Vintage Plaid Wool ... My Obsession
I love vintage plaid wool. I might even go as far as to say I’m a bit obsessed with it. I love the mix of bold colors and the straight lines, I love the feel of it and I love how it makes me feel. Vintage wool just makes me think of outdoor adventures with the ones I love
As with any obsession, it started out with just an idea. I thought wouldn’t it be cool if I added some wool to our waxed canvas gear. It would bring in some color and a new supply I could play with. On top of that, wool is awesome. It a great natural fiber that keeps you warm when its dry or wet, its breathable and renewable (although sometimes itchy). I could have gone with new wool, but we love all things vintage, so I started looking for vintage plaid wool.
Some of the first pieces I worked with were old Pendleton wool shirts. We had some that were too small, but I loved the pattern, so they got cut up and then made into new items. Then we had a customer ask if we could create something new with his dad’s old shirt. His father had passed away and his sister was getting married, so he wanted his dad’s favorite wool shirt turned into something new and useful for him and his sister. I absolutely loved the idea of this project. Instead of the shirt being donated or tucked in a box, I was going to make some new gear that would remind them of their dad. This project also made me a wee bit nervous but its always good to get out of your comfort zone. I am happy to say that it turned out amazing and they were thrilled with the new gear.
So as I said, I started out small and then it grew a bit. I got the chance to purchase 50 pairs of men’s wool pants from WW11 and I couldn’t pass that up. They weren’t plaid but they were wool and great colors. I had hoped to actually be able to use some of the pants, but the waist size was tiny, so I started upcycling them into wool ditty bags. Yeah, that turned out pretty awesome too and our customers seemed to love them. I think this might have just kept feeding my obsession for wool.
I decided we needed to think bigger and it was suggested maybe we should back a wool blanket with waxed canvas. So now I was on the hunt for awesome vintage wool blankets. Can you see where this might be growing my obsession? Now when we went out thrifting, I was looking at blankets and scouring antique stores for the best plaid patterns. I even had friends and family keeping an eye out for wool blankets (they are still finding me awesome stuff). We ended up with stacks of wool blankets everywhere. The first waxed canvas and wool blanket went to my husband. We loved the way it turned out, but it was a pain to make and no fun at all, so I decided that wasn’t going to be something we made regularly. It was just too big for our sewing space and it was so heavy to carry. Definitely not something you would pack into camp.
The obsession should have ended there but no, people love the idea of wool lined items, so I ended up looking for vintage plaid wool material to work with. If I could work with something lighter than a wool blanket but as long as a yard then I could still create some awesome gear that wasn’t too heavy to pack in.
After keeping an eye out for fabric when I was out and about and not having a ton of luck I decided to look on Ebay. Big Mistake or Smartest Move? It depends on how you look at it. Smartest move because I found a ton of vintage wool fabric I loved. I would look every morning at the newest listing and find colors I loved which would lead to awesome waxed canvas and wool gear. So, I want to say smart business move because our customers love it.
On the flip side I was scouring Ebay a lot looking at fabric and then the packages started to arrive. Not just a couple but maybe more like a few. The pile of wool started to grow, and I stared to run out of space to store them. Did I mention we live a bit out of town, so I don’t go into a store very often so shopping online is like getting presents every day, I mean once a week (wink wink). I had so much wool we had to start color coding them and stacking them by quantities.
Wool is a very amazing fabric but it does take special care. You should wash it on gentle and cold and you can’t just throw it in the dryer. You need to air dry it, so it doesn’t shrink. It also doesn’t show any moth damage from being in storage until you wash it (learned that from my mother-in-law). So, a piece of fabric can look good and then when it comes out of the wash it looks like someone used it for target practice. Which means we wash and dry every piece. This is an easy practice in the summer because we will do a load and put it out to dry in on the clothes line, but in the winter we end up putting in the dryer on air dry which takes about 5 cycles to actually dry. Or sometimes I resort to hanging it all over the house and we look like plaid exploded in the dining room.
My obsession with wool has settled down just a little bit, I am busy working on making things with all the wool I have in hopes of making room for “new” vintage wool. I’m happy to say a box of wool hasn’t arrived in over a month but did I mention I recently discovered vintage trim? Well, that’s a whole different story. ~Heather