The sheepskin was awesome! It sure got wet, but only the outside. The wool fleece remained dry and warm - it really is amazing to wear.
The jacket, pants and gloves cut the wind, sleet, snow and rain well. A simple rubbing of bee's wax on key areas like shoulders, arms and seams, made certain of it. The zips in the pants vented the leg well. Will be adding braces.
Really pleased with the performance all round.
Thor just returned from 4 weeks in Japan, throughly testing the Peak Oil Jacket. 4 weeks of continuous use in snow, rain, altitude, night clubs and tokyo streets. It comes back to us with some incredibly valuable feedback, some spoken, the rest written into the jacket itself.
The very first thing we notice is how great the thing breaks in! The oilskin has rubbed back and softened to a dry, slightly shined, not waxy, worn in looking jacket.
The second thing we notice is that the stitching still shines like new, and this is something we don't like so much. On this jacket we used a thread with more polyester in it. While it certainly retains its own colour, we want it to absorb some of the oil and darken with the jacket. Our normal thread with more cotton does this nicely, so we'll stay with that.
The zips glide beautifully, so Riri earns their reputation.
The pattern worked, breaking in nicely, and coming back without any complaints. Our main question was if the simplicity caused any discomfort or tight spots. None! We've since adjusted the hood design however, giving a draw chord that pulls better around the face, and more room if a helmet needs to be worn under it.
Early in Thor's trip, reports came in about snow sticking to the jacket. We don't yet know if this is a thing with new oilskin, or if a worn in oilskin sheds the snow ok. Watching that space. The main thing we needed to know is that it was water proof.
It's true that plastics are used for mountain and snow sports these days, and that cotton based gear is heavier, and potentially colder. But we'll truck on in the face of that, looking to our principles of natural and recycled materials that anyone can pull together and not need a petro chemical plant to produce. 4 weeks successful use in Japan, including proud wearing in nightclubs is enough encouragement for us. And we notice that either Thor has no body odour, or the natural materials are not inducing it...
And while this one isn't Thor's jacket, here's Leigh wearing his on a recent camping trip with his family up around Mount Macedon in Victoria. Yes, it got cold enough. This jacket is identical to Thor's, but has hand pockets and red stitching.
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.
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.
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.
The kangaroo tales and skins arrived today. Up from Tasmania. We're looking forward to using this unique product in the jackets we're making for recent eorders from the UK and Alaska!
Large kanga skin
The tales are raw and uncoloured. The skins are died with tree bark. We'll oil and wax them all before use with the jackets. The leather will feature in the hood and maybe the collar and cuffs. We'd really like to make a full kanga skin jacket, and keep the fur on in places. Excellent for the likes of Matt Machine we expect!
As for the other materials, the ventile arrived last week. It's a beautiful fabric to touch, cut and work with. Think 1000 thread sheets you might've slept in at an expensive hotel, then double the quality.
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.
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.