March — August 2019


Though considered a faux pas in some circles, “double canopy cotton” is nonetheless a welcome — nay, championed — dressing decision at the workshop. What you have here is the field shirt and the waistcoat, one worn atop the other, and both made in the thick, heavy, weatherproof cotton from Scotland.

Running across the front of this, the cardigan, are pockets as large as pockets on cardigans will or should ever get. They’re tuck-stitch: most other parts are plain. The elbow patches, though — yes, elbow patches — are also tuck, and rather than sewn onto the sleeve are knitted seamlessly into the same knitted length.

Neat about the pockets on the field jacket is that they sit on top of and hide the drawstring channel. They have a pleat down the centre, too, aligned with the body seam. And it all links up: the body seam’s connected to the sleeve seam, the sleeve seam’s connected to the … you get the idea. Like “Dem Bones” but a jacket.

The trick with remembering what the SB3 is all about is decoding its name. SB stands for single-breast or single-breasted or perhaps even solo-breast. And the 3 — that’s a three, as in three buttons, denoting those round horn things adorning the front of the jacket. Here it is in cotton airweave from a mill in east Lancashire.

This cotton from Scotland — here in the form of a field shirt — is thick and starchy and rigid, none of which are usually the most flattering of adjectives. Here, though, at the workshop, they’re venerated above almost all else in the dogged pursuit of faintly preposterous outerwear. It acts like waxed cloth in wet weather — and over time acquires the same parchment-like patina — but is completely clean and dry to touch. It is also seriously rigid when new, but like good raw denim, for instance, softens up a ton after a few dozen wears, and, with its already soft, brushed handle, becomes in no time like man’s best friend.

The hood of the parka minor envelopes in tandem with the high neck of the coat the bulk of a good-sized head. It hugs the cheeks and temples, skims the crown: doesn’t cling, doesn’t collapse; doesn’t jut out at unflattering angles. It is supported in this regard with a structural banana piece (technical term) that sits at its base — something which you tend to see on coats with traditional collars rather than hoods on parkas — and also a belt which runs across the back of the hood, helping it better grip the head if the going gets gusty.

Belts are nothing if not divisive — some love ’em, some don’t — and so this one is designed to be removed without leaving behind any evidence of absence. It runs into a slot hidden beneath the pocket flaps, see, and from that point, runs through a channel that runs all around the waist — told you it was divisive — to the other side.

The nom de couleur of this polo shirt is porridge. And just like that classic breakfast meal, it is a light but substantial undertaking, and as fortifying as it is comforting. It is knitted in the south-west of the Isles, in contrast to actual porridge, and from which point on the analogy congeals and must never be reheated.

The field jacket, here in cotton airweave from a mill in east Lancashire, with its soft back-to-front Magyar construction and breezy airweave fabrication, is resolutely a casual thing, of course — but with at times the mildest whiff of the imperious. And the drawstring channel that runs around the waist of the field jacket — where’d it go? It is of course hidden beneath those large chest pockets, which hang loose, and thus permit the drawstring at the waist to be tightened to corset-like tightness without stopping access to the pockets.

What’s in the pocket? Quite a lot, since you ask. It is a two-way pocket, after all, with a bellows gusset round the front, and a large flap that houses the channel through which passes a large and complicated belt.

Funny thing about the weatherproof ripstop from which this trench is made is that, despite topping the charts in the strength stakes — being a double-layer ripstop, made with two different times of aramid fibres, which is the sort of stuff favoured for uniforms for swashbuckling emergency services and military personnel — it is also incredibly light and breathable. The best way to describe its look and feel, meanwhile, is as mid-weight cotton, say — but mid-weight cotton from a fairly distant utopian future, where mid-weight cotton no longer creases, fades, or ages to any noticeable degree. Incredible.

The v-neck is fully fashioned in the south-west of the British Isles, by a knitwear maker which, for at least the past hundred years, has specialised in knitted articles of the hand-framed and hand-linked variety. That’s the slow, meticulous, skilled variety, which done well achieves shape and fit well above run-o’-the-mill bulk-knitting.

A little-known fact about the polo shirt is that the shoulder seam is pitched forward to achieve a softer line over the shoulder. The sleeve is lighter in weight, too, and a plain-stitch versus the heavily textured tuck of the body, to make wearing a jacket over the top that little bit easier. There’s also a split in the hem so it breaks cleanly over the hips. And there are two shades of yarn at play: two greys of the darker order. They intermingle both in the plain-stitch sleeves of the polo, where they are pre-twisted to avoid colour-blocking, and of course the textured tuck-stitch of the body.

They call this cloth “tropical” for a reason — and not just because it comes from North Yorkshire. No — delightful though the Côte de Ugglebarnby is this time of year, they call it tropical is its open weave to let the body breathe, and its high-twist composition to keep it bouncing away from the body no matter the humidity.

These proper trousers are made with the same cloth from North Yorkshire, which uses the wool of sheep reared in the same part of the world. That they spend their days in such surroundings is reassuring, and such is the not-unrelated gnarliness of their fleece, the cloth is more springy and scratchy than a standard worsted cloth.

Worn erstwhile

    • March — August 2019
      The return of cotton airweave from east Lancashire, and a cloth from North Yorkshire that really puts the local into locally made two-ply tropical worsted.
    • November 2018 — February 2019
      The tielocken and parka joined the trench in the big-coats-with-belts aisle, while the bal returned in tweed from a mill whose loom was built by the local coffin-maker.
    • August — October 2018
      Weatherproof ripstop and tropical worsted, the debut of the field coat, and a cavalcade of cotton knits were the talk of the workshop in the warmer parts of 2018.
    • October 2017 — July 2018
      Heavyweight outerwear galore — with the old guard of trench coat, peacoat, duffle coat, and balmacaan, joined by the topcoat, donkey jacket, and flight jacket.
    • July — September 2017
      New textures for what are quaintly called the warmer months of the year — like a two-ply birdseye, replicating cloth of the 1920s, and a Flyweight flavour of Ventile.
    • September 2016 — June 2017
      Angora, peccary leather, melton, cotton and linen with some wool mixed in, even some blanketing — a melting of materials for an unusually warm end to the year.
    • April — August 2016
      Texture, let it be known, is a quality tricky to come by in the warmer months, here in the British Isles. But look — hopsacks, tuck-stitches, and herringbones galore.
    • September 2015 — March 2016
      The heavy Donegal tweed balmacaan made its debut, as did the heavy duffle coat and, indeed, the heavy fur-felt hat. Lots of heavy things, then, for the colder months.
    • March — August 2015
      New linens came to the forefront: linen from the south coast of Ireland; linen hand-woven in the Outer Hebrides; linen knitted into crewnecks and cardigans.
    • September 2014 — February 2015
      Cloth development came thick and fast: yarn-dyed Ventile at the start of the period, and tweed made with organic and heritage fleece in the Inner Hebrides at the close.
    • January — August 2014
      Along came the SB1 jacket in hand-woven indigo cotton, the link-stitch crewneck and cardigan, the porkpie Ventile cotton hat, and a brace of cottons from Lancashire.
    • September — December 2013
      The cotton-twill trench coat rounded the year off, but before that came the peacoat and SB3 in Donegal's finest, as well as lambswool knitwear both heavy and light.
    • January — August 2013
      The first half of the year began with the three-button Tetris tweed blazer and concluded with an assortment of corduroy and cotton numbers — plus some shorts.
    • August — December 2012
      Heavyweight tuck-stitch jumpers, the wool-tweed peacoat made with the one-man-mill, and the debut of both the reversible jacket and the Ventile mac.
    • December 2011 — June 2012
      Early spring was met by the British Millerain dry-wax and cashmere mac, and kept busy with the linen suit, new tour jacket, and two-button neat jacket.
    • August — November 2011
      The last few months of 2011 witnessed the release of the chalkstripe-wool seam overshirt, the hopsack tweed neat jacket, and the birdseye wool-cashmere blazer.
    • February — May 2011
      Spring and early summer saw linen semi-cutaway shirts, the horizontal cord blazer, panama stowaway overshirts, and the cycle-friendly brushed cotton tour jacket.
    • September 2010 — January 2011
      The work jacket made a first appearance in French navy cotton-twill and charcoal wool-cashmere. And, on the knitwear front, Shetland Isle moss-stitch jumpers.
    • May — August 2010
      Five mostly interchangeable garments were made over the middle months of the year: two semi-cutaway shirts, two cotton-drill trousers, and a corduroy overshirt.