Time After Time

Watchful Guardian

It was a close friend’s birthday a few months back and I wanted to make something for him: he mentioned a while back that he wanted a watch mat. He’s an avid watch enthusiast and collector, and I had just been dabbling into watches recently so I thought it was something that I needed to find out more since I have not heard of such a thing before.

Unfortunately, the Internet searches bore little fruit and I was left wondering how to craft something from nothing. In such cases, I always go back to function. I wanted to know what the mat would be used for, where it would be placed (for the most part) and what attributes should it have.

And over the period of a few weeks, I have finally managed to have these questions answered.

Prerequisites

He wanted a tabletop mat which he could put his watches on when he’s fixing them or changing their straps. The mat would also be the backdrop for his watches when he displays and admires them.

He also provided some criteria and gave me ample room for interpretation:

  1. It has to be flat, just like a mat
  2. The top side has to be soft, to not damage the watches; while the bottom side can be rough(er)
  3. Yet it has to be sturdy enough to provide protection between the table underneath and the watches
  4. It has to bear the ‘ODDBALL KIND’ logo at the back of the mat
  5. It has to be 52cm wide and 20cm high
  6. It has to accommodate four watches at least

With these parameters in mind, I set off to make him a watch mat that would belong to him, starting with the first order of business – research.

Research

From what I can gather, a watch mat needs to serve its main function – protection between the watch(es) and the surface underneath it, at the very least.

Unfortunately, my image searches of watch mats only showed me namely photos of watches and the occasional watch on a piece of leather on a tabletop. Perhaps it bears a name that I do not know or maybe it is not well-documented.

Nonetheless, I did not have much to go on.

It hit me a few days later that the 風呂敷 (furoshiki) serves a similar function as a watch mat – they both act as protection. Furoshiki are large pieces of square cloths that are used to wrap gifts and also food containers such as bento boxes. Furoshiki can get enormous because of the multiple folds it takes to wrap a present or box to protect it. To give a sense of scale, some of these gift-wrapping furoshiki which are used to wrap bento boxes can also be used as tablecloth too.

I did not want to use rolls of new fabric and instead, started digging deeper and found out that some furoshiki in the past were made with patches as fabric was few and far between.

ツギハギ風呂敷 or Patchwork Furoshiki from Toi Designs

The Making

After sketching a rough outline of how I wanted the patches to lay, I started cutting the patches into smaller denominations to be patched together. As the watch mat is a lot smaller in scale than the other things that I make, the patches had to be smaller too.

Starting with making rows first and then expanding them sideways, I added column after column and eventually had the foundation of the mat.

I reinforced the seams with some sashiko stitching to not only hold them in place but to also prevent them from puckering or puffing up when lay flat.

At this point, I recalled that some parts of the mat were too rough – such as the screenprinted ODDBALL KIND patterned denim patches. They could possibly scratch the watches if not handled carefully and I proceeded to add some sashiko stitching and some patches of soft cotton cloths that were made from the same material as the formal shirts. These were the ‘platforms’ where the watches could rest.

The statement piece or patch in this watch mat would definitely be the blue linen patch with an irregular fade on the right of the mat. It was the leftover fabric of a linen shirt that was dyed with natural indigo courtesy of Somafolk. I love the hue of the indigo blue and I also really like the uneven colouration (which is what happens when you take apart clothing that was dyed after it has been sewn together).

Variation in colour happens when item is dyed after being sewn together.

The next challenge was screenprinting the logo.

Screenprinting

One of the pointers that he would like was the ODDBALL KIND logo at the back side and this experience served as a good opportunity to revisit screenprinting.

Rightfully so as I ended up ruining the screen on three attempts across two days.

In the first attempt, I impatiently tried to speed up the process of washing the screen and ended up removing parts of the screen.

My second attempt proved no better as I forgot to flip the image around.

For the third attempt, I left it overnight to settle only to find thick blotches on the reverse side.

And after three unsuccessful attempts, I finally printed the screen and jumped back on the momentum train.

I forgot to flip the image around while curing the screen with UV light resulting in a hilarious (and inverse) mistake

Screenprinting ink/paint mixed to the right consistency and colour

The cured silkscreen on the fourth attempt.

Awaiting ironing to heat set the screenprinted patches

Assembly

I figured to use leftover fabric from men’s formal shirts as the bias around the mat to add a touch of softness to the sides. As I was working mostly with patches and discarded fabric, I had to make an educated guess on the line of bias and this was no exception.

However, this, alongside the stretchiness of the fabric, created a bias that was uneven. You can see the unevenness at the back of the watch mat if you look closely but at least I now know that I have to practice creating and applying more bias tape.

Closing Thoughts

I found myself wondering if he will like it or not.

I thought to myself that maybe he would immediately point out how the bias tape was irregularly sewn from the back. Or maybe he would question the position of the patches. But strangely enough, when I presented my friend the watch cloth earlier in the week, he really liked it. We spent a few hours after dinner talking and taking photos of the watches against the mat.

It was a breath of fresh air listening to him talk about watches with a vengeance. He went into the details that defined some ‘Indie’ watch brands and gave me a short history lesson on the revolutionary features that Breguet brought to the watch world. Moreover, he did not even notice the irregular stitching of the bias tape on the back side and only found out after I told him about it.

Furthermore, his suggestion of having the logo on the back now made the mat almost like a book where the unassuming back side can open to reveal a tapestry of different patches and textures which will be the setting for the watches to be propped up against.

I hope this mat finds a place to belong with him!

– The Kind Oddball, 優しく個性的な人

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