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Friday, March 16, 2018

Perfect throw for a cozy couch experience from JM Cooper Knitwear

Spring weather is on the horizon here in Bavaria, with a hint (just a hint) of the threat of warmer weather in our future and the return of birdsong to our garden.  However like most truly 4 season climates, cool and even cold weather will be with us for a while.  On days in which our weather is  (much) less than friendly, a good throw while cuddling (yes real men do cuddle!) on the couch with the Mrs. enjoying 'The Crown' or 'Peaky' on Netflix, and sipping a nice smoky dram will add to one's cozy factor immensely.  In such times the good people at J.M. Cooper knitwear have got you and your loved one covered (literally) with their Aran knit throws.  For the price of a good scarf from many other makers, you can purchase a beautifully knitted Aran style couch throw made from 100% British Wool, which at about 1.6 meters x 1.3 meters (51" x 63") is large enough to keep you and your loved one warm and happy (try doing that with one scarf).

From the JM Cooper eBay Listing:

'J M Cooper Knitwear manufacture a range of Knitted Throws/Blankets, suitable for use where warmth and comfort are required. These Aaran styles are available with a number of colours to choose from. As with all of our products, these are manufactured from 100% pure British wool from sheep roaming the Pennine Hills.

Our range includes natural un-dyed colours, spun using the original colours of the British wool pure breeds. Our newest throw is a pure silk nep which has been developed and added to our range to provide interest and luxury, which can be purchased above.'

Knitted with not so much density as to become stifling - the last thing one needs it to be sweltering.  (Our house does have heating after all).  One just needs a throw to keep off the chill and these Aran knit blankets are perfectly fit for purpose.  Available in several colors to match your decor (I purchased the dark grey), and won't look out of place in any sitting room.  I'm really looking forward to evenings of binge-watching with Mrs. Landless Gentry, cozy under our new Aran knit throw for years to come.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: Walker Slater's Edgar Jacket in Charcoal Herringbone Harris Tweed!!

I had had my eye on this herringbone Harris Tweed jacket for about a year before pulling the trigger and I'm so glad finally I did.  This great looking jacket they call the 'Edgar'  from the kind people at Walker Slater is a real looker.  Aside from being made from Harris Tweed (my favorite), it's got all the Half-Norfolk jacket details that I love on a great country walking jacket: expandable patch pockets,  genuine leather buttons, half-belt back details and most important - a great looking and very functional center back box pleat for better range of movement.  Best thing: my wife has complemented me every time I've worn it, which is really saying something, as she's not typically a big fan of my tweeded-up country look;-)

Love expandable pockets!!!

Sizing: This jacket, in spite of its traditional looks, does have a more modern cut, which means it's cut trimmer all around including the arms, so a shirt and a light merino wool sweater works best for layering, on this size 44inch jacket.  In more traditional tailoring, I typically wear a 42R or 52 in Euro sizing, but as I mentioned this jacket is cut trim and true to size, so I ended up returning the size 42R I had originally ordered for a 44R (Kathryn in customer service was very helpful here), which fits me perfectly.  Also, the overall length is a bit shorter than a more old-school traditional sports coat.

Worn here is beautiful black & White Herringbone tweed lambswool scarf from Cardamom clothing:

The build is extremely well executed, with light construction, and just a little padding in the shoulders.  It's half-lined with very tidy finished seams, contrasting striped sleeve lining and red pocket trim. I typically prefer fully lined jackets, but this one has been executed so well, I'm very happy with it.  The sleeves have fully functioning buttons, which I really appreciate - this being a detail I wish all my jackets had.  One note is that the outside patch pockets have been lined, which renders the extra space which would normally be available by the expandable pockets unusable.  Not a problem, as I've carefully removed these pocket linings and the pockets are now fully usable.  My recommendation to Walker Slater would be to skip this detail in future.

Well executed half lining:

Red trimmed inside pocket details:

Walker Slater maker tag means great quality:

Full view back details:

Unique button tab center vent - I love these small details!:

Great center back box pleat for greater range of motion - this really helps!!:

Love the working 'surgeon cuffs':

The Close-ups: 
Provided for my own enjoyment and for that of my tweed obsessed brethren: Charcoal Herringbone:

This is my first product from and experience with Walker Slater and I must say it will certainly not be my last!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: Olive Small Houndstooth Tweeds by Spencer's Trousers

 (Shown here with Braces from Darcy Clothing)

These are not the first trousers that I have ordered from the very good folks at Spencers Trousers, that honor goes to two pairs of corduroy trousers I ordered last year and which will be the subject of a coming review.  This review, however, is very timely given the weather we've had in Bavaria of late.  Spencer's is a firm, as their name implies that specializes in appropriate coverings for the male legs (a worthy endeavor, as any visit to a beach in Summertime, will confirm).  Founded by JWR Spencer in 1922, after the Great War (sadly NOT the war to end all wars).  Spencers is a 'made to measure' tailoring company that will happily and expeditiously make a pair of trousers, Plus 2s or Plus 4s to any specification you desire.  They've got a great new website, which is a breeze to use with a fairly straightforward order form.  They are located in "The Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire has long been associated with high-quality cloth and trouser manufacturing. Spencers Trousers continue this tradition using locally sourced cotton and woolen cloth to provide you with the best quality Made to Measure Trousers, Plus twos/Plus fours and Breeks."

My Trousers were made from the aforementioned olive small houndstooth tweed with subtle orange over-check and feature button fly, bracer buttons, turn-ups and really great red satin half lining.  I also added moleskin from pockets made from heavy duty moleskin (the same weight used to make their moleskin trousers) which add even more coziness to ward away the cold Bavarian winter.

Of course, they are happy to forgo belt loops for Bracer buttons (or include both).  Fishtail back and side or back tabs? Not a problem.  They will gladly add these, often at no or very little extra charge.  Low Rise, High Rise or anything in between.  Wide leg, tapering, straight or stove pipe, whatever your heart desires.  I myself provided measurements off a pair of Chinos from Bravestar Selvage, that I thought would be great for custom made-to-measure and the fit was a perfect match, with just the right taper in the leg I was hoping for.  Now that I've got the basic fit I prefer sorted with Spencer's, I can tweak the details in any way I like on future orders.  In my inexperience, I had ordered this pair of Tweeds with belt loops, which in hindsight unnecessary.  I realize that I only wear these with braces, as the weight of these trousers, make wearing a belt on my physic pointless.  No matter, this will be corrected with future orders.  I think my next tweed order will include a change pocket, high fishtail back, and back tab.

The best part is after completing all the details of your order, they will make-up your custom trousers and dispatch them out to you in only SEVEN days!! No waiting weeks for these custom items from Spencer's!  I've consistently received my trousers within 10 days from the time of order to the time that I'm stepping into my newly made garment. So there is plenty of time to order and enjoy your cozy new tweed for this season!   Nigel is the fine chap that I've dealt with on all my questions and he has replied to my every question with the kind of expertise that only comes with years in the trade (I think he may also be their cutter).  Needless to say, Nigel's friendly and expert advice has been invaluable.

The Close-ups - Provided for the delight of my tweed obsessed brethren:  The thing that I love about tweed is the details.  These trousers look to be olive from a few feet away, but as you look closer, you won't find a single olive colored yarn (or nearly none).  Instead, you will see a couple of tones of beige, dark brown and bottle green with a very subtle orange, which all conspire to result in this delightful Olive tweed weave:

Overall I couldn't be more pleased with the final results and service with ordering my first of what I'm certain will be many pairs of tweeds to come from Spencer's Trousers.  In fact, I'm already in the early planning stages for what will come next!

Here looking great with my trusty Brogue Boots from Grenson:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: Cira 1940 Swiss Army Leather Messenger Bag - My Constant Companion Over the Past 7 Years!!

(Maker and date stamping)
(Swiss Government inspection stamping)

When I moved to Germany from Southern California way back in the Spring of 2011, one of the first purchases I made was the 1940 Swiss Army Messenger bag you see here.  Seven years on and we are still going strong.  The again was a purchase I made from that great worldwide shopping site Mr. E & Bay (the German website) and I do occasionally still see them listed there, so if you're interested.  Here is a link if you would like to keep an eye out for one, simple search: Ledertasche Schweizer Armeetasche (Leather bag Swiss Army Bag)

These bags are creeping up in price - be believe I paid about 100 or 125 Euro for my bag and I've seen them lately listed for over 300 Euro Plus.  I will say, however, if you buy a good example, they are well working twice that and If I lost my bag, I would begin bidding on another right away:

eBay links to Swiss Army Messenger Bags:


To Say I have loved this bag over the past seven years is an understatement.  Originally purchased, to carry my personal gear and completed watch straps to and from my workshop, it has served this purpose with aplomb just about every day since.  The leather is heavily oiled vegetable tanned leather that is 3.5mm thick the buckles are heavy duty hand forged steel roller buckles and all the stitching is done by hand using the traditional saddle stitching with very heavy duty natural linen thread.  These bags like the Swiss Ammunition pouches were made under contract by Swiss 'sattlers' ('Sattler' being German for Saddle-maker) all over Switzerland under design contract from the Swiss Military.  Each bag is stamped with the original sattler's maker stamp, the year of manufacture and a Swiss Government inspector's stamp (the one with the Swiss Cross).  The bags of this design appear to have largely made between the 1930's and 1950's after which the design was changed to a smaller, more ridged map case, which while beautifully made with great leather is neither as useful nor as desirable for daily as this design.   Bags of various designs were made during this period, some of which appear to be engineer's bags (with many small pockets sewn into the side to hold various instruments), some which have a small pocket added to the front and with a two buckle/strap closure (they while nice are less convenient due to the double buckle) and some with were designed to be used as saddlebags (with extra retention chains attached - not sure why).  The last listed tend to often be very dirty indeed.

One thing to note is that these bags had in period come under very heavy use indeed and while I rarely see such damage as broken stitched, they can sometimes arrive very dirty indeed.  This was the case with my bag, which resulted in the necessity of cleaning in my bathtub with saddle soap (don't worry, this leather is not going to be damaged by a little soap and water!).  Another identical bag with I purchased for my mother in law, I cleaned with way as well as turning the bag inside out and sanding the inside with my belt sander in order to refresh this inside which was quite dirty indeed (I swear, it's like someone had been using it to haul dirt or something).

In any case, once cleaned and dried, I treated the outside of the bag with Obenauf's Heavy Duty L.P. (this stuff is awesome for treating and conditioning leather), buffed it up with a clean shoe brush and it was as beautiful and anyone could hope the leather itself is a mid-mahogany brown with all the patina and character one could ever hope for from leather that is very nearly 80 years old.  The stitching is still very secure and the leather overall is soft, supple and in tip-top condition. They only maintenance I've been doing is the once yearly cleaning with saddle soap and perhaps a once-yearly treatment with the aforementioned Obenauf's.

I must say that one can buy a more masculine looking bag for daily carry and it's just about the perfect size: at 13 inches wide, by 10 inches tall and 3 inches thick,  with a wide 1 3/8 inch shoulder strap strap it will easily carry a hat, gloves, a cell phone, a tablet, a small camera, glasses and sunglasses cases, a small bottle of water, and card wallet and a wool scarf with no issues.  As a result, I almost never leave home without it:

 Case in point, last month's trip to Milano:

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