Sunday, December 29, 2013

Capote - Blanket Coat

I originally created this blog as a place to log my endeavors in medieval and renaissance reenactment. I hadn't really expected to attempt any other time period reenactment so this is likely a one off.  I had an invite to attend an event which was primarily "Lewis & Clark" era folks. I have always loved the look of the capote, or blanket coat, since I first saw Pasquinel (played by Robert Conrad) in the TV Mini Series Centennial.  While rummaging at a local flea market I came across a vintage blanket just waiting to be made into a coat.

Here is the blanket I had to start with.  It was a bit smaller than I would have liked, but beggars can't be choosy.   A lovely thick and soft wool.  I didn't have an exact pattern so I planned on making a coat out of a white wool blanket first.  I would then use that coat as the pattern and lining for the finished capote.

I had previously recycled a leather coat from Salvation army.  I liked the color of the leather from that coat and decided to use it as fringes on my coat.

The white wool was a bit larger than the striped blanket, but not by a lot.

I roughed out a pattern by taking a T-shirt and using that for the basic body block for the coat.  I then roughed out the size of the arm holes and pinned it all together to see how it fit.

I unpinned the

 Here is the mockup simply pinned together.  That gave me an idea of where I would need to tweak the shoulder and the arm pits, but basically I liked the fit.

I have made enough shirts and jackets to know the basic shape of a sleeve so I simply eyeballed the shape and cut out the sleeves.  This is the test sleeve pinned together.  I must say as much as I liked the look I didn't like taking it off when it was literally covered in pins!


I took the remnant leather from the old leather jacket.  I had two unused sleeves which I planned on using as the fringe for my sleeves.

Rather than a simply row of leather fringes, I decided to add a bit of white wool to the outside as well.

Test look on a scrap of white.... .Yup.  I liked it.  I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this project.  No real plan, no judging criteria to follow or worry about.  I had only my own opinion to consider.  With no pattern I really enjoyed just making this up as I went along!

Here is the basic shape of the sleeve.  The basic structure of the sleeve requires that the area by the shoulder be larger than the wrist.  Looking at the pieces lying out I deiced to have rather long fringes closer to my armpit and shorter towards my sleeve.  I later changed that opinion, but seeing the pieces lying out like this i thought it might look good.

The pattern was completed and the sewing could begin.  I hand sewed the entire coat.  Not the most difficult sewing I've ever done.  In fact, sewing wool is quite an easy affair.  No need to worry about fraying edges and even with four layers of wool the needle went through easily.

So far so good.  Sleeve hangs nicely.  I was worried that two layers of thick wool would bunch in the armpit but it was comfortable. I planned on fully assembling the garment and then cutting the sleeve fringes.  I didn't want the fringes to get in the way of the sewing.

Here you can see what I mean about the long fringes closer to the arm pit.  Nope that had to change.  I trimmed it down later.

I found the use of a leather thimble important.  Even though sewing wool is easy, it is hard on the fingers pushing through 4 layers of wool and the layer of leather fringe.

Sleeve outer layer completed.


Proper material planning.  No joke!  This is all that I had left of my striped blanket.  I wish I had enough to make a belt and a long tailed hood, but nothing doing.  I had to alter my plan and make a fur collar instead.  A coat with no hood was better than no blanket and no coat.

Sleeves are done and lining attached.  Time to trim the fringes.



Here I began toying with the idea of a fur collar.  I purchased some fur collars from women's coats from Salvation Army.  Any time I come across fur at Salvation Army and it is cheap I add it to my stash.  I had about 6 of these collars, but this is the one that my kids and I like the best.

I initially decided to make the collar removable.  Eventually I stitched it to the coat.  I used large whip stitches which can be removed easy enough, but I figured that if it is cold enough to wear a thick long double thickness wool coat, it is probably cold enough to need a good collar.



Collar attached and coat complete!


I still need to make a belt.  I am in the process of deciding whether to weave one on an inkle loom or make one of wool.  For now the coat has a single button, and no belt.