Wednesday 30 December 2009

Customer review - Rick Crouse

Back in October I had an email from a lady who wanted a coat made for her husband for his Christmas present.
As well as being an unusual request – especially since it was being kept a total secret from the recipient - it proved to be the largest coat I had ever made . . .
I got the best Christmas gift this year – a Doctor Who coat! Not just any coat but one made with such attention to detail that it could/should have been worn by David Tennant himself!

My wonderful wife, Kirsten, commissioned a coat by Steve Ricks in the UK. We live in the cultural crossroads of Conroe, Willis and Cut-n-Shoot, Texas in the US. Yes, you read that correctly, and yes it is as culturally barren as the names imply. Anyway, she was a little apprehensive of ordering something from someone we had never met and who had no storefront – you know the usual concerns with sending wads of cash to some unknown email addy 5,000 miles away.

After Steve’s referrals (thanks Ian!) and several emails back and forth, the coat was commissioned. Steve’s communication was so frequent that I wasn’t allowed to use her computer until after Christmas. Kirsten typically would leave several tabs in Firefox open for me to see after I got home. Now I get email with links – like that’s something to look forward to. ;-)

She had to measure me and was quite nervous that I would guess what she had in mind. This is a bigger deal than one might initially think as I am over 6' 6" (a hair past 2 meters) and around 225lb (100kg) So lots of fabric was harmed in the making of this magnificent coat!

I figured I was getting a coat but did not fully appreciate what that meant. I thought it might be a period swashbuckling type coat as we are getting ready to vend at a new Renaissance Faire this spring. Christmas came and I opened the box to find the most amazing coat. A full on Doctor Who coat complete with Sonic Screwdriver (available at Think Geek).

Saturday 19 December 2009

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

You may have noticed that I recently added some hit counters to my sites, and I have been amazed as to how many readers I have out there!
When I started out I was writing it mainly for myself and one or two friends who knew I was about to make a new, and possibly ultimate, Tennant Coat.
From there my blogs have grown, and I never really knew how many cosplay enthusiasts were bothering to look.

Well, now I know it is more than just a few, I want to thank you all for taking the time to follow what I have been up to this year, and hope you will continue to see where I go in 2010.

I have pretty much written the last entry for 2009 (don’t worry, I’ll be back in January fired-up with ideas!) so all that remains now is to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
I wish to especially thank a few people for
their support this past year: 

Ramie for showing faith in my work

Lisa for aiding the breakthrough with the GAP trousers

Timelord25 for his faith in me to make him a new Five Coat

Seth for his invaluable input and eye for detail, giving me something to live up to

Finally Primrodo for being a sounding board for ideas and direction, and for the use of the image of his TARDIS,
which appears above

Tuesday 24 November 2009

A new blog - but not mine

There is a new blog on the block, and for once it’s not one of mine!

George Chase (see left), aka Seventh Doctor Fan on the forums, has started his own blog, tracking his thoughts and ideas for wider consumption.

George has been a follower of my blog for some time, especially, it goes without saying, my Seventh Doctor Costume Blog!

I’d like to think I inspired him into taking the plunge and starting the blog, though I am sure we all have it in us to write our inner thoughts and enjoy sharing them, not-so-secret diary style.

You can find his blog at:

Do take a look, and support you fellow fans!

Monday 23 November 2009

Tennant Coat - customer review

“I should like a coat
like that!”

If I can just paraphrase the Second Doctor there, as that is pretty much the thought that was running through my mind from the moment the Tenth Doctor stepped before the press in 2005.

I’ve always been a coat person, more specifically, I’ve always been a long coat person, but in the past this predilection has been confined to mere mid-length coats; long but not long. Not until I saw Tennant’s trench coat did I realize that THAT was the coat I had been looking for. And you just can’t find it anywhere – it’s unique.

To cut a long story short, I, like Mr. Steven Ricks, was searching eBay and came across the Honest Dragon ‘Tennant Coat’. Could this be the answer to my search for the perfect coat?
Read Steve’s blog for the reasons why, but suffice to say, it’s really not a workaday coat or a good replica.

Two years down the line, I’m reading Steve’s blog and notice that he does commissions and his ‘jewel in the crown’ is most certainly that coat. I looked at all the pictures of both the work in progress and the finished article and it looks good. Very good. Impossibly good! (I must stop paraphrasing Doctors!)

After a little bit of deliberation, I took the plunge and upon the initial flurry of e-mails that were exchanged, I could tell I was dealing with a gentleman and one who really knew his stuff at that. Measurements were given and a clear time scale was agreed from the outset and then the wait…

It really was an excruciating wait, not because of any problems with the coat-making process, but simply because I knew what was coming was going to be it and I just had to have the coat there and then.

Throughout the whole process, Steve was never less than professional, but in addition to that he was always willing to answer any questions I had (which were many!) and provided constant progress reports and any unexpected delays that were met along the way. I felt confident that my money was well spent.

Onto the coat itself; it arrived, nicely packaged and it was a marvelous moment when it unfolded – such lovely fabric, beautifully heavy and very very LONG! Oh and yes, it fit perfectly, my coat.

Saturday 24 October 2009

The Five Doctors

No, the title of the posting is not a reference to the classic 20th Anniversary special from 1983, but to collectively the Third, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Tenth Doctors!


Well, I have been having a lot of fun recently, slowly expanding the costume pieces I do.
To start with, they all appeared together in the original Tennant Coat or Tennant Suit blogs, but I have since started building separate blogs to cover the costumes of each Doctor, so they are easier to find and digest.

So far I have added a special blog for the Fifth Doctor to cover the Five Trousers and Five Coat I have been working on.
I also added a blog for the Sixth Doctor, to pull out the information about making my Six Trousers.

This past week I have added the Seventh Doctor blog as I have been working on a replica of the Hanky that goes around his hat (see left).

Now I am adding the Third Doctor to the portfolio! This is because I am starting working on making the Inverness Cape he is often seen wearing.
I am doing it as part of the college course I am currently on.

So start checking out my other blogs as I slowly add to them.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Smaller on the INSIDE!

This week signals a special landmark in my tailoring work.

Up until now all my tailoring has been done in classic cottage industry fashion on the kitchen table - literally! In fact that was a step up from when I did the Mk I Tennant Coat, which had been made on the floor of our spare room, spending my whole time hunched over the sewing machine. Not good for your posture I can tell you!

From the Mk II I managed to get promotion to the kitchen table, as it was the only decent space in the house where I could lay out a large enough expanse of fabric to properly cut the cloth for a Tennant Coat and that has been where I have worked ever since (see above, while finishing the last garment made in the kitchen).

Monday 7 September 2009

Launching a new blog!

This week I am launching a new blog to run along side the Tennant Coat and Tennant Suit blogs.

As part of my research into making the Tennant Suit, I practiced making trousers before embarking on my Tennant Trousers by first doing a pair of Six Trousers, and then a pair of Five Trousers.

The Five Trousers (see left) were a real hit with readers, and before I had even finished the first pair I was taking enquires from people keen to commission me to do them a pair, which I have now done a few times and you can order there HERE.
I have subsequently expanded to include both designs of trousers worn by Peter Davision.

I then started making a Five Coat, which again I have had enquires for commissions - even without anyone (including me) seeing the finished result!

With all these Five costumes I have been doing, as well as some in the pipeline which I have yet to announce, I have decided it would be better to dedicate a blog to all this new costume work.

I have therefore created
(see right).

On it you will already find pooled together all the Five Trouser and Five Coat entries to date, and in future this is where I will be posting.

When milestones are reached, I will cross-promote from this blog so you will know when it is worth taking a look!

You will also now find a permanent link to the new blog in the right-hand sidebar, along with any other new blogs I create for future work.
Please feel free to subscribe or join the new blog - it gives me some idea that at least it is being read and it is worth keeping up to date.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Tennant Coat - customer review

I have been a little slack at posting in the blog this past week or so as I have been doing a little commission for a Tennant Coat for a guy in Australia.
He had been thinking about commissioning me for a while, then decided to take the plunge.
I delivered it this week and he is pretty happy with the result, and wrote the following review about his coat.

If you’re reading this while toying with the idea of commissioning Steven Ricks to make you a Tennant coat, you’re probably thinking, as I did, “Wow, this is quite the outlay. I hope it’s worth it.”
It is.

It has to be said from the outset that this is a pricey endeavour for anyone. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I certainly don’t have six hundred quid just lying around for a rainy day. Having said that, however, Steve does offer a payment plan which anaesthetises the pain a little, if prolonging the agonizing wait. Also, there is no fine print or hidden extras, no surcharge for the brownness of the coat or the roundness of the buttons, it’s all up front, BS-free.

The number he gives you at the start is the same number at the end. I’d suggest that if you’re just looking for something long and brown and vaguely Tennant-shaped, and aren’t particularly interested in screen accuracy or overly obsessed with quality, then investigate one of the several online options that are available. That’s what I did, originally. If you do that, however, only your wallet will thank you, and you’ll be back. Oh yes, you’ll be back.

Rest assured, you are buying something for your money. Go into the other room and get out one of your Doctor Who DVD’s, one which stars David Tennant. Pop it in. See that coat he’s wearing?
That’s what you’re buying.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Five Coat - calico pattern testing

First thing I need to do is check that what I have transcribed from the Buckaroo pattern is sizing up correctly. It is also good to have a dry run to understand how the coat will go together and iron out any problems I may encounter.

Time to do another trusty calico test!
I must admit that when I first started making Tennant Coats, I was so desperate to have the finished result there and then, I would storm in and design on the fly as I was cutting final fabric and correct for any inaccuracies as I went along. I always knew calico tests were what I should be doing to start with, but it was only when I was getting ready to cut the £75 a metre Alcantara, that I stopped myself and went down the calico route first.
I found it very useful and it encouraged me to transcribe a proper pattern which I then have if I want to make another. I would now never do a coat any other way.

So, for the Five Coat I quickly cut the pieces that form the body of the coat, as well as one of the outside pockets as I want to get to grips with this unusual method I am not familiar with.

Friday 24 July 2009

A Ten Coat divided by Two

I have been a bit fired up recently while making all the Six Trousers and Five Trousers over on the Tennant Suit blog.

They all started out as practice runs before making the Ten Suit Trousers, but I have ended up with half a wardrobe of some of the earlier Doctors.

So I have decided to have a go at making a Five Coat to go with my trousers. After all the work I have done on the Ten Coat, making a Five Coat should be a lot easier as there is much less to it. The only part I am daunted about before hand is the red piping as that will undoubtably have to be sewn by hand, but I am sure once I get to it and start knuckling down, it won’t be as bad as I thought.

Looking back, I have always wanted a Five Coat, right from when Peter Davison was playing the part in 1982. I suppose it was the first item of cosplay I ever wanted, though at the time I’m sure it wasn’t called cosplay.
I was quite taken with the simple style of the coat and I tried to find something similar without success.

I went several times to the King’s Road in London where there used to be a number of vintage clothing shops to try and track down something even of the same style. I wasn’t expecting to find the exact same coat, but maybe something that some red piping could be sewn onto.
Each time I came home a disappointed teenager and was very glum.

Friday 17 July 2009

Haberdashery from REAL shops!

I thought it was a good time to sing the praises of some of the vanishing haberdashery stores that still survive, despite the onslaught of the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a great thing and makes the world just round the corner, but it has also stolen foot-fall trade away from some of the smaller retailers that stock some of the more unusual and diverse items.

Haberdashery has in recent years been doubly hit. As we have progressively moved away from a society that at the least would mend-and-make-do, and at best sew their own clothes from patterns to a world where clothing designer labels rule and throwing away when things go slightly out of fashion, the call and need for stores that sell a wide ranges of fabrics has become redundant.

Despite this, there is a thriving range of independent haberdashery stores out there - if you know where to look.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Designer label

When I did my Five Trousers recently, I ordered the fabric from Spoonflower, who can print any design you can come up with onto material.
When my order arrived it was neatly wrapped in tissue paper with a compliment slip that was the Spoonflower logo, but it was printed onto fabric! Which I thought was kinda cool touch (see right).

It seemed such a waste to just throw it away, I thought the the best way to use it was to use it as a clothing label in my trousers, as a little reminder of where the fabric had come from.

I didn’t want to hide it away at the back of the trousers (I was also worried it may get worn), so I put it in the front to one side of the fly, sewn into the curtain (see left).

And having done that I got to thinking that maybe I should have a label too!

I did an internet hunt and found a company called Able Labels who can do fabric clothing labels in short runs (most wanted 1,000 plus) at not too bad a price. I designed it in photoshop and kept it to a single black and white design to bring it in on a budget. I sent them a test jpeg which they wove for me and the result was pretty good!

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Made to measure

I have recently finished making a Tennant Coat for a friend, Justin Monk, who lives in Canada.

You may recall he was the subject of the first Me And My Tennant Suit, having made his current suit from the JoAnn fabric (with which I am very close to finally making my own suit). He had gone through two Tennant Coats along the way.
As a footnote I mentioned he had a new one in the pipeline. Well I had that on good authority, since I was making it for him!!!

Before I trusted it to the couriers I took these pictures to share with everyone.

I made the coat from the Malabar fabric I used for the MkII and Mk III, as it is much more economic than the Alcantara. The colour is not match a perfect match, but it photographs looking very much like many of the publicity pictures of the real coat, so is a good substitute.

Monday 18 May 2009

A Radiophonic night out

On Sunday I had an interesting Who-related evening out. I attended wearing my Tennant Coat, and received a little attention for it, though I did not get to take any new coat pictures.
So though it is not entirely coat related, I thought I’d still share a great evening out with you, as I was at least wearing the coat at the time!

On March 25th there was a new story on Outpost Gallifrey publicising a concert to be given by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop at The Roundhouse in the middle of May.

From a young age I was always very much aware of the work of the Radiophonic Workshop, and would often see the same names cropping up on the closing credits of Doctor Who or Blake’s Seven

In my eyes the players had become minor celebrities when Brian Hodgson appeared on Blue Peter to show how he had made the TARDIS noise (see right), and in a late 70s documentary where they showed how sound effects for Terror Of The Zygons had been created.
But I think it was the original radio version of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy that I took real notice, as firstly their credit was read rather than written, so they became part of the dialogue of the programme; plus being radio, the sounds the Workshop created painted the minds-eye picture of the unfolding plot.

Monday 11 May 2009

Journey’s (Land’s) End

The second part of my recent holiday took in Cornwall and the Penwith peninsula. The farmhouse where we were stay was only a few miles from Land’s End, where there is a permanent Doctor Who Exhibition.
I had seen a lot of pictures on the net from the recent Earl’s Court Exhibition, but none from Land’s End. So I set about putting that right.

The outside of the Exhibition is decked out like a massive TARDIS, and you enter through the lower part of the front door. It’s £4 to get in, which isn’t too bad, considering Earl’s Court was £9.

When you first go in, after passing a ticket collector, you walk up a low-rise, wide, curved staircase, along one wall of which is a display of photographs of the first nine Doctors.
At the top of the stairs is a panel introducing “New Companions”, but strangely not the tenth Doctor. I thought that a little odd.

The first costume displays you come to are an Angel (below left) from Voyage Of The Damned, and a boiler suit for a Lumic Work Technician (below right) from Rise Of The Cybermen/Age Of Steel. The latter not being the most exciting of costumes to begin the exhibition with.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Sontaran G3 Military Assessment Survey

I haven’t been posting on here much for the past couple of weeks as I have been on holiday down in Devon and Cornwall. Yipeee!
We had a great time and it was a good excuse for me to take in a couple of Who activities, one in either county, that I would not normally get the chance to visit.

Before setting out, I had taken a look on and put in the postcode of where we were staying in Devon, and found that Hound Tor was relatively not that far away.

Hound Tor had been the main location for the classic Tom Baker episode, The Sontaran Experiment. I remember seeing it when it was first screened, and always liked it for its short story approach to a Who tale. Little two-parters don’t come along often, and it was the first I had seen in my Who watching experience, besides, anything to see the original Sontaran actor, Kevin Lindsey giving the seminal performance is always worth a watch.

I had always pictured the location used as a distant, remote spot, high in the Dartmoor hills, and not easily accessed. Though it is true the approach is through winding narrow roads, if I had thought about it, the BBC would not have picked it for an outside broadcast, video-shot episode, if they could not get their equipment within easy reach. A look on GoogleMaps shows the Tor and how close it is to the nearest road, as well as a car park close by (see below © google).

Sunday 26 April 2009

First full shots of new coat

At last! At last! The coat is finished and here it is!!!

Can’t blame me for having a little fun in my first time in front of a camera with it, eh?
I took these in a local underpass, which I think gives it a suitable grungy feel. Better than just in the back garden like on previous coats!

First a little sonic action, though again, I can’t find my new series sonic! It must be here somewhere - just don’t know where!

Click to enlarge
The a bit of action photography!

Friday 24 April 2009

Home straight

Last thing to finish the main work on the coat is hemming the bottom.

After deciding how long I want the coat, it being a compromise between being too long and tripping over it all the time (as I did with my Mk I - hell that was too long!) and ending up too short, I pin the hemline I want to have.

I then press it along the hem to define the edge I will work to.

While I was researching The Competition’s Efforts, I noticed a couple of pictures showed people wearing their Tennant coats held open, to show the internal pockets. 

When they did this, the lining was hanging like a big bag and sagging badly in the middle (see left). I wanted to try and prevent this, so I sewed the lining’s vertical seam allowance to the seam allowance down the insides of the coat to support and secure it. I did this from around 6 inches below the armpit to 18 inches from the hem. This is a bit unconventional - I’m sure you aren’t supposed to do this, but it has also stabilized the position of the lining around the hem area, which I then found much easy to work with.

The hem is then laid out flat and I cut the lining level with the seam allowance of the coat hem (see right). At this point I need to check the circumference of the the lining and the coat match. If there is any extra, I just slightly take the vertical lining seam in a bit.

Getting the collar right - at last!

This is the one bit of the coat I think I am the most stressed about putting together!!!

Since the collar and lapels seam with pretty much the entire coat, any slip up could be far reaching, meaning I might have to re-cut right back to almost the beginning. If I had ruined a pocket, I would only have to remake that isolated part, not the whole coat.

That said, the first thing to do is set the under collar into the body of the coat. This will check that I have the collar the right length. Sometimes I need to adjust the pattern slightly to make sure it fits, so I have left cutting the collar until now, rather than when I cut the rest of the coat earlier in the week.

There is a tricky dog-leg seam to sew in each side which ends up below the collar, so I set these and ease the rest of the collar in across the back of the neck. This give me the first chance to really see how the coat is looking (see right). Looking good.

The pattern is cut a little generous around the collar, to give me some cloth to play with in case of crisis. I therefore adjust and mark the final collar size before stitching.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Setting the sleeves

One of the things I did earlier in the week when I had a blitz on cutting the fabric, was to quickly make a start the sleeves. I only sewed them together to get a head start, and now I am setting them in the coat body which has been assembled ready, I’ll recap all I did with the sleeves.

Sleeves are always one of those easy things to assemble, but if I haven’t done them in advance, can slow down assembling the coat.

I first cut the sleeves (see above left) in Alcantara. Notice the marks for sleeve apex and three parallel lines for the sleeve head formation. I also cut the lining using pinking sheers, which proved to be a sucessful exercise on the test coat (see above right).

Firstly I stitch the longer back seam and press it flat, but with all of the seam allowance folded towards the front of the sleeve. I then topstitch the seam, within 1 to 1.5mm away from the edge. The sleeve is then closed off by sewing the front seam, which is just conventionally pressed flat.

I am using the slightly adjusted pattern I did for the calico coat, which is designed to give a more roomy fit at the back, while still being quite tailored at the front.

These two photographs show what I mean: (left) you can see the sleeve is set in cleanly and is well fitted (right) you can see a series of puckers at the seam, which is giving it a fuller fit. To mimic this I need to adjust the level of gathering in the sleeve head so it is smooth at the front and across the apex of the sleeve, but allowing it to pucker slightly as it falls down the back of the sleeve.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Sum of its parts

Well, I have now finished ‘decorating’ (as I like to call it) all the main sections of the coat, and am ready to start bringing them together at last.

Before I do, here they are, and a little reminder of some of the details and features each has.

Capacity vent in centre of back; two top-stitched tailoring darts on each side of vent; four-buttoned slit with receiving buttonholes in enclosing pockets; lining integrally sewn at initial stage.

Welted pocket with separate pocket flap surface-sewn 1 inch above pocket; tailoring dart down centre; two underarm tailoring darts ending at pocket flap; four 28mm horn buttons along dart.

Orange Dupion flashed internal welted pockets.

Over-stitched back seam; single stitched underarm seam.

Panic over a seam I did not know about!

Next thing to tackle, which took most of a day last weekend, were the fronts. Initially I thought this was going to be nice and easy, but then I had to go and make it difficult for myself!

I had long studied the coat, and thought I was familiar with every single seam and tailoring dart it contained. While I was writing a previous blog entry about the sleeves, I posted a cropped vserion of a picture to show the detail of top-stitching on the back darts (see above).

What I spotted in the picture - slightly to my horror - was that there are two tailoring darts in the front half of the coat, under the arms running down to the tops of the pocket flaps. 
I have tried to make it a bit clearer here (see above) by labeling the darts and seams.
I had long known that there was at least one there, but had only included it in my pattern when I got to the calico test coat, which I was just finishing at the time (I had noticed it not long after finishing the Mk III.)
I realized that in all the pictures I had seen to date, David’s arm had covered the back dart when seen from the front; and covered the font dart when seen from the back; I had never seen a picture showing BOTH darts together, until now.

Inside pockets - smoke and mirrors

My next sewing session on the Alcantara coat was a mid-week evening, so I kept it to relatively simple stuff rather than anything too involved. That I save for the weekends!

The work I had done on the calico coat was now paying dividends, as I could confidently storm ahead and start cutting the final cloth without the usual stages of cutting and adjusting as I went along. This time I would know they would all fit together right, pretty much first time.

In one evening I cut essentially the rest of the whole coat, bar the collar, which I felt needed special attention. I won’t show you all this now, but will reveal the cutting of the coat as I tackle the assembly of each relative section.

The first manageable part I decided to assemble were the lapel fronts, which although they are cut, don’t get sewn in until much later, but the inside pockets can be set now. It is so much easier doing it while the lapels are loose pieces of fabric: it is like sewing a demonstration or test.
The pattern is marked with the roll of the lapel and pocket positions, though the Sonic pocket is now canceled (see right).

I then transfer the pocket position from the pattern (see left) and mark it in tailor’s chalk; and attach the lower welt, which is made of interfaced orange Dipon fabric (see below - top left). The welt is pinned upside-down, rightside facing down. The back of the pocket is attached in the same way and the width of the pocket is sewn between the vertical chalk marks. I then carefully slit the gap between the two lines of stitching (see below - top right).

Work begins


At last, the moment I have been building towards for so long . . . I am starting to make my coat from Alcantara!!

Goes without saying I starting with the back, made even easier by the adjustments I have fed back from making the test coat. I am more confident about assembling it now, being still fresh from working in calico.

Friday 17 April 2009

Pieces in a jigsaw

Now that I had refined and tested my pattern to a stage where I was happy with it, I can now cut the entire coat almost in one go, rather than be designing and cutting in tandem.
Because of this, I realised how few pieces I actually needed to cut to make the coat!

The complete list is as follows:

Back - 2
Fronts - 2
Lapels - 2
Collar - 2
Sleeves - 4
Outer pockets (welts & flaps) - 8
TOTAL - 20

(above - the freshly cut lapels)

Back - 2
Fronts - 2
Sleeves - 4

Inside pocket welts - 2
(above - the outer pockets, Alcantara parts)

Inside pocket backs - 2

Inside pockets - 2
Outer pockets - 2

(above - cutting the upper sleeve)