Rope-dyed indigo, pt. 4

The one-man-mill wishes never to weave indigo cotton again so long as he lives. The issue is not so much the perma-stained blue hands, but that his Hattersley looms were never built to weave super-fine cotton.

This, then, may not only be the first rope-dyed indigo woven in London, but the last, too. What started a long time ago — last December, on a warping mill in north-east London, through the New Year with tentative weaving of two types of twill, and last month with the development of a type of workwear made not for 19th-century continental cabbage-pickers but the work of today — is now, finally, finished. Some blazers have been made.

The material matters most. Rope-dyeing, as has been waffled about here before, is the first-rate way to dye cotton. Round and round the yarn goes, in and out of indigo dye, until saturated to its core. This means the colour comes out exceptionally rich — bright, vibrant — and also means the cloth wears and ages in the manner of top-grade denim.

And, while the twill bears a passing resemblance to denim, it becomes clear, after some acquaintance, that it is nothing like it at all. It is a surprisingly loose weave — of an imperial indigo warp and a contrasting weft — and has all the character and attributes of a meticulously hand-woven luxury cloth. It drapes like fine suiting, refuses to crease up, and can be balled up at the bottom of luggage for days on end and still emerge unruffled.

The blazer is a top-stitched exercise in letting material speak for itself. Unstructured — but with a thick Lancastrian linen lining for support — and with room to move in the key areas. Shoulders soft and dropped. Function there but hidden. Sleeves seem straight, but are cut fuller at the elbow, ergo more room for arm-bending. There are round patches at the elbow, but too these are hidden: stitched into the sleeve interior. Pockets are over-sized patches — the underside of whose flaps are faced with the contrast reverse of the indigo. Hidden within the right pocket are three narrow compartments; useful for keeping objects — utensils, stationery, instruments, tools of trades — orderly and to hand.

Back to the matter mentioned above. Weaving indigo, by hand, on a contraption built to make Harris Tweed more than a century ago: it is no mean feat. The cloth was limited in meterage and so the blazers are limited in number. Two colours are available from today. One is a twill of imperial and dark-imperial indigo; the other indigo with an ecru cotton.