There’s nothing easy or convenient about stitching clothing from scratch. Here’s a few traits I’ve bred into my stuff so it works hard, wears consistently, and lives long enough to earn repairs.
Gory Little Details
Ruff and tumble.
20 degrees below zero in the wind is no joke. Each winter shell garment is built to accept a removable ruff. Zip it on any of them (one size fits all), and snap the ends down. Roll it back for regular cold, 1/2 way out for brisk days, or fully forward with the wire rim curved over into a tunnel for serious weather.
Round and round.
Did you know that $100 in quarters weighs more than 5 pounds! That’s an average afternoon of work for me. I pre-wash all the canvas and wool textiles, the nylon webbing and tape, and even zipper chain. No kidding. That’s several thousands of dollars in quarters every year. Why? Because it’s harder to shrink something in the wash when someone already shrunk it in the wash. If I could figure out how to get our thread back on the spool, I would wash that too.
Snaps are serious. Zippers fail. Velcro wears out. Buttons get lost. When I set a snap into webbing anchors, it’s there for good. In 15 years not a single one has failed from normal use. The webbing keeps the halves oriented, firm in the fabric, and makes them easier to open and close with numb fingers.
Zippers. The best and worst thing to happen to clothing. I tend to avoid the vulnerable separating type if I can. All my closed-ended pocket and neck zippers have an access port so you (or I) can replace the pull when it wears out.
Snap to it.
Cold fingers need a big target. Empire liners and shells join at the cuffs with stainless snaps to offer quick access for frosty digits.
That’s one beeeg spool of thread, bonded 45 or 69 Denier nylon to be specific. Normally you see it them in backpacks or work clothes. I use them for stitching thicker canvas, wool, and leather items. They’re tough….probably tougher than most of the materials we sew. So far, so good.
Rubbed the wrong way.
Shock cord. It’s great for tinkering with fit, but it will wear through canvas and wool. For high contact areas like waist lines and hems, I err on the side of caution and route this magical cordage through tunnels of tough, yet soft Supplex Nylon. Problem solved.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I’m pretty much Paperless, except for cardboard Priority Mail Boxes. I don’t print a catalog, or send promo materials. Heck, I’m usually out of business cards. Welcome to the digital age. Use caution if opening your purchase with a blade. There are no fillers, plastic bags, or wrapping tissue coming from me.
Why the effort? Why indeed.
This is what 800 pounds of used clothing looks like. This is one year’s haul to Goodwill from our church garage sale. What a waste.
Garment manufacturing is terrible for the planet. Period. That inspires me to build gear you can repair and keep using for decades.
Once is OK. Twice is better. Turn any Empire products inside out, and you’ll find two, and possibly three complete lines of stitching on each seam. I’ll lock down serged edges, top stitch bulky sides, and even roll elbows out flat to keep them from wearing off as they brush your sides. Tougher seams last longer. Period.
Stainless steel. Tough. No muss. No fuss. All my snaps and grommets are stainless. It just makes sense to use something that won’t change, rust, warp, or bend.
Cold? Drafty? Hardly a time to be delicate when cinching wintry air out of a shell garment. Go ahead and yard on the free end of any cord. Inside or out, it’s anchored through all the layers to a reinforced nylon tab, or tucked into a seam and captured by multiple passes of stitching.