PROCESS: The Making of an S.E.H Kelly Pea Coat
Step 1 / SKETCHING
Garments always start at the workshop, with a blank sheet of paper, a pen, and a halfway-empty head. Computers have never been our forte.
Step 2 / Pattern-Cutting
We work with a local and long-in-the-tooth pattern-cutter to work the sketch into a blueprint from which the north London outerwear factory can work. This takes two weeks: the pattern repeatedly tweaked until first the shape and balance, and then the details, are just right.
STEP 3 / Ordering Yarn
The cloth for the peacoat is a bespoke wool-tweed, coined (for some reason) the “Space Invader” twill. We work with a one-man mill, situated in east London, near to our workshop. He has sourced, relocated, and restored a bunch of 19-century, narrow-width, looms from West Yorkshire. The first stage here is to select the yarn. For this project, we order three colours of undyed yarn, shorn from rare and heritage breeds of British sheep. This is an undertaking whose outcome is uncertain. This yarn has seldom if ever been used in this way before.
Step 4 / Winding
The yarn takes four weeks to arrive, and when it does, it is in the form of several 10,000 metre cones. The one-man-mill then begins winding the warp for the yarn on his 1943-edition sectional warping drum. The yarn is split out onto 144 “perns”, and these are used to feed the warper. It takes two solid days and requires the upmost concentration to maintain tension and avoid breakages — especially with the thick, unruly British yarn.
Step 5 / Weaving
Once wound, the warp is relocated to the loom, and the weft is loaded into 184 individual perns, which are then loaded into shuttles. The one-man-mill takes great pleasure in modifying the loom to weave the Space Invader twill. Once set up, it’s time to pedal and time to concentrate once more, again for two days. Two colours of Space Invader cloth are made — one dark brown, for the body, and one lighter, for constrast details.
Step 6 / Sampling
Once the cloth is made, its weight and characteristics well understood, the pattern from the second stage is revisited and tweaked. A prototype in a comparable but less expensive cloth is then made. The matters of making — how much fusing is required in the collar, how the arms should be lined, etc. — are reviewed and finalised.
Step 7 / Production
The peacoat goes into work. The cloth is cut by the cutter, according to the pattern, and the garment is assembled by one or two seamsters. Six peacoats are made over three days. Production is rarely without its hitches ‚Äî exploding button-hole machines and the like. Quality control follows, and then the garments are taken from the factory (north-east London) to the workshop (east London) for the weekend trade.
Dec 4, 2012