Primitive and modern outdoor skills

Crafting: Wool raincoat


I go through a raincoat every 2-3 years. Each of these costs between $65.0 and $120.0. In addition they are made of plastic, which is filling up landfills. It's expensive and ugly. Lastly it's stupid loud when trying to walk through the woods, and thuse useless for hunting.

During Jess' stoneage project we thought a lot about what would work well as a raincoat. The obvious solution is bark-tanned deerhide, but with rather extensive testing (29 days of rain) on her trip she discovered that felt worked extraordinarily well.

We had planned to felt our own jackets (I even started one, which I botched badly), but then we were in a fabric store and they had some amazing super-dense thin felt. I decided to cheat a bit and picked up $40.0 of felt and a pattern for a jacket. Since we're hanging around my parent's house we finally got a chance to build the jacket, and here's the result.

The buttons are made with a pocket-knife using a stick from the backyard, and some of the waxed linen twine I use for everything.

The felt is backed, to help support the twine, with some buckskin scraps jess had saved.

This was my first time making clothing from a pattern. I've only done a couple of pieces before, and I did those by pulling a pattern off of existing clothing. Jess had to show me some of the tricks. Following a pattern requires a little knowledge, not much... but some.

Jess helped a lot with the whole project, especially the pinning. We used an extra heavy black thread for extra strength. I was concerned about the shoulder seams holding up under a backpack. Since it was available I borrowed my brother's sewing machine to speed things up. I've done most of my projects by handstitching, but damn a machine speeds things up.

The seams after being stitched are folded and top-stitched. I made an attempt to fold them in the most useful direction so the rain would tend to flow off instead of into the seam (This is a photo of the inside).

Here we're trying to get an idea how the pattern will work out.

I wanted the jacket to be long enough to cover my butt, but not much longer. This way hopefully I won't need rain-pants as often as I do with a modern waist-length jacket (which is already rare). It's actually halfway between the two lengths the pattern is made for

We deviated from the pattern in a couple of other places as well. This jacket is normally lined, but I thought that would be a waste of weight and bulk in the coat. We also ignored all the facing pieces as again I didn't want to pay the weight and bulk. I have a mild wool allergy, so we lined the collar with a bit of Marino wool from an old shirt/sweater that I wore out. We used 2 layers for the lower part of the collar for further protection from the normal wool where it presses against my neck. We sewed the collar as suggested with the liner, except that with no lining for the rest of the coat the bottom seam of the collar is hand-stitched to the rest of the coat. When I hemmed the cuff and bottom I left space to add drawstrings later as well.

Overall it's about what I was aiming for. The biggest change I'd make would be to change the sleeve design so it's set to 45 degrees out instead of straight down. This jacket as it is is a little restrictive of arm movement due to being curved through the shoulder like a suit coat. It's not too bad (better than I expected actually), just something I'd do differently.

The project took about 2 partial days once we got started.

The real question of course is... does it work. I'm going to save that for another post. It's mud season in new england so I'm sure I'll get a thurough test sometime soon :).