Tuesday, October 27, 2009

out of hiding

oups! it appears i had disappeared from blogland for what? three months? yeah... let's forget about that and move on to happier subjects.

a lot of my friends have recently dug out sewing machines from deep down in their closets or borrowed them from friends or family and are starting to sew. i'm so excited to know that they are finding ways to learn new techniques and ways of expressing themselves while also expressing love for their family and the planet by heading more into a "handmade life" direction.

so in order to celebrate beginning seamstresses and creating for the ones we love i thought i'd create a tutorial.

i've decided on a simple vest as it seems the most versatile piece of clothing i can think of.
anyone can wear a vest at any age. boys, girls, babies, toddlers, mamas, papas...
making clothing for kids may not seem worthwhile sometimes because they outgrow everything so quickly. a vest fits much longer than pants or shirts. it transitions well through the seasons doesn't stain or wear out easily and this one is even reversible giving you basically two pieces in one!

got the point? it's time to make a vest.

the other reason i thought this would be perfect for a tutorial is that i think it's a good example for one of the biggest obstacles we encounter with sewing... the planning and thinking ahead.
all the sewing required for this is very basic and suitable for true beginners. but putting these few pieces of cloth together in the right order seems very counter intuitive at first. and because most patterns seems to assume that the reader just knows how to do this kind of work, i haven't found the process explained in a detailed way. for me personally purely written instructions are basically worthless. i need images. so this is going to be extremely picture heavy (excuse the yucky water stains on my ironing board) and i hope it works for you.

here we go...

for this vest i'm using a pattern i found in ottobre magazine but you can easily create your own by tracing the shape of a shirt which fits the to-be-vested-person well.

trace the pattern onto left side of one of your fabrics. place fabrics on top of each other, make a decision about seam allowance (i add 1cm all around), cut.

see? two layers. cotton print and purple stuff. i have three pieces of each. back and two front pieces.

begin sewing by taking your outside fabric (cotton print in my case) right sides facing each other. now sew only the two shoulder seams with a simple straight stitch. repeat with your inner layer of fabric (purple in this case).

now spread out both layers (it'll kinda look like a big U or V), open up the shoulder seams and press with an iron if you're using cotton and are a very tidy seamstress (i didn's press. i'm not tidy.). have the right sides of the two different fabrics face each other.

do as much pinning as you feel you need in order to keep both sides in place during sewing. i use very few needles if any, but if this really is your first project, use a lot of pinning to spare yourself some frustration later on. pin along all the outsides of your fabric U or V.

now start sewing your two layers together. start at the bottom of the side seam, stitch along the whole front, up and around the neck, down the front again until you reach the bottom of the other side seam.

now do the same for both arm openings. remember, your two layers are still spread out U or V shape right sides facing each other. this might feel crazy and like it couldn't possibly work to you, but it will! ;)

here's the big U or V. depending on how much seam allowance you used and what kind of materials you're working with you should trim the sewn edges now. you can do lots of little snips where you've sewn rounds, really trim corners if you use a pattern with sharp corners or ,as i did, give it a good trim all around.
in this case i'm not terribly concerned with fraying because i've chosen fabric i know won't hold up very well with lots of washes anyway and we will also topstitch these vests all around in the end, so fraying shouldn't be an issue really.

now we turn the vest right sides out by pulling the fabric through the shoulders. crazy. i know. but it works.

see? right sides out. arm holes are sewn, neck and front opening is sewn. still open are the side seams and the bottom seam on the back.

this is where you might get really confused and it's also where the sewing could get a little fumbly. deep breaths. this WILL work.
you now close the side seams. which means starting with your outside layer fabric you put the fabric right sides facing and stitch along the side seam top to bottom. be careful not to accidentally sew onto the inside fabrics.
then you fumble around a bit more until you have the inside layer fabric's outside seam ready to be sewn the same way.

this picture shows the side seams of inner and outer layer.

repeat for the other side seam.

turn it all right sides out and find that it really looks like it actually might work out in the end! woohoo!

at this point the only part left to sew together is the back's bottom. so you turn the vest wrong side out again, neatly line up the two layers in the back (use pins!) and then stitch them together leaving a hole in the middle big enough for you to use for turning the vest right side out again.

here's the bottom seam in the back. i sewed one side, left a hole big enough for my hand, sewed the other side.

turn right side out. neatly fold in the seam allowance where you left the hole. (again, use pins.)

use your hands or an iron to press the vest into shape now and get it to look clean and even.

then topstitch all along all the sides and armholes. i start right where i left the hole. because of the topstitching i don't need to handstitch to close the hole. it also helps the vest stay in shape through washes and keeps the fabric from fraying over time.

voi-la! here are my first two vest. one for joon and one for mika. making these took far less than an hour each INCLUDING tracing and cutting out the patterns and picking out fabrics.

there are endless possibilities for different designs.
i will be adding button loops and buttons to these but needed quick gratification today so they had to be plain at first.

you could use different shapes, add pockets, do patchwork, use fleece, fake fur, leather, trims, feathers, rig rag, pom poms.... endless variations.

so? are you making a vest today?


Amanda (aka Mama) said...

Very nice Karo. I don't think Lexi has ever worn a vest. I'll have to see what she thinks.

MarmosetSweeties said...

YOU are just TOO sweet.
Im torn between the vest and the 10 min pants..- I know BOTH for an outfit!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SIGH.. maybe next week after Es celebration.. Full brain this week..

JoonToons said...

last night after this was all done i actually thought of you and the other mamas with slightly older kids... this would be a really cool craft project to do with the kiddos!
you could make the basic vest and have her decorate it any which way she wants to with fabric paint, embroidery floss, trims, feathers, felt cut-outs...
then she can wear "her own design" very proudly during dress-up. :)

trinitylou said...

How did I not see this??? I wanna make a vest, too! Great tute, thanks! :)