Paul Porter's First BYOG Project

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[Moderator's note: Paul's experience with a BYOG project mirrors, I think, something similar for many of us. A success leads to confidence that we can build or design gear and do meaningful work in the outdoor industry. Paul says, "I would say that making this sealed the deal for me. I thought, well if I can do this maybe I have something to contribute on the industry side...the manufacturing side."]


Paul (showing the jacket)   Back to the piece.  This now is probably about 25 years old maybe.  It's actually modeled after something, but the problem was that I'm 6' 4" and I have arms like an orangutan.  There wasn't anything out there that I could wear.  And i'd never really sewn anything before, but i thought how hard could it be?

I was working at REI at the time, and  I'd been interested since the beginning  about how these outerwear companies built their outerwear. I was really intrigued by the quality of construction, the stitching, and how they were built to stand up so well.  So i said I'm going to learn how to do this. 

I borrowed a Patagonia garment from work; they just let me take one home. I talked to my boss to let him know what I was doing. 

I essentially made a pattern from an existing garment.  Sort of pinned this thing down to a piece of fiberboard or plywood or something so I could get it all stretched out.  Then I outlined it on some  kind of paper, newspaper or maybe pattern paper, I can't remember it was such a long time ago.

I do have the pattern somewhere.  I stashed them somewhere that's now completely unavailable without turning the house over to find them.

I picked up a Simplicity pattern from the store for something similar and figured out how things were notched, so you could match up pieces and looked at construction border, where you really wanted to start, to make sure I wouldn't have to rip it apart and redo it.

I went and figured out what zippers i wanted and  found the zippers, and just had a blast putting this thing together. 

The big  thing with fleece back then, they basically said that if you're not doing a flat stitch on all your major seams, you have to surge it do it doesn't unravel.  Instead i figured out that i could zigzag, so I did double zigzagging all the way through.  Of course this probably doesn't show up (on the video),  but i trimmed  back just to the edge of the zigzags  without clipping the stitching.

The fun part was that when I originally made this i completely screwed up the pockets. I realized that i had made themdeep enough for a three year old!   The garment I thought of emulating had pockets that went  all the way through,  like an old hoodie.  But when i put the pockets together i figured "Crap," and so i had to cut pockets and cut the inside part off and then resew another deeper portion, so that was a lot of fun.     

I picked up Goretex fabric to line the pockets on the outside, so that if my hands were in my pockets they wouldn't be susceptible to the wind, because back then windproof fleece didn't exist.   All that there was 300 w and 200 w fleece.    I got mine directly form Malden Mills; I just walked in and said that I wanted to buy some fleece. 

This was probably the toughest part of the project—getting this whole zipper thing  to work right at the bottom.  There were lots of thicknesses of fleece to go through and I broke a few needles on the machine i was working with.

I can't remember the white stuff they put into the plackets. I was at NorthFace doing preproduction planning for  all those years, but i can't remember the stuff that comes in various weights and is kind of thick and translucent.    I couldn't find out  what's inside to make it so stiff,  so when i worked on the collar I was at least getting the collar to stand up on its own. So I sewed in this bit on the bottom, it's a double thickness.   This is all Goretex fabric from way back when, which after all this time has delaminated    It's all gone.

At the time it was all the rage to do this Lycra kind of stitching on all the cuffs and the waistline, so i just figured out how to do it.  This was pretty hard, too.  The Lycra still has some stretch in it. Maybe they made it better back then.  I managed to get a waistband and cuffs that would be fairly snug on my wrists, and it still is.   

It took me several weeks, but  it's still viable garment.   I still wear it today, although the fleece is not as thick as it used to be.    Someday i might get too fat to wear it, but right now it's good.    

Doug:   And it's still warm? 

Paul:     Yes it is, the only place that's wearing is at the elbows where it's  getting thin.  Nowhere close to being frayed or wearing through like the knees of a good pair of blue jeans. 

Doug: Have you built other clothing yourself? 

Paul: No, I haven't.  I thought I'd make fleece pants, but once I finished with this project, I was like "I'll get back to it eventually," but I never did.    It was kind of an exercise: I can't find anything that fits me, and I want a piece of heavy fleece that i can layer with, I'll have to do it myself. And once I did it I proved to myself that I could  do it, and I got a garment with sleeves that were long enough, and I was done.   And i still have several yards of the  fabric sitting in a closet. 

Doug: Do people sometimes stop you and ask you where you got your jacket? 

Paul:  Way back when, when  the only people using the Malden fleece was what Patagonia called Cinchilla.  I think at the time when I made this jacket, Patagonia still had or had just lost the exclusive right to use the fabric because they had a two- or three-year agreement with Malden since they had helped to  develop it.

So in the beginning, everybody was like "OOH, AHH, that's a great jacket!" but there's fleece everywhere now, so  nobody really notices it.  Occasionally, if I'm in braggart mode, I'll announce that, "I made this!"...and everybody's like, "Oh, that's nice."

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