Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Canadian Costume ~ Part 3: Coat Construction

Unfourtunately, I haven't documented the making of my blanket coat, as I was eager to get it done by the New Year. It is a very basic construction with piping in the seams, and no lining except for the sleeves. I managed to finish the coat by New Years, apart from the hood and decoration on the shoulder.

I observed much of how to construct the coat by looking at photos of original Canadian Snowshoe costumes from the McCord museum. You can see some of these photos in my earlier post.

From these photos, it's pretty easy with a knowledge of sewing, to figure out how these coats are constructed. The main questions I still had was whether or not these coats had a lining, and that question was answered by this photo from the William Notman collection.


As you can see, the bottom corner of the blanket coat has been turned back revealing that, while there is a facing, there is no lining.

After cutting out my pieces, I hand-serged all edges to ensure that there would be no fraying. This probably wasn't needed, but I felt it would help the coat last longer. I added the facing along the front edge of the forepart, turned it, and top stitched. It was difficult to top stitch through all the layers, since it was close to 3/4 inch thick. The top stitching reduced it to just under half an inch. I then constructed the main body of the coat. This was done by sewing the side-seams, the centre-back, and the shoulders. While doing this, I added a blue piping, as is seen in the original coats.

Next were the sleeves. The sleeve was constructed with a top sleeve and an under sleeve. I sewed the back seam of the arm with piping, and the front seam without. I hemmed up the cuff, and added a lining. I attached the sleeve to the coat. In sewing the sleeves onto the coat, I could have done a sleeve cap out of the same blue melton I used for the piping. I didn't for time's sake, but I will most likely take off the sleeve and add the shoulder cap at a later date.

I did a blanket stitch along the bottom edge of the coat. This was more typical than hemming the edge. Then I got to the complicated bit: the hood and collar.

The hood and collar are difficult because the layers of fabric create a massive amount of thickness. There's the coat itself, a layer from the hood, a layer of hood lining, and another two layers from the underside and the topside of the collar. This accumulated into a thickness of well over an inch.

Once again, I made a compromise for time's sake by forgoing the hood for now, and just adding the collar.

I finished the outfit in time for New Years, and wore it out to the park. Since then, I wore it to Trout Lake, which was frozen for the first time in 20 years. I also wore it to Fort Langley's Festival du Voyageur.


As to the construction of the hood, I've still been doing a bit of research on this, going back and looking at photos from McCord museum, it appears most common for the hood to be sewn in under the collar. However, I did notice in one of the original snowshoe coats, it appears that the hood is attached under the collar, but not in the same seam. It looks as if it was laid on, and top-stitched.

I then found images from an auction on Ebay of a Snowshoe costume from Winnipeg in the 1930s. This coat had a few interesting features. First, this was the first snowshoe costume I'd seen that was made from a Hudson's Bay blanket. The slightly more important feature to me was that the hood attached separately with buttons.

1930s Snowshoe costume. Photo from Ebay.

Coat back and hood.

Buttons to attach the hood.

Attaching the hood with buttons would solve the problem of all the bulk and allowed me to add the hood without taking the collar off. It will probably be some time before I make the addition of the hood, but until then, I'm finished and working on other projects!

Spring weather is already on the horizon here in Vancouver, so I won't be needing a snowshoe costume until next winter.


  1. Facility of a virtual Wardrobe app - go Stylish