Cloth and Hide · Leathercraft · Watches

Adventures in leatherworking: update

So it’s been about 5 months since I started my new hobby and I think my skill levels have certainly improved. Stitching is neater, lines are cleaner, burnishing is better.

My main improvement has come from getting some decent tools -rotary cutter has been a godsend for cutting out straight strips of leather. I’ve learnt a few tricks so that starting and finishing stitches are neater and more consistent.

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My new fav jeans

I’ve been pining after a pair of orslow 105’s for a while now. Mid/high waisted and straight leg, they tick all my boxes for fit. And to top it off, they come with a 30inch inseam so I don’t even need to get them hemmed.

I had already resolved myself to saving up for month or so to cope with the price tag when an innocuous pair of “orslow denim jeans” appeared on eBay, shipping from Japan. They were a third of the retail price and marked “preowned” but seemed to have no fading whatsoever. I enquired a bit more and they were indeed a pair of 105’s in my size and three days later I was wearing ’em.

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Cloth and Hide · Leathercraft · Watches

Strappin’ novice

So I began my leathercrafting with making some watch straps which is probably not the best thing to start off with. Watch straps have extremely low tolerances and tight gaps and are small fiddly things that you see up close. The tiniest bit of not straight stitching is immediately evident. And the tiniest bit of not straight cutting results in a buckle not fitting or not fitting between the lugs. Anyway it’s too late now, so if I can make straps I should be able to make anything?

First up, the tools. I started off with some basic tools from Birdsall Leather: pricking irons, grooving tool, needles, waxed linen thread, hole punches, and a skiving blade. I had other basics like a rubber mallet and metal ruler at home. Some cheapo wood and chopping boards finished off my beginners kit.

I had some kangaroo leather scraps which I bought from Birdsall leather so my first strap was a double layered strap which was stitched along the length. This is actually the hardest kind of strap to make so I had jumped right into the deep end. I started off by making a template out of some breakfast cereal box cardboard.

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Cloth and Hide · Musings

Clothes to survive dadhood 

Being a dad has made me appreciate tough clothes. Unless I’m at work, my clothes have to be functional and survive the rigors of being smeared with food or faecal matter, wiped with snot, scratched, scraped, and vomitted on. They have to be occasionally Napisan’d and scrubbed. It’s a hard balancing act, being a dad and trying to be stylish.

I’ve embraced the dadstyle hard. My wife says I’ve gone “full Chevy Chase”. I’ve got the whole camp mocs, Hawaiian shirt, ragged old five panel cap thing going. It’s a nice mixture of interesting and rugged that’s been surviving trial by monster toddler so far. It’s also not loungey streetwear that just about every guy is wearing these days. Camp mocs are also a great casual alternative to sneakers when wearing shorts.

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Jeans ain’t jeans

I’ve started getting into a bit of raw denim lately. For those of you who haven’t been steeping in hours of Reddit/rawdenim, raw denim is denim that still has all of its indigo dye. It hasn’t been washed and it isn’t faded. Because of this, it is stiffer than most jeans you’ll find at the shops. But after a period of wear, it will develop a fade pattern that is unique to the wearer.

The world of raw denim is a peculiar one and once you do the deep dive as I have, you’ll realise there’s a lot of ritual, tradition, hearsay, myths, and controversy on the internet. Do you soak or not before wearing for the first time? How do you soak? What are the benefits of chainstitching hems? Should you wear your jeans into the ocean??

I started off with a pair of Levi’s Vintage Clothing 501xx 1947. LVC is a fantastic line in the Levis universe which recreates iconic items of clothing from their long history. And the 501xx 1947 is, you guessed it, from 1947.

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Cloth and Hide · Musings

Amazon Launch and the Australia Tax

Seems like everyone waiting with bated breath for Amazon to launch in the land of Oz have had their shopping heaven dreams crushed. Newsflash: Amazon is not the retailer-Armageddon. Not yet anyway. Not only is the range of products on Amazon Australia much much smaller than the US counterpart, but the prices are pretty much what they normally are in Australia (read: rubbish).

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Cloth and Hide · Musings

Ethics in fashion

With the annual orgy that is Black Friday sales just around the corner and Christmas and boxing day sales looming, it pays to think about the ethics of fashion when you are diving into those deep deep discounts. Sure we all love a good bargain, and with these fast fashion brands springing up everywhere, the prices are lower than ever before. But who is really paying the price?

I watched a documentary recently where Ricky Yates went around the world looking at where sable furs and croc skins come from. Some of the ‘farms’ where they keep these animals are absolutely horrendous. The scale of operations in China are so huge now that real fur can be bought at a lower price than synthetic furs. Live plucking of down has also come under the spotlight recently. Continue reading “Ethics in fashion”

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The Not-a-Blazer Jacket for Work

I love my blazers and sportcoats. But I will admit that in 2017 it can be hard to wear a blazer or sportcoat without people asking you if you are going to an interview or “why are you so dressed up?”. In our current dressed-down society, anything beyond the boring button-up shirt plus chinos will get a second look from other people. I mean, you can just say to hell with it and wear what you want and I do wear blazers and sportcoats regularly to work, but there are other options as well that are not quite as formal but also not as boring as just a shirt and pants. I personally don’t like to wear certain kinds of outerwear indoors – long jackets/coats and anything puffy are usually out for me. These are usually just too long/unwieldy/hot indoors and belong on the coat rack. They are called outerwear for a reason.

Cardigans

These are my usual go-to if I need something other than a jacket. It’s more interesting in a heavier knit or with a bit of pattern like a cable knit. Merinos are usually too light and can be a bit boring – I like it chunky. I also like shawl collars for their shape – the collar rolls a bit like the lapels of a blazer and just looks better than a regular cardigan. I buy these a little oversized so they are a bit slouchy and relaxed looking. Plus if the weather gets cooler I can wear a thicker shirt, overshirt, or jumper/sweater underneath the cardigan. And pockets, I like pockets ’cause you need somewhere to put your hands/phone/pens/sandwich. A nice alternative to the shawl cardigan is the shirt collar cardigan – I’ve been digging some of the models from Inverallan. Chunky numbers also can come in cotton/linen/blends if wool is too hot (my building’s heating is ridiculously cranked up in winter…no wonder we have global warming). I’ve got a nice indigo cotton/wool blend cardi from RRL and it is great for our temps in Sydney.

Chore/workwear jackets

But summer is just around the corner, why the hell am I talking about knitwear?? Yeah sorry. When the mercury goes up, chore jackets and work jackets are a nice light option. French chore jackets were all the rage a few years ago thanks to the love of all things workwear and heritage but they are still a good option now. If it’s made out of a lighter weave in 100% cotton or cotton/linen blend or 100% linen they will be nice and breathable in warmer weather (they also come in wool, corduroy, and moleskin for the cool months). Continue reading “The Not-a-Blazer Jacket for Work”

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Another one bites the dust

It is with great sadness I receive the news today that Cone Mill’s White Oak plant in North Carolina is closing its doors at the end of this year. These guys have been making denim for Levi’s for over 100 years and is the last mill in America to make selvedge denim. Their parent company was bought out about a year ago and obviously dwindling profits has meant that White Oak is becoming another casualty of profit margins and changing times.

But this isn’t just another unprofitable business going down. This is the end of an era, much like the ceasing of car manufacturing in Australia. Much like how Commodores and Falcons are intrinsically Australian, denim is intrinsically American. And to no longer be able to buy quality denim woven in America is a sad day indeed. 

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