Making a Wool jumper from a blanket.

Wool has long been a favourite material of choice for the outdoor’s man and for those spending the majority of their time in the woods, the advantages of wool soon become apparent.

Firstly you can pick up wool relatively inexpensively in blanket form from army surplus stores, online or at various bushcraft/outdoor shows. Buying this way gives you the option to tailor-make exactly what you want/need in a wool garment whether it’s a hat, gloves, jumper or bedroll.

The qualities of wool have been well utilised by man for centuries with its exceptional ability to retain warmth even when wet. Cody Lundin’s “98.6 degrees” survival manual quotes wool as being able to absorb between 35% and 55% of its own weight whilst retaining its insulating properties.

The individual fibres making up wool are hollow and absorb water well, this obviously makes the garment heavier but as the moisture is locked away inside the fibres the air spaces between the fibres are able to continue insulating. Cotton also absorbs water very well but is not hollow and so loses almost all of its ability to insulate once wet through – ‘cotton kills’ being the phrase many hill walkers are familiar with.

Once wool is wet yes it will be heavier but it will also stand up to being dried in front of a hot fire unlike our modern day synthetics which have a tendency to melt where embers/ sparks land on them.

Two other immediate advantages wool has over synthetic materials are its ability to mask scent relatively well and it is completely noiseless to move about wearing unlike your modern Gortex shell layers.

Another pro of buying a blanket and crafting it to your needs are that you can boil-wash the blanket whole before chopping into it. This shrinks the blanket but has the effect of condensing the fibres and makes a tighter more windproof weave. Something I have not tried yet but keen to undertake is soaking the wool garment in a lanolin solution which has the effect of re instating the natural oils in the wool and making for a more water resistant quality in the finished item.

The fact that wool can be condensed to make felt is something the traditional Mongolian herders know well and employ in the highly insulating wrappings of their yurt homes.

So armed with all these fantastic facts about the wonder material that is wool here is a step by step guide on just one of many ways you can use it to make your own highly functional and comfortable woodland jumper!

You will need:

  • A woollen blanket of your chosen colour (you could always dye the wool if you’re forced to buy day glow).
  • Old jumper that you can take apart to use as a template. I had an old hoody that fitted me well but had been worn out, as I wanted a hood on the wool jumper this worked great.
  • A sewing machine – you could and I have in the past made these jumpers with hand stitching but you will get a far tidier and harder wearing seam less prone to fraying if you can beg borrow or buy a sewing machine.
  • Scissors – sharper the better, kitchen scissors worked fine in this example.
  • Marker pen to draw round templates.
  • Pins to hold cut templates together whilst sewing.
  • Cotton – ideally waxed thread would make a very durable seam but regular cotton of a colour matching your wool is absolutely fine.
  • An understanding partner – you will be making a mess.

Step 1

Take the old garment you are using for a template and carefully unpick the seams until you can break it down into the front, back, and hood if it has one.

Lay the blanket out on a table or the floor with enough space to get the area you are working on flat.

Lay all your templates on the blanket and arrange them in the most efficient way to leave as much wool for other items you may want to make such as mitts, socks or hats.

Draw around each template carefully with a marker pen or if you have very dark fabric you can use chalk.

If you look closely in the first picture there is a thin pen line in the shape of the front section of the hoody I used for the template.

pic 1

Step 2

Cut out the template 2” outside the line you have drawn.

This will allow you to use a zig zag locking stitch to follow exactly the lines of your template which means when you come to cut out the template more closely the edges will be locked in and very tidy – most importantly they will not start to fray.

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Step 3

With sharp scissors cut just outside the zigzag seam you have just sewn all the way round the pen lines of your templates.

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Step 4

Use the locking stitch and cut out each template in the same way.

Fold over the end of the sleeves an inch or two and pin these down to create the cuffs.

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Sew along the pin lines carefully removing the pins as you go. For the remaining sewing of the garment a straight stitch can be used. Always go back and forth with the sewing machine wherever you straight and finish a seam to help lock everything down.

This photo shows how the cuff will look on the inside and outside of the garment.

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Step 5

At the other end of both sleeves mark the half way point along the curved edge that will form the shoulder of the jumper. This mark will help you line up the midpoint of each sleeve with the top corners of the front and back panels of the jumper evenly.

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Pin the curved top edge of the sleeve to the front panel and the back panel as shown in the next photo. Notice at this point the sleeve itself has not been sewn into the finished tube as it makes this stage a little easier.

Once pinned in place go ahead and sew along the seam carefully following the curve round – this is one of the trickier parts as you are going round a corner so go easy on the acceleration… just like driving really

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Step 6

Pin and sew the short line joining the shoulders of the front and back panels.

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Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other sleeve and your jumper should be looking something like the next photo. Notice again how both sleeves are still open at the moment and we have yet to sew down the sides of the jumper body.

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Step 7

Pin and sew along the underside of each arm – this seam will make each arm template into a tube.

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Step 8

Pin and sew down the outside edged of the body to finish off the garment. Once you have completed steps 1 – 8 turn the jumper inside out to see how neat it looks.

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Step 9

If you want a hood cut out your wool from a hood you have taken apart. Lock stitch over the pen lines and cut just outside these stitches as in previous templates.

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I wanted to line the hood to make it extra warm and wind proof – the same template was used for the tartan lining, but an extra few centimetres were added to allow for the tartan to be folded over and pinned at the edges so that it would resist fraying.

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To make a tube running around the edge of the hood to insert a draw cord simply fold the edge of the hood over, pin and sew – similar to how the cuffs were formed earlier.

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To bring the hood together pin and sew the two halves – on a lined hood this is tricky as you will now be sewing through 4 layers of fabric. There will be an opening at the top where the seams meet that my seamstress-ing skills could not tackle on the machine but is easy enough to sew together by hand.

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To insert a draw cord through the hood hem you have created take a wire coat hanger and bend a loop in the end before pushing it all the way through the hem.

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Poke whatever cordage you are using for the draw cord through the wire loop and tie an over hand knot. Simply pull the wire back out and this will take the string through the hem.

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This is only a very basic way of producing a functional jumper for the woods but once you have one under your belt you can really start to get fancy with the addition of pockets, button cuffs and linings. I still need to change the Paracord (horror cord one of our students calls it!) draw string for lime bast with bone toggles!

Ultimately you’re in charge so whether you after a smock, hoody, v neck, full zip or vest all you need to do to get started is take apart an old existing garment and tinker with the templates until you are happy. Then get out and wear it!

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As always please help keep our facebook page alive and kicking with anything crafty you have enjoyed making!

Adam Logan

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