Top to bottom: Jerkin


After two years of demon-haunted mayhem, the current campaign for my once-a-month LARP club came to an end in July. On September 21st we kicked off an all-new sword-and-sorcery adventure, which means new characters, which means NEW KIT! My ambition for my new character was to make all of her costume (clothes, not counting equipment) myself, top to bottom …

(Note: I had to mess with the colours on several of the detail photos to get, well, any detail as opposed to a mass of brown.)

Like the trousers, the raw material for this was provided by a second-hand leather coat off eBay. Total cost £7 for around two metres of leather (and £7 is pretty good for two metres of anything in the fabric stakes). I didn’t have a clear plan beforehand of whether this would be a complete take-down-and-reconstruct job, like the trousers, or more of a refashion – using some of the structure of the original garment. It all depended on which of several eBay coats I ended up with.


This particular coat is matte chocolate-brown leather, with a quilted synthetic lining and what I thought was a fake fur collar but which turned out to be real sheepskin. Fancy! 

This is what it started out looking like. The back I left as was – I really like the pointed yoke. The front less so. I didn’t want the huge fold-over collar or the double row of buttons, or the button-holes.


This is the second time now I’ve deconstructed a working garment to turn it into something else (third if you count the sari that became the wizard coat) and both times taking a complex garment apart has given me a fresh appreciation for all the work that goes into putting one together. Especially coats. Shoulder pads, thread chains to stop the lining pulling loose at the shoulder, sleeves with elbow darts, a heavy notched collar reinforced with canvas and a proper roll line …

I took out the sleeves (they became my matching quiver and bracer), took off the collar, removed the buttons and belt loops and shaved 1.5in or so off CF to get rid of the buttonholes. I experimented with how I wanted CF to look, eventually concluded that there was no way it was doing back up even if I used the removed CF facings to widen it, and settled for leaving it open with heavy, rigid topstitched edges which hang straight rather than crumpling. They’re stiff enough that my bowstring just pushes them out of the way if it happens to hit them, too, rather than getting tangled.


For the collar, I just lined and topstitched the collar stand for a Mandarin-collar effect. For the shoulder flanges, I laid the front and back pieces flat, drew around the upper armhole, and from that sketched a crescent-shaped piece that would fit into the gap. The collar and flange linings are from a scrap of red upholstery fabric my cousin gave me. I used more bits of red to augment the top edge of the lining when it wouldn’t go into the collar. I still have no idea how my reconstructed collar lining goes together. Topstitching and brute force, mainly …


(The white marks are from my facepaint. The photos at the very top and bottom of this post are badly blown out because of the sun, but yes, my face is actually painted white as well.)

The whole thing is lined, with the lining recut from the original lining of the coat. Super warm! I originally intended to cut it down to hip-length, then changed my mind after the lining was out and left it full-length. Which meant sewing the whole lining back in, including into the walking vent at centre back, into the armholes, and the aforementioned collar shenanigans. That was not fun.


This make was brought to you by my walking foot (birthday present from my mum and all-round best thing ever) and the Colette tutorial on clean finishing a lined armhole. It’s witchcraft, witchcraft I tell you.


It looks good on, though, and holds up beautifully to scrambling through the woods. It’s also completely waterproof and impervious to mud, which is a blessing now winter is coming …



About Craft (Alchemy)

I make things and make things up.
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