Cozy Warm Wool Coat

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Introduction: Cozy Warm Wool Coat

About: I'm a visual artist and fashion designer. I make pretty things. I post pictures of what I make on my website: http://theantibromide.com

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

Step 1: Why Use Natural Fibers?

In America, we have been taken over by synthetic materials.  Polyesters, nylons, and rayons are everywhere.  If you do a bit of research, polyester and vinyl are made from oil (source, source).  Rayons (including bamboo) are cellulosic fibers from plant material that are put through a chemical process to turn them into fibers that can be used for garments.

These materials do not break down in landfills.  

+500 years after each of us is dead, the synthetic fabrics and materials we use today because they are "better" than animal skins and hair, or natural plants will still be sitting in a landfill. 

I, personally, am not okay with this.  Especially when things like leather and sheepskin are a by-product of our food chain.  Things made from leather and animal skin have a longer usable life than synthetics and break down naturally when discarded. 

Step 2: Design Elements/Supplies

The coat I designed has a wool shell, a sheepskin lined hood, and the garment is lined in wool knit.  You can purchase a pattern for a coat you like and make a few small modifications if ease is needed. 

These are the tools and supplies needed:

Materials:
- Wool fabric
- Silk for pocket lining
- 2 Sheepskin hides (approx 24" long hides)
- Wool Yarn
- Buttons
- Rabbit Fur (for sleeve cuffs)
- Hair interfacing
- Cotton Flannel
- Cotton Twill Tape
- Cotton Twill fabric for interlining
- Pearl Cotton (heavy weight cotton embroidery floss)

Tools:
Basic Leatherworking supplies:
- Leather Needles
- Leather/Fur thread - heavy weight thread coated in wax
- Straight edge blade
- Marking tool
- Awl

Sewing supplies:
- Sewing Machine
- Hand sewing needles
- Thread
- Pins
- Marking tools (chalk)
- Rulers

Step 3: Pre-shrink Everything

When mixing materials like wool, cotton, goat/horse (hair interfacing), and animal skins, it is incredibly important to PRE-SHRINK EVERYTHING.  Things will shrink at different rates when laundered and you don't want to have a garment like this pull funny after the first time it is washed. 

Wash everything cotton in warm water, dry on a warm to hot setting to pre-shrink.

Hair Canvas also needs to be pre-shrunk.  Wet the fabric down with water using a spray bottle or sponge and iron on a high temp until dry. 

Step 4: Pattern Selection and Modification

I created a pattern to accommodate my design ideas but it is not difficult to modify a commercially purchased or downloaded pattern.  When making warm apparel items, one big thing that you need to pay attention to is the thickness of the materials you use.  

I created a lining for my coat from wool yarn that I knit to fit the coat.  I knit a test swatch to find my gauge and measured the thickness of the sweater lining.  The sweater lining was 1/4" thick.  That is enough that you need to ensure the pattern you selected has enough ease to still fit once the sweater lining is added. 

To measure the thickness of materials, place something large, flat, and moderately light weight on top of what you are measuring.  Measure from the surface the item is sitting on to what you placed on top. 

To determine if the final garment measurement is large enough to accommodate the desired lining, let's use circles and diameters. The idea is to take your bust measurement, add a circle the thickness of your lining material, and find out what the bust measurement of your final garment should be. 

- Take your bust measurement and divide it by 3.1415  = this is the diameter of the circle if you were exactly round. 
- Add the thickness of your lining material around the full circle. Your bust diameter plus 2x lining thickness = your new bust and lining diameter.
- Multiply the new bust and lining diameter by 3.1415 and this number is the smallest bust that will fit around you.
- See the 5th image in this step for a visual representation and example

The hood of my coat is lined in sheepskin- which measures 1 1/2" thick.  I had to make many adjustments to accommodate that much fullness (but it was worth it).  I backed the neckline off 1 1/2" all the way around, and made sure the measurements for the hood made sense and could fit fur between the fabric and my head. 

Step 5: Working With Animal Skins

Working with animal skins - in this case rabbit and sheep - uses different techniques than working with typical fabrics.  If you choose to use non-biodegradable faux fur, these techniques are still applicable for a great finish. 

DO NOT USE SCISSORS TO CUT FUR.  The best way to cut fur is with a straight edge blade like a box cutter or X-Acto knife.  Hold the skin away from hard surfaces when you cut and cut from the back/skin side.  The reason for avoiding scissors and not pressing against a hard surface is to prevent giving the skin a "haircut".  When you cut this the correct way, fur should be visible outside the cut skin area from the back. 

Avoid using pins.  The holes from using pins are permanent and weaken the skin.  Part of the reason to use real materials is to have a good quality item that will last for a very long time.  Using pins will shorten the lifespan of the item you make. 

Step 6: Edge Joining

When working with fur, it is a good idea to edge join to reduce bulk. 

- Use a whip stitch to sew the pieces edge to edge.  
- To prevent stretching over time, apply a line of cotton twill tape over the seam. 

Being able to edge join is very helpful when working with fur.  To create the piece you need for your project, you my need to piece together a few cuts.  Pay attention to the nap/direction of the fur when piecing together.  If done well, you won't even know it happened on the final piece. 

Step 7: Sewing Fur to Fabric

There is a specific technique for attaching fur to fabric that works very well. 

Begin by sewing a line of twill tape the the edge of the fur.  The twill tape should be on the fur side and a whip stitch should be used. 

When the whole side to be joined is taped, flip the twill tape to the back side of the fur and tack in place with a running stitch. On the front side of the skin, "pick" the seam meaning use an awl to pull and fluff up any fur was trapped under a stitch out. 

Press the seam allowance on the fabric piece that the fur is attaching to.
 
Align the fur and sew the fur in place.  Using a hand sewing needle, join the twill tape attached to the fur to the seam allowance of the fabric piece. 

This technique was used to connect the rabbit fur to the sleeve opening, the sheepskin hood to the fabric hood, and the outside edge of the lapel to the coat. 

Step 8: Working With an Interlining

An interlining can come in handy for many reasons on nicer, higher end garments.  It can effect opacity of the fashion fabric, add support to a light weight fabric, or - as in this case - add an extra layer of warmth.

Heavy weight cotton (such as cotton sateen) is the most wind-resistant material of natural fibers.  I had cotton twill so I decided to add the layer to slow wind cutting through the layers of my coat. I washed and dried the fabric on high/hot settings to shrink it as much as possible before using it with wool.  The interlining pieces are cut the same as the fashion fabric pieces - except they are cut without the hem to reduce bulk.  Before you begin sewing the fashion fabric, align the interlining to the wrong side of each piece and baste or pin baste i place .  Treat the two layers  as 1 when you sew. 

Before seaming the pieces with the interlining, fold the seam allowance to the wrong side. When you make that fold, the edge of interlining will likely shift past the edge of the fashion fabric.  The interlining fabric serves as a backing to the fashion fabric and needs to be slightly smaller so it does not bubble/pull/pucker.  Pin the two layers in place while the seam allowance is folded toward the back.   Trim the interlining to match the cut edge of the fashion fabric and then sew the seam like usual. 

Step 9: Construction Steps

This is a general list of steps in order of construction.  If using a commercial pattern, follow their construction directions. 

- Make or find your pattern.  Change anything about the coat or pattern.
- Cut from the correct fabrics.
- Stack and secure interlining
- Sew small details like pocket flaps or collars
- Sew pockets that fall on 2 piece of the garment
- Apply interfacing
- Do first round of  seaming
- Construct the sleeves
- Add sleeve trim
- Continue seaming the garment.
- Add finishing details 
- Construct lining
- Attach lining

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    66 Discussions

    0
    user
    Raned

    7 months ago

    This is a beautiful coat and your work is exquisite. I came here to gather more information on how to construct a liner for my vintage fur coat and learned more than I imagined! The fur coat needs repairs and I've been using an stitching awl which makes a lock stitch. However, this is causing large holes from the awl in very old, delicate leather and creating puckers that are visible from the outside of the coat. I think I'm going to try the whipstitch and twill tape method you show! Thank you so much!

    Hi antibromide =)

    I just wanted to ask if you were considering adding your pattern for the coat to the download? I signed up for the pro account just to get your instructable... the coat is just perfect in every way and is exactly what I've been looking for in a coat... but I was a little disappointed when i checked the download to find no pattern instructions.
    It would be a great add. Thankyou for the instructable either way.

    This looks awesome. Well done.

    I love your instructable. Is there any chance on getting hands on the patterns you have used?

    0
    user
    numnut

    4 years ago

    About how much did this coat cost to make

    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!

    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.

    2 replies

    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!!! ;-)

    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.

    1 reply

    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. :)

    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.