Tuesday, March 10, 2015

DIY Wool Boreal Jacket

While you may not share the same terminology for this piece of outdoor gear as it is refereed to as a Boreal Jacket, Wool Blanket Jacket and Anorak Coat among other things its usefulness is universal. This piece of kit can be used as your outer layer as it will keep you warm even when wet, can be used as a your bedding material and can be used as outdoor clothing from early fall to late spring (depending on you warm you like to be and your geographic area). We undertook this project with one of the cheapest wool blankets on the market from Harbor Freight and wanted to build a common mans bombproof jacket for winter camping and outdoor tasks (granted we were a week late for the -25 weather it was made in time for shoveling and plowing duties during the latest 8" of snow we got last week and temperatures around 0 F). While this will never be of the quality of Lester River Bushcraft's Boreal Jacket it will do in a pinch and can serve as a decent alternative while your saving up for better gear (Lester Rivers Boreal Jacket offers superior stitching, increased storage, better materials and a much more quality coat).  So without further rambling here is a brief video explaining how we made the coat along with a few pictures demonstrating the process as well:

Building A DIY Wool Blanket Boreal Jacket:
1) Blanket Selection: The Western Safety wool blanket is not the best selection due to the fact it is 80/20 alone; however, it is also scratchy against the skin and a little too short for a healthy sized male. I would look into army/navy surplus stores (something we are lacking these days in WV) for a good surplus army blanket as many were 100% wool and some were quite soft. Granted you most likely will not find the type of material used by Lester River as no one seems to know where their fabric is sourced from.
2) Fold your blanket in half and layout a hoodie or sweatshirt that fits you well.
3) Make your cut ~2" outside of the hoodie outline to allow for layering (unless the hoodie is already large enough to layer under then only make it roughly 1/2" larger than your model garment)
4) After the first cut you should be left with an outline like this...... Don't cut off the bottom just continue to cut down straight to the bottom of the blanket which will allow the garment to reach the bottom of your pants pockets or further. If you have a shorter torso measure the blanket against your torso before you begin sewing and cut it off accordingly.
5) The finished cutout should look like is pictured. Be sure to leave as much scrap material intact as possible as you will need those materials to add onto your sleeves, front pocket, and hood.

6) So this is the blanket stitch and it is your best friend for this project as it is basically the only stitch you will need for this project.
7) Post stitching be sure to reinforce the the arm pit area as it is the most likely place for failure.
8) Measure your hood against the hoodie and cut it out and  sew around the cut out portions to avoid fraying. Be sure to have your two pieces of wool measured up to ensure it is symmetrical


9) Try to use natural seams in the front to help avoid needing to sew the that portion to avoid fraying. The picture above is what the hood looks like post cut out, just follow up with a blanket stitch on the seems.

10) A plate for color is a little large I recommend you use a bowl; however with the backing we put into the coat to allow for tightening makes the jacket much more versatile especially with a couple blanket pins or shock cord.
11) Cut out your front pocket to your specifications and sew the exterior  edges to avoid fraying and then blanket stitch it to your jacket in the position of your choice. 
12) Once you sew it on it should look something like the picture above (all the gear in the picture below is in the pocket along with his hands and there is no bulge and you feel no extra weight in your neck area as it carries well).

13) If you choose a smaller blanket like this one you more than likely will need sleeve extensions, to accomplish this you simply need to cut the wool to match the diameter of your sleeve and then blanket stitch it onto the sleeve (if you play your cards correctly on scraps you will not have to stitch any cut areas as they will be the seem that matches your sleeve.
14) Here is the Boreal coat with contents of the front pocket (PLSK1, Bacho Laplander, PSK/Fire kit and tinder pouch).

Want To Make Your Own? 

Short Cut?

While this is not of the worlds best quality it is a bomb-proof piece of winter gear that can serve as a stand alone cover element or part of a more comprehensive kit. So now for the economics... Is this jacket worth the time and money investment? Time investment is rather high at 5+ hours whereas the cost is  $30+ depending on your thread and wool blanket. So depending on your sewing skills (only one or two stitches needed to complete this project), value and availability of your time and amount of money you have to invest in your clothing its a personal choice. So what are some other alternatives? I personally love Woolrich shirts and they are about the same weight as this blanket a little more stylish (adaptable to more social situations as well as the woods) but lack the options this shirt will afford. The higher end option is the Lester River Bushcraft Boreal Jacket and I can't wait to compare these two pieces of kit together. The Lester River coat is without a doubt the best in the industry, nearly every woodsman out there who can afford one has one and there is a reason for that. Another alternative is simply go with a fleece garment that mirrors wool but has slightly fewer properties than wool for wilderness us.  So for now I will leave you with those things to ponder, I hope to compare this garment to a few other and put it through the paces in the woods along the way side-by-side some alternatives.
Have something outdoor/bushcraft/trapping/preparedness/hiking/camping/fishing/hunting related you want me to make a post about? Leave me a comment and I will see what I can do! As always feel free to leave your questions and comment below! Also if you enjoy the blog please vote for us on the following websites to help us reach a wider audience:


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  1. This is exactly what I have been looking for. Thanks!!
    I will be making a couple of these soon, for hubs and I and will be using these directions.
    Thanks agaon.

  2. I have been able to purchase a lot of wool blankets for just a few dollars, at thrift stores. The people doing the pricing are often not aware of the real value of wool blankets, or aren't looking at what the blankets are made from.

    1. A lot of people, prolly the majority; don't value wool in blankets. Their loss.

  3. Updated with a better hood description and some alternative outerwear purchase options.

  4. Saving money and doing it yourself are things that many people are looking for. This is a great idea and should keep us nice and warm in the winter weather. Thanks for sharing.