Thursday, July 30, 2015

Refashioning Tradition: A 1942 WWII U.S. Army Trench Coat

    I first want to apologize for my lack of posts these past few months. I started a new job and am finding out that I don't have as much free time as I originally thought I would have. I am excited to start blogging again and I hope you enjoy reading this post. This project has probably been my most favorite by far, but also the most challenging. This past summer my friend, Ann, approached me with an excellent idea for a blog post. She had a WWII Wool Jacket that belonged to her father-in-law who served in the military in 1942 and it is still in perfect condition. She wanted me to transform it into a tote bag that she could place her iPad mini in. I had done a remake before using my grandmother's coat, but the military jacket was made of  heavy melton wool and was tailored. I was up for the challenge and it turned out better than I imagined! She told me that I could either update her on the progress or I could surprise her with the finished product. I chose to surprise her with not one, but two items.

The trench coat front view with the patch on the side
The trench coat back view

Close-up of the patch on the shoulder

     The first step of the project was to map out an original design for the tote bag, which I modified a few times. I purchased a tote bag pattern (McCalls 4118) and laid it in different areas of the coat to see where it would fit. I modified the pattern and decided that I could use the bottom of the coat for the sides of the tote bag, as that had the most fabric in a single piece. With the trench coat having already been made and having multiple seams, I was limited on the amount of fabric I could use. I couldn't be sure if my design would work until I deconstructed the coat. This was a lengthy process, as I had to tear out all of the seams and the lining. The coat was made of a melton wool and was very heavy, but included additional lining in the sleeves and top portion of the coat.

The inside of the jacket that I had to deconstruct.

Removing the lining from the coat

After I laid the fabric out flat and tried to determine where each piece would fit. I cut each piece out of wool and lining. Some pieces even needed interfacing. We selected a medium weight interfacing to help give the bag some structure.  I followed the pattern directions and started sewing my bag. (These are brief instructions, so for the full instructions, please buy the pattern).

Laying the fabric out flat and placing the pieces. 
 Cutting out the pattern pieces. 
A lining piece with interfacing 

        When Ann and I first discussed the plans for the bag, she said that she was going to use it to carry her iPad in. I wanted to give her a way to carry other items in the bag in addition to the iPad, yet protect it. I decided a pocket would be a neat way to allow the iPad to readily be at her hands. I used one of the coat's inside pockets instead of having to make my own. This is definitely zero-waste upcycling. :) First, I made a narrow hem on the pocket and pinned it to the front of the lining. I turned the pocket up, baste in place, and stitched the bottom and sides. I tested the pocket with the iPad and it was a perfect fit. I sewed a tab on the top to keep the pocket from falling out. I placed the lining pieces together right side to right side, sewed the seams, and trimmed them to eliminate bulk. I repeated the process with the outside fabric pieces.
The pocket stitched to the lining
The two lining pieces wrong side out