Wool Vest and Jacket Prototypes

S4-E7-Army-Blanket-Jacket

When it comes to overall performance, I think wool and other natural fabrics are simply better than synthetics. It’s not because I’m an eco nut; it’s just that they work better for me for my climate and lifestyle. I still like a thin, light nylon shell jacket in cool wet weather, and I have a polyester hoodie that has its uses. But for a broad range of activities and weather conditions, nothing beats natural fabrics for range of comfort, durability, and practicality.

For these prototypes I’m using genuine issue US Army blankets, which are 100% wool, 65% of which is virgin, and the other 35% is reprocessed. They are “boiled” (washed and agitated with detergent) before cutting and stitching, which shrinks them about 20% and makes the wool more dense. The lining is a fairly heavy cotton. It’s pretty tacky at first, and tends to pull on your sleeve as you put on the jacket (it’s not an issue with the vest, of course), but it smooths out fine in a few days.

I’d rather have 100% virgin wool, but it has proven difficult to find such a fabric that is also woven as thick and dense as the army blanket. If you know of a source, please contact me; I’d be very grateful.

I’ve discussed wool gear in depth elsewhere, but I’ll touch on its advantages here.

  • Breathability. Clothing is more practical if it’s comfortable in a broad range of temperature and humidity, and breathability is one of the most important factors in comfort range. Wool is exponentially better than so-called breathable synthetics; the latter do, technically, let water vapor through, but only after it gets so muggy inside your jacket that it hardly makes a difference in your comfort.
  • Water resistance. Wool absorbs up to 30% of its weight in water with only a minimal effect on its insulating ability, and when it does, the process is mildly exothermic, which means it actually releases a few calories of heat for your use. Moreover, most of the water absorbed is in the form of vapor, whereas liquid water tends to bead and roll off. And all this happens without significantly affecting breathability.
  • Anti-microbial and anti-fungal. Wool resists the growth of bacteria and fungi. This reduces odor, which improves health and morale, and makes it more practical by reducing the number of washes.
  • Soil resistance. Wool resists soiling because it is fairly inert. This makes the clothing more durable and easier to clean.
  • Ember resistance. Sparking campfires are real hazards with synthetic clothing; not so much with wool. Also, synthetic materials are highly reactive, so they easily absorb strong and persistent smoke odors from the campfire, whereas more inert wool absorbs less odor to begin with, and then airs out much quicker.

I’m going to be frank about the cost; these items are going to be expensive. There’s no way around it. A focus on quality of materials and construction, features, and the use of natural fabrics doesn’t come cheap. I know there’s a market for this stuff in Europe and Russia; it’ll be interesting to see if there’s enough consumer capital left in the USA to find a market for it here.

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Army blanket wool jacket with removable hooded cape. The cape adds a layer of protection against rain, snow, and cold, while maintaining breathability. If you’re active, it’ll feel too hot unless its in the 30s and below. But if you’re sedentary, it’s fine up into the 60s. So you can set the temp at 66 or so in your truck, and you won’t have to take the coat off in-between errands in town. Sorry, but you will have to remove it in the grocery store.

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Waterproof zippers for the chest pockets (keys, phone, gun), but buttons to close the front. A mechanical failure on a pocket is not critical, but it is on the front.

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Hood detail. The hood has a drawstring with brass gromets. Note the tab on the right, used to close off the collar.

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Interior chest pocket sewn into the cotton lining. Twill tape lines the doubled button flap.

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A paracord waist cinch cord with brass gromets runs through a reinforced casing sewn into the lining. Tighten it to reduce draft, loosen it to increase ventilation and cooling — or in case you get fat during the holidays.

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Overview of the cinch cord and the gores along the hem. The jacket also has armpit gores carefully sized to improve mobility without bulking up under your arms. You literally never feel them.

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Showing the entire interior.

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Gore detail. The purpose of these tapered bits of material is to expand the hem, improving range of motion. Allows you to squat even with the bottom button fastened.

Exterior gore detail.

Exterior gore detail.

Integrated cargo pocket and slash hand warmers. Tapered slash makes it easy to reach the oversized pocket from the side. The pockets are separated by rugged cotton lining. A three-inch tack helps contain objects in the slash. The large flap stays down better, even without fastening the button.

Integrated cargo pocket and slash hand warmers. Tapered slash makes it easy to reach the oversized pocket from the side. The pockets are separated by rugged cotton lining. A three-inch tack helps contain objects in the slash. The large flap stays down better, even without fastening the button.

Slash pocket detail, showing the size of the opening and height of the tack.

Slash pocket detail, showing the size of the opening and height of the tack.

Elbow/forearm patch protects against wear

Elbow/forearm patch protects against wear

Jacket shown with hooded cape removed. With a wool undershirt and nothing else, this configuration is good down to freezing, at least for me when I'm active, but also comfortable up to 60, if there's no sun.

Jacket shown with hooded cape removed. With a wool undershirt and nothing else, this configuration is good down to freezing, at least for me when I’m active, but also comfortable up to 60, if there’s no sun.

Reverse view of the hoodless jacket.

Reverse view of the hoodless jacket.

The vest is in the shop for mods, so I’ll post photos of it later.

~Sno

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  • Avenger

    Instead of buttons, why not velcro?

  • Justin Moyer

    I love it make it knee length so you can sit and it still cover your backside and buttons are just fine maybe stag antler would be supper cool defiantly interested in the finished product if your selling a 60 regular would be great

  • wayne

    I like it! Kinda like a wool M65. was thinking of making a capote from wool blankets, but like this much better. Do you have any patterns? Well, I hope you’ll be able to make them for a reasonable price.

  • BigBadWolf34

    Hey very nice jacket! The price of wool blankets has gone crazy…I hope you can keep the price reasonable.

  • Rheal

    Love the coat, please send updates of completion and price, live in Canada North region.

  • Grayson Mezech

    SNOman, Just caught this and am curious. Did you have Jason at Lester River put these together for you?
    Look forward to seeing how they turn out!
    (love my boreal shirt – wish it got colder up here in VA so I could wear it more)

  • Rick Guyton

    I like it and would like to know the price also.

  • William Desrosiers

    I’d like to know how much it will be?

  • Djapo

    I want one

  • Longhunter

    I don’t see any of your jackets or coats in the store. How much to commission a jacket like this?
    Email: mgh284@gmail.com