Usually when one thinks of a blanket coat, the Northwood’s Capote, made from a quality Hudson’s Bay blanket comes to mind. These are great coats, and some of them can be pretty fancy looking, with all kinds of gee-gaws and such adorning your work. These can, of course be store bought, and I have seen them priced at well over a couple of hundred dollars. Granted, those blankets are probably one of the best quality wool blankets in the world, and they make a colorful article of clothing, but what about when you are stuck and have ruined your fancy store bought parka? What then, bucko? Well, you get out your needles and thread and make yourself a nice warm coat for the winter, that’s what.
I came across a set of instructions at The Inquiry Net! which is a Scouting site that had instructions for making a true capote, otherwise known as an Indian blanket coat. It’s pretty involved and takes several hours to sew together, but there are simpler ways to get what you want. Christopher Nyerges offers a simpler, and in my mind better set of instructions at The hooded blanket coat of the plains Indians. All you need is a good sharp pair of shears, some needles and thread and a decent quality blanket. Don’t waste your time on some of those new fangled microfiber fleece blankets. If it really is cold enough to need a good warm coat, those things will let you down. Flannel blankets are better, although the best type is a good thick wool, or wool blend blanket.
They’re kind of pricey, so if you really don’t need a blanket coat, think the idea through first. You can also hunt around at yard sales and flea markets for used blankets as well, but I doubt that if you are in a bind you’ll have that option, so make do with what you have. That’s what survival is all about anyways, isn’t it?
Well, here goes, as best as I can remember from one I made a great many moons ago. Figure out what size blanket you need, first of all. Most adults will need at least a full size blanket. A full/queen is a bit larger for those folks who need it, and a queen size is the biggest. Leave the king size alone for Sasquatch to use. You’ll need to fold the blanket in half the short way on the floor, first of all. Remember, this isn’t a fancy coat, but one that you will make in an emergency situation. Visualize a T shape with the top cross bar of your T as being the arm portion of the coat. Measure down from the top of the fold enough to make room for your arms to fit through, or about 16″.
Cut through both layers of the blanket from the edge to about one third of the way in, from each side. Then, lift the top layer and cut a square out of each side, leaving the middle third intact. Remove these pieces, but don’t throw them away. You’ll need them for a hood, back piece, pockets and so forth. Cut all the way along the length of the top layer of the blanket, or leg of the T. This will be your front opening. Next, flip that whole top layer back and place one of the squares you cut out on the bottom layer. Pin it in place for now with safety pins, or sewing pins if you have them. This will be an extra layer for warmth on your back side.
Next, fold over the two flaps so the meet in the center, and then fold your top layer T over so the edges meet together along the leg of the T. Pin these together, and then pin along the outer edges of the Ts leg, and also along the edges of the arm part of the T. Pull it on and see how it fits. Make any adjustments that you need now, before you start sewing. Pull everything inside out, and sew the seams of the arms first. You can cut off a couple of strips from the extra piece and use them for cuffs on the ends of the sleeves to make them wear longer and keep them from fraying at this point.
Next, sew in the back piece if you’d like. This isn’t a necessary part of the coat, but it does add an extra layer of cloth over your vulnerable back. Just remember to try to avoid any stitches that may leave holes exposed for air to get in. if you aren’t that good of a seamstress, leave this part out. I did as I couldn’t make the stitches right at the time.
Next, cut down along the top of the arm portion of where your head opening would be. Cut a square out of the remaining extra piece and fold it in half. Size it for your own head as this will be the hood piece. Stitch one side together, and then stitch the other side to the body of the coats head opening. Roll the edges of the hood back a half inch or so and stitch around the roll. This will keep the edges from fraying. If you’d like, you can add a string inside the roll, just like on a hooded sweatshirt to close the opening against the weather.
Then roll an inch of the top layer of the front under the bottom layer and stitch them together. Roll the outer edge of the top layer back and stitch that as well. Next you’ll want to sew down along the outer edge to secure it to the bottom layer. Leave an opening on each side about a foot from the bottom as a pocket opening if you’d like. Your final step will be to roll the bottom edge over an inch and hem that as well. You can use the extra material to sew on pockets or to make a belt for holding the coat closed against the weather. Or, if you’d like, round up some old buttons and sew them onto the coat. Or maybe a zipper. It’s your coat, fix it up any way you want to.
There are a lot of ways you can dress up a coat like this so use your imagination and make it what you want it to be. But above all, make it warm as that is what a good coat is supposed to do. Never ceases to amaze me when these rich people spend over two hundred dollars on a fancy coat, and then they stand around freezing because it won’t keep them warm. Oh well, that’s how it works, I guess.
Just as a hint here, I would suggest you visualize this project with a piece of paper before cutting into your blankets. You can cut the paper and tape it together, and as you do you’ll see what I mean at each of the different steps. I’m thinking of getting an old blanket and making another one of these coats, just so I can take pictures of the project and place them here, so maybe you should check back again later and see how things are going. But anyways, that’s your survival blanket coat. I bet those folks down in sunny Florida were thinking they knew how to make these this past week or so.
Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.