For the Living by nature Winter course I am going to need to make a lot of clothing. It needs to fit and work for a variety of extreme conditions. I will be using materials (furs, buckskin etc) that are not necessarily easy to obtain, and very labour intensive to make… it seemed sensible to make a practice version from less precious material, but since a lot of the success (or otherwise) of the design depends on how it behaves in use. So there's no point making a toile (mockup), I need a working version a can wear and use!
But…using hand softened buckskin is pretty extravagant! So I’ve decided to use some modern ‘crap tan’ alum tawed sheep skins. They will look fairly good, will be a similar weight to what I plan to use and are holey enough ( they were definite ‘seconds’ ) that I won’t feel too guilty being experimental with them!
First stage was design. I’ve been jotting ideas for my arctic parka since I started the winter course, but the sheep skins are smaller than the fallow skins I plan to use so the design wouldn’t quite work. It also gave me the opportunity to try some different decoration features I plan to use on the real version- fur trimmings, salmon skin strip decorations fringing etc, possibly even beading. With the design provisionally decided, I lay an existing item of my stone age clothing ( with good, well fitting shoulders) and added the equivalent of 2-3 sizes to allow for the fur lining and layers underneath. Before cutting out ONLY the shoulder and neck lines. With those pinned/ tacked I pinned and tacked the side seams and the front darts. I wasn’t sure whether or not to have darts, but the more tailored clothing is, the warmer it is (I’m not talking about being tight fitting, it needs to hold useful amount of trapped air all the way round the body, but not too much empty space that has to be warmed with body heat and lets draughts through) I decided with more of a ‘bell shape’ but the darts at the front were necessary to make the front hang closer in, I am ‘blessed’ in the bust department, which can present fitting problems! In the race to get in finished before the snow disappeared I didn’t line it fully, using the front and back of an old fur coat. I was pleasantly surprised at how warm it was, even with the fur not meeting at the sides and the sleeves completely unlined. Having worn it a fair bit now I know there are a few changes and additions I would like to make- line or part line the sleeves, trim the bottom edge with fur of some sort ( purely because I think it looks unfinished at the moment, add pockets ( probably in behind the diagonal sections of the salmon skin trim at the side front.) I also wish I had made the head hole bigger- with a hat on ( or my ‘Memma dreds’ it’s not quite big enough. I do like that it is relatively non- bulky. And that although it is warm, its not TOO warm for the UK.
The winter conditions we will face in Canada are probably on par with some of the conditions I have encountered skiing- wearing a full set of modern snow gear. But the temperatures are an order of magnitude colder than anything I've experiences before and that is an unknown factor for me. It’s a slightly frightening prospect in many ways, but also tremendously exciting.