The Peak Oil Company

The Peak Oil Company

Unique and durable clothing and equipment.

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Our labels are done

Thanks to Eleanor at Kick and Screen, we've got some really nice care labels printed up, and a screen with a squeegee and ink to keep on trucking with, and try out all sorts of different fabrics. These care labels will be sewn into the lining, as a third pocket, and signed by the maker with a date and place written in as well.

We have patches, stamped leather, and ribbon ready to go too. Can't wait to see how they jazz up a finished jacket.

The care label

We've been thinking about the care label that is required in garments. The tag that says where it was made, out of what materials, and what the washing instructions are. True to our design principles, this label has to be multi functional and DIY-able. So...

We've designed a label that is large enough to be screen-printed, or maybe even block printed. On a piece of material large enough to become a pocket when it is sewn in. And we're aiming to add a quote, hopefully unique to every garment, that carries a little bit of our spirit with it. And finally, we've left space for our makers to sign or stamp their name, date and location - and the more precise the location the better.

From family tent to jackets and bags

We stopped by East Warburton last week, and bought an old canvas family tent. We knew it was beyond repair for its original purpose :( but grabbed it for its recyclable canvas. It's 1970s flavours of green and blue have faded back, and once we made a jacket and bag from some of it, we threw it in the wash to see what would happen. Result: a kinda stone wash, lime green jacket, held together by black stitching and patches of new ripstop canvas. Next we'll oilskin it to see what we end up with. If we could find a reliable source for these old canvases, they'd would make a beautiful line of limited edition products. Nice to know the pattern worked with the heavier material too.

Open source design: The jacket design is settled

Ok, THIS time we think the jacket design is settled. We've thought it before, and every time we make one, something else pops up and we feel a need to fiddle with it a little more. Achieving our goal of uber simplicity, retaining functionality of a contemporary jacket design, and using classic materials turns out to be quite a complicated endeavor! But on the plus side, each time we tweak the design our documentation of it gets better, the pattern improves, we find another path to more simplicity.

Our intention has always been to open source our designs. We've been pretty inspired by the folks at Open Source Ecology, and when they interviewed Lastware about their open source publishing of the patterns to their clothes, we thought - that's what we'll do. Sadly, Lastware have stopped publishing their patterns, saying it wasn't benefitting them. I guess our question is, has it benefited them by not publishing? Our intention is to publish simple patterns, that can be printed on a standard desktop printer, leaving it to the end user to scale up the drawing with say, a grid.

Apart from conviviality being a defining principle for us, we think showing the inner thinking of our designs will aid people in their decision to order a jacket or not. But most of all, we're also reaching out to makers. We want to try and build a network of makers who like casual casual work to order. Our hope is that when an order comes in we have a chance of getting it made and modified locally to the person making the order. If makers out there want to try their hand at making a jacket to our design, by all means, we'll put the pattern out there for exactly that, and support them as much as we can. We can source and deliver materials, and give extra advice. If those same people learn to make a jacket to this design at a quality we agree is a Peak Oil Company product, then we want an association to our name to be an incentive for makers. Those makers become partners in the production of this product, and are paid well per item.

If people take the pattern and design and improve it for other purposes, then the expectation is they'll let us know, and share the new design back, under the Share Alike condition of the copyright license we're putting on this.

What do you think.. is this a better path than protectionism? We can't really afford to register a patent, nor will we ever have the capacity or inclination to chase down copycats.. so rather than resist that, can we embrace copying through open source production, and make good on it?

The pictures here in this post are our latest drawings.. we're getting the pattern professionally laid out, and will load it up as soon as they're done. These drawings are used to aid the maker, in combination with the pattern and a sample jacket.

Greenpeace highlight toxic chemicals used in waterproofing

It has always been odd to us, just how far the outdoor clothing and equipment designs and fashions have separated people from the natural environments they seek to enjoy. Mountaineering tents and gear, designed and used for activities that most of us don't even come close to trying. We're all left feeling like a Neil Armstrong stepping out onto the moon from some alien craft, when all we're doing is camping out by a river streaming off a nice mountain in spring!

Now Greenpeace Germany has drawn attention to the toxicity in the chemicals used to waterproof this modern equipment, and we're reminded of another reason why Peak Oil Company is striving to find the right designs for safer, more user friendly clothing and equipment.  

Our new sewing machine - beast zoje

We can't even pronounce its name, that's how beastly this thing is. We're scared of it! Its foot stamps down, and it punches through layers of canvas like it were butter. When its on, the lights dim and flicker, and it growls. And that's just the girl in the picture! We don't even have words to describe how frightening the sewing machine is!

We bought this machine from MJC Sewing Machines in Brunswick. Florencio Garcia has been great to deal with. Honest, no fuss, knows his stuff, and fair prices.

We're going to use this machine for our prototyping.

Testing Peak Oil Jacket prototypes

At last, we had the opportunity to test the 2 prototype jackets in snow and blizzard conditions out back of Mount Hotham Victoria. Here's a video we made on phones, from the 2 days skiing testing:

So what did we learn?

We first pulled one of the jackets out of the bag when we stopped to put chains on the car. Yep, being canvas we could confidently chuck the jacket down in the mud and rocks, and not worry about pressing a hole in it.

Our first day was spent resort skiing. We're happy to confirm both prototypes kept us warm, dry and protected, including on the slow lift rides over the ridge and into the howling southerly that blew all day.

The unworn surface of the oiled canvas seemed to catch and hold the needle and stella snow flakes a bit, compared to the plastic jackets around us, but we suspect that's because the jacket was new, with the surface being kinda furry. By the end of the second day, we noticed the surface was starting to get that signature shine of a worn oilskin, and snow fell away.

The Riri Aqua zips worked beautifully! They set, glide and unset effortlessly. Easily the best waterproof zip out there. We'll change the placement of the zip though. We thought to end the front zip at the neckline, leaving the studs and plackets to close the neck, and keep it free and flexible. We wanted to avoid that slight stiffness that a zip can bring to the neck, but we concede this is not a big enough problem to warrant loosing the ease of the zip. In future makes, for the jackets that have the Riri Aqua zips, we'll place them up over the neck, and leave off the plackets and studs.

The difference between the Peak Oil Jacket prototype 2 and 3 is in the sleeve. On the 2 we set the sleeve in, meaning a seam runs over the shoulder and under the arm. On the 3 we used a raglan sleeve, where the seams run up to the neckline. We think the raglan fits better and offers more freedom of movement, but we'd like to work a bit more on the set-in sleeve, and experiment with a removable sleeve design.

The pockets. We reckon 4 pockets on the front is overkill. We didn't use the 2 lower pockets at all, and the vertical zip was difficult to manage. Either we'll leave off the lower pockets, or rethink their placement to reflect the rarity of their use. The two breast pockets where very useful though, and the vertical Aqua zips made them easy to access with a pack on.

The hoods covered well, and in these conditions they're a must have - both fully on, or half up the back of the head with the collar all done up. We're looking for a better way to do hoods though, that fits them to all different head and neck sizes, that blocks all wind, and keeps fitted on a moving head. We're also conscious that some people like to remove the hood, we've got a few ideas...

We're not sure the Ventile lining needs to be sewn in. We're thinking to try a removable lining so to make it washable and replaceable, plus the added versatility of using the liner alone, or swapping it for insulation.

Finally, the weight question. These jackets are heavier than their plastic counterparts, but we honestly didn't notice a difference. We spent a day resort skiing, followed by a pretty big day back country, which had us wearing them in a full range of situations and body temperatures. They packed down into our bags no trouble, and seemed to feel nicer than the plastics when we wore them climbing out of a valley.

All up, we're stoked the prototypes worked in the conditions we're designing for. They're confidently tough, perform well in snow conditions, feel good when active, and the weight didn't bother us on these extended day trips. This first test has shown us we're on the right track, and with a few minor tweaks we'll have a jacket we're proud to put out to market.

New concepts

Ventile fine cotton shirt

We have developed a range of products that are almost final concepts, but still need a little tweaking. We've really shaved the weight off the jacket and it allows all range of movement now. The oilskin outer and Ventile lining makes this a really tough yet comfortable foul weather jacket. The Ventile shirt does what it said it would. We've been wearing them around Darwin in high 20s low 30s (Celsius) heat and they're as comfortable as any other cotton work wear shirt, but our one repels water! Is it a shirt, or a raincoat.. we dunno yet. The wool shirt looks nice, and allows all range of movement, but she's a little itchy. We're thinking this one has to be worn over a Ventile shirt. The wool goes nicely with the oilskin to make the hoody vest, but we need to modify the cut some, and finish the cuffs better. This one still has a bit of development to go. Our oilskin/ventil overalls are nearly done and we can't wait to run through the wet, cold bush with them. They'll probably be the toughest pants out there, but subtle and comfy. Stay tuned.

Traditional Chinese Pants

Red Sorghum

A few of us own Thai Fisherman's Pants, and while we rarely, if ever, wear them out in public, we can agree they are by far the most comfortable pants we own.

Here's a pattern for making Thai Fisherman Pants.

So recently, while wearing these pants, Leigh was watching the movie Red Sorghum, and was pretty inspired by the version of pant the fellas wear in that movie. We can only refer to them as Traditional Chinese Pants, but others are associating them with Harem Pants. There are loads of how-tos out there for Harem Pants, but Katja at Of Dreams and Seams gives out a nice instruction for making Traditional Chinese Pants, and we can see from the zero waste in the fabric use, that she is onto the real thing.

Could we take a pattern for the Traditional Chinese Pants and modify it to make a durable, semi technical pair of pants, in oil skin, for use is cold, wet and sometimes snowy environments?

Let's see! To be continued...

Jacket prototype 001


These past few months, we've been designing a jacket, working with Julio Valdes in Sydney to develop a pattern, and get a prototype made up, ready for on-demand making. Here's photos of prototype 001. Its made of black oilskin, lined with ventile, and then kangaroo leather on the hood brim and cuffs. There are a few things not shown, such as the RiRi and splash resistant zippers we plan to use, as well as the flaps with press studs to shield the main body zipper.

Once we get the design, pattern and materials right, we plan to sell the jacket, made to order, in a variety of materials, from all Kanga leather, to recycled canvas. Although this particular version is pretty heavy weight, it is designed for outdoor activity like skiing. For those who are more worried about weight than they are about durability, there will be a light weight version made from single layer ventile.

We're working on pants, bib and brace over alls, shirts, feather down jackets and wool mid layer jackets. The designs will be open source and simplified to support DIY makers. The materials are natural, and the cuts for active wear. We hope to start marketing the first jacket by the end of the year, after we've finished fully testing the designs and materials in the field, through an Australian winter scrub.

+61 0404561009
Mount Dandenong, Australia