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Proximity Manufacturing Company

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gcdrygoodsco View Drop Down
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Joined: 21 Mar 2017
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    Posted: 22 Nov 2021 at 7:20am
Hello Denimbros!

I've posted on here years ago, but I wanted to offer a small update that may lift your hearts a bit on this dreary Monday (it's raining and cold here in Greensboro today).  

Last year during our state's "Stay Home NC", a group of us formalized a non-profit that could keep our city's rich history in all things denim alive.  We appropriately named it White Oak Legacy Foundation, or WOLF for short.  The founding members include Ralph Tharpe, former product developer at White Oak who championed bringing shuttle denim back online for LVC, Russ Robinson, former Burlington legal counsel, Mike Hodis, formerly of Rising Sun and now Runabout Goods, and Victor Lytvinenko, of Raleigh Denim, just to name a few.   And myself! My name is Evan Morrison, and I am a co-owner of Hudson's Hill, an American goods general store in Greensboro, and I am a denim nerd.  

When ITG announced White Oak's closure, WOLF made it a goal to not let all things related to denim to fully leave our city, where weaving the sturdy blue work cloth has been a thing since 1896.  

In January, we were gifted the last two Draper X-3 shuttle looms from the weave room floor, where they were left covered in plastic sheeting awaiting their future, and moved them into what was formerly the archive room at White Oak.  By March, we completed refurbishing the two machines, and developed a supply chain for dyed and slashed warp and filling yarn, reached out to numerous folks who previously worked for decades at the mill to help us along the way, and we began weaving in early May.  We have been producing 12.2oz (per sq. yard) unsanforized denim, truly loomstate.  Straight from the loom, it is 34.25" wide, and made using ringspun, US-grown cotton yarn.  

By the time we completed our first 1,000 yards, we had already reached out to a few hand-picked brands to work with our inaugural cloth.  Tony and Pete from Tellason agreed to make a modified version of their relaxed fit 5-pocket jeans, and Mike from Runabout agreed to make a Type I jacket. Victor from Raleigh Denim agreed to cut and sew a few of the fits from his brand as well, as a limited offering.  

We have now been weaving for over 6 months, produced several thousands of yards of different cloths, and are close to having all of our inaugural production with collaborating brands completed, with hopes that these items will be available for purchase and delivery for the holidays.  

Separately, we have put together and opened our first exhibit on denim-related subjects, an important pillar of WOLF being history.  The exhibit focused on indigo dyeing, the 100th anniversary of the Touchstone dye apparatus, and dye technology related to denim.  This is on display at Revolution Mill, about a block from White Oak, until end of March 2022.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we held our first Denim 101 class (for those who know, this was a memorable program offered by White Oak), where industry folks can attend a two day program to learn more about the fabric they work with daily.  This program is put on by WOLF, and lecturers included those that originally taught the course for Cone.  We recently received additional donation monies to be able to host two more classes in 2022.  

To follow our journey, please check out the Proximity Manufacturing Company Instagram, here.

To learn more about WOLF (White Oak Legacy Foundation), click here.

I will do my best to check back in and provide updates, and to answer questions.

Sincerely,
Evan


proximitymfgco@gmail.com
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sansome Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Nov 2021 at 1:20pm
Santa Ana winds here in Southern California, bringing the temp up to the mid 90’s
Thanks for posting something new here, I’ve been stuck in work camp mode for months-
Too worn out to post my updates as of late.

Thanks, looks pretty cool what you guys are doing out in North Carolina
Keep up the good work.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote gcdrygoodsco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Nov 2021 at 12:37pm
Runabout Goods has finally posted their product made with cloth from our inaugural production.  Mike is calling this the Brander Jacket.  It is a faithful reproduction of a 1930's J.C. Penney's Foremost Type I Model Ranch Jacket, originally cut and sewn from a 9oz RHT denim.  Keep in mind that when this jacket was produced around 90 years ago, 9oz denim didn't weigh the same in today's terms.  In order to compute what that denim would weigh in modern terms, 9 x (36 / 28), as denim produced in the 1930's would have been 28" wide, and therefore you would need to use this formula to determine yards per square ounce, from yards per linear ounce.  The result is 11.57oz, which is very similar to the denim that we produced for this first round of cloth production.  Ours weighs in about 12.2oz loomstate, with a slightly finer warp yarn than what would have been used in the 1930's, and a plied filling yarn, which further gives it a smooth hand along with a higher number pick gear.  When soaked, our cloth gains a bit of weight through shrinkage, and a beautiful, hairy hand.  The shade of indigo is spot on for this reproduction.  

Mike graded the sleeve and torso to fit slightly more modern, but otherwise this thing uses as period correct of construction and hardware as it gets.  Two prong cinch buckle, laurel wreath two prong open center buttons, and washer and burr rivets on the sleeve plackets and pocket mouth.  

Only 116 were made, in homage to the 116 years that White Oak Cotton Mills has stood, both open and closed, from 1905 to today.  We still weave this cloth on the old wooden floors, in the exact space where it once was woven before.  

We know it is a bit expensive for a jacket, but between there only being three of us tasked at doing everything from yarn sourcing to weaving and fixing the loom to inspecting and measuring and packing and shipping, plus Mike's team making these jackets in his small shop all in-house, we look to our supporters to see these more like buying stock, to support our new enterprise in its capitalization.  We are in a position where if we are successful with these first product releases, we might be able to scale up our production, which enables us to buy full dye run sets, and this enables us a great deal of scope widening in our operations.  We have worked about 11 months now without compensation, hoping that instead we might be able to do something that could have some longevity to it if we let it have a moment to spread its wings and not take from its opportunity to become self sufficient.  If we can scale up, I think we can get our costs to drop by 20-25%, which can be reflected downstream in future products made with the cloth we produce.

To check out the pre-order link for the Brander Jacket by Runabout Goods, click here.

Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving, and I'll post another update next week.

Sincerely,
Evan


proximitymfgco@gmail.com
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcdrygoodsco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Dec 2021 at 1:06pm
Raleigh Denim Workshop has now pre-sold and produced two of their fits in limited quantities, using our inaugural run cloth.  The only difference is that, when White Oak shuttered its doors in early 2018 after winding down production following the announcement in October 2017, I promised Victor that this wouldn't be the end of his OG proprietary denim woven at White Oak, and that we would do whatever was in our power to keep denim being woven in North Carolina.  

In August, we began filling some of our warp with a ringspun cotton filling yarn that was package dyed in a tan shade, similar to the brownish-tan filling used in their proprietary denim.  We produced enough yardage to help Victor get the process of making jeans from the cloth moving along, and also to allow him to have some time and trial-and-error development and sampling work to better learn how to use unsanforized cloth.  

For those who don't know, unsanforized cloth can tend to be a tad tricky to work with.  For all those denim nerds reading this, think LVC jackets and jeans produced with their interpretation of late 19th century clothing, where XLs shrank when soaked to S/M.  Fortunately, we are using finer warp singles yarns, and a much higher pick per inch count, so the density of the cloth doesn't really permit that insane of shrinkage, in either a soaking or mechanical washing process. 

We furnished cloth to Victor, and he sample made two test pairs and put them up online for presale and has done fairly well with the first two fits, Alexander and Jones.  I believe, but could be wrong, that his plan is to continue offering these in all of his standard 100% cotton men's fits.  

He calls their 5-pocket jeans made from our cloth the O.G.M.P. (O.G. Most Pure), which I think is relatively fitting, since that's likely about how the denim was furnished the first 20-25 years it was produced on the wooden floors of White Oak, prior to sanforization being introduced into common practice.  

I was hoping to link a few of the pages of these jeans for you to click to view, but they aren't made available to view any longer, now that the pre-sale window has concluded.  When he makes the next fits available for pre-sale, I will link these in this thread.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcdrygoodsco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 hours 14 minutes ago at 6:19am
The third brand that we have engaged with is Tellason.  This was honestly a no-brainer.  I met Matt Sharkey, a professional photographer among many other talents, several years back when White Oak closed.  He came and stayed with me in Greensboro, and we were introduced to the new owner of the mill.  We were given permission to explore everything, and we spent days and days wandering and capturing every corner in photographs.  It was eery.  Some of the places in the mill had offices that looked as if the person just stood up mid lunch and walked out.  They may have.  We documented everything, because everything, and I mean everything, was exactly where it stood the last day of operations, with lead lines and yarn still on machinery and ranges.  Matt and I vowed that this would one day be a coffee table book, but I defer to him on this, because he is the one who has the film.  

When we got our gameplan to start weaving again, I asked him to introduce me directly to two of his friends, which was funny because we already carried their brand at Hudson's Hill, so it was nice to finally put a voice to a name and eventually faces to names via FaceTime with Tony and Pete of Tellason.  When White Oak shuttered, Raleigh Denim and Tellason were some of the biggest shuttle denim clients behind the likes of LS&Co.  One of the pillars of our business model is to support the small brands that built their business from cloth flowing out of the doors of White Oak, by working with these brands to rekindle an enterprise in the same building, that can also help sustain our non-profit (the weaving side is a for-profit division of the non-profit WOLF), through sharing dividends from earnings through collaborative projects with brands on products constructed from the denim we weave.  

The first phone call spelled it all out.  Tony and Pete were in.  They loved the idea that this kind of effort was being made, and were willing to do anything to help its success.  The first main challenge would be to understand the fabric.  

So, we shipped them yardage to get the test fit samples built.  When completed, we each put a pair through wash testing to determine a range of shrinkage.  Tony soaked and hang dried his pair, and I elected to mechanically wash and dry my sample (oh the heresy, I know!).  What we were able to determine is that the denim does mimic a shrink and fit sizing model.  Because the ppi is significantly higher, the cloth is more densely woven than a heavier denim, so the space between fiber is less and therefore the shrink is not entirely the same, but close.  fAfter one round of hot wash cycle and warm drying cycle, then hang dry from there, the sample shrunk 3" in the waist and 3" in the inseam.  Over two washes and dries the jeans shrunk 3.5" in the waist and 4" in the inseam, but Tony's pair with a week of wear, then a hot soak and a hang dry in damp Bay Area air only shrunk 2.5" in the waist and 2.5" in the inseam.  

We made some adjustments, based on the observations of the samples.  We removed the plain weave back pocker liner fabric and replaced it with a second layer of the denim, due to a disproportionate shrinkage rate that caused lumping in the back pockets in washing and drying.  We changed the pocket facing to cross-grain, to reflect some vintage 5-pocket jeans patterns, and we finalized the hardware, to be a washer and burr rivet and laurel wreath buttons, commonly used in wartime manufacturing and post-war civilian production of denim products by manufacturers with leftover hardware.  The garment was given a slightly longer front and back rise, resulting in a slightly longer button fly, and the inseam was elongated to compensate for the shrinkage in the warp direction of the cloth.  The rest of the garment is very similar to the Ankara fit, in terms of seam construction, front pocket depth, back pocket shape, stitch, and liner, and back yoke over panel, a staple of Tellason.  I t hink with these details and cloth, this makes a true modern classic pair of jeans.

The second sample arrived with these modifications, and I hot soaked, and hang dried them to determine if there was any difference between Northern California and Central North Carolina.  This resulted in shrinkage of 2" in the waist and 2" in the inseam.  

The cloth coming straight off the loom is very smooth, and very soft.  This is a combination of the low twist count yarn and the finer yarn count weave that is reflected in a dense denim fabric.  But, when it gets put through a wash or soak and dry process, it crisps up and becomes a nice 13.5ish oz. denim that has a beautiful, hairy unsinged face, and a nice steep right hand twill line.  We used 12 natural yarns in the ID lines, to commemorate the first yardage woven in White Oak back in April 1905.  

Tellason is currently producing 116 pairs, all numbered, to pay homage to the 116 years that the White Oak Cotton Mill has stood in Greensboro, and through those years become the world-renowned.

When the Tellason jeans become available for purchase, I will follow-up with a link for you to see along with product information and photographs of the finished garments.


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