Thursday, January 17, 2019

Winter Coat Project

If you're a crutch user, you know how cumbersome it can be trying to use them with a warm thick winter coat.

Elena has tried the half-cuff option for loftstrand crutches; she needs the full cuff to move her best. It's difficult for her to stuff a winter coat sleeve into the cuffs--most of the time, she just shoves her forearm into the cuff, so the coat stays scrunched up right around her elbow, leaving her arms cold and uncomfortable.

I've tried working around this for years. Typically, a grown-up would help E get her coat inside the cuffs. We are trying very hard to enable Elena to be as independent as possible, and this includes dressing with coats or other bulky pieces. I have a dozen or so sketches, some involving a spring loaded cuff (which I don't have the equipment to make) and others involving creative adaptations for clothing.

One thing I didn't have was a spare coat lying around in order to test out my model. I tried with some extra fabric, but it's just not the same as using an actual thick garment. I couldn't find one that would fit Elena at a thrift store, and I didn't want to buy a brand new coat, because I was going to cut it. I was looking for an inexpensive test option in case my idea failed. I couldn't find one.

I decided to write to one of our favorite retailers to ask for help. (Please keep in mind, I am not paid to advertise for a retailer. Occasionally I have been asked to write pieces and have received compensation, but this is rare and always disclosed.) I wrote to Boden, telling them about my plan, and wondering if they had any damaged/factory seconds that I could obtain at a discounted price. They asked to see my sketches, which I sent, and had some questions regarding Elena's color preferences and size.

Much to my surprise, a new coat was mailed to us a few weeks later, completely free of charge! It is BEAUTIFUL. They paid attention to the material--a bulky coat (like a puffer jacket) would be too much material for me to handle once cut; the coat is waterproof, versatile, warm and relatively thin. Elena even loves the color. She loved it so much, and didn't want me to "ruin it" by trying my adaptations.

But we did it.

The Coat:

"Cosy Waterproof Coat"

We had Elena wear it for a week. Here she is, wearing it (fits beautifully!) to swim practice on a rainy morning. She just stuffed her arm in the cuff, the sleeve is mushed up around her elbow.

Sleeve mushed up above cuff

We decided to try to leave enough sleeve so that it would bump up against the cuff just a little, with the idea of creating a detachable bottom portion of the sleeve to accommodate her crutch cuff. I wasn't exactly sure if I should try to make a long "crutch pocket" out of the rest of the sleeve, or have it attach to the cuff, or have it attach to the jacket. First I had to make the actual cut.

I went to a friend of mine, JW, who enjoys sewing and knows a LOT about some tricky stitches. I didn't have confidence in my sewing abilities--but after talking with her about the plan, she knew she could make it work!

Two "coat cuffs"
JW made a "hidden seam". She folded back both edges of the cut coat towards the inside, and then expertly sewed them together by expertly guiding the needle through the seam by touch so as not to puncture the outside of the coat. It sounds complicated--but the hardest part was getting the folds right among the inside padding of the coat (in my opinion).

Folding towards the inside
Pinned and ready to sew!
JW did this to each end of the coat cuffs and the coat sleeves. Here is a close-up of the seam, once sewn. I think I can do this type of seam, but it would take me MUCH longer than JW!

Look at that pretty seam!
All Seamed Up!

At present, I've been trying different methods of using the coat cuffs with E's jacket. In the end, they all look largely the same as she's moving around, so here is a current picture of the coat and separated cuffs. Elena is testing out what I'm calling "coat cuff tethers". She has acknowledged that if she has to snap on/off the coat cuffs to either the rest of the coat or the crutches, she'll probably just stuff them in a pocket instead and end up eventually losing one/more cuff/s. I'm trying to find a way to keep them attached to the coat, but easy to maneuver with the crutches.

Coat shown with tethers
Coat on with tethers (a bit too long)
The idea is E can put her coat on, then while sitting or standing, put on her crutch cuffs and (again, sitting or standing) then use one hand to help the other put on the coat cuff.

Side view. Coat cuff dangling
Putting on second coat cuff
Once the coat cuffs are on, the coat itself fits well, there are no bunchy elbows, and most (if not all) of Elena's arms are warm and cosy.

Completed look
Front view, coat cuffs on
The procedure of putting these on and off is still a work in progress. The tethers are a bit too long (I attached them with a thin double cord to each of the shoulders, not one long cord from one coat cuff to the other--like you've probably seen in a lot of toddler mittens) and sometimes they spin around the crutches. Elena complains that her hands get caught in them a little, so I can fix that by braiding or knotting the two-ply cord. She hasn't mastered the art of putting her coat on with dangling sleeves with a backpack (I recommend she hold the coat cuffs in her hands while putting on her backpack). It'll take some practice, no matter the final iteration of separated sleeves. I strongly believe that the coat cuffs have to be physically attached to the coat in some way, as to not lose them. This alteration also leaves Elena's hands cold, so she'll have to wear gloves or crutch pockets.
Thoughts? Suggestions?

HUGE thanks to Boden, for giving me the opportunity to try this with a coat that fits Elena exceptionally well, and that is perfect for the weather and the challenges associated with this project. Thank you to JW for her sewing expertise and her time to help make this coat a success!


Anonymous said...

I don't have full cuff crutches. I never even seen full cuff crutches before. I use the ones with a tiny opening in the front and just squeeze the coat in slowly using my opposite hand until the coat is snuggly through the crutch all all sizes, then reverse to get the coat sleeve out. Very fashionable idea though! Perhaps Elena would also like fashion like this

Anonymous said...



mwoods said...

We love lands end thin down coats...they fit in everything while still keeping my kiddo toasty!

Essentialaids said...

Thanks for sharing winter coat story of yours and how to manage it in crutches.

devansh said...
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TheCzarsOf45 said...

I use a New Balance NB Heat winter coat with my Walk Easy forearm crutches and my Allard BlueRocker 2.5 AFO/New Balance hiking boots. Usually have a Nikkormat FTN film camera around my neck with it (scan the negatives) and my 50 1.4 Nikkor lens.