The story of a simple field jacket

Those of you that follow my Instagram have been seeing unsubtle little teasers for this one for a  while now. It’s been in the works, the really slow works, for months. Now though it has sprung forth, not unlike one of those butterflies you see on the high-definition nature channels. Yes, the big colourful butterflies that remind you of jackets. A little bit, maybe.

The Monitaly field jacket in it's orignal, unmolested khaki colour.

The Monitaly field jacket in it’s orignal, unmolested khaki colour.

Anyhows, the story starts in the early Autumn, when I came over a cheap secondhand Monitaly field parka. Being a fan of Monitaly jackets, I snapped it up, even though the colour was never going to be a favourite, and there was a some hardly noticeable colour bleed around the pop buttons. The idea was to do something with it, probably involving dye. Around this time I was also starting to be involved in the Indigo Village shenanigans.

And through a serendipitous flash of inspiration it struck me that the jacked should make another long journey. After all, it was born in the USA, had it’s first owner in Ireland, before ending up in Norway. Why not send it on a holiday to Indigo Village. An indigo-spa if you like? So off it went, by airmail, to the rural outbacks, somewhere almost off the map in Thailand.

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It would have been fun if the jacket could have recalled the story of it’s holiday itself, as what little I have heard indicates that it was met with much shaking of heads, much disbelief and an initial series of dips in the indigo vats.

After the first series of dips.

After the first series of dips.

The result was not to the satisfaction and professional standards of the elders of the village. So a new series of dips was commissioned, this time with more intensity and more temperature. And this killed the indigo pot (*). The jacket was bluer though, so although there was lots of woes and wailing and general misery, the result was pronounced to be as good as it would get.

After the second round.

After the second round.

And with it’s holiday over and nowt to do but hang around and watch the WDD indigo-scarves be woven, it was time for the jacket to hitch a ride back to Norway for the next stage of the process.

When it came back, the jacket had a very odd feel to it. Sort of dry, almost dusty. And it reeked of indigo. This description alone is probably enough to have several readers visibly quivering. Stop it, get a grip, chap! It’s only fermented, natural dye from the indigofera plant, applied in an artisan fashion, adhering to the ancient rites and methods. So I first gave it a light rinse, which seemed to loosen it up a bit.

Post-die, pre-wax. That difficult transitional time.

Post-die, pre-wax. That difficult transitional time.

The next step though was to wax it. Why wax? Well, I’ll admit I don’t see myself using it as a rain jacket, but the idea was to see what would happen to the colour when waxed, and see if I could in some way change the surface feel of the cotton fabric. There are various ways of waxing, or impregnating fabric, of which these come to mind:

  1. The sort where you wash the garment with impregnating fluid
  2. The sort where you apply really gloopy wax like Barbour thornproof wax
  3. And the sort where you have a chunk of wax that you rub rub rub in and then apply heat to

The first variant I don’t have much faith in. I once used some Nik-Wax to treat a jacket in British Millerain and the jacket shrunk a full size. And wasn’t any more waterproof than before (and that wasn’t much to speak of). And yes, I was recommended it by a Millerain support chap and followed his instructions.

The second might be good, but I suspect that I’d need a dozen tins and would end up with a jacket weighing, well, whatever a dozen tins of Barbour wax weighs, plus the original weight of the jacket. This cotton looked and felt very thirsty indeed. The typical Barbour waxed cotton is much thinner and would hold less wax than the fabric my jacket was made of.

Photo 19.02.15, 17.00.23

That chunk of paraffin and beeswax.

So I ordered up a chunk of Fjällräven Greenland wax and got cracking on with this. The process is incredibly simple and the main factor working against your success is that it does involve you putting some real effort into it. You basically rub the entire garment with the piece of wax, making sure there is a layer of wax deposited over the entire surface. The wax is a combination of paraffin and beeswax and has a feel very similar to candle wax.

Wax applied.

Wax applied.

And like candle wax it melts when you apply heat, which is the important next step. Using an iron or a hair dryer you apply just enough head for the wax to melt, and hopefully create a waxy boundary layer in the fabric. I found it easy to see that the wax melted, but to be honest it was hard to see if it was in the fabric or if it just evaporated. The colours of the jacket did seem a lot more vibrant after application though.

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Perhaps I should go back and try a few more applications? It took about 2 hours to do the first round, though I did notice my technique was getting better as the job was done. There may also be something in that the piece of wax warmed up a bit as I worked. It definitely seemed as if the wax was depositing with more ease.

This is how much was left after one run at waxing the jacket. Probably enough for another 2-3 goes?

This is how much was left after one run at waxing the jacket. Probably enough for another 2-3 goes?

In any case, this is the end result. If you scroll up to the initial photo, and then down again, you will be able to take in the full awesomeness of the amazing transformation that has been performed. And you may be really jealous of my unique indigo-dyed field jacket. Boom!

In summary though, I wanted this to be inspirational and instructive. And cool. Never forget the cool.

The end result, the one-of-a-kind indigo Monitaly.

The end result, the one-of-a-kind indigo Monitaly.


(*) And yes, I did cover the cost of replacing their indigo vat. I am a gentleman, if nothing else.

1 Comment

  • jay 02/03/2015 at 14:42

    I have an old carhartt duck canvas jacket that is so faded it’s practically white. I think it could do with a bit of the indigo treatment. Thanks for sharing a great idea.


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