Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Rummaging Through Tweedy's Bottom Drawer
We continue our Corgi Hosiery Week at Tweed Towers by rummaging through my bottom drawer. Hark, I spy some fine living examples of their wares: the Handmade Cashmere Sock and the Walking Socks in Shetland Wool.
The Corgi Handmade Cashmere Sock
Corgi cashmere socks use the best Himalayan cashmere, which is "taken from the underbelly of goats living high in the mountains of Inner Mongolia and the Xinjiang region of China".
Corgi explains a little bit about this ripping yarn:
"The fibres we use are the finest available, averaging only 156 microns in diameter – the equivalent to one quarter the diameter of human hair. The yarn is then processed and dyed in the UK by the world’s leading cashmere yarn manufacturer before we knit it into our garments. Unless clearly stated on our labels, we never blend or mix cashmere fibres with other materials in our yarn. Likewise, we use only the very best quality pure wools and cottons, always looking for the softest and most luxurious handle."
You can see mine (above), back from a tour of duty in Amsterdam. What a sock, what a feeling, like a soft caress on the feet whilst walking. Superb travelling companions.
Tweedy's Thought: Digressing slightly, have you noticed how the central pubs of Amsterdam resemble rest homes for superannuated football hooligans?
It takes around three hours to produce a pair of the socks. They are made by Corgi's highly-skilled workers on a traditional hand-knitting machine.
Cashmere socks are not designed for everyday wear and need some care when washing. Corgi's advice: wash the socks by hand in a basin filled with cool water and a touch of soap, before gently reshaping them and letting them dry naturally.
Corgi Walking Socks in Shetland Wool
Warm, long and strong, the Corgi walking socks are exactly how you like your country hosiery as they slip inside a Hunter boot.
Designed and manufactured for comfort and durability, the socks have a reinforced heel and toe. The socks are made from Shetland wool sourced directly from Jamiesons of Shetland.
The Art of Corgi Sock Manufacture
Corgi's socks are designed at their factory in Ammanford, Wales, and knitted on a variety of specialised knitting machines. One such machine is the hand-operated Griswold machine, which is over one hundred years old and part of the machinery used in founder Glyn Jones' day. Much the wool Corgi use is Australian Merino that is bought from spinning and dyeing companies in Italy.
The toe of every sock Corgi make is closed using the traditional method of hand-linking. The socks are knitted as long tubes with the toe section left open. They are then passed on to the hand-linkers who line up the stitches on the front and back of each toe before stitching them together. Hand-linking results in a completely flat seam, ensuring maximum comfort for the sock wearer.
The socks are then washed and dried, before being hand-turned - checked, tightened and trimmed. The socks are pressed on wooden size boards in a traditional press, the same one that has been used at Corgi for the past 60 years. Finally each pair of socks is labelled by hand before being packed and shipped.
Monday, 29 October 2012
Corgi Hosiery - Premiership Socks
If one was susceptible to conspiracy theories, it's possible to believe that the cognoscenti of men's hosiery had made a determined effort to keep Corgi socks to themselves over the years. Taking in the admiring glances as they flashed an ankle, but saying nothing.
But lines of communication have opened up in the sock world in recent years, and more people are getting to hear about these Welsh wonders as quality shops around the world ship in Corgi socks.
Corgi Hosiery celebrates its 120th anniversary, erm, last month. And we're belatedly joining in the celebration at Tweed Towers with Corgi Hosiery Week. So let's put our best hand-linked sock-clad foot forward and learn a little about the company.
Corgi 1892 - History of the Royal Sock Maker
Corgi Hosiery has been manufacturing socks in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales since 1893. The company was started by the wonderfully Welsh-sounding Rhys Jones and remains a family business five generations later. As you probably guessed, the company takes its present name from the Welsh breed of dog favoured by the Queen.
The company began by making robust working socks for local colliers and a range of fine quality socks for them to wear to chapel on Sundays. The socks were made on Griswold knitting machines that are still in use.
Two generations later, with grand-daughter Enid and her husband Glyn at the helm, automatic machinery and an expanded workforce enabled the company to help out with war effort to make socks for the Allied forces in the Second World War. During this period Corgi also began to innovate with design, pushing their Griswold machines as far as they could.
That's Glyn at the top in 1963 holding some classic Argyle pattern socks.
In 1989 Corgi was awarded a Royal Warrant by his Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales - a significant mark of quality from Britain's best-dressed man.
The socks are beloved in Anglo-America and Japan, as well as the UK, because this Welsh dynamo of a company has never compromised on quality or the integrity of its products, nor relinquished its provenance. Corgi will survive as long as there are many people who value such things.
Hands and Feet - Corgi and Dents Join Forces in 2008
There's a certain symmetry when a heritage company that makes socks joins forces with one that makes gloves. And that's what happened when Cogi joined Dents the Wiltshire glove maker in 2008. People who enjoy the quality of a Corgi sock on their feet will feel the same about a glove from Dents on their hand. People like you, kind reader.
Monday, 22 October 2012
The Tweed Pig vs. Amsterdam
A confession readers. I'm having trouble keeping the good ship Tweedy on an even keel right now. You may have spotted a certain erraticism creeping in, along with one or two 'technical glitches'.
The thing is I'm caught up in wedding celebrations in Amsterdam and there are just too many bloody diversions here. Being Amsterdam, the diversions won't translate readily into Tweed Pig fodder. However, I've set aside a little time to submit a field report while I remain gleefully trapped here.
A Cream Tea Oasis - Greenwoods English Tea Room
If you find the flagrant hedonism of Amsterdam all too much, you should try one of the Greenwoods Tea Rooms for a reviving cream tea or high tea.
My Travelling Companions - Corgi Hosiery
I am lucky enough to be on the trip with two of the most comfortable companions I've ever known. Step forward Handmade Cashmere Socks by Corgi. Seen with Clarks desert boots and moleskin trousers above. With the desert boots, I'm not sure my feet could ever be more comfortable yomping round the canals of the Dutch capital.
We'll be doing a big feature on Corgi soon, mark my words.
THE Song of Amsterdam
H'm, who to sing us THE song of Amsterdam? Brel? Walker? Bowie? I think it has to be Walker. Probably the finest English-language version. Best listened to while grazing on a stroopwafel or two, or possibly enjoying a De Olifant.
Friday, 19 October 2012
Barry Humphries - The Man, The Music
Actor, singer, painter, writer, female impersonator, wearer of fedora hats and floppy deco haircuts, Barry Humphries does it all.
You'll know all this, but did you know about the compilations he made of his favourite gramophone records for Bilarm Music in Australia - the So Rare series? (So Rare 1, So Rare 2, So Rare 3, So Rare 4)
The So Rare series sees Mr Humphries compiling some of his favourite vintage 78 song recordings from the 20s and 30s in three volumes on CD.
Forget dubstep, it's time to get back to the two-step.
Very hard to get hold of these recordings in the UK. It might be easier where you are. The music is obviously perfect as background for afternoon tea. We tend to indulge in far more teas through winter at Tweed Towers, I don't know about you?
It's also good shaving music, but, ahem, beware singing the lyrics of Hildegarde's So Rare back to yourself in the mirror.
Thursday, 18 October 2012
"Breakfast for one at nine please. Green figs, yoghurt, coffee, very black."
Like a steely-eyed assassin from Kurosawa's Seven Samurai I wielded my new pocket knife at the breakfast table. I was using it to cut figs and enjoy a James Bond-style figs and yoghurt breakfast - like the one he ate in From Russia with Love when he was in Istanbul.
I'm a 'Full English' with black pudding man normally, and I'm not sure the knife's meant for the task, but I was eager to try it out. I've earmarked it for fruit and salami cutting ops in the summer hols next year. It performed reasonably well.
Higonokami Penknife from Toast
The knife is a traditional Japanese carpenter's knife. Made in Japan, it is available from Toast in the UK. The triple-layered carbon steel blade opens out from the brass handle like a straight razor. A beauty.
I think we'll move on to cover more gentleman's knives, actually. I know a few Sheffield names we should introduce.
Tuesday, 16 October 2012
Tweedy Messes with One of the Big Boys of Beer
Mrs T's been trying her hand at the arty photo again (above). We're reviewing Brewdog's Tokyo beer here, so I said go out and capture in a photograph what the city of Tokyo says to you. Hard to achieve in the West Country of England, I'll grant her that. I don't think she quite fulfilled the brief. Either that or what the city of Tokyo conjures up in her mind differs greatly from what it conjures in yours or mine. Marks for trying Mrs T.
Brewdog is a Scottish craft beer brewer, based in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, that was established in 2006 by James Watt and Martin Dickie. The brewer is notorious for the strength of some of its beers, The End of History being an eye-popping 55% ABV produced in a very limited run. That's a tad strong for old Tweedy, but Tokyo, the first of the infamous strong ones, weighs in at a hefty 18% ABV.
As James says, "Our mission when we set up BrewDog was to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. And that is still our biggest mission today."
Brewdog's Tokyo Beer
Tokyo is a stout made with a combination of malts, jasmine and cranberries, which is then "dry-hopped" after fermentation and aged on oak chips.
Pitch black in the glass, with a nice beige head, there's caramel, raisins and sherry in the aroma. The taste has the initial roasted malt of a stout, then warmth and sweet fruits follow. My tasting scribble mentions vanilla, berries and liquorice. Smoother and sweeter than you might expect considering the strength. Delicious. The beer boffins say it would make a good beer to enjoy with sweet things.
Very drinkable, despite the alcohol content. So much so I polished off the bottle myself.
I'd like to say that by the end of the bottle the colours of the walls at Tweed Towers started to rotate into a phantasmagorical kaleidoscope and the ends of my Church's slippers stretched out in front of me and shook each other's hands.
The reality is that it served as a precursor to sleepily nebulous thoughts about Tokyo and the last thing I bought that was made in Japan. I'll tell you...
Monday, 15 October 2012
Tweed Underwear Anyone?
If you so desire, you could wear tweed from head to toe and decorate your house in the stuff too. We've reported on Harrington jackets made of it, desert boots, even wash bags from our very dear friends at An English Hand.
I don't think we've covered tweed gloves. But Simon Carter has some and bags too - in Harris Tweed no less.
We may have to wait a while to feature tweed underwear though. (Can it be done?)
About Simon Carter
Simon Carter started his menswear and accessories business 27 years ago by selling pewter brooches in the King's Road, London. Today you'll find his eponymous shops in some of the nicest streets of London (Shepherd Market, Lamb's Conduit and Westow) and in Buckinghamshire (Great Missenden, Wendover). The products are also stocked in some of our favourite shops in the capital, including Liberty and Fortnum and Mason.
The aim of the company is to appeal to those with a "British taste for inventive, understated chic".
Harris Tweed Gloves
The first Harris Tweed gloves came out last year as part of the centenary celebration of the cloth. The gloves are teamed with soft nappa leather in two colours. They are lined in a warm and soft cashmere and wool blend.
Harris Tweed Bags
Carter also produce bags in leather and tweed. The Rye satchel in khaki canvas and black leather is finished with tweed in charcoal or green.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Robbie Humphries - Humphries and Begg
Are you mesmerised by the moustache in the photo above? We were. It belongs to Robbie Humphries and made him an instant dear friend of The Tweed Pig. Robbie Humphries is one of the names behind the London-based clothing label Humphries and Begg and singer in the bands The Cash Cows and Maybe Myrtle Tyrtle (who recorded the rather jolly We're Not Alone, as you'll recall).
About the Photo - Of Moustaches and Bow Ties
Tell us about the photo Robbie.
"The occasion is my very good friends wedding. I was playing in the band, The Cash Cows, it was a beautiful day and one of the best weddings I've been to. My tails jacket was made in Vienna. I got it second hand and it fits me just right. I have a tailored shirt on made by my Humphries and Begg. We don't often do white shirts, as we usually focus a lot more on colour. The Bow tie is very interesting, an American "butterfly" model that simply clasps onto my shirt collar. Sadly it was lost when my bag was stolen from a gig just before Christmas.
"The Moustache... I started growing a moustache while travelling round Europe in my first year at university. A friend suggested that I just let it grow and so I did. I got lots of attention from old Greek ladies who said I was like the sailor boys of their youth. It made me laugh when I looked in the mirror, to be honest it still does!"
The story of the moustache then took the familiar path of moustache-based existential angst followed by redemptive reconciliation. Was Robbie wearing the moustache for others or himself? Was the moustache wearing Robbie or Robbie wearing the moustache? During this inner struggle it was shaved off a couple of times, but now it's back with a vengeance:
"I decided to grow it again until I could see it without a mirror and roll it around a 2p coin. I can do that now. The moustache has (quite literaly) grown on me, so it stays. A moustache works better with a smile."
Thanks Robbie. We wish you luck in your endeavours.
About Humphries and Begg
The ethos of Humphries and Begg is to produce quality clothes that stand out a little. Robbie says:
"We are anti-bland. There is not enough time in the world to follow a pack, especially these days our tastes can become so much more individual and we like to reflect this in our clothes. All our buttons are vintage sourced from old french factories that have closed down long ago. We are the only people who can get our linen in the UK. Our velvet is made in England and is some of the finest around. We focus on quality but I am very much against charging the earth for it. I like to keep prices fair and affordable. If no one can buy your things why make them?"
The Paddington coat from Humphries and Begg (below) is made in London. The outer fabric is a brown waterproof wax cotton. It has a corduroy lining under the collar and a storm flap and waist cinch at the back.
Tweedy's Thought: We've had three pin-ups with taches, but you don't need one gents. You just need, well, you don't need anything. If you want to promote something too - fine with us - we'll try to help out. Step forward, you never know.
Tweedy's Second Thought: I'm still waiting for someone to help record Theme Tune to The Tweed Pig. I'm probably still waiting as I haven't mentioned it. I'd like it to be something like the old theme to Rutherford's Miss Marple films with a bit of spoken word over the top like Bogarde's Lyrics for Lovers album. Thanks.
Monday, 8 October 2012
The good thing about covering classic companies is that there is less risk you will miss a particular product that you fancy. If it's in the range, and there's good demand, it's likely to be there for a while.
Northampton's English shoemakers are generally a reliable bunch. They won't suddenly scare off their discerning customers with a flip-flop range or a stacked-heel ankle boot.
The mysterious Alfred Sargent are a little less forthcoming than some of the Northampton greats, but their shoes have the styles and the quality you associate with the best.
About Alfred Sargent
Alfred Sargent formed his eponymous shoe-making company in 1899 in Northampton, England. It is still owned by the latest generation of Sargents, managed by Paul and Andrew, and is still based in Northampton.
Alfred Sargent make to order and has Exclusive and Handgrade ranges.
A classic Tweed Pig company, no less, which we can't ignore as we slowly build our repository. When we're done you'll be able to ignore all fashion analysis and punditry for ever. (If you want to.)
Tweedy's Plea: If you're a classic product that fits the pages of The Tweed Pig, don't be shy, get in touch. We have space for you in our repository.
We'll pick out a couple of pairs of Sargent's that take our eye (and fill out the post a little). Let's face it, is there anything nicer to do than looking at the fine detail of glorious English shoes?
From the Handgrade range how about the handsome Warwick monk? The green calfskin is beautiful. You don't see a lot of shoes in that colour. I had a pair of shoes in almost that shade many years ago. I forget the maker, but I did enjoy wearing them and made a vague point of seeking out more green shoes. Green works.
I'd like to see more shoes in workable shades of green, and red, actually.
Excellent shoes for walking past the Fisher Building in Chicago.
From the Exclusive range the Lombard is a sturdy brogue boot. The contrasting laces and mixed-material sole give the boot a certain manly charisma.
Magnificent boots for fishing for sea bass from the Cobb in Lyme Regis.
Friday, 5 October 2012
Interior Fabrics Woven in Suffolk, England
The Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company has been weaving interior fabrics in Sudbury for over 100 years. The company creates historical reproductions of wallpapers, upholstery and drapery for period interiors. Through Creative Director, Russell Sage, Gainsborough is also known for its collaborations with contemporary designers such as Tom Dixon and Paul Smith (and his trademark stripes).
Quality is All
Neil Thomas, Director at Gainsborough, emphasises the one guiding principle of the company - quality:
"The one constant throughout our production is quality. We do not compromise in any part of our production which includes spinning, dyeing and weaving, which all take place on the same site. We deal with all of the production processes in-house, so all of our fabrics are very labour intensive."
You can see examples of their work in Downing Street and Wimborne House (below).
A Duchess of Cambridge Connection
Gainsborough are most proud of the recent installations for the refurbishment of The Goring Hotel, London, a family-run hotel which has been in operation for as long as Gainsborough.
The Royal Suite (above and below) was used by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, before her marriage to Prince William.
A classic yet modern interior. The Goring could have followed the hotel herd and refurbished with a predictable moderno-bland interior, and a boring roll call of the usual designer names. Fine, but following fashion often means shocking expense to look the same as everywhere else and to date rapidly. It would have meant also that the room could be anywhere. Instead they have successfully retained a welcoming sense of warmth and personality. And by sourcing local heritage manufacturers, such as Gainsborough, the décor says something about The Goring's history and location.
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
But It Never Went Away
Many readers have written in to tell me to pull myself together following the rather alarmist tone of a post that intimated Yardley weren't making their English Lavender Brilliantine any more.
The true of the matter is that they are still making the brilliantine in the UK and it is available in all the right places, including Yardley's own web site.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't stock up for the future. I've amassed a few jars, just in case. The future's looking kempt.
Breaking Yardley News
Yardley has a new owner, Wipro the Indian IT giant. I'm sure there's a 'synergy', to use the business jargon, that we're not seeing. Our dear friend Tom Keene, over at Blooomberg, would have an opinion on this.
You look after that perfume house Wipro. It's been around much longer than you.
Monday, 1 October 2012
Peregrine Sighted in London
Peregrine Clothing, the Bristol, England-based company, opened a pop-up shop on London's Lambs Conduit Street this month. The concept of the shop draws on the company's long heritage, its beginnings as J. G. Glover in 1796 and the introduction of the Peregrine brand in 1956. Peregrine's clothes are all made in England.
Made in England by Peregrine Clothing
From the shop and select outlets, you can get hold of some pretty heavy-duty no-nonsense English sweaters by Peregrine this autumn. If we were going to plump for one, we'd go for the Suede Patch Jumper. Our favourite flame-haired model is wearing it above. Good to see he's still getting the gigs from Peregrine.
Suede Patch Jumper
Nothing more satisfying than the feeling of something solid in your hands and knowing that what you're holding will give you years of pleasure. Quality in a word. Something made to last.
Peregrine's Suede Patch Jumper is such a thing. Constructed in mid-chunky 7-gauge un-dyed British wool, it's available in natural light beige and dark grey wool from a Welsh breed of sheep. Inspired by the classic country saddle jumper, the sweater has hand-stitched suede elbow and shoulder patches on the raglan sleeves in the shooting style.
Sunday lunch at the local pub, fishing trip, protest march, this sweater will keep you warm and dressed for the part all winter.
We could talk about any number of Peregrine's sweaters, but you might get sweater fatigue, so we'll just mention one more - Peregrine's purple version of the classic Aran.
Aran sweaters are generally knitted in white tones and un-dyed shades tending towards beige, but, come on, look at this fellow in purple. A chunky 5-gauge knit, the sweater has classic Aran cabling with raglan sleeves and a thick roll at the neck.
Tweedy's Thought: Purples go so well with your classic wardrobe colours, blues, browns and greys. You don't have to be in monochrome to be classic.
Woodford Biker Jacket
If you're thinking you'll need some kind of weekend jacket for these fellows to sit under, Peregrine might have the answer there too.
The Woodford jacket is produced in waterproof British Millerain Antique 6 Wax cotton. The jacket is made from a hand cut pattern and machine-sewn by hand. It has a brass buckle, moleskin collar and quilted checked lining. The jacket also has a handy poacher's pocket at the rear. Just add a classic Royal Enfield to complete the look.