Filson Mackinaw Wool Vest

My Filson Mackinaw Vest is the single most utilitarian piece of clothing I own. And during the fall, winter, and early spring I wear it nearly every day. We’ve reviewed Filson in the past. They have a legendary reputation among hunters and outdoorsman for wool clothing that stays warm when wet, and holds up over time. This holds true for this vest, but I love it because it’s just as functional at home or in an office as it is in the field.

When I originally picked one up, I was wary that it might be unflattering given its fairly utilitarian design, and I figured I would mostly wear it while foraging. However, I have been pleasantly surprised over the past few months with how well it works paired with a nice shirt and tie (which, in my case, has secured a number of compliments), or a heavy sweater. I’m not here to defend the vest’s fashion statement, but rather pointing out that because it looks good I’m more likely to wear it on a daily basis. Mine is light gray, and looks good with almost every color combo. As far as sizing, Filson is better than most outfits in that these are sold according to jacket size, and can be ordered extra long for us tall guys.

Two things stand out about the Mackinaw vest. The first is that it has, by far, the best range of pockets on any piece of clothing I’ve ever owned. It has two hand warming pockets, which are great on a cold day because it means I don’t have to throw on a heavier jacket just to keep my hands warm when I head outside. It also means I have somewhere other than my back pocket to store my wallet (thus reducing the potential for back pain). It also features two chest pockets; the right easily fits a notepad, while the left is designed for holding writing instruments, or other tools (I keep a Maratac AAA flashlight, and a few pens and pencils).

The other major benefit of the Mackinaw vest is that I can wear it everyday without worrying about wear. I wear vests a lot, in part because I like that it doesn’t limit my arms, and because it’s a flexible piece of clothing.nWhat I have found is that most vests are NOT built for daily wear. Stitching comes undone, fabric begins to tear or pill, and in general they become limp and lifeless after just a few months. The beauty of the Filson is that its heavyweight felted wool and heavy-duty stitching make it near bulletproof. It doesn’t shed, pill, or wrinkle, and it looks good day in and day out. And because it’s a vest made of thick felted wool it can be worn over three seasons and across a really wide temperature range.

-- Oliver Hulland  

Filson Mackinaw Wool Vest
$120

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Filson



Palm Washboard

I was introduced to this tool about a year ago when I was looking for something to help with my wet and nuno felting projects. The palm washboard eliminates hours of rolling during the wet felting process and helps simplify the fulling stage. It makes nuno felting a much easier process. At my suggestion, the designers, Robbin & Harry Firth of Heartfelt Silks, developed a rounded tool to work on the inside of vessels. I am able to create vessels, scarves & other felting projects in less time & with less effort. I have found no other tools that work as well as the Palm Washboards.

-- Cheryl Gentry  

[Note: The previously reviewed Dharma Trading Company has a good tutorial on wet felting.--OH]

Palm Washboards
$40

Available from and manufactured by Heartfelt Silks

Sample Excerpts:




Bra Wash Bag

I have been using these zippered plastic and mesh cages to wash my bras for several years now. Bras are expensive and difficult to wash. Most women hand wash them, but these little cages protect my bras and keep underwire bras from being misshapen. I hook the fastens on my bra together to keep the hooks from catching on things, put two bras in the wash bag throw them in the washing machine on the delicate cycle, and they come out fresh and clean and ready to hang dry. These little gadgets have doubled the life of my bras.

I buy mine from our local Daiso store, but I’ve found them online on Amazon and other places. The important thing is that they have a round plastic frame in the top and bottom to protect the bra. Most of them also have a little piece of elastic that you tuck the zipper head into to keep them from snagging on other stuff in the wash.

-- Amy Thomson  

Bra Wash Bag
$9

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Woolite



O2 Hooded Rain Jacket

There are more durable and more comfortable rain wear, but none as light. The O2 jacket with hood weighs only 6 oz (175 g)! Pants are about the same. Its featherweight can slip in anywhere without notice. This makes it perfect for backpacking or bicycling where ounces and bulk count. Rather than using the usual Goretex-like breathable fabrics this uses a 3M Microporous Film fabric which is thinner, lighter and cheaper. The fabric does not feel plasticy, like most lightweight ponchos; instead it feels almost like a soft paper towel. It is perfectly waterproof, even in severe downpours (I even tested it in the shower once; my clothes dry underneath). And fairly breathable. I will wear it as a windbreaker on hikes even in sunny weather, and not sweat.

The garment is minimal and packs small; simple zipper, no pockets (on the basic model). Being so lightweight it is not as robust as more expensive gear — but perfectly adequate for unexpected rains. If you plan to wear it over heavy outer wear, order a size larger.

-- KK  

O2 Rain Jacket
$22+

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by O2



Dachstein Boiled Wool Mittens

I bought these mittens years ago, and have returned to them again and again. The boiled wool is so dense and thick that they are waterproof in practice. They are extremely warm and do not become damp inside. And they are bombproof, much more durable than typical nylon/gore-tex mittens. They are also cheap.

The only downside is the bare wool can be slippery. I have seen people spread a little silicone caulk over the palm to improve the grip. Maybe spray Plasti Dip would work, too.

-- Karl C.  

Dachstein Wool Mittens
$40

Available from Bradley Alpinist
Manufactured by Dachstein



Sanuk Vagabond

These are the perfect camp shoes while backpacking. They are awesomely light and they flatten into almost nothing; you stick them in the side pockets of your bag. They are a total luxury comfort but also abreakthrough product for me because I’m really glad to stop and take my boots off to dry my socks and prevent blisters. With these on the trail I don’t have to cripple around barefoot.

-- Stewart Brand  

Sanuk Vagabond Slippers
$43+

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Sanuk



Big Skinny Wallet

Big Skinny has redesigned the basic geometry of the wallet to spread out the credit and other cards over multiple pockets. This enables them to maintain a very thin profile which is more comfortable and much easier to carry. Available in a multiple styles for men and women, my preferred model is the Hipster Bifold.

It has four pockets to hold credit cards, license, insurance card, etc. Because the pockets are horizontal, the cards stay lined up against each other as opposed to being fanned out as in most wallets. I carry more than a dozen cards, plus business cards in my wallet and I’m amazed at just how thin it is. This is my second Big Skinny wallet; I only bought the new one because I wanted to switch from nylon to leather

-- Peter Valleau  

[Note: It was pointed out in the comments that we have previously reviewed the ALL-ETT Billfold Wallet, which is of a similar design. A majority of readers indicated that they are still very satisfied with their ALL-ETT!-- OH]

Big Skinny Hipster Bifold Wallet
$30

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Big Skinny



Frogg Toggs Cooling Towel

There are lots of options to keep cool(er) by exploiting simple evaporation. I tend to run hot, and have in summer months often resorted to sleeping with a damp towel on top of me and a fan whirling above. Cooling cloths jammed under helmets are typical construction-site headgear here in the southwest, too. The problem with most cloth—like plain cotton—  is that while it stays damp too long when it’s cold (so it’s a bad choice for winter clothing) it does the job of evaporation all too quickly when it’s hot, and requires frequent re-wetting. (Not to mention, can get other surfaces sloppy and wet when newly soaked.)

High-tech fabrics can make up for that fault, though. I grabbed one of these cooling towels from Frogg Toggs as an impulse buy at Bed, Bath & Beyond a few weeks ago; I was only in the store to make a return, but that was one more in string of days over 100F, so I was easily lured in by the promise of some temperature relief. In the time since, I have been wildly happy with it, and have taken to wearing it in my office (second story in a hot climate; heat rises), which helps me put up with miserly use of the A/C. On the 4th of July this year, I walked around San Antonio with it on my neck, which augmented my sunscreen as well as made me noticably more comfortable. (My friends also borrowed it to help soothe their one-year-old baby while we watch the fireworks that evening.)

I haven’t tried using it in truly awful humidity yet, but Austin’s heat has been coupled with some moisture lately, and this towel defintely never stopped being an effective cooler; the drier the day, though, the better. (In a moist enough climate, it might end up feeling more clingy than cool.)

There are special cloths with phase-changing crystals embedded that similarly hold water for more gradual evaporation compared to a plain cloth; I haven’t tried them and can’t compare. But I like that this one is simple and requires no special care (machine wash, store damp). Here’s a competitor called Chill-Its that appears similar and may be just as good.

I count three small shortcomings, none of which dissuade me from strongly recommending it. To me, the pool-equipment blue of the one I bought is considerably less obtrusive than fancy-patterned bandanas or more garish safety-oriented colors, but I’d much rather have bought one in black or white, for something like subtlety. (It does come in grey, at least.) Second, I wish there was a larger size; it appears to come in only one size. On the hottest Texas days, believe me, I’d tolerate even the ugliest pattern to wear something like this equipped with a hood and full shoulder coverage. Even 20 percent bigger would make it much better, esp. as a replacement for that wet towel for sleeping. Finally, though the packaging promises “hours” of cooling, I found that it certainly didn’t stay wet even any longer than two hours. That’s mildly annoying, but easy to fix with another water application; it still beats a wet towel severalfold

-- Timothy Lord  

Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel
27″ x 17″
$15

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Frogg Toggs



Duluth Firehose Work Pants and Suspenders

Duluth’s Firehose Canvas Work Pants are made of strong stuff.  I have been using them on my farm for 12-months and have found that they are comfortable and durable.  They have a generous cut so I have room to move when I am crawling around the tractor.  They have wide and numerous belt-loops, velcro-flapped cargo pockets and hip pockets, and a handy loop for a tape measure, as well as a long pocket for a wrench or screwdriver on the thigh on each side (so they suit lefties and righties equally).

I hang them from Duluth’s wide side-clip suspenders so I can load up the pockets without losing the lot around my ankles. These suspenders have two inch wide straps and just two clips; the front and back straps meet at your waist (or where it once was) at the side under your arms.  Normal front-and-back suspenders like to catch on stuff when I am crawling around, and often let go. The side-clips have never come unfastened. Great clothes.

-- Russel Day  

[We've previously reviewed Duluth's suspenders as well as their brass button kits for easy suspender attachment.--OH]



The Art of Manipulating Fabric

manipulating fabric.jpeg

I have used this book for at least 8 years as a source of inspiration for my work as a designer. The author, Colette Wolff, systematically explores the many different ways that fabric can be folded, gathered, tucked and quilted, creating categories for each type. Her explorations start with a simple fold or pleat but become successively more and more complex, and more creative. In the last chapter she includes examples that combine different techniques. She always maintains a clear line of thought as she branches out, providing precise instructions and beautiful black and white photographs of all the “manipulations” executed in plain white muslin.

What I find so remarkable is Wolff’s ability to be at once so methodical and exacting, and at the same time to be so imaginative in her approach. She has created an encyclopedia of fabric manipulation, an incredible resource that anyone involved in working with fabric, from clothing and textile designers to quilters and home sewers, would find not just useful, but truly inspiring.

-- Antoinette Indge  

The Art of Manipulating Fabric
Colette Wolff
1996, 322 pages
$20

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Manipulating fabric p 295.jpg
Hand stitches, p 295

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Manipulating Farbic p 284.jpg