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Cozy Warm Wool Coat

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I live in the Windy City (Chicago) which really earned the nick-name due to politicians but the more literal meaning of the name is still applicable to the weather conditions during the winter.  Waiting on elevated train platforms or walking around downtown (near the lake) will chill you to your core in minutes during typical Chicago winters.

A few months back I fell in love with a coat from Top Shop Chicago but had a realization when I looked at the price tag. For the cost of a coat made with all synthetic materials at Top Shop, I could purchase materials made with all natural fibers to make a much, much warmer, longer lasting, and better quality version of the coat if I was willing to put a bit of time and effort into the project.

To spend the time, money, and effort to make a coat from all natural materials was a big commitment.  I wanted to create something with classic appeal so I could wear it the rest of my life.  I don't want this item to be worn for one year and discarded - I wanted a heritage piece.  

Which is exactly what I did.

- The coat is a simple princess line garment that falls to mid-thigh. 
- The neck has sheepskin lapel
- Two toggle buttons are used for the closure
- The hood is fully lined in sheepskin
- The body of the coat is lined in knitted wool 
- The sleeves are lined in knitted wool with rabbit fur lining the inside of the sleeve opening at the hand
- A layer of heavy weight cotton twill is used as an underlining to block wind and add extra warmth
 
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numnut7 months ago
About how much did this coat cost to make
iamaqtpoo1 year ago
Wow, how amazing beautiful and simple. Such a great instructable...nice job!
This really is an amazing Instructable and I'm excited to start it in the coming week...it's not cold yet in Arizona but it gets a little windy in the winter and it never hurts to have a nice coat.

I was wondering if you could recommend a pattern similar to what you used? You said you made your own pattern, but I am not anywhere close to that confident with a needle. I really like the hood size and lapels though, so do you know if there is a term for this style of coat?

Thanks so much for documenting your work and sharing with others!
Icy132 years ago
I have made my own overcoat as well. This is an awesome project and idea, and everyone who is so inclined should undertake one like this. However, I think that you need to make a full disclosure about your materials if you really are going to follow the mantra you laid out on the first page.

Materials:
- Wool fabric <--- This was processed and produced using synthetic materials. Exactly what dye was used?
- Silk for pocket lining <-- Same question as the wool
- 2 Sheepskin hides <-- other commenters have covered this, processing
- Wool Yarn <-- Same question about synthetic dyes
- Buttons <--- Material? Processing?
- Rabbit Fur (for sleeve cuffs) <-- Dies? Ethics of animals raised for fur?
- Hair interfacing <--- This is usually canvas, but how was it processed?
- Cotton Flannel <--- definitely processed, and I will bet the didn't use the old seed pods to produce the nap
- Cotton Twill Tape <-- made on a machine, probably processed, chemicals?
- Cotton Twill fabric for interlining <--- dyes? processing? weaving machine?
- Pearl Cotton (heavy weight cotton embroidery floss) <-- probably mercerized with a flame to make a nice sheen. That flame used a petro-chemical.

Tools:
Basic Leatherworking supplies:
- Leather Needles <-- your needles came in a plastic and paper package which used synthetic dyes/inks
- Leather/Fur thread - heavy weight thread coated in wax <--- what kind of wax? paraffin or beeswax?
- Straight edge blade <-- this is 100% the result of complex synthetic processes which produce a high quality, low cost metal blade. The handle is 100% petrochemical
- Marking tool <--- This is made of plastic, has a complex synthetic ink, the nib and feeding are 100% the result of complex industrialized processes
- Awl <--- this has a plastic handle. Petrochemical. Same comment about proccessing on the knife. Th

Sewing supplies:
- Sewing Machine <--- Machine. Lubricated with Petroleum Oil, MACHINE!
- Hand sewing needles <--- better believe these are made industrially using a highly complex alloy
- Thread <--- really? cotton or poly? was the cotton mercerized (with a petrochemical flame?)
- Pins <-- Adam Smith explained how these used to be made (by hand) and how that changed during the industrial revolution. Guess how your were made.
- Marking tools (chalk) <--- was this a raw hunk of chalk stone or a piece of tailor's chalk/chalk stick?
- Rulers <-- metal? wood? plastic? marked with ink? carved?

Unlisted material: That Computer you used to make this instructable and all the associated hardware. All sorts of synthetic, exotic, and novel materials there.

I have written this entire comment staring at the big red "be nice" policy. I know I am towing the line, but I hope this comment is at least as nice as the original mantra from the author of this instructable. I agree that many of the concerns of that mantra are justified, however the solution is rather narrow as pointed out by the many people who commented on the first page. My post was an attempt to logically extend the dialogue of this author's instructable and the other comments laid out on the first page.
antibromide (author)  Icy132 years ago
I agree that I used things made of plastic in the process and I never tried to deny that or hide it. Plastics are unavoidable at this point in time. There are many places were plastics are amazing and should be used because they have characteristics not found in natural materials (like being 100% waterproof).

I'm simply trying to reduce my use of plastics.

I never said anything negative about machines (and in fact admire machinery and the minds and skill used to create it).

Rabbits are not raised for their fur alone:
Source 1) http://www.chiggerridge.net/rabbitmeatforsal.html
Source 2) http://www.raising-rabbits.com/raw-meat-pet-food.html
Source 3) "In many parts of Europe and Latin America, the people there eat rabbits the way we eat chickens in North America.  The skins are a by-product of the food-processing industry.  The rabbits are raised for meat, not for their skins." See Where Do Rabbit Skins Come From here: http://www.chichesterinc.com/RabbitSkins.htm

The rabbit fur was not dyed. The buttons are antler tips. The hair interfacing is made from goat and horse hair. The cotton twill tape is 100% cotton and natural color meaning it was not dyed.

I can't acquire and use everything as an organic natural unprocessed biodegradable item. Does that mean I shouldn't choose natural material when I can?
I would like to add:  Rabbit meat is delicious, and...

This is a beautifully done Instructable! Congratulations!!! ;-)
TristaGee2 years ago
Holy wow. This is beautiful.
antibromide (author)  TristaGee2 years ago
Thank you so much!
debdegraeve2 years ago
Congratulations!
antibromide (author)  debdegraeve2 years ago
Thanks! An embroidery machine is the missing piece to my machine collection.
mstyle1832 years ago
Very nice. S
Very professional looking
antibromide (author)  mstyle1832 years ago
Thank you! I am always working on improving my skill and it is nice someone noticed!
Pamela2 years ago
That is a lovely and well-made coat. I'd love to snuggle up in that, but I'm allergic to wool. :( Plus it never gets cold enough where I live to need a jacket like that.
antibromide (author)  Pamela2 years ago
Thank you! It is very cozy and it's too bad you are allergic to wool. Maybe you could make a shoulder wrap from a different kind of fur to wear on your cool but not "It's so cold I'm going to die" days. :)
saffron692 years ago
This is beautiful! brava!! I love the fabrics you have chosen, very apropriate for winter wear. I love how you are trying to minimise waste into our environment. Its hard to get "organic totally good for you and the environment " fabric. Nearly everything in my local fabric store is polyester or 100% cotton and we all know they arent exactly organic. And fabric is one thing I do not buy online. I like to see and feel it first. Check it out for flaws at the shop before taking it home, where once there I cant exchange it.
But I blabber.. I love this. Simple and beautiful.. also how awesome... knitted! I dont think I'm keen for the knitting but hey!! i know ladies who probably are ;D
thank you heaps for sharing this.
please keep sharing!
love this, please do ignore the peta nutcases, save ur breathe. ur doing an amazing job.
antibromide (author)  HeWantsRevenge2 years ago
Thank you! I'm happy with the conclusion I made about using natural materials based on lots of research and thought.
trgz2 years ago
I'll never have the time, patience or skill to make something like this but I have to say that it looks simply wonderful. Whilst it cold outside at the moment, living in the SW of England pretty well means that we don't have to go to such extremes even though I'm 15 minutes from the edge of Dartmoor!
I like to buy/wear natural fibres where possible and I was rather interested to hear your comments on bamboo as I was considering some socks - I may have to rethink my purchase.
Again - a wonderful looking coat and would love to see either of my daughters or my partner wearing something like it.
antibromide (author)  trgz2 years ago
Bamboo has been marketed as eco-friendly but it is a viscose (rayon). Rayon received negative attention because of deforestation concerns. When they started using bamboo deforestation happened so bamboo could be grown for making viscose and bamboo is a very invasive plant.

Viscose fibers break down faster than cotton and typically require dry cleaning or light hand washing if you want to use/wear them for a long time. If you thought of buying bamboo because it has been marketed as eco-friendly it isn't a good idea. If you like the feel of bamboo yarn and want to make something that won't require much laundering (like a scarf or leg/arm warmers) then it could be a good solution. It is most certainly better than acrylic yarn.

Thank you for your comments on the coat! I wanted something pretty and classic and I think I achieved that!
solemnraven2 years ago
I am curious to know how much the whole coat cost you in both money and time.

Thanks! It's a very lovely coat.
antibromide (author)  solemnraven2 years ago
The cost of materials was around $200. I decided from the start that I was going to do it right and not cut corners. I chose fabrics that I really liked and knew I would like forever which were a little bit pricey but the right fabrics for the job.

The coat is fully tailored (hand stitched hair interfacing, hand tacked hem, etc.) and the lining is custom knitted. I pushed hard for 3 weeks get the coat done for the Sew Warm Contest deadline. It was a big project but I feel like it was completely worth it. There are ways to reduce cost and construction time for sure but I love tackling big projects and challenges so I enjoyed making the coat.
Pader2 years ago
The coat looks great but I would consider that the hood will considerably reduce your angle of vision which seriously diminish your safety when crossing the street and even make you unaware of others coming from the side or behind you with bad intent towards you.
antibromide (author)  Pader2 years ago
The hood is lined in fur that is 1 1/2" thick. The hood is very large but when I am actually wearing it, it does not obscure my view any more than a hoodie or my current coat. It is something I thought about a lot and one of my first patterns had a hood that completely eclipsed my face when I tried on the sample!
morglew2 years ago
I totally like your outlook and feel that more people, including myself should follow a similar pursuit. However, just FYI... I used to work at a municipal landfill and, I hate to tell you, but no matter what, almost everything one puts in a landfill will be compacted (a good thing) and with doing so it all lasts and extra long time. We dug gas collection line trenches down to 1973 and found, along with a newspaper (how we determined the age) apples cores and other kitchen waste. Swear to dog. Everything that goes into a landfill will be there for a very long time, indiscriminate of it's makeup. But you are absolutely right in not wanting to add synthetic materials to the world. Commendable.
antibromide (author)  morglew2 years ago
Thanks for your first hand input about landfills. It is unfortunate that this is our reality as humans. I know there is no real solution but if I can reduce my consumption (by wearing this coat for the rest of my life) and use materials that have a chance at breaking down under the right conditions I am at least reducing my impact.
Eacon2 years ago
I really like what you've done and I don't want to bash or anything, but I have to say something on the topic of leather and hides: I do agree that synthetic materials are not the optimal solution, however, you seem kinda uninformed on leather/fur. Skin is a natural product and begins to break down the moment the animal dies. This process is inhibited by treatment with strong chemicals and preservatives, which often get into rivers or ground water after they are used - especially in India and China. The chemicals it takes to trick death are often more harmful than those nescessary to produce synthetic fabrics oder even fake-fur (and not all of the raw materials come from oil). Leather products do not break down well if discarded - for example many leather shoes have been found when digging up 200 year old graveyears, while their owners were nothing but dust. The leather and fur today are greatly different from the ones our ancestors used: the softening of lamb hides for example which then was done by chewing on it for days or scraping by hand is now achieved by chemicals. After all, animal skins are far less "natural" and "ecological" than it seems!
antibromide (author)  Eacon2 years ago
Yes, chemicals are used to process animal skins. But I think the pollution caused by that processing is minimal compared to drilling for oil, transporting it around the world, putting it through chemical processes using high amounts of water and energy in countries without regulations on coal plant pollution, and then leaving those items in landfills when discarded is a much, much bigger pollution problem.

When I buy leather, it comes from Horween leathers - they process animal hides 8 blocks from where I live in Chicago.

Shoes are found in cemeteries where they were placed in the ground in a box. They weren't exposed to the elements. We don't have shoes made from animal hides for every single person that ever walked the planet but we do have every single plastic bag, polyester fabric scrap, and piece of faux fur and those aren't going away anytime soon.

If synthetics are not the optimal solution, and natural fibers aren't good either- what do you use?
Thank you for taking my comment seriously. There is a widespread misapprehension that all synthetic materials are equal to plastic. That is not true; take Viscose for example, it's made from Cellulose and fully biodegradable just like cotton. All the chemicals used during the process are reused or can be used in another indusrtry (e.g. the sodium sulfate goes into washing powder). Almost none of all the modern artificial fabrics are made from oil (it would be far to expensive today!). Some are recycled: there is an firm producing cozy polar flecee from PET-Bottles (i'm not to fond of them either but making clothes is better than burning the stuff, right?). Other natural fabrics have great, almost forgotten qualities like hemp or linen (natural gore-tex, yay!) and need very little chemical processing and decay well. Organic cotton is also an responsible option in my eyes. These are all good materials for different types of clothing and puropses, which I prefer over "plastic" or animal based products.
I can not deliver a judgement on how your leather and hides are cured, but know that chemicals used in modern leather processing can under no circumstances be reused (since they get chemically altered and useless) and need to be disposed (it lies in the hands of the factory to do that responsibly). How we treat skins today is greatly different than our anchestors in caves: more chemicals, longer durability. An animals skin is not in all cases just a by-product of the meat - many farmers get a good income from the hides alone (of course depending on the sort of animal). In this case I agree that leather can be a more enviromentally responsible coice than a horrible polyester piece, but in my experience these are exceptional cases.
Also know that we now have biodegradable plastics, one-way-cups and fabrics which look like the plastic we produced 20 years ago, but is far better than that. The landfills and sea waste problems are not so much caused by artificial clothing but by the load of plastic packaging and hard-cased items we so thoughtlessly throw away.
Thank you for having thoughts on these important topics! <3
antibromide (author)  Eacon2 years ago
Linen and Hemp are natural fibers typically equal to the processing that cotton receives (including the dyes used). Linen suits are traditionally summer suits and wool suits are traditionally winter suits - so using linen on a winter coat doesn't make sense if the objective is to stay warm.

Viscose also known as rayon comes from plant material. It is made traditionally from trees which has raised concerns about deforestation and more recently from bamboo (which caused deforestation to make room to grow bamboo). Manufacturers have falsely advertised bamboo as being eco-friendly but effective in 2010 the Federal Trade Commission declared it not eco-friendly and it can no longer be marketed as such (see my original source in step 1 for bamboo).

A tremendous amount of energy and water is needed to make viscose. Many chemicals are used and, just as with processing animal skins, there are concerns about how factories dispose of the chemicals as well as air/water pollution.
Source: http://www.swicofil.com/viscose.html

Rayon is not readily available at fabric stores unfortunately. It has amazing characteristics (the hand and drape are beautiful) and I would use it if I could find it.

Also, viscose/rayon was created as a semi-synthetic silk - silk is not known for it's warm properties and again, using rayon to make a winter coat doesn't make sense if the objective is to stay warm.

It is fantastic that plastic is being recycled into fleece but I cannot imagine a world where I would want to own anything made from fleece - it doesn't match my personality or reflect my personal style. A fleece pullover I had in high school certainly didn't keep me as warm as the merino wool sweater I made for myself last winter.

Go through your closet - if your apparel isn't made from cotton it is probably polyester. Polyester is made from coal, air, water, and petroleum. (Source: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-2/Polyester.html#b) Vinyl (synthetic leather) is made from petroleum, natural gas, and salt. (source: http://www.ehow.com/facts_4898704_what-vinyl-fabric.html). Modern synthetics ARE made from oil. Both of those sources were included in Step 1 of this project.

Synthetics are unavoidable and there are good characteristics and reasons to use them (like they can be 100% waterproof).

I know some animals are raised for their fur but at this point, the furs and leathers I use come from our food supply.

I'm just trying to reduce my consumption of plastic based materials. The chemicals used to process animal hides make them biodegrade slower than traditional hides (although many leathers are still vegetable tanned like tooling leather and shoe soles) but at least they won't be around as long as vinyl.
Rama2 years ago
I think it's great that you have so many thoughts on natural fibers and their sustainability, but I have to object to your conclusion.
Have you thought about where that fur and leather comes from? What life did the animals it derived from, liive before they where slaughtered? Do you know anything about the products you are buying and the companies you are supporting? And it is far from all fur and leather that is a byproduct of anything, even cows are sometimes killed solely for their hide.
You say you prefere natural fibers, but what happened to plant fibers, not bamboo, but cotton, hemp and the like? They can be produced to be very weather resistant. And there are in fact 'fake' leathers and furs on the market that are just as long lived and strong as the real thing. Bark cloth is an example of that.
I just hope that you will think more about why you are using animal derived materials when so many other things are possible.
antibromide (author)  Rama2 years ago
I am completely aware of where sheepskin and leather come from - the momento mori ("Remember you will die") aspect to what I am doing is incredibly important to me. I watched two pets die of old age in front of me in the last two years. Death is not always painful; life always has some aspect of suffering. Everything dies and you can't stop that. I am offended by the idea of not using all parts of an animal that is slaughtered to be eaten.

I do use cotton but it is considered the worlds dirtiest crop due to use of insecticides (source: http://www.ota.com/organic/environment/cotton_environment.html). Bark cloth is coarse and typically used in home upholstery applications - to make it usable for apparel it is as much as 65% rayon/synthetic.

The reality is, as a human being everything we consume has a consequence. My intention with this coat was to make one piece I will wear for the rest of my life. I eat animals to consume calories to stay alive - I wear animal skins to conserve calories forever and reduce future consumption needs.

Could you please provide me with a source for cows being killed for their hides that isn't an isolated incident?
I have to say that i do not believe that watching pets, that have been spoiled and had plenty of room for their entire lives, die, is the same as watching the horrors of the conventional slaughterhouse.
Death for them may, if they are lucky, have been prevented from being painful by deriving them of their oxygen before they die. But the fear and agitation they go through before that is pain to me as well.

And even though ALL suffering cannot be prevented, it is possible to minimize it, at LEAST by buying animals that have lived a freerange life. But then again, there is the slaughterhouse, where they all eventually go no matter where they have been raised.
And of course if you finally do kill something, you should use all of it, but in this case, in an animal welfare discussion, that is not the main point.
About the single use of hides, yes the incidents are happily rare, and I should not use it as an argument, I apologize for that.
But that does not go for many other animals killed for their furs, like mink, fox, beaver and yes also rabbits. There are two main breeds of rabbits, one where all is used and one where only the fur is.

I agree with you on cotton that have NOT been grown organically and I see your point with bark cloth. I do not have all the answers on what subsitutes are the best.
But I do believe that searching for environmentally safe substitutes is far better than supporting a meat and leather industry that has run amok.
Hemp is one of the most resistant types of textiles and one of the easiest to grow in an organic way.
And everyday scientists are getting closer to using reusing the plastics we have created in the cradle to cradle theory. It already happened with polyester, the up till now number one bad textile.

Nutritionwise, meat is not crucial for survival.
qyuubi7862 years ago
I would so want to hug you if I saw you where wearing that jacket. :)
Where did you get the sheepskin and for how much?
antibromide (author)  qyuubi7862 years ago
Ha ha, I can understand that impulse! The sheepskin is so plush and huggable for sure.

I purchased the sheepskins from Ikea. They keep them with the rugs and cow hides. Typically they have a big bin of them for $35 each. There are lots of sellers on Ebay and Etsy who sell sheepskins and places like this one: http://www.shearingshed.com/Rugs.html If you do purchase 2 hides from an online seller, you should contact them and ask if they can send 2 hides that are a close match in fur length and texture. Hides can vary and for a project like this you will want a close match.
Where do you buy your beautiful rabbit fur and sheepskin hides?
antibromide (author)  quiltslongarm2 years ago
I purchased the sheepskin from Ikea. They sell them with their rugs and typically have a big bin of them to choose from.

The rabbit hide was purchased from Hobby Lobby for around $10. They keep them with their leatherworking supplies and kits. JoAnn fabrics also has them sometimes but they were priced at $22... so use a coupon!

There are lots of places on Ebay and Etsy that sell hides and places like this one: http://www.shearingshed.com/Rugs.html If you do purchase 2 hides from an online seller, you should contact them and ask if they can send 2 hides that are a close match in fur length and texture. Hides can vary and for a project like this you will want a close match.
This is just wonderful! Well done! And bravo for the eco-friendly enthusiasm!
antibromide (author)  jelenamitic772 years ago
Thank you! I think a lot about the impact I have on this planet and I don't want my legacy to be a big pile of plastic in a landfill.
aje1272 years ago
BEEEYOUTEEEEFULLLL. I wish I had your talent
antibromide (author)  aje1272 years ago
Thank you!
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