Sep 16, 2013

How to Quilt Any Vest

Today you can find me over at The Sewing Rabbit sharing about a project I'm SO excited about! It's a reversible vest that I made for The Sewing Rabbit team's fall collection. There are many inspiring items in the collection, each with a free tutorial for you!

Elliott is completely in love with his vest and keeps trying to wear it places...over his short sleeve shirts in 90 degree weather! Ha! Hopefully fall will make an appearance soon and he can actually wear it and not look like a crazy man.

I have to be honest...this was one of the hardest projects I've made in a while. I had never quilted anything before and it was my first time making a flap pocket, using a reversible zipper, drafting my own collar in this style (I originally made a hood and didn't like it), working with the faux leather material, etc. LOTS of firsts for me in this project and I'm thrilled with how it turned out.
I'm sharing how to make a flap pocket at The Sewing Rabbit today, so here let's talk about how to quilt ANY vest. It's seriously easy to do (if you can sew a straight line - which I can do if I really concentrate) and it adds a special touch to your project.  You can literally use any pattern you have for a vest and it will work.

I quilted squares on my vest, but there are lots of fun designs you could quilt. Here are some examples for inspiration.
1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Below are instructions on how to quilt squares like I did.

Warning: There is some math involved...but I promise it looks much more complicated than it actually is. The bottom line is that you want your quilting lines to be straight and even so read through the instructions here carefully and it'll be a breeze!

Materials needed:
- Your Vest Pattern
- Fabric for the main side of the vest and the lining (I made mine reversible but you could just line it as well)
- Batting - I looked for a semi-thin, washable batting to use as my quilting layer. You could also use fleece or skip the batting altogether if you just want the stitched lines instead of the deeper quilted look that the batting will give you.
- Chalk or some kind of fabric marking pen to mark your quilting lines

First cut out your pattern pieces in the fabric, lining, and batting.
Begin marking your quilting lines on the front panels. To do this, you'll need to do some math. Here's the basic way to do it if you want squares that look like mine.

You need the following numbers:
- Measure the width of one front vest piece at the widest point. (mine is 8.5 inches from mid-chest to the lower arm opening)
- Decide how big you want your quilted squares. (I wanted mine to be about 1.75" each)
- Your seam allowance - you will have to account for it in your measurements. (I used a .5" seam allowance)

So here's the match calculation to do to get the width markings:

Width of pattern piece - seam allowance - seam allowance = total dimension of space you can work with
8.5 - .5 - .5 = 7.5 inches

Take that total and divide by the width you want each square to be.

7.5 / 1.75 = 4.29

This gives you how many squares you'll have at the widest point. Mine did not come out to a nice even number. I could have decided to make each square 1.5 inches and then I'd have 5 squares across at the widest point of the vest...but I decided it didn't matter since I was making a tapered vest so eventually as you go down toward the waist some squares would be cut short. So I have 4 squares plus a sliver to work with.

If you want your squares to be even, this is the time to figure out the dimensions. Do a little trial and error with your numbers until you come out with the length and width of each quilted square.

Now it's time to mark. I started at the bottom hem of the vest, working from the center line (where the zipper will be) toward the side. My first vertical chalk mark is made using the following formula:

Seam Allowance + width of square = first mark

1.75 +  .5 = 2.25 inches from the center line

From that mark I measured another 1.75 inches to the next mark, and so on until I got to the edge of the fabric. (no need to worry about the seam allowance on the side seam - the center mark is most important) I repeated the markings, measuring from the center line, all the way up the front of my fabric. Don't worry about how far apart your vertical lines are, just mark every few inches so you can later come back and make a line with a ruler.
Then you need to mark the horizontal quilting lines.

This is done in the very same way, but now you need to account for the hem at the bottom. Since the lining was going to be attached to the bottom of my vest piece with a regular seam allowance (of .5 inches) I just measured up from the bottom of my fabric 2.25 inches and made a mark, just like I did from the center line. Same measurement.

Then I made more lines 1.75 inches from the first set of markings to continue up the vest front piece again.

You've made a partial grid now, but it's best to go through and use a straight ruler to make definitive lines through your marks. You're making a complete grid with chalk that you can use to follow as you stitch.
Repeat the marking steps for the other front vest piece.

For the back, you will make marks the same...but pay attention to where the middle of the back is so your vest looks symmetrical. I started in the center and worked my way out toward the sides marking every 1.75 inches vertically and horizontally. (being sure to stay 2.25 inches from the bottom hem)

BEFORE YOU BEGIN QUILTING add any welt pockets or other embellishments.

Now you're ready to actually quilt the vest! Place the batting behind the main fabric. (I suggest using a basting stitch along the edge of the pieces to keep the batting in place as you stitch.)

Then simply stitch along your chalk lines. Easy!

If you have pockets on your vest, be sure to pull the pocket part inside out so you don't quilt through it. (If you did that, you wouldn't be able to put your hand through it!)
When you're finished quilting, you'll want to flip the vest to the batting side and you will be able to see where your pocket opening is. Carefully cut a small slit in the batting and pull the pocket pouch through the batting, making sure it is free enough to put your hand easily inside the pocket.
Here's what the batting side of the back of my vest looked like after I was done quilting it.
Now all you need to do is sew your pieces together according to the patterns directions. If your original pattern didn't call for a lining, stitch the lining pieces wrong sides together with the quilted panels and then sew the vest together using the pattern instructions.

You are done!!
If you make a quilted vest I'd LOVE to see it!
Happy quilting. :)


  1. Beautifully done! No wonder your son wants to wear it in hot weather!!
    Thank you for sharing your process. I will be referring back to it....

  2. Hi! I'd love to know what pattern you used for the vest. Or was it a self-drafted pattern?

  3. Alyssa, it was self drafted. I actually made a hood for it first but didn't like it so then I drafted the collar. But the great thing is that I thnk you could really use any vest pattern you find and make it reversible or quilt it like this.

  4. Thanks, Elisa. It turned out great! Plus you can always put a hoodie under the vest if you need the extra warmth!

  5. This is such a great little tutorial. Just wanted you to know that I featured your top today from our Fall Clothing Party!!! Thanks for linking up!


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