finishing, and it is at this stage that Tender’s ‘unfinished’ box cloth is rolled up and cut into clothes (as in Jason’s jacket above):
(more garment photos at the end of this piece- the fabric at this 'unfinished' stage is really lovely, with a loose, soft texture and a lot of variation in yarn colour, with specks of darker wool and some remaining bits of plant matter than give it a great character)
For the full finishing process, though, we go on to a rinse in a sulphuric acid bath, which burns away any residual plant matter:
Now comes one of the coolest parts. After another rinse to get rid of the acid in the cloth, and put in a second weakly soapy solution, the fabric is pulled into a loose rope and fed into a narrow machine fitted with two large rollers made out of solid end-grain oak. They’re deep in the machine so were difficult to photograph, but this should give some sort of an idea:
The cloth is fed in all the way through the machine, until the ends of the piece of fabric can be joined together with a tacking stitch, forming a continuous loop as you might create on a pasta machine. (sorry I don't have any photos of this process- th machines were being cleaned when I was shown round) This is then run through the tightly clamped oak rollers for 4-5 hours, which heavily tumbles the cloth, shrinks it significantly (by about a third) and gives it a fantastic depth and density. It’s very rare for a mill to still use solid oak rollers in this process, but it gives a richness that synthetic pads can’t achieve. 
After the process is finished, some fluff from the surface of the cloth is left at the bottom of the barrel:
and the cloth itself look like this:21231363129_727b16ea39_c.jpg
(note that the edges are no longer loose- the tumbling process felts up any stray threads. A true box cloth can be cut and left raw, without needing any further finishing)
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The next process is to raise and brush down the surface of the front side of the fabric (the back side isn’t finished any further). Raising and brushing causes a nap, or directional pile, which acts like roof tiles, overlapping and causing rain or dust to run straight off the cloth without having time to soak in- this is why corduroy was traditionally used for labourer’s clothing, box cloth for coachmen’s overcoats, and velvet for smoking jackets- the nap would allow ash to brush off easily without marking the cloth). First the cloth is run through a set of finely spike rollers, quite similar to the carding that took place on the fibre right at the beginning of the process:



This time, though, the rotation is much slower, to prevent any damage. The fabric is run through this machine 4 or 5 times, and at the end of each run, it passes through razor-sharp angled spinning blades, which shave off the ends of the pile being raised up. If it wasn’t for these blades, repeated running through the raising machine wouldn’t have any effect, as the longer raised fibres would protect the shorter ones from being pulled up, but by trimming it back each time the largest possible proportion of fibres will be pulled up:

After the pile has been raised, the cloth is run through another, similar, machine, but with brushes on only one side, and smooth rollers on the other. The rollers push the fabric against the brushes, as it is pulled through and steamed, causing the pile to be pushed down all in the same direction, creating the nap:
this machine, too, was being hosed down during my visit:
After going through these rollers, wet, the cloth keeps the dense, slightly felted feeling that it got on the oak tumblers, but now has a deep lustrous pile to it, as well:
At this point the fabric is finished, and it is now piece dyed, in huge washing machines, each of which hold the entire ‘piece’ of cloth (now shrunk from 60m to around 40m):
After dyeing, the cloth is slowly cooled in large ‘pots’ which allow the wool fibres to relax back:
The cloth (which at this point is back in a wet ball) is then pulled up through a machine which untwists it and lays it down into soft folds on a dolly. This is then wheeled through into a final run of drying and roller-pressing between wrappers of cotton cloth, which protect it as it dries, before finally being passed through another set of knife rollers to catch any loose long fibres, over another inspection light box, rolled up as finished cloth and bailed.
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The finished navy blue box cloth has a beautiful soft sheen to it and an incredible depth and weight. Here are a few made up pieces, in the finished navy fabric and also in the unfinished cloth, rinsed or dyed with woad and ochre. The last jacket is made from the unfinished cloth on the outside, lined with the finished cloth inside.


Type 450 High Backed Shirt in woad unfinished box cloth:
Type 420 Tail Shirt in ochre unfinished box cloth:
Type 450 High Backed Shirt in navy finished box cloth:
Type 950 Overcoat in navy finished box cloth lined with barge blue calico:
Type 950 Double Box Cloth Overcoat in ecru unfinished box cloth lined with navy finished box cloth:
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Great, interesting posts!


I really love the fabrics and thought that goes into them, it's a bummer because the Tender aesthetic is just not for me for the most part (too boxy and... "raw" for my taste). Maybe I'll get a T-Shirt or something some time ;)

Edited by Cucoo
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^thanks for this! Cucoo, really appreciate your words- maybe you'll come round one day  ;)

Chicote, email me if you're after anything in particular- I'll be happy to point you in the right direction if I can. For a start, if it helps, The Reed has some new season shirts in stock from a size 1- they're modelled on a woman but they're the same shirts! It's a great site, and a very good blog too- worth a look in any case.

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Latest edition of Popeye is out:



I knew there was something on Tender in it, but looking through there are 7 pages with something in them! The main one, which I was expecting, is this:


Popeye asked British designers to take them somewhere special in London. I took them to the Soane museum, which is a fantastic place to visit, and then on to the Camera Cafe round the corner, which is slightly strange but really nice, with good coffee and amazing cameras and kit, and very friendly people.


But as a bonus, they also published some Trestle Shop stuff:



and used some Unborn jeans (not sure which fit, I'd guess 130) in 3 other shoots:




(^there's another, similar shot in this series with the same jeans)




and then I also spotted a piece about the London Oi Polloi store, and there's a short sleeved wattle butterfly shirt on the wall  :)


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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi William - is there anything you can tell us about your new watch project yet - or is it all under wraps for the time being?

Sorry for the delay, but things are starting to happen! More in the next few weeks, and a full site will be up at www.gstp.watch early November, but for anyone in Kyoto, Loftman are doing a special introduction trunk show at the COOP E-Ma store. Details here


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I did my first experimentation with dyeing and used a few of my Tender items. I dyed some socks, a pair of shorts and jacket. The socks were pretty faded and both the jacket and shorts where white/ecru and just not getting enough wear. Here are the results, far from professional but still pretty cool looking. All of them will definitely get more wear now with the new color. Cool too to see the variation of fabrics getting different results from the same dye. 23fc5c9d-e606-4bdd-9182-e7e09229325b_zps














PS. This was the jacket that I added length onto. Notice the original Tender stitching picked up the dye while the altered stitching stayed white.

Edited by jason995511
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I did another experimental dye. I had the Stock Collar shirt in Carrot that I was hoping would fade faster than it was, so I decided to dye it with a denim blue. It turned out kind of a dull purple. See what you think.


Before Dye:





After Dye:








The carrot stills peaks out, which I like and think will look better with some wear and washes:



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Anybody care to comment on the breathability of these 17oz denim trews from New State Store?:


I'm thinking about picking them up, but I live in a fairly hot and humid climate and don't need another pair of jeans I can only wear in the coolest months.


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^thanks for this. This version is the full weight 17oz denim, which is pretty heavy. I wear my jeans (same denim) all year round, including in New York and Tokyo, which get very hot, but they're not lightweight jeans, and it's quite a densely woven fabric. Anyone else who can chime in, these are the same denim as all other Tender jeans (not the lightweight denim special edition). I hope this helps!

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^thanks for this. I just had 2 rolls of the lightweight denim, and it was pretty much all made up, but I think there may be enough for a couple of pairs of something at some point. I can't promise when, I'm afraid, but please email me if you'd like more details- I think I may have a pair or two in the studio, too, I'll have to check. In the meantime, if you're a size 5, it looks like Standard & Strange have a pair of lightweight woad 129s here. Sorry not to be more help, but let me know if you have any questions.

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  • 2 weeks later...

^thanks brandnew.


Sorry for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks. I've been really busy, largely with GS/TP, which is now live! www.gstp.watch


Sorry if this is slightly off-topic, but here are a few photos of watches being cased in Tokyo:









I'm teaching today, so not much time to put anything more up, but here's a quick wrist shot of the 'fried eggs' dial watch on a Hill-Side strap


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Thanks William - gorgeous watch designs. It is interesting to see a number of them with quartz movements - is this because they aren't under the Tender banner or simply for the price point they offer given it seems to be a more dedicated range than the Tender Loco watches?

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thank you Pierogas! Glad you like them  :)


Yes there are quartz and manual options for the movements- first off, you're right these aren't Tender branded at all (and they're a slightly different concept and aesthetic to Tender, too) and the idea is that GS/TP is a standalone dedicated watch brand, albeit a very small one!


It was important for me personally to put some mechanical options into the range, but having quartz in there too gives us choices at a lower price, too. It's a nice quality Seiko-Epson movement, made in Iwate, and there's no seconds hand on the quartz options, so you don't get a quartz tick (there's a sweep seconds on the manual watches, which have 17jewel Miyota movements). Part of the reason, also, is that the dials are laid out like pocket watches, but these are small watches by modern standards (the original idea was to come up with a brand that references old military watches, and maintains an authentic early-wristwatch size, without feeling like it's a pastiche). A pocket watch of this era would have had small subsidiary seconds, but it got very cramped when I looked at doing that, as well as technically not that easy within a 28mm case.


So the flyer's watch has a hand-wound movement with sweep seconds, and is the the cleanest dial design, based on pilot's wristwatches:



and the 3 other watches, drawn from pocket watch designs, have quartz movements and come in at a lower price. Hope this makes sense! Sorry for the ramble...


Photo above from Branch, by the way, who have the full range online here and a nice post here.

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