Val Peterson, First Lady of Georgia Tech, has been making clothes for herself and her family for decades—one of her first big projects was a jacket for her husband, President G. P. “Bud” Peterson, while they were students at Kansas State University in the 1970s.
But nothing has captured her passion quite like the bog coat. “I’m addicted to bog coats,” she confesses. “I want to teach everyone in the world how to make one.”
The name comes from where the garments were first found: in a Danish peat bog, the simple pattern preserved for centuries in the mire. Bog coat patterns are cut out of a single rectangle of fabric, require minimal sewing and can serve as a canvas for endless embellishment, which is why Peterson loves them.
She’s made at least one coat in the school colors of every university where her husband has worked. But her crowning achievement is her most recent Tech-themed bog coat, which features the I-75/85 connector snaking down one side, a proud-looking Buzz or three, numerous angles of the Ramblin’ Wreck and even a stitched-out “To hell with Georgia!” She embroidered all the details herself.
Peterson recently gave the Alumni Magazine a tour of her bog coat collection and walked us through her process.
- Make a custom muslin pattern. “I took a class and a friend taught me how,” Peterson says, but it’s a simple project. (See below for a link to instructions.)
- Amass your supplies. “I buy two kinds of fashion fabric, usually cotton, and usually a third fabric for bands and binding,” says Peterson. Using two different fashion fabrics means your bog coat will be reversible. Also on her list: batting and decorative bits.
- Lay it out. “I lay down the fashion fabrics and the batting on the muslin pattern, and I cut them all—a rough cut, larger than the pattern.” Peterson works on a spacious table in the basement of the President’s House, but any clean, wide-open surface will do.
- Quilt it! “All three layers have to be quilted together, like a quilt for a bed,” she says. Bog coats can be toasty, but she prefers it that way: “I’m a jungle flower!”
- Then cut. “When you quilt a garment, it tends to shrink up,” Peterson warns. “So I can’t cut on the exact pattern lines until I’m done quilting.” Only then does she trim the garment to the precise size of the muslin pattern.
- Get creative. Peterson prefers to embellish unseamed garments: “Spread out flat, it’s like a beautiful palette—you can paint anything you want on it.”
- Stitch it up. “I sew up the two seams, add the binding and the band around the neck and the bottom of the sleeves,” Peterson says. Then she might add buttons, toggles or ruffles.
- Admire your work. Hop to a mirror and slip on your new creation—nice work! Or, as Peterson says, “Shazam!”
Click here to download Val’s in-depth bog coat instructions, including directions to make a custom muslin pattern.