I know I write an awful lot about Pendleton, but it really is such a favorite of mine. Last week in a last minute trip to the Goodwill Clearance Center, I happened on the coat pictured above. I knew immediately it was a good one and my first thought was Bonnie Cashin. But something about the way the leather was sewn just did not look like her work. I began to look for clues.
Because the coat is reversible, at first glance there was no label. But with any two sided garment, always look in the pockets. Often the label will be placed there. And there it was!
Not only was the coat reversible, the wool was double faced. What that means is that it is actually one fabric that is two fabrics somehow joined together, so that one side is solid grey and the reverse is a grey and white plaid. It is top-notch quality fabric, and I’m not even sure if Pendleton still makes it.
I’ve tried to photograph how the two sides are joined, but I’m afraid this will take a bit of imagination for you to picture it. I’ve pulled a section of the two fabrics apart, and if you look very closely you can see how the two are joined by the solid grey yarns.
As is often the case with vintage wools, there was a series of unfortunate holes near the hem. Because they were contained in that area, I took a chance. The problem with moth holes is that sometimes it takes a cleaning before the full extent of the damage is revealed. I strongly suggest that you have any wool garment (except sweaters, which can be hand washed) cleaned before you get your heart set on wearing it. In my case, there was no extra damage, but I knew the coat was unwearable as is.
If you are a regular reader of the Vintage Traveler, you know that I am not a big fan of altering and “up-cycling.” However, when it comes to a mass produced, damaged item, I have no problem working toward making it wearable.
In this case, though, it was not a simple matter of just cutting off the damage and hemming the coat due to the leather binding. I had to cut off the damaged bottom, remove the leather binding and then hand stitch it to form the new bottom edge. You cannot machine stitch leather that already has old stitching holes, as it would weaken the leather and actually cut through it. So I hand stitched it, working my needle through the old holes.
The end result is a knee length coat that is just the right weight for my climate. I can see myself wearing this 20 years down the road, and if I can keep the moths away, it will out live me. This is the kind of quality fabric and garment that typified the American sportswear industry.
All the edges are either French seams or are bound in leather.
On a similar note, I was tickled pink to discover this week that Pendleton Threads, the Pendleton Mills blog actually has The Vintage Traveler in their blog role. So if anyone from Pendleton is reading, thanks!