My Sew Sew Life-A Bog Coat Mash-Up

My bog coat has been finished for about three weeks as I write. Usually, I can’t wait to publish an article on my creative journey with a piece. However, for this one, I had to get some space between finishing and writing about it because there were a few high and low feelings I had when making it. I will get into all that later.

From the start, I want to stress that this bog coat is a mix of a couple of patterns. I see it as an inspiration that a bog coat can be created a few different ways, depending on your taste and what kind of fabric you are working with (even, if like me, your fabric is too narrow).

This project ended up being a little experimental with a few problems and problem-solving along the way. I will talk about all my twists and turns! Sit back, and grab a cup of coffee because this is going to be a long one. For now, how about a little history?

To Start Out, Just a Little Boggy Background

The bog coat has been on my list to make since 1990. That’s a long time, but nowhere as long as the actual bog coat has been in existence. Because of being on my “make list” for over three decades, I’ve had some time to read about it and wanted to share just a little bit.

The bog coat is one of the original zero-waste garments. Constructed from a rectangle, there are very few seams. The original bog coat was found in a Danish bog and was dated to be from the Iron Age. The tannic acid in peat bogs is a great preservation agent for people and their fashions. In all honesty, I have never found a photo of anything piece of ancient clothing online that I thought looked anything like what we consider a bog these days. Maybe I’m just missing something.

The closest I could come is above. These garments are on display at Danish National Museum.

It is fascinating to me that I can make a pattern that has basically been around for 4000 years and I’m not the only one. Designers have also put their own spin on the bog coat. Probably the most famous and elegant interpretations were made by Christobal Balenciaga.

Diane Vreeland with one of Cristobal Balenciaga’s “one-seam” or a bog coat.

The basic pattern for this “one-seam” coat is very simple. It’s just one rectangle that is cut to size based on one’s personal measurements.

As you can see above, just a few cuts and sewing seams and you have a coat or jacket. It should be an easy project.

It helps to see the bog three-dimensionally (and fun to do too).

What I Initially Wanted

The image of the Bog Dress in Liz Haywood’s Zero Waste Sewing book. This is what I was planning to make in the beginning.

I mainly follow and sew zero-waste patterns from one designer. This is Liz Haywood out of Australia. Her patterns and book, “Zero Waste Sewing” have been paramount for my zero-waste sewing experiences. Up to this point, I believe I have now made five garments using her patterns.

Zero Waste Sewing has a chapter titled “One Seam.” This chapter has all the information you would need to successfully complete a one-seam or bog garment. A bog can easily have buttons down the front and become a dress or a top. Liz pushes the boundaries with what one can do with the bog and I was on board.

My first choice make was the Coat Dress on page 56. With its deep inverted pleat in the back and generous overlap in the front with lapels, I was excited to try it. This take is so stylish!

Below is a line drawing of the Coat Dress from the book. One of the first things I look at are line drawings. They give out so much more information than a fashion photo. The drawing shows the generous lapels and the wonderful deep back pleat. I was not going to turn the sleeves up or add the sleeve tabs. I even made this one up in a muslin and loved it. However, this version was not to be.

The Woes of Finding the Perfect Fabric From Spoonflower

It was also very important to me that I made this coat or I think you could call what I have, even a cardigan from fabric designed by my daughter Rachelle Gardner-Roe.

Rachelle’s piece, Fly Over Country, The Wild Side was one of the artworks chosen for installation at the new Kansas City Airport. While she was working on her installation piece, she was also interpreting her art as a digital design for fabric.

This process took hours of work, from scanning individual pieces, cleaning their edges up in Photoshop, and making them work in a repeatable design. Rachelle ordered some preliminary printed fabric samples last fall and I was smitten with a fabric called “Silky Faille.” It was woven, which meant I could cut on the cross grain without a problem. Silky Faille was also polyester, which meant it took dyes at full saturation.

There was one problem. Spoonflower discontinued “Silky Faille” and by this Spring, it was not available. The other wovens Spoonflower offers just didn’t appeal to me. Well, except for the Celosia Velvet, but then there would have been a problem with the nap. Velvet has to be cut in one direction because it is a directional fiber and this can’t be done on a one-piece garment like the bog coat (the front of the sleeves would be going in the wrong direction and therefore would be a different shade because of how the light would interact with the fibers).

I finally decided on the organic cotton knit. My thinking was that a knit piece could function as a jacket or cardigan and that it could be either dressed up or down. Also, it was nice and thick and perfect for traditional weather like we have here in March and April.

I’m not going to discuss them, but there are optional patch pockets.

What To Do When Your Fabric Isn’t Wide Enough.

Because I decided on a knit, I ran into problems. Being a knit, It could not be cut on the cross-grain like the pattern called for. Because of that, I needed 60″ wide fabric to have all the features of the original Wrap Dress/Jacket. Spoonflower’s Organic Cotton Knit is only 56″ wide which meant I could not make the Wrap Dress/Coat as it was designed by Liz. This in turn meant that I had to make some creative design decisions.

I will have to admit, there was one very frustrating moment when I almost folded up the fabric and thought, “Another project on another day.” But then I settled myself down and started thinking of workarounds to get something similar (or not!).

I was not going to compromise on that back pleat and still wanted some type of lapel in front. It was obvious that my bog was not going to be made from one piece of fabric. The back panel of the back pleat is a separate piece.

I was able to get the full inverted pleat width by incorporating some of the fabric selvages. Who is going to see it? I guess if a strong wind comes along and flaps it open, it could happen!

Forget about that luxurious collar and front wrap. I had to settle for a very small collar and my bog just met in the front, There is also a sewn-on front facing rather than just turning the fabric back. Thank goodness, I bought two yards of fabric and had just the right amount to do those two things and binding for the sleeves.

Yes, because of the narrower width, the sleeves were not as long as I originally wanted. To get as much length as possible, I cut sleeve facings out of the scraps of fabric I had left over. One binding is in three pieces (you don’t see it, so big deal). You do what you have to do! To be on the safe side, I also tacked the corners of the lapel collar down so it would stay in place.

Since my coat/jacket/cardigan (whatever it is!) only met in the middle, I decided to play around with the design and had my lapel go almost down to my waist and closed it with one button with a loop. I couldn’t find any button in my stash that looked good. Finally, I just grabbed an appropriately sized plastic button from the tin and covered it with fabric; a DIY fabric-covered button.

One thing that Liz Haywood does many times on her tops is to take the cutout for the neck and turn it into a back facing. I have always loved this detail and couldn’t resist doing it for my bog. It does a good job showing off some new labels that I treated myself to this month.

I found my labels at MommieMade on ETSY. They are organic twill and I think they are so pretty.

Oh, But There Is a Thing That I Just Don’t Understand

Now, I am going to talk about what frustrates me about my bog, and this is a problem with how I cut or did things, not the original pattern idea/drafting instructions. I first made a muslin of my bog coat to check the fit and cut. There wasn’t anything that greatly upset me. The neckline was a little lower in the back but nothing too dramatic. The thought occurred to me that I might want to cut the back neckline a tad higher. However, in the early frustration of planning the coat on the fabric (remember that I almost scraped the project), I forgot to do this.

The Back Neckline-A Problem to Be Resolved with a Future Project. I can’t just wear any top underneath it. Any that I wear has to have a lower back than my jacket.

It is a shock to me how low the back neckline is and how wide the front neckline is. None of this was present in my mock-up and I used my mock-up as a pattern to cut out my fashion fabric. Being knit, I immediately stay-stitched around the neck so it would hold its shape. I am befuddled but determined to make this garment again out of woven and take a closer look at my drafting for the neck edge and figure this thing out.

A Word About Spoonflower

As a general idea, I think Spoonflower is great. It gives fledgling designers a chance to design and market their ideas. The designs can be purchased in fabric, wallpaper, and various other decor items. As far as the fabrics, their price range is anywhere from $19 to $79 a yard.

Spoonflower digitally prints these designs on various fibers. My problem is that there is a noticeable difference in the saturation of color for different fibers. If you notice in my photos, I am standing next to my dress form that is draped.

As mentioned earlier, my jacket is their Organic Cotton Knit. I chose this because of its thickness and because I thought it would be a good fabric to either dress up or dress down. I didn’t pre-purchase a sample, I just got two yards. Rachelle was very unhappy when I showed her the fabric because the violet was such a light intensity.

You can see the difference in how the organic cotton took the printing dyes compared to the other two fabrics on my dress form. The longer fabric on the left is Spoonflower’s 100% 54′ wide Polyester Satin, which has the most intensity of all of the fabrics we’ve tested. The shorter fabric is their 52″ Poly Crepe de Chine, which is almost as strong as the satin, but not quite. As far as I can tell, it must have something to do with the percentage of cotton in the fabric.

I’m wearing what I consider my dressed-up version using my Bog Jacket. I did wear this to an art opening. This jacket did get noticed and got compliments.

I also purchased two other knit samples shown below; a 60″ wide Cotton Spandex (on the left) and their 56″ wide Performance Pique (on the right). It might be hard to decern from the photo but the Pique is much richer. Even though the Cotton Spandex is much lighter in weight, I think it would have been workable in a bog and also wide enough. Oh, well…

Another thing that I want to mention is that being digital prints, all of the reverse sides of Spoonflower’s fabrics are white so they are not suited for any project that the reverse side shows, which was fine for this particular project. The one exception is their Chiffon. Being 100% Polyester, I thought the print on it was pretty decent (Rachelle has that sample).

Another thing is that these fabrics, and you can see this in the two on my dress form, have very wide selvages which leads to more wastage. Mostly, I am cutting mine up into cabbage for stuffing things in the future.

Finally, as for fabric preferences, my heart really does lie with natural fibers. Spoonflower is limited on natural fibers and by now, you can see the problems with them. But, as long as Rachelle designs, I will continue to create things using her designs.

Zero-Waste Versus Low Waste

What you aim for is not to have any fabric left over in a Zero-Waste endeavor. Because of all the problems I had, I did have some left over. But as you can see below, not much!

And About Rachelle’s Art

Our daughter, Rachelle Gardner-Roe was one of 19 local artists whose work was chosen for Kansas City’s new air terminal. Below is a documentary by our Kansas City PBS station covering these artists’ work. Rachelle got a nice blurb.

That finishes it up for me. If you are here, congratulations because this was a long one. My bog/coat/jacket shows the possibilities of what can be done with this ancient pattern. Designers like Liz Haywood have shown us practical ways to create stylish garments using this basic idea. I hope my attempt has shown that we as sewers can change and adapt, depending on the circumstances of what is available to us.

Even with my “back neckline problem,” I’m glad I made this jacket and can see myself experimenting more with this idea I hope you enjoyed my boggy adventure and will try one for yourself.

Take Care,

8 thoughts on “My Sew Sew Life-A Bog Coat Mash-Up

    1. Thank you. I think I use my blog to help me think through what I just made with all its problems. Then, going forward, I use this analysis to help me with future sewing endeavors. Thank you for dropping by and leaving a note!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve never heard of a bog coat, but I’ve very intrigued! I might give this one a try! I think you coat/cardigan came out very nicely. I don’t know if I would have the sewing skills to make the adaptations you did.

    Your daughter’s art pieces are awe-inspiring. I thought they were lovely…and, then they showed her creating! I would never have guessed this was a felted piece. How long did it take her to complete? You must be extremely proud of her! Breathtaking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Mardha. First off, if you get to get the right kind of fabric (2 yards woven), you will not have to go through what I did. I will try a bog again because it is really a cool thing, connecting to something that is so ancient. The bog is really popular right now and you can find so many inspirations on the net.

      Thank you for watching KCPT’s doc. Rachelle worked on the piece for about a year and a half. But, she was holding down a full time job at an architectural firm (she an interior archetitect by education). She quit her job to get it finished.

      As I write, I am dying and carding wool for her. I dyed a lot of the wool that in in “Fly Over”. Our dye lab is here at home and she has to come down to dye or I, when needed, do it. While she was working, I did all the dying and carding. We have the wool first processed at a mill, but then take it, dye it, and recard it on my Patrick Green Super Carder. It is a process.

      Keep me updated on you bog progress. I really do think it is a great way to get back into sewing. It’s just a matter of taking a few measurements and transferring them onto the fabric.

      Think I grabbed a bit, so talk later.



  2. So interesting to read your story with this project, especially with the Spoonflower fabric.
    Rachelle’s artwork is absolutely beautiful and works so well as a fabric print. Thank you for putting the documentary clip in the blog post.

    You’re using the Zero Waste Sewing book exactly as I hoped people would: taking a concept and some fabric and making it their own. Your coat dress is lovely in the soft colours and just right to wear to an art exhibition.
    The coat dress sample got taken along to a zero waste talk I did at an Australian Sewing Guild event, with every sample from the book available to try on afterwards. People tried things on and came out and “did a twirl” to show their friends. Unexpectedly, the coat dress was THE sample which looked fab on every person who tried it on, regardless of their size.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Liz. The fact that you give so many examples, lends itself to some inspiration for personal tweeks with the bog pattern. If one had narrower fabric, I think color-blocking would work too.

      I’m not finished with the bog-I still want your coat dress.

      I glad that you checked out the video. As I write, I am processing some more fiber for Rachelle (dying and carding). I have the dye lab and it stays here on the farm. It does get the kid home once in a while LOL!

      Take care, Terri

      Liked by 1 person

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