Wool for woven and knitted garments in Tender Autumn/Winter 2018 was shorn from a small flock of 30 Ryeland sheep raised in the Scottish Borders. Their wool was offered exclusively to Tender and has never before been used for clothing.
The Ryeland breed is one of the longest-established in Britain, thought to have originally descended from Spanish Merinos. Mediaeval records show a flock of 300 Ryeland sheep at Dore Abbey in Herefordshire, where the wool was collected and processed for shipment overseas. Ryeland wool was particularly prized in Italy and Flanders, for spinning into the finest yarns which were used as the standard for other wools. In the 16th Century, Elizabeth I is said to have received a gift of Ryeland wool stockings, and thereafter insisted on wearing only clothes made from the yarn. The ‘Wool Sack’ on the Chancellor’s seat at the House of Lords was originally stuffed with raw Ryeland fleeces. Today, Ryeland wool is unusual as its varied colours and relatively slow growth make it unsuitable for commercial farming, however its texture, weight, and natural colours are second to none.
This Periscope Pocket Tail Shirt Ryeland Wool Doppler Stripe Calico is dyed with indian black, derived from a naturally occuring iron oxide from India.
Indian black is thought to be the original source of lamp black and India ink. It was later replaced with crushed charcoal as a more readily available alternative. As with all natural colours, Indian black is less predictable than modern synthetic dyes, and any colour transfer, inconsistency, irregularity, or fading is a desirable characteristic.
The Periscope Pocket Tail Shirt is made with pockets which echo the large chest pockets of generic work shirts, accessed from the middle at the top. Periscope pockets have an additional opening at the lower outside, so they can also be used as hand-warmers. Larger objects could be fed in and pulled out from the top, hands and smaller items can be slipped in from the sides. It should be noted its texture, cut and its amazing olive buttons.
Tender shirts are sewn by a husband and wife team of two, in their own small factory in the Midlands. One of the reasons that Tender’s clothes have their own special feel is the selection of machines used. Even lightweight shirts are produced on heavy machines designed for workwear and industrial purposes. By retooling and adjusting to allow for the fabric weight, garments come out with uniquely twisted or puckered seams. Longer stitch patterns give a feeling of practicality, but also avoid damaging the fabrics with unnecessary punctures and allow slight flexibility in the seams, helping the clothes to mould and form even better to the wearer’s body over time.