Wearable Shelter

Amber and Violet band set out to explore the question: How might you draft a pattern that transforms an ordinary piece of clothing into wearable shelter?

We started by taking a closer look at how our clothing can provide shelter. Students reviewed their packing lists for the Angel Island overnight. On this trip students had to pack light, taking only what they could carry in their kayak, while making sure they had the right clothing for our outdoor adventure. They chose one of the items from their packing list to research further; considering how it provided shelter, their personal history with the garment, and where it came from.


From there students considered how the garment was assembled, exploring ways they might reverse engineer it to make their own unique piece. We were lucky to have a visit from some of Patagonia’s expert pattern drafters and menders to draft our own wearable shelter patterns. Students ran into plenty of math problems through pattern drafting, translating our two-dimensional patterns into three-dimensional forms.

We even experimented with materials science to consider ways we might manipulate the cloth. Students conducted tensile strength tests on various materials to determine which would work best for their design. 

“This was my first time sewing, and really working with cloth, so I had quite a few unexpected hiccups. Despite these setbacks, I love to learn new things and new skills so this process was quite enjoyable. I learned about different types of cloth, how to use a sewing machine, and a bunch about pattern drafting and geometric nets. If I had more time I would have loved to add a removable cooling gel layer, so I could adjust my hat to be warmer or cooler.” – Huxley

“My wearable shelter feels heavy and protective when you’re wearing it. You can see some of the mistakes that I made, but personally I think that gives it extra character. For my wearable shelter I used a knit (stretchy) fabric for the base because that is what the original piece is made of and if I had used normal fabric then I would have had to add a zipper so it wouldn’t fall down. I also used an old towel and curtain to create the tree aspect of the skirt.” – Clementine

“For my Wearable Shelter piece I drafted my pattern from a black maxi skirt I made from wrapping a piece of fabric around myself. For my piece I was planning to make a skirt that transforms into a dress, but my piece didn’t end up working. The elastic around the top was supposed to become sleeves but when it fit around my arms it didn’t work around my waist, so technically my piece is unfinished.” – Norabelle

“My wearable shelter is not how I pictured it, but that’s ok. It’s very tight and high up. I put on the bra and asked what people thought. Everyone says it looks nice but I disagree. I choose really stretchy fabric.” – Sutchat

“I think that I go camping a decent amount, and every time I’ve found the same problem with my sleeping bag; it doesn’t have sleeves. I find myself in the middle of the night reaching for my drink, but my arms are constricted by my sleeping bag. I have to take my arms out of my sleeping bag and consequently makes my arms cold. To solve this problem I made a sleeping bag with arms. The initial pattern for this garment was a faux leather jacket, it may look different now, but it still has the same purpose, to keep you warm.” – Oscar

“I started tracing my jacket and then turned it into a sleeveless hoodie. I chose camouflage because it was cool. It’s cool because it blends in with what’s behind you. The original garment was a jacket, a hoodie, that was warm. I made the opposite of what my hoodie was by making another hoodie with no sleeves this time.” – Jacob 

“This hat is based off an Ushanka. It’s a Russian hat made for keeping Russians warm since it’s always cold there. I took this idea of furry winter time cap and one upped it. I shoved rice in it, two minutes in the microwave and the hat will be warm for about an hour. Hats have been a big part of my life, through the ages of eight through eleven I wore a beanie every day. Not just for warmth but for safety. I feel safe when a hat’s on my head.” – Felix 

“Something that worked for me in this project was cutting, making the ears, and a few parts of the sewing.  Some stuff that did not really work for me was sewing the arms and hood, pinning, and tracing.  If I had another week to work on this project some things that I would do differently would be that I would try to make a more complex jacket, and I would experiment with different fabrics.” – Harper