For those who have expressed an interest in transforming surplus military blankets into a functional (and possibly stylish!!???) winter anorak, I've put together a materials list and pattern dimensions.
Trying to answer all of the questions beforehand is almost pointless. So, where possible, notations and comments will be added during the process. There are a few things we should realize first:
1. Do not rush! give yourself a reasonable goal time without the hassles of deadlines. As with the tortoise and the hare, a slow steady pace will always produce better results.
2. Create your pattern first and then do a 'mock-up' using a cheap thin material taped together (duct tape ). cheap materials can include plastic kitchen bags, burlap, old blankets. etc. WHY, because popping seams kills your time to completion and really isn't that fun
3. Measure twice cut once! As any carpenter will tell you, check your measurements as many times as you feel comfortable with.
4. All seam allowances are 5/8" - 16mm ... more on how to change sizes with seam allowances later.
Without further ado...
First, what the final product will look like (er, somewhat; depending on your choice of materials and stitching styles):
... What you are going to need (add, subtract, swap out materials as you see fit... this is your artistry and it wouldn't be prudent if a bunch of copies were circulating ):
- (1) Military surplus blanket
- (3) yds of waterproof breathable laminate (like goretex, entrant, schoeller)
- (80) yds. heavy duty polyester outdoor thread
- (40) yds "iron on" seam tape (makes stitching alot easier and keeps stretchable fabrics from bunching with non-stretchable fabrics)
- (3) sq. ft. 2-3oz. leather
- (1) spool 65 lb. braided fishing line (spectra.. firewire, power pro, spiderline)
- wooden beads, antler tips for button toggles
- leather lacing (latigo is best)
- jacquard ribbon trim (comes in thousands of styles, and can be used in conjunction with topstitching to create a very unique contrasting embroidered look)
Many of these products can be found online through ebay and other merchants. More info can be found at this post: Where to get the goods
....aaaaand for the thread that started it all (you maight get a better understanding of why i'm doing this): Water/wind proof wool anorak ... not to mention more detailed photos of exactly how things will look
Alrighty then.. here come the patterns with a few numbers:
these patterns need to be layed on in such a way that each produces a complete front and complete back (i.e.- the centerlines need to be placed on your materials fold.. more on this later)
If you're having trouble viewing the dimensions on the smaller pictures, please visit my flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmi2004/ for larger images.
Okay. Now we've got these cool looking patterns without the one-size-fits-all moniker. So how do we resize based on each persons individual frame? These pattern dims are for a person 5'8" to 6' in height. With just a few crops, and adds here and there, we can create a fit that will work with ANY averaged sized person (little people and giants are the only exceptions).
The length of the yoke determines the length of the arms from cuff to cuff. From the bottom of the armpit to the hem determines the length. The width of the chest and back panels determines the upper body volume. For us, having a shoulder yoke offers a lot more versatility with regards to resizing our pattern. regardless of your shoulder width, the yoke takes up all the slack by only changing the angle of the upper sleeve! Try this with a typical sleeve!
So, the first thing we are going to find out is how to change the length of the sleeves.
Grab yourself a partner, and have them measure from your wrist on your right hand to your wrist on your left hand. Voila! This plus a couple inches will be the entire length of your yoke. Now, if you are subtracting from sample length shown here, Then you must also subtract from the front and back sleeve panels (#'s 4 and 5). If adding, the same applies.. add the same amount to both panels. To illustrate:
You'll want to only extend/shorten from the CUFF side of the pattern (Notation 'B'). If you attempt to change the radius on the armpit area, you are changing a lot of the variables when you actually get down to sewing the arms to the yoke and the main body panels. If you want to change the circumference of the sleeve, you MUST radius from the armpit area and slowly create an arc that increases or decreases the circumference (Note 'A', as you can hopefully see, starts out flush with the original and slowly changes the curve as we move towards the cuff).
As mentioned before, practice with a scrap piece of material or even a plastic bag (much faster).
Lengthening the main body panels is fairly self-explanatory as well. WORK TOWARDS THE HEM at the waist.
Note: Many people like to have the back longer than the front, this can be accomplished by adding more to the rear body panel... on the hem cut. This pattern is designed to sit a little further back on the shoulders which gives the feeling that the back is longer than the front. Try it first and then add or remove material to satisfaction.
... and now for a way to layout your patterns on your blanket so that we can get some contrast...:
The blanket above is a "standard" italian military issue blanket from who-knows-what-year (60's?). The dimensions range from 60"x78" to 64"x86". Given the stripes start at about 8" in from the whipstitched edge (and are equal on both sides of the blanket), we can lay out our patterns so that they will create a stripe which continues evenly from the sleeves to the front and back body panels.
there are numerous alternatives that can send the stripes vertical, angled, higher/lower etc... play around with your patterns for awhile (heck, sleep on it ).
Now, when it actually comes down to beginning the stitching, we are going to start with sewing on the front sleeves (4) to the Front body panel (2). With the outside of the panels facing away from you and start stitching the sleeves to the main body panel. Remember, we have a 5/8" seam to play with... try to keep this consistent throughout your project. I suggest stating the sewing from the top of the shoulders and working towards the armpit area.
As you progress, keep the materials lined up properly so that you don't get the wool bunching up against your liner material (if you are choosing to do a liner that is).
So, we will have something which looks something like this to begin with:
After you've completed your stitches, we're are going to turn our piece over and topstitch the seam to strengthen it and make it more flat against the body. This will increase the comfort and decrease the bulk of all our seams.. let's start topstitching...
we're going to fold the main body panel stitch allowance (5/8") over on top of the stitch allowance on the front sleeve. Just to make sure we're on the same page, the stitches will look like illustration 'B'
It's your option whether or not you choose to do a second topstitch on the other side of the seam. It's more of a skill and time choice and adds only looks, not function.
NEXT, The yoke and back sleeves
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Note for topstitching: It's not necessary to add the second topstitch (the stitch that only sinks into itself). It's more or less a decorative addition and serves no other purpose.
Alrighty then, lets get down to prepping the yoke. According to our pattern, we'll have two pieces that make up the yoke. If you thought ahead prior to cutting these pieces out, you may have found that the yoke could have been cut in a single piece (minus the seam allowance on both pieces). Now we'll have a sewn/single piece shoulder yoke that looks like this:
Remember to do your topstitching if you sewing halves together!
Now that we've got our yoke ready, it's time to sew the back sleeves (5) to the back body panel (6) in the same manner we stitched the front sleeves to the front body panel:
This is just a little illustrative repetition. You will be using the back sleeve patterns and the back body panel.
Now that the sleeves are stitched on (and topstiched!) lets add the yoke:
From the illustration, you will notice that you are going to have to line up everything so that we don't end up with the yoke longer on one sleeve than the other. Sooooo.... we are going to take a few quick measurements to get everything lined up. measure from the top of the back panel shoulders and divide that by two to get your center for the back panel. Measure from the insides of the collar hem and divide by 2 to get your center for the yoke. Line up your centers. Don't pay attention to how the cuff ends line up. There may be a little variance, and that can be fixed once we begin stitching all the sleeve seams together..
Begin stitching from the point where the yoke lines up with the center of the back panel (where the nape of the neck would be). It is important that we start from here because our material will stretch and move from this point. If we were to start from one cuff and work towards another, we would end up with a twisted yoke. So, we are going to work from the center and stitch towards one cuff.. and then comoe back to the center and work towards the other cuff.
The same applies to topstitching this seam as well.
WooHoo! we should now have a complete front body panel with sleeves, and a back body panel with sleeves and yoke. It's time to get these pieces together now...
We're going to have to get everything lined up and start from our "center" in the same fashion we attached our yoke to the back panel...
Remember to fold the seam and do your topstitch. The shoulder yoke pattern style is stronger than any other pattern style, and also prevents seams from water seepage due to the seam locations!
NEXT... stitching it all together, collar, and hems
Now that we have everything sewn up on the topside, it's time to think about if we are going to add a front "roo" pocket or a chest pocket. If you decide to add a pocket, unlike shown here, you'll have to cut the pocket out of the remaining material and figure out where to place it. Remember you'll have to fold in the edges of the pocket and iron them a little to make it easier to keep in place while sewing. If you need to keep it aligned, use masking tape to on the main body panel to keep it square.
alrighty then.. with or without pocket, it's time to start sewing the body panels and the arms together.
Starting from the armpit area, and inside out, sew down the body panel edges on both sides... then sew down the arms. It is possible to topstich the body panel sides to within 1 inch of the armpit areas. Not necessary, but it looks good and adds strength.
We should now have an "almost complete" piece.
Try it on! see how the fit is.
If it's too loose on the sides or the arms, you can stitch in closer to the fabric to make the circumference smaller.
now let's get our collar ready. You can use 1 or 2 identical pieces to do the collar. If you are using one, you'll be trimming the collar with leather or a bias edge too match the front button area. If you are using 2 pieces, you'll have to sew them together and then turn it inside out like:
whoops! Ignore the sleeve pattern in the background.
Just sew around the edge (5/8"!) and turn it inside out. Now the fun part, we are going to be sewing through some pretty thick layers of wool. match the center of the collar with the center of the neckline on the yoke. Does the collar look like it's going to match up all the way around? If so, you are good to go and can start sewing, from center to the front of the collar.
take your time doing this one... lots of needles will pop if you go too fast!
Woohoo... almost there! now it's time to add all of our trim pieces. this is going to take the longest time because we are not only handstitching, but also sewing through VERY thick fabric.
We are going to need to cut our leather in strips first. cut them as long as you can, and about 1.5 - 2" wide. make sure that the length is long enough to overlap about .5" for the cuffs (don't cut them to fit yet though!)
before i get ahead of myself here, there are a few other options for the cuffs. If your cuffs are large enough (arms stretched, above head, etc.), we can fold the cuffs inward and sew them with the sewing machine. If we choose to trim them with leather or some other edge trim, cut them to length.... aaaaand then sew on the trim.
Make sure your trim is balanced on the inside and out so that you don't miss any leather when sewing. The above example has the trim sewn about 7/8" in from the cuff edge. as along as it's more than 3/8" from the cuff edge, you are good to go.
Stitch all the way around the cuff and overlap the end .5-.75 inch over the beginning leather trim. Mark the piece and cut it before stitching up that far...
you should have a complete cuff.. ditto on the other side
Everyone is going to have a different take on how to complete the neckline and collar. this is up to you. i prefer toggles because they can be fixed in the field, are easy to use with one hand, and they look good. If you decide to use toggles, you can purchase pre-made onesw from a craft store or make them your self. Just grab a 2$ dowel rod from the hardware store, cut the lengths you want (~1.5"), drill a hole in the center, and finish them however you want...
The part people see the most will be the neckline. this is where your individuality and creativity show.
After you've sewn one of these up you'll probably be saying "i'll never do that again". But the limitless possibilities for customization will have you taking another stab at it in the near future. Jacquard and Grosgrain trims can be bought online in many colors, styles and patterns including:
- celtic knots
- greek key
- southwestern motifs
- geometric shapes
google "celtic ribbon trim" or "jacquard ribbon trim"
Thank you for all the ideas and help making this project for the cold holidays.
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Bush Class Basic Certified
Thanks a million! I will have my seamstress(my wife) get right on it!
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Superb tutorial Edispilf. I'm definitely going to have a go at this one as I've been wanting to make a shirt for myself a good while but not found a pattern I like yet
Brilliant write-up. Thanks. Another for the duit list.
Bush Class Intermediate Certified
Very nice work and pattern!
I will share this with a friend of mine, I am sure she will enjoy it
WOW Thanks! I will see if I can make one.
you are all very welcome
with a little TLC, you'll have a very nice anorak that your childrens children will envy as you pass it through generations.
May the rest of your year be prosperous and filled with creativity.
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