Hello there!  I’m very, very excited to share this project with you today.  I have wanted to recreate a commercial vest. It has been wearing out for a few years now and is ready to be replaced.  I’ve had this project on my mind for the past two years and I’ve been excited to finally jump in (to make a handmade version). 

For the pattern, I selected the Women’s Santiam Reversible Vest by The Green Pepper.  I knew that I wanted to make a handmade vest but I was flexible to not make an exact replica of the commercial vest.  I loved the idea of making a reversible vest (for two garments in one).

For the materials, I first knew that I wanted to use wool batting.  As a knitter, I love wool and enjoy bringing it over to my sewing. Wool batting is so warm and lightweight.

I then decided that ripstop would be fun to use for the fabrics.  With this project being reversible, I wanted it to be lightweight.  With wool batting being a warmer element than traditional polyester or cotton batting, I felt I didn’t need to choose a thick fabric for the outer/lining.

For reference, I used the following sewing machine for this project:

Supplies

1m, Black Polyester Ripstop Fabric

1m, Navy Polyester Ripstop Fabric 

2, 7” zippers, grey

24” Reversible zipper, grey

0.75m wool batting

70/10 sewing needle (use can use a Universal needle but I used a Microtex)

Grey Thread

Iron

Glass head ball point sewing pins / Fabric clips

Santiam Reversible Vest Pattern by Green Pepper

Washi tape

Spray bottle filled with water

Fingernail clippers

Size - 12 

I had some interesting discoveries through this project on the pattern’s sizing.  Upon first look, my body sizing falls between 12 - 16. Typically on coats or outerwear, it’s recommended to go up a size (as you’re wearing the garment layered on top of other clothing).  However, before I cut out the size 18, I started measuring the actual pattern pieces.

The pattern does not give finished garment dimensions.  I didn’t know how much ease was included in the pattern.  I started out measuring the Hips dimension on the BACK pattern piece.  I made a chart below comparing the pattern size, suggested Hips body measurement, actual measurement of the Hip area on the pattern, and the Ease (subtracting the actual pattern measurement from the suggested body measurement):  

Pattern Size

Suggested Pattern Body Measurement - Hips

Actual Pattern Measurement - Hips 

Ease (Actual Pattern - Suggested Body Measurement)

I always find this process helpful, comparing the actual pattern measurements vs the suggested body measurements.  It tells you how much ease the designer has included in the pattern. You can take these dimensions and then decide for yourself what size you want to make based on your own fit preferences.

This process was QUITE helpful to me as instead of sewing a size 18, I decided to sew a size 12.  I decided not to grade across sizes in the bust/waist/hips (as I usually do) but instead cut out one size.

Muslin:

I did not sew a muslin for this project.I wanted to share more behind the mental process for me with this project, behind the scenes. This was a project that scared me (on the front end). One big factor for my fear was that I did not have the time or materials to sew a practice muslin. Practice muslins tend to be my safety net with sewing. I can make mistakes in the muslin, test fit, try new to me techniques, etc.  I have never made this pattern before. I also have never sewn a garment with ripstop fabric. Ripstop punctures when sewn and the holes remain if you rip out the stitching (after the fact). In this case, one tip that helped me was to break down the project into many little steps. One part of sewing that I LOVE is that it goes really fast! When you’re using a machine to make a garment (vs hand sewing, knitting, etc.) the speed of the machine makes the quicker completion time quite fun!  That said, you can also very quickly make a mistake that takes much longer to fix then it does to sew. Breaking down a project into many little steps (and approaching the construction process quite slowly) helps me think through each step more and (hopefully) catch myself with mistakes before I actually make them.     

Fabric:

I wanted to spend some time sharing more about the ripstop fabric that I used from Minerva.  This project was my first garment made out of ripstop. I have other commercial garments and products that I’ve enjoyed that are made of ripstop.  At the time that I made this project, Minerva carried both lightweight and heavy duty weight options for solid ripstop fabrics. I used the lightweight base for this project.

The fabric is water resistant!!!  I was so excited about that element for this project.  There is a very light layer of clear coating on the fabric (to help with bring water resistant properties).  It’s really hard to see which layer is the water resistant layer. As I was picking which side of the fabric to be the “right side” I did a little water spray test.  I had a small spray bottle at home that I filled with water. The “right side” of the fabric had perfectly small water beads that formed when water was sprayed on it.  The “wrong side” of the fabric did not form beads. The photo above is a reference for the right and wrong side of the ripstop fabric. You want the side that has perfectly beaded water droplets to be on the outside of the fabric.  I did this spray test each time I pieced the fabric together before sewing a seam (so that I could tell which was the “right side” prior to sewing).  

I had a hard time deciding on fabric colors so I decided to go with a neutral navy and black. I wear a lot of blues but I also enjoy wearing black. For the top stitching thread, I went with a medium grey. For the zippers at the pockets main closure, I went with gray as well.

Wool Batting:

As I shared in the notes above, I’m quite in love with wool as a material.  It’s warm, breathable, natural, and can also be lightweight. As I put together a request list for this project to Minerva, I did not request a width of batting that was wide enough (I requested 0.5m).  The batting size on the bolt is 2.25m x 2.7m. I could not cut out all of the batting for this project with the 0.5m that I requested. To get around this issue I pieced together two pieces of batting at the lower center back.

I’m not an avid quilter so I wanted to check out tips for piecing two smaller pieces of batting together seamlessly.  I didn’t want there to be a visible seam where the smaller piece of batting was added in. I referenced this tutorial to carefully sew the batting together.  I have to say, I’m excited about finding this batting piecing approach.  I have smaller pieces of the wool batting leftover and would love to keep using up these scraps on future projects.  I used a wide zig zag stitch, 5.4mm wide by 3.3mm long to sew the batting together. I tested this piecing method on some wool batting scraps prior to sewing together the Back batting pieces.

I did want to note that I pre-washed the ripstop fabrics but I did not pre-wash the wool batting.  The material content on the Minerva site notes the batting as washable (which usually means it’s machine washable).  I did some practice sewing on scraps of the ripstop fabric and batting together. I will test the washability of this sandwiched swatch first, before washing the finished vest.  I will try washing the swatch on cold/delicate in the washing machine and then let it air dry. If the swatch comes out ok I will feel comfortable putting the finished vest in the washing machine on these settings as well.  If it the swatch felts, I will plan on hand washing the finished vest.  

For the sewing of the collar, I decided to split the seam in half, sewing each seam from the center out.  I intentionally wanted to go slow with sewing the ripstop to prevent wrinkling the fabric.

Pockets:

I enjoyed selecting two different pocket options (that were included in the pattern).  One pocket is a welted style pocket with a zipper closure.  

The other pocket is an in-seam style pocket that remains open.

The pattern has some really fun tips and techniques included in the instructions.  One fun technique is a suggestion to use a ½” wide tape to mark the fabric for the sewing welted pocket zipper feature.  I didn’t have a ½” wide tape on hand but I did have washi tape. The washi tape has stripes that are ½” wide between the two outer lines.

Sewing machine feet:

For this project I rotated between using multiple sewing machine feet. In some cases I used a walking foot (or Dual Feed foot), a zipper foot and also a standard foot.

Ironing:

My iron has a nylon/low heat setting (that I used for this project).  I tested scraps of the ripstop first and found the steam/nylon setting helpful for this project.  It’s always helpful to test ironing settings first on a scrap of the fabric prior to ironing your project.

Vest closure:

The pattern offers instructions for either a snap or zipper closure.  I went with a zipper closure, and a reversible zipper at that!  

The instructions also include very helpful tips for how to remove plastic zipper teeth with fingernail clippers.  This was a new to me technique and worked really well! I did some practice first with this technique on the very top of the zipper tape that was cut off prior to sewing.

I used a sewing pin to mark how many teeth I removed for the first half of the zipper.  This note was helpful as I ended up taking out two additional zipper teeth prior to sewing.  I was able to note this quantity when removing teeth for the second half of the zipper (for even spacing at the top of the zipper).

The pattern instructions suggest to sew at the center of the zipper.  The zipper foot included with my Janome machine has a left and right side option but also a center opening.  I’ve not tried using the center of the zipper foot before but I went this route for this project (as suggested in the pattern).  The location was recommended for spacing but also to prevent the seam from being too close to the zipper (and fabric getting caught in the teeth.

Final thoughts:

In the end, I love the finished vest! I had to share a photo of the commercial vest that originally inspired this project.  The fabric discolored and is fading (from being worn a lot over the years).

I wondered what I’m going to do with this commercial vest as I retire it.  My cat has already claimed the vest as a cat bed.

This was a really fun project for me with the mental challenge to jump in!  I love the height of the collar for a warm option (to wear with the collar zipped all the way up). This was really satisfying to sew something that scared me and to then finish and enjoy wearing the project. 

The pattern surprised me in really good ways. I was not expecting to have so many fun, new to me techniques that were included.  In the past, I have sewn a couple of one-sided fleece vests for my husband.  If you’re on the fence about trying a project like this I would encourage you to jump in! 

The knitted sweater that I’m wearing under the vest in the photos is one that I just finished (and was excited to wear).  Another project that I’m excited to jump into this year is handmade jeans. I hope you are doing well and wish you lots of fun with your own sewing adventures!

Rachel (@oakbluedesigns)

www.oakbluedesigns.com